Walks - History Notes

  • 6/2/11 First Walk, Ravensdale Woods from Flurrybridge

We had a first general chat about history as we walked, including the Battle of Faughart (1318) where Edward Bruce, brother of the more famous Robert, lost his head. And we noted that the stone circle in the woods was a total cod, built by Lord Clermont's estate workers. Building new ancient monuments was a bit of a Victorian fad.

  • 20/2/11 Slieve Gullion from Courtyard
We walked north on a forestry track from the Courtyard which took us above Killeavy (or Bell's) Castle, which may look the part but is a complete fake. In 1836,what has been described as 'a modest farmhous'e called Killevy Lodge, the home of the Foxalls, bankers and landlords, was turned into a castle in the Scottish baronial style which was all the rage in Victorian times. The architect, George Papworth, added four stone towers, Tudor windows, along with outbuildings, a belvedere (or summer house), a lake and a corn mill , and transformed the building and pleasure grounds into what has been called a "Sugar-plum Gothick Castle". The Foxalls sold  the estate to  the Bell family in 1862.
We then turned west along the track by the fence that goes all the way to the lake. Legend has it that Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fianna were out hunting and chased a doe all the way to the mountain. When Fionn reached the lake there was no doe, just a beautiful young girl crying by the lake because her gold ring had fallen in. The gallant Fionn went in after it, but when he emerged there was neither doe nor girl - just an ugly old hag cackling at him, and then he realised he had become a very old man and his hair was white. He was the victim of witchcraft by An Cailleach Beara, the Hag of Beare. The Fianna chased her but she hid in the passage grave in the South Cairn (known as the Cailleach Beara's cave or house). They dug her out and persuaded her by unknown means to lift the spell and Fionn was again a healthy young warrior, but his hair stayed white. There is still a very powerful superstition in the area against swimming in the lake which would turn your hair white. Michael J. Murphy wrote that a hundred years ago people brought linen to soak it in the lake prior to bleaching, possibly on the strength of the legend.
It had been believed that Slieve Gullion was named after 'Sliabh Chulainn - Culan's Mountain' - Culan being the smith/armourer to king Conor Mac Nessa and from whom Cú Chulainn (Setanta) gained his name following the slaying by the same Setanta of Culan's prize hound. The earliest mention we have of Slieve Gullion is dated to 965 AD, from Ó Céitinn's History of Ireland, and mentions 'sliab  Cuillinn'. Like all myths and wishful thinking, probably not so - although it is fair to conjecture that said legend and tales very well took place around the mountain's slopes. The abundance of holly on the mountain probably points to the real origin of its name.
We had lunch inside the passage grave in the south cairn which is dated to between 3600 and 2500 BC, which makes it a lot older than the pyramids. On the way down we had a good view of the scene of the crime - the shooting of landlord Meredith Chambre in 1852. See 'Some Local History' for more on that.
  • 6/3/11 Slieve Foye from Two Mile Water car park

Not much history on this one, beyond the fact that during the Nine Years' War (in September 1600), O'Neill ambushed Mountjoy's forces between Omeath and the Two Mile Water, the stream that runs through the Slieve Foye Forest car park.

  • 20/3/11 Carnawaddy from Ballymakellet (Lumpers Pub)

Carnawaddy (Carn an mhadaidh = cairn of the dog) is reputed to be the burial place of Cuchulainn's faithful hound Bran.

  • 3/4/11 Flagstaff, Barranrilla and Fathom Mountain to Barracrick and Benson's Glen

How does Flagstaff get its name? One theory is that the monks at Killeavy posted sentries there to keep a lookout for Viking ships in the Lough - they had been raided in the 830's - and run up a warning flg on a pole if they saw sails heading in. From the Viewpoint we follow the ridge of Fathom Mountain where there is a Mass Rock and other items of interest, crossing the Fathom Green Road, a loanan which is a short cut between the Fathom and Flagstaff roads. Mickey Connolly tells us that the families featured in the BBC programme 'Ice Emigrant' passed that way in 1849 on their way via Narrowwater ferry to their ship the Hannah at Warrenpoint. At the bend overlooking Narrowwater there is a flat stone on the ditch where local lads would take a girl and sit her down if they were going to propose. The tradition lives - not so long back he found an empty champagne bottle and two glasses on the ditch. At the Fathom Road end there is an ancient cillin, a burial place for unbaptised children. At the junction is a small shed with loft above. A lot of Fathom men were sailors and Mickey says there was once a wedding with dancing in the loft with barrels of brandy and port (which no doubt fell off a ship) lined up on the ditch alongside. We cross the Windy Road and stay on the ridge to Barracrick, where we follow a loanan along the railway to Brogies Road (so called because two cobblers once lived there beside each other). Back up the Flagstaff Road for 1km past Barracrick again and down into Benson's Glen where there is a folly, a ruined three-storey, ten-sided hunting lodge which is thought to have been built with the stone from a castle built lower down the Glen by Shane O'Neill in the 1550s - or possibly on the same site as part of the structure seems older and more roughly built than the rest. A most unusual feature is a turret stairs with a chimney running up the centre.

