May 10th, 2011
Roddy Hegarty: Making Sense of the Census
1900 census-there were up to 15 names in each familyʼs entry.
2011 census-up to 6 names.
1831 -population was over estimated as some enumerators believed they were to be paid
per capita! there were no Ordinance Survey maps (not til 1832) so lots of people were
Billy Mc Afee has issued a CD rom “Researching Derry/Lʼderry Ancestors” in which he lists
the returns for the 1831 census:
-name/owner/occupier; -townland/street; -house number; -males/females
-servants, male/female; -religion (but is not on every forn til after the famine).
The civil service was emerging in Ireland and was enquiring into public instruction/ national
Schools; asked of local priests how many were attending.
The civil service was built on a base unit of bureaucracy of the townland as were:
-poor law unions.
1841- first census to be collected in one evening, using RIC enumerators (unpaid) and
Ordinance Survey maps. It re-established the townland as a base unit.
1851- question on who spke the Irish languag daily was on the back of the form and few
filled it in.
1861- question on relion for first time.
1864- civil register of births/marriages/deaths first introduced.
The 1861-91 files were destroyed by the government during World War 1.
Earlier than 1861 records had been kept at the Four Courts, Dublin, but, were destroyed
by fire in 1921. (There are some left for Co. Antrim, 1871)
The shortened versions of 1841-81 census are still available.
1898- Local Government Act, district electoral divisions evolved, replacing the poor law
Form A shows professions/ranks that no longer exist:
-holder upper (of rivets)
-slabberer (paved paths)
-scavenger (gathered manure after horse & carts and sold it).
Form A also shows Irish and English spoken in Moneaney and Gulladuff.
Form B shows materials of walls/roofs, number of rooms/windows in buildings/homes; and
Form B2 shows buildings attached to buildings, including turf house Coal house in
Coleraine-coal off the boats).
Form G-boarding school returns.
Form E- returns from workhouses, (except lunatic asylums)-initials, not full names and
townland origin given.
1908-old age pension, 2 shillings, (Lloyd George) given to those who could recall the
1911-Bellaghy-questions asked of married women.
Bellaghy Historical Society
April 12th, 2011
Brendan Holland: Irish Giants and Gigantism
1735, Ordinance Survey of Derry found evidence of giants. At Ballymahon Mór Hill
(Killyeoin-J. Henryʼs yard, Magherafelt), is the oldest burial ground in Ireland registered in
Rome. late 17th century/early 18th century, a limestone yard was discovered beneath the
burial ground. Bones/oak coffin woods/rings of brass & tin were found-it is hoped funding
will be available to recover these bones to test/verify DNA for gigantism.
1834, Ireland was one of the first countries ever to be surveyed for acromegaly
It was found that the number of giant (very tall people) graves was phenomenal, especially
in South Derry and in east Tyrone.
300 years ago the average height of man was 5ʼ6; anyone over 6ʼ was considered a giant.
100 years ago, anyone over 6ʼ5 was considered a giant.
Now, anyone over 7ʼ is considered a giant.
1896, Pierre Marie-benign tumor on the pituitary gland, causing spurts of growth
(gigantism); spatial awareness impaired.
Cornelius Mc Grath, 7ʼ5 skeleton in trinity College, Dublin.
Charles Byrne of Drumullin, Lough Neagh, 7ʼ7. Earned £700 a year in London exhibiting
himself. Died 1781 of excessive drinking, aged 22. Skeleton put on display in London; is
now at Royal College of Physicians.
Familial Isolated Pituitary Aduoma, published an article in the new England Journal of
Medicine that Brendan Holland is related to Charles Byrne.
February 8th, 2011
Michael Clarke: Harry Ferguson, Aviator.
1884, Harry Ferguson was born a farmerʼs son, one of eleven children.
No petrol cars/motor cycles; pushbikes 5/6 years away.
His father was an austere, religious man (Plymouth Brethern). harry was very independent
and reacted against his restrictive childhood.
He attended primary school til the age of 15. He then worked on the family farm for a few
years but didnʼt get on with his father.
1901, Harry was offered an apprenticeship in his brotherʼs (Joe) engineering business in
He showed a natural ability for things mechanical.
