Tag Archives: Medieval South Derry

Bellaghy Historical Society: February 2015: Tom Mc Erlean Land Organisation in Late Medieval Douth Derry 1200 – 1609

Townlands are a legacy of pre-1600 and there are 1300 of them on Co. Derry alone, with 61,402 in all of Ireland. Most consist of  200-400 acres. The townland was the basic unit of administration and landholding.

In Ulster, 16 townands made up a ballybetagh. Each ballybetagh was divided in four. Each of the four units were four ballyboes. Each ballyboe was the equivalent of a townland.

The Baroney of Loghlinsholin (lough of the island of the O’Lins) consists of four territories/lordships. Each territory consisted of a number of ballybetaghs.

In the early medieval landscape there were ring forts or raths, homesteads of the townland owner, which had one or two houses and outhouses. Some raths had round ditches – a status symbol and defence against cattle raiding, e.g., Dunclady, a royal site, has three ditches and Tullyheron Fort, Maghera, which has two ditches.

In Ulster, crannógs were popular from the 5th to the 16th century and were for kings or those of high status, e.g., ballymacpeake Upper.

The Gaelic lordship- O’Neills, Mac Mahons, Maguires, O’Donnells, Mc sweenys, O’Boyles, O’Dohertys…had very little Anglo-Norman influence until 1609.

The agricultural system was mixed: wheat, barley, oats, cows (Kerry and Hexter) (used for milk and for currency), pigs and sheep. In South Derry, pigs (which thrived on acorns) were second to sheep because of the oak woods. No hay was made in the summer but the low-lying grass was preserved for winter use and mountain pastures were used instead. Booleying- boys went with the cattle to the mountains Easter – October.

The Nine years War, 1594-1603 saw the end of the old Gaelic system.

1607-Flight of the Earls


The 1609 Bodley Maps showing the townlands and territories within the Baroney of Loghinsholin was compiled after the Flight of the Earls by asking old men in each area to orally describe where they lived.

1613-Charter of the London Companies