  • 17/4/11 Dromad wood to Forkhill, via March Wall, Kilnasaggart, Carrickbroad, Johnson's Mountain, Glendooey, Captains and Tievecrom Mountain

We started off at the CoI church with the story of Lord Clermont's whorehouse in Edentubber, and at the March Wall we heard about the shooting of the Moore sisters by the Staffordshire Regiment in 1921. Down to the Kilnasaggart stone, which was tipped over in the 1830s by a local family (wer're still afraid to name them) who thought there was treasure under it. This is almost certainly a pagan stone subsequently christianised.

  • There used to be a water mill at Kilnasaggart, beside the house known as John the Boy's (the Kilnasaggart Stone is on their land). The stream filled up a mill pond which occupied most of the field between the house and the road. The mill was owned and operated by the Murphy family, which is fine, because under no circumstances should we let anyone named McCormick set the business up again. The Prophecies of Columbkille state:"When the son of Cormac again grinds corn at Kilnasaggart, the end of the world is near." We better keep an eye on the planning permission notices. The mill is shown on the Griffiths Valuation map of 1864.
  •  In Glendooey we skipped smartly through the ruined walled garden of the Johnston estate. We skirted Forkhill House (the Captain's), seat of the Jackson estate of which much more on 29/5/11.

    • 1/5/11Feede to Faughil -Drumad Souterrain  Souterrains were used during early Medieval times to store food and other precious objects. Additionally, it was used as prime location for protection during conflict. On the slopes of Feede Mountain a recorded, granite built souterrain was found within the road lands in the townland of Drumad. However, the underground passage has been avoided by construction works and preserved.   Local tradition has it that St Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, hid within it to avoid the English Military. Up to about 1960 priests used to come here to pray and the old people of the area remember mass being said here. 

    • Jonesborough Church of Ireland

      As Jonesborough was traditionally a plantation village, there would have been a concentration of Protestants residing in the area, many of whom where Presbyterian or Anglican.   The church was originally built circa 1732, rebuilt in 1772 and consecrated in 1785 following the addition of 6 townlands from Ballymascanlon – Aghnaskeagh, Drumad, Anaverna, Ravensdale Park, Claret Rock and Plaster. t was repaired in 1812 at a cost of £370 — a gift from the Board of First Fruits. It was again repaired in 1863 and rebuilt at the expense of the late Lord Clermont, and opened for worship on 30 Sep., 1866.    It is reputed that within this local area nobody took much notice of a person’s religion and the majority of protestant children attended the local Catholic schools, but didn’t participate in religious instruction.   The Church closed 10 September 1978. De-consecrated 12 November 1991. 

      Jonesborough Presbyterian Church

      This church was formed in 1861 to facilitate the few Presbyterians living in the area, most of whom where officers stationed at the local constabulary barracks (where Jonesborough Parochial House is now situated).      The Minster stationed at Jonesborough resigned in 1882, due to the lack of Presbyterians then living in the area and the congregation was united with Castlebellingham.   Following the unification, services where only held within the church several times a year, and the church was burned down in 1970.   The church is now a ruinous barn. 

      Faughil Shankill

      The Catholic Church traditionally taught that baptism is essential for a soul to enter heaven and therefore the ritual must take place as near to birth as possible. For decades, newborns and infants who die before baptism were deemed ineligible for salvation and were not buried on consecrated, or holy, ground.     This enclosure has been used within living memory for the burial of unbaptised children  in the Parish.


    • 15/5/11 Ferry Wood to Fathom Wood and Fathom Pass
    Monastery site/cillin, Ferry Wood

    Extract from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, 1854

    (Available Newry Library)

     The following article is a faithful translation of a Latin tract, which is preserved, among other treasures of Irish literature, in the Burgundian Library at Brussels... The tract is without a date; but it appears from internal evidence to have been written shortly after 1643...The author, Father Edmund (Eamonn) McCann, a Franciscan Friar, was manifestly a diligent and single-minded inquirer ...