1903, the firm moved to lwr. Donegall St. to a bigger premises.
Harry and Joe were well known as successful competitors in racing car competitions.
Roads then had no bitumen or tar but were rolled. Motor bikes had rear wheel drive,
calipar brakes, spindly wheels, a top speed of 40m.p.h.
1907, the well run firm moved to Chistester St.
1908, Harry started to build an aeroplane. (1903, the Wright brothers had already flown.)
1908, Wilbur Wright flew a bi-plane in France.
1909, Blairot flew a monoplane across the channel and got £100,000 for it.
Harry and John Williams (whom he had met at Belfast tech. while attending a tech.
drawing course), tried to build a plane and travelled to big shows in Paris…
1909, harry gave up the job in Chistester St., to build a plane -in six weeks!-tried a demo
flight on the beach, but the plane broke.
After several more attempts and modifications to the engine, wing span and undercarriage,
he managed to fly 15 feet high fir 150 yards-with several witnesses and a photo was
published in the Belfast Telegraph.
1910, after yet more modifications, he flew on Newcastle strand, 40 feet high up to 100
feet high for three miles and landed at Donard Hotel. He went back to more modifications
and more trials at Magilligan.
Joe Fergusonʼs firm was funding the project.
Harry started his own firm in May St., Belfast.
He built a new plane-changed from stick to wheel control; closed in fusilage; proper seat &
1911, Newtownards tidal sands venue for show-harry was late, landed on boggy ground &
destroyed the plane.
1911-1912, Harry got the agency for Vauxhall racing cars at May St. Motors.
He worked at the grand Prix in Paris as a driver.
1913, he married Maureen, also Plymouth Brethern, in a registery office. His family didnʼt
attend. They had one daughter. His grandc ildren are still living.
World war 2, Harry was asked to work in agriculture -hence the Ferguson tractor and
Penal Laws applied to 18th century Catholics and Presbyterians.
They had little to do with religion-they were to do with property.
The ascendency classes owned 90% of the land by the end of the 18th century.
With the penal code 1698/1700 onward, the native Irish owned 5% of the land.
catholic land was divided among all the family as opposed to being passed to the first born
Under penal law, Catholics and Presbyterians had no vote; could not stand for parliament;
were deprived of education; couldnʼt join the professions; rents were absurdly high; were
subject to great poverty-which reduced them to slavery.
The native Irish were aligned to the stewart cause.
The law of the land assumed no such thing as Irish Catholic.
They were not barred from the trades and some of them made money.
Regular priests had to leave Ireland at once.
All diocesan priests had to go to the nearest town to register (with two guarantors) with the
local magistrate and to give such information as where they were born; where they were
living; where they were ordained and by whom; their parish. (many Protestant names
were used to guarantee catholic priests).
No catholic church buildings could be used until 1745.
Mass was held at Mass Rocks-can still be seen at Lavey, Swatragh, Moneyglass and The
Loup. At Milltown Chapel Magherafelt, a barn owned by a Protestant was given to
Catholics for Mass.
An oath of loyalty (ab-duration) to the king which denied the authority of the pope, was to
be taken by all priests. Only 30 took the oath-none from South Derry took it.
THE NIGHT of the BIG WIND
The night of Sunday, January 6th, 1839-is associated with death and judgement.
It is the worst ever storm in Ireland on met records.
The day started calm-so calm that two ships leaving Cobh had to anchor as there was no
wind. Voices carried long distances on the still air.
There was snow on the ground from the night before. There was a dramatic rise in
temperature, by 10*C, but still no wind.
By 9pm, there was wind, which was welcome and refreshing at first. The wind kept rising.
Families were celebrating “Little Christmas”. By 12 midnight, the wind had taken a firm
hold. It was so intense that no-one could stand upright in it.
John Donovan (Ordinance Survey) was in a hostel in Wicklow, wrote that the house shook
as if it were a vessel at sea.
Sheet lead roofing rolled as if paper scrolls.
The storm reached itʼs height 2-5am, the people were at their lowest ebb.
By 3am, people thought the end of the world was nigh.