    "On the banks of the river of Lake Lir, now known by the natives as Loch Carling, opposite the territory called Iveagh, stood the monastery of Kill-Snabha, which was celebrated in former times for having three hundred monks, who day and night uninterruptedly employed themselves in the praises of God, but which was at last desolated by heathen pirates, and all its three hundred inmates slain, with the exception of the abbot, who happened at the time to be absent in the region of Ui-meth [Omeath]. It was founded by the munificence of the Lords of Oregellia [Oriel]. At the present day it is barely in the recollection of man, so great, (with sorrow be it said), is the forgetfulness of ancient works. Right opposite to this once celebrated monastery has been erected a Castle, which is commonly called the Castle of Caol [Narrowwater] in Irish."


    Fr Lawrence Murray (Lorcan O Muiri) dates the wipe-out to 841 AD in his History of Omeath (Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal, Vol. III, No. 3, 1914. pp. 213-231, in Dundalk Library). Fr McCann is probably a bit over the top with his 300 monks - this was most likely a small hermit monk offshoot from Killeavy.

    The Newry-Greenore railway closed in 1953. The stream which forms the border is referred to in documents from 1612 as the Owencoggery.


    Larry Tam's (or McAllisters') Loanan which runs from the middle of Flagstaff hill on the Ferryhill road to Clontigora Hill. This was once an important pilgrim route to the grave of St Patrick, by Narrowwater Ferry, Burren, Mayobridge and Eight-Mile Bridge (now (HIlltown) to Downpatrick. Even though the loanan has been badly eroded by water it is clear that there was once a well-stoned road base. Elsewhere, pilgrims actually built such roads through difficult territory as a sort of penance. A walled section of the road can still be seen in Fathom Wood. The route is practically a straight line from Carrickarnon to Narrowwater.


    It was the main road to the ferry until the current Ferryhill Road was built by the main Omeath landlord, the Earl of Anglesea, around 1780 along with the New Line from Cornamucklagh Cross down to Davy's. The attachment Omeath Map below shows a sketch map from 1670 and a better drawn Taylor & Skinner map from about 1771. Both indicate (top left corner) that the road up from Cornamucklagh took a sharp turn left (or west) just over the townland border in Fathom, which fits exactly with the position of the loanan.


    The redcoats of Johnston of the Fews probably marched along this road around 1750 to arrest the poet and rapparee Seamas Mor Mac Murchaidh at the shebeen of Patsy McDacker and take him to Armagh for hanging. It was thought the shebeen was on this road but very recent local information locates it very precisely - at the first house (Matthews) on the Upper Fathom Road coming in from the Flagstaff end. The shebeen was in the shed with its gable to the road and there is one small, low original window.  More on the outlaw poet in the attachment  - Creggan Outlaw - on the Other Walks page


    • 29/5/11 Urney graveyard (Forkhill), Shean Mountain, Glendesha Mass Rock, Market Stone, Belmont Barracks
    Urney (Urnai = place of prayer) is reputedly the burial place of the poet Peadar O Doirnin, possible ancestor of your humble correspondent. Reputedly because our fella says local tradition disputes it and says he is buried in Creggan. Not far away on the Shean road, close to the Bog Road turnoff, was the site of the Franciscan priory suppressed during the Penal Days. Come along on the day to hear the role they played in getting Oliver Plunkett executed.
    Squire Jackson was unequaled
    For honour or for reason,
    He never turned a traitor
    Or betrayed the rights of man
    This song about 1798 and its aftermath, The Boys of Mullagbawn, indicates that landlord Jackson of Forkhill House was not the worst of landlords. He endowed the local school and employed a highly popular teacher who has come down to us only with the name of Mr Knowledge. But when Jackson died in 1787 he left a few sectarian timebombs in his will, the main one being that expiring leases of papists could only be renewed by Protestants. Over the next few years there was an influx of Protestants, particularly in Carrickasticken. His estate was administered by a trust chaired by the Protestant rector, Rev. Hudson who fired Mr Knowledge and replaced him with a Protestant called Barclay. Sectarian violence followed and the local Defenders cut out Barclay's tongue leading to repression and a group of local men in shackles heading for Botany Bay. Another verse of the song refers to Hudson:
    But now we are endangered
    By a vile deceiving stranger
    Who has ordered transportation
    For the Boys of Mullaghbawn
    Read Kevin Ned Murphy's excellent history at this link
     After visiting Jackson's folly, the tower visible from the Mullaghbawn road, we head over Shean Mountain and down to see the spectacular Mass Rock in Glendesha. Over to Quilly then to see the Market Stone, a massive rock which was a hiring place for farm labourers. It was also a place for linen trading and a yard-length measure is chiselled into the rock. Linen trading was used as a front for meetings of the United Irishmen and Jemmy Hope came here from Mallusk, Co.Antrim to swear them in.
    Back out on the Glendesha road, near the junction with Lough Road there is a beautifully restored cottage belonging to a man called Owen McCann. He tells me the byre and loft were built by Art Bennett, the last of the Gaelic Poets who was also a mason.
    Further on is the double house, one half of which is the home of Padraigin Ni hUllachan, author of Hidden Ulster, a great account of local history and Gaelic culture in the area. This was originally Shanroe Barracks, built in 1689 to suppress the local rapparees, still known as tories. It was abandoned about 1750 only to be rebuilt in 1794 as Belmont Barracks at the request of the 'vile deceiving stranger' to house military to suppress the Defenders and United Irishmen. It certainly protected him - he lived right in front of the barracks. Kevin Ned has the full story. Behind it is the Whipping Lane, where the Carrive blacksmith Tom Lappin was whipped to death for forging pikeheads. Kevin Ned writes: "The local tradition says that the informer who betrayed Lappin was set upon by his neighbours and burned to death in his own kitchen fire at Tullydonnell. The officer at Belmont who was responsible for Lappin's torture was a Captain Farnan." Lappin is buried in Urney.

    On a Monday morning early
    As my wand'ring steps did lead me,
    Down by a farmer's station,
    Of meadow and green lawn,
    I heard great lamentation
    That the wee birds they were makin'
    Sayin' "We'll have no more engagements
    With the boys of Mullaghbawn."

    Squire Jackson was unequaled
    For honour or for reason,
    He never turned a traitor
    Or betrayed the rights of man,
    But now we are endangered
    By a vile deceiving stranger
    Who has ordered deportation
    For the Boys of Mullaghbawn.

    As those heroes crossed the ocean
    I'm told the ship in motion
    Did stand in wild commotion
    As if the seas ran dry,
    The trout and salmon gaping
    As the cuckoo left her station
    Sayin', "Fare thee well Killeavy
    And the hills of Mullaghbawn".

    To end my lamentation
    We are all in consternation
    For the want of education
    I here must end my song;
    None cares for recreation
    Since without consideration
    We are sent for transportation
    From the hills of Mullaghbawn.

    The 'cuckoo' who left her station was an informer, a woman called Betty O'Neial from Tullydonnell who no doubt travelled for reasons of health. 

  • 12/6/11 Cadgers Pad from Tullaghomeath (Clermontpass Bridge) to Annaverna.
  • The Cadger's Pad was the route by which herring from Omeath were brought to market in Dundalk in times gone by.

     In Omeath a cadger was originally a pedlar, a bit like the term pavee which is better known in South Armagh. Itis a very old English term according to the Online Etymology Dictionary:
    cadger - "itinerant dealer with a pack-horse," mid-15the century., which is perhaps from early 14th century  cadge  "to fasten, to tie," of unknown origin.
     Later the term later passed into general usage as a beggar or more often a sponger, someone 'cadging fags' for example. Charles Dickens used it to mean a chancer, trickster or con man. But in this area in the 19th century it still had the old meaning:
    "The inhabitants of this district [Omeath], having but little arable land, eke out their subsistence by hawking fish through the country, and are greatly looked down upon by their neighbours on the south, the Cooley people, who say that the Omeath-men are no better than pedlars and cadgers."
    (Ulster Journal of Archaeology 1854)
    It was particularly applied to sellers of fish, as in this recitation from Co. Down:

    The Mourne Cadger

    Felix travelled the roads of Down and the sound of his cart was known,
    From away beyond Dromara to the loanen's of Killowen.
    From the Laney and the Carrick to Rathfriland and Dromore,
    With his 'Hern alive' from Annalong just caught the night before.

    Other dictionaries define it as a Scottish word for a travelling fish salesman or a fishmonger, or an itinerant huckster or packman, which makes it practically synonomous with pavee. There is a walking route in Scotland (Perthshire) known as the Cadgers Way.

    The fish were carried in creels and although there were no doubt donkeys used, there is a strong local tradition of a line of young, barefoot girls heading up from the bridge ( built in the 1840s: see the plaque) with creels on their backs. Herring stocks in the Lough declined sharply in the late 19th century.