Wind was blowing at 85-100mph, rising to 115mph in exposed places.
Every 10% increase doubles the destructive capacity of wind.
In Moate, Co. Westmeath, 63 houses were burned; Loughrea, Co Galway 89 houses were
burned; Athlone, more than 100 burned. In Tyrone and in Monaghan, there was a fire in
every townland. Most houses were thatched and ashes covered the fires to keep them lit
Flooding occured with the sudden thawing of the snows-air pressure was below normal,
there was a deep depression which caused a very high tide. Galway beaches were
covered in fish. Seabirds were bashed against rocks and cliffs. The ground in Monaghan
was black with dead crows-which all but disappeared from that local lanscape.
The Shannon burst itʼs banks-three were drowned at Coonagh.
Farm animal that were housed for the winter, were killed by fire or by falling buildings.
Injured animals were slaughtered after the storm. Fodder was lost to the wind.
People lay on the ground holding onto rushes. They crawled on the ground to help
neighbours. Turf stacks, stacks of hay and oats were carried off in the wind. Trees were
uprooted. Bodies exhumed from graveyards.
The next morning, people were exhausted. In Belfast, the 5 biggest chimneys, including
Mulhollandʼs Flax Mill at 184 feet, had fallen. Drogheda was a wreck; Dundalk severly
damaged and Dublin was a sacked city= where every 5th chimney was down.
P.W. Joyce (writer of Irish Placenames), wrote that 70,000 trees in Mayo alone were felled.
Three million trees throughout the country were destroyed. The value of tree/wood fell.
Bushes/hedges were bent/levelled.
Sea salt was found on gates 40 miles from the coast. Seaweed and fish were found on
No man could tell what was his own.
There was a great coming together in the face of adversity-neighbours helping each other.
There was also fear of a second storm.
Ulster, the West and the Midlands bore the brunt of the storm.
Thatchers/slaters/masons/carpenters never had it so good! and charged 7/6 or even 10
shillings a day.
Very few had insurance cover-40 insurance companies were active in 1839.
More souls were lost at sea than on land. Half of the fleet of 25 boats moored at
There was no state aid. Self help and charity only. There were no poor law unions ( act
passed 1838) yet formed, but this was accelerated by the big wind.
Food prices inflated. In Cobh a mob stopped the export of potatoes. Funds raised in
Britain were received.
The 1839 storm was more than a climatic event because of the belief system of the timemany
believed that it was the end of the world/judgement day. Many prayed believing it sothat
God was preaching from a pulpit in heaven.Freemasons believed that the devil had
got out of hell and couldnʼt get back in. Many believed that the fairies had fallen out among
themselves-apparently, Irish fairies have no wings and fly in the wind!
Folk belief lifted this storm onto a fantastic level. In Tyrone, the event became known as
Montgomeryʼs Wind (he had been hanged); in Ards, it was known as Kavanaghʼs Wind
(before he died, ha had promoised to return and cause trouble).
In 1909, the old age pension became available to those who could remember the night of
the Big Wind (very few birth certificates would have been issued). The take up of the
pension was 128% of the estimated eligible age group!
Folk Cures – Doreen Mc Bride
Doreen gave an interesting talk on cures where people applied or consumed plant extracts
to cure common ailments.
spidersʼ web: for cuts; to trap germs in surgery theatres.
ivy leaves: for chilblains.
poteen: for sprains.
Guinness: similar vitamins/iron content as milk.
a bee keepers bees were “told” of a death in the family;
a black piece of fabric was placed over the hive upon the death of the bee keeper.
gorse: was boiled and used as a cure for worms;
was used to sweep clean chimneys.
heather: absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
primrose: is a sedative.
violets: for constipation.
robert (a pink geranium): cures bleeding.
nettles: prevents scurvy- young spring plants have lots of iron and vitamin C.
fever few: for arthritis; for headaches.
willow: for headaches.
garlic: an antiseptic;
lowers blood pressure;
raises low blood pressure;
clears spots when applied topically.
ginger: for nausea.
mint tea: for nausea.
dandelion: (roots chopped, dried in the oven and ground to make coffee): a diuretic.