    Somewhere along the Pad, the Vikings got their comeuppance. Fr Lorcan O Muiri wrote:

    [In 921] "the Irish got a leader about whose genius and heroism all the Annals are agreed—a man whose prowess earned for him the title " Hector of the West "—Muirchertach MacNeill, tanist of Ireland. The first mention made of him in the Annals tells how, at Annaverna, a little pass in the mountains behind Omeath, he intercepted a party of Danes when they were returning across the mountains from a raid on the old abbey of Killeavy, at the base of Sliabh Gullion. In 928 he attacked their stronghold at Carlingford Lough, and drove them completely off the mainland. On 28th December of the same year, he attacked the Danish settlement in Dundalk Bay, and at one of the bridges over the Dee, at Clonnacruimhthenn, near Annagasson, he inflicted a serious defeat on them. Next day the whole Danish navy in Dundalk Bay and Carlingford Lough was captured. As a result of these victories, the Irish Annals contain the following short but pregnant entry:—" The foreigners of Linnduachaill and of Cuan Snamh Aighneach [Carlingford Lough] left Ireland."

    Murray refers to Annaverna as a pass while we think of it as a townland, but the clue is in the name. Ath na bhearna = the ford of the pass. Clearly the ford must have been on the river where the bridge is today, but the pass in question has to be the saddle between Black Mountan and Carnawaddy, through which the Cadger's Pad passes.

    The main track down to Annaverna itself is modern, built with voluntary labour during the Second World War in an attempt to get access to the big turf fields below Clermont. But Ravensdale lost out to a government scheme to run a proper road up from Ardaghy (Omeath) and eventually a second one from Edentubber (see the Turf Road attachment on the 'Some Local History' page). We will be following the original route as shown on the Griffiths valuation map from around 1858, where it is called the Cadgers Road. The map is attached below with the route highlighted in blue from top right (north east) at Tullagh Bridge to bottom left (south west) at the old Cadgers Bridge in Annaverna.

    The story of the Long Woman’s Grave

    Conn O Hanlon "Ceann of Omeath Mara" died rather suddenly and on his death bed he told his eldest son Conn to divide his lands with his younger brother Lorcan. Conn replied that he would bring his younger brother to a height and give him all the land as far as he could see. The father was happy that all the land would be fairly divided when he had died. When Conn the elder died much to the surprise and disgust of Lorcan, the younger Conn brought him to a great Lug or hollow high up in the mountains at Aenagh where it is impossible to see more than a few yards around the black hollow. He said, "as far as you can see is yours" laughing. As you can imagine Lorcan was far from pleased but he also owned a splendid boat and with this he started to trade to the East, running some profitable cargoes and he started making plenty of money from these ventures abroad. On one of these trading trips to Cadiz in Spain he had the good fortune to meet a Spanish Grandee and her daughter. He saved the ladies when they were sailing in their pleasure yacht. When they returned to the shore the Grandee held a banquet in honour of Lorcan. Lorcan was extolled by the ladies and their guests for his bravery but especially so by his daughter who was extremely grateful for the rescue.

    Lorcan and the tall Spanish lady seemed enchanted with each other from the beginning. She was seven feet tall, only three inches smaller than Lorcan. He learned from her that her father’s people were of the royal line of Spain. Her mother was one of the princely O Donnells a branch of which had long been settled in Spain. Her mother’s Christian name was Cauthleen, a name which the daughter also bore.

    Lorcan boasted about his wealth back home. He said that he could stand on a great height and for as far as he could see the land was his. Cauthleen was impressed by this and being totally besotted with her Lorcan declared his love far her and offered to leave his mercantile career behind and take her home and settle down.

    Cauthleen gladly accepted but her father dissented as she had already been engaged to a Spanish nobleman. The couple united in secret and set sail for Ireland. They arrived in Lough Carlinn, sailed up the Lough and cast anchor in Omeath. The natives were impressed with Lorcans wife as she was very well dressed and her jewelry was very striking but it was her extraordinary height that generated most attention.

    She was taken aback by the beauty of the area and was eager to see the lands of Lorcan. At last she reached the hollow in the rocks. Lorcan told her exactly what Conn had told him "That he owned the land as far as you can see". She was so disappointed and without she fell forward, suffered a heart attack and died. Lorcan was so much in love with his bride and felt so badly with the part he had played in her death that he ran wildly up the steep path to the bog of Aennagh and flung himself into the bog.

    The natives who were awaiting the Long Woman to return became anxious and went in search of the couple. They came upon her body in the enclosure of the rocks but they never found Lorcan dead or alive. They dug a grave for Cauthleen and buried her where she lay in Lug Bhan Fada. Each native cast a stone on top to raise her burial cairn and this can still be seen in the mountains overlooking Omeath today.