Bann Valley Genealogy
The Parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght O‘Crilly

By J.W. Kernohan, M.A.


These transcription of this work was started and finished by Barbara Braswell. Further parts have been transcribed and the whole ‘marked up’ in HTML by Richard Torrens.

Title Page

The Parishes of



Tamlaght O’Crilly
A sketch of their history,
with an account of the
Boveedy Congregation.


J. W. Kernohan, M.A.

Printed at the “Chronicle” Office


These sketches were first undertaken in response to a request for a, brief account of Presbyterianism in the district roughly co-extensive with the Parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght O’Crilly in Londonderry. But realizing that the object in view might be better accomplished by including the ecclesiastical in the civil history, and thus presenting it in its proper setting, the writer was persuaded to take a more extended view of the settlement and growth of the district.

There was a further inducement in the fact that the plantation and development of the “proportion” of the Worshipful Company of Mercers provided a typical example of the colonizing scheme of James I., arising out of his well-intentioned desire to reduce a hitherto disturbed and distracted country to order and good government.
J. W. Kernohan.

Part I – The Plantation Period

When one attempts to deal with the period of Irish history that preceded the Plantation of Ulster, he is met with a deficiency of records from which to trace the story of a small district such as is comprehended within the bounds of two parishes. He is also beset with a temptation to indulge his imagination in the struggle through the rather bald narrative of the Irish annalists. So complete was the change from the old order of things under Queen Elizabeth’s regime, when the City of London undertook the colonization of the tract of country which subsequently received the name of Londonderry, that the writer feels on surer ground in making the Plantation his starting point. And so distinctly organised was the colony of the Mercers and the other city companies, that there is an abundance of records to provide information for the seventeenth century at least.


Before the middle of the eighteenth century, when a new lord of the soil appeared on the scene to make arrangements for rent-collecting, but to be seldom seen there afterwards, the site of the future market town of Kilrea was marked by a cluster of thatched houses close by the Church, after the manner of the ancient feudal castle and its circle of huts, while on the neighbouring townlands were scattered the homesteads of the farmers and labourers.

Ecclesiastical Property

In the parochial distribution that was in force since the eleventh or twelfth century, Kilrea was a compact little parish lying along the River Bann, and like its neighbour Agivey, held a peculiar position being “appropryated” to the Abbey of SS. Peter and Paul of Armagh. The connection with the Abbey is described in a inquisition taken in 1609 – “Two acres of Glebe land, and also the Parish of Kilrea, containing ten ballibows, whereon are both a parson and vicar, for the space of 170 years past, have pertained to the Abbot of SS. Peter and Paul of Armagh; and like wise the tithes were paid unto the said Abbot and his predecessors; and that the said presentation and right of patronage, together with said tithes of Kilreagh. lately came to the crown by the said Abbot was “seized in his demesne as of fee, in right of his house. of and in the four townlands called Kilreagh in possession of the herenagh O’Demon, and two parts of the tithes thereof, and of and in the tithes for the fishing for eels near adjoining the same, and also of and in the two townlands called Monaghgrane, with the tithes thereof in the parish of Kilreagh, aforesaid.” From the name of the herenagh or layman who farmed the property and had the upkeep of the Church, the place was nominated “Kilrea O’Demon, or O’Diamond.

Topological Details


The townlands mentioned in the early grants to the Mercer’s company corresponded roughly to the present names, though from some of them becoming obsolete it is impossible to identify all the old divisions. In the 1618 grant the following are recited:- Mayannaher, Clara Letrim, Leah Leava, Monygran, Killyfaddy, Nergena, Moynock, Lisleah, ffalla Cogey, Lisnagrott, Lanvore, Carnroo, 6 Tawlett, Coldrum Drena. It will be observed that Kilrea is not mentioned. Apparently it was not then in the hands of the company; and the denominations of the townlands composing it – Ballynealane and Ballyawlagh – though marked on the 1609 Barony maps are now quite lost.

Other place-names are evidently lost, as may be seen by the following definition of the boundaries of the parish as given in the Civil Survey of 1654 – “The bounds of the said parish beginneth with the Bog of Monedecogrie to Gortm’creen West, and from thence Southward to Cranaghbradagh; and from thence Eastward to Iavers, crossing over that little brook by Falugnie Westward to Lynluchoy; and from thence to the mearing posts by Moygenney Eastward; and from thence Eastward by Invers to the River of Band; and by the River of Band Northwards to the Bog of Modenecogrie aforesaid.” A few of these names are distinguishable, but all that can be said of the bog is that it lay between Claragh and Movanagher.


When the Londoners were a few years in possession, the tithes of the Abbot’s goodly property had passed to the first of the Cannings of Garvagh, but, before even the great London guilds had been attracted by the woods and pleasant streams full of game and fish. Sir Toby Caulfield, an old “servitor,” had been allowed to “appropriate” the Abbot’s lands in default of other pay for his services in the late wars, but in consideration of other rewards was was pleased to resign in favour of the Londoners, who were in a position to have all their demands granted in return for undertaking the colonization of such a barbarous tract of land as lay between the Bann and the Foyle. the great forest of Glenconkein and Killetragh probably included the district around Kilrea, though in the barony map (1609) the territory is styled “Clandonnell” from the tribe of O’Neills that held sway here. If we are to believe the Pynnar’s Survey of 1618, they were “the wickedest men in all of the country.” 7

A Chieftain Bold

Bishop Reeves in a paper on the crannoge of Innishrush says they were descended from a Donnell O’Neill of the Shane’s Castle branch, whose great grandson, Brian Carragh, was their chieftain in the sixteenth century. His chief fortress was situated on the island or crannoge in Green Lough. His force of men was small, but the character of the country -“the strongest fastness” – gave him his chief strength, and enabled him to defy not only the English, but neighbouring clans. It was, no doubt, from the reputation of this wild and turbulent chieftain that Pynnar and the English settlers got their opinion of the country.


The traditional stories of Brian give the impression of anything but a perfect gentle knight. “Brian would never hang one man alone, and if he found a man guilty of swinging by his law, he would give him a long day, until he could find another to dance along with him. One time he found a man guilty, and a long time passed over, but no companion could be found for him. At last a stranger cane to visit the friars of a monastery within the territory, and Brian riding out one day, viewed him, and they allowed that he sent word to the Abbot requesting him to lend that man, and that he would send one in return as soon as possible. The Abbot fearing to disobey him sent for the man, and Brian caused him to be hanged along with the convict. Soon after this he found two others guilty, one of whom attracted his notice as being remarkably comely. Brian spoke to him, saying ‘I shall forgive you if you will marry a daughter that I have.’ ‘Let’s se her.’ says the convict. Brian sends for the daughter; but as soon as the comely youth beheld her, he cried out: ‘Up with me, up with me.’ ‘By the powers,’ says Brian, ‘I will not up with you, but she must go up.’ Upon which he hanged his own daughter for her ugliness, and gave the comely youth up to the Abbot, in payment of the man he had borrowed from him to make up the even number.” This is the kind of story that 8 was related to Dr. O’Donovan when he was in Co. Derry in 1834, and is quoted by Reeves.

Such is the character this freebooter of Elizabeth’s reign left behind him, exaggerated, no doubt, by the elusive type of warfare he carried on from his forest fastness. And such time as he was not raiding his neighbours, when occasion rose, he to be found engaging with the O’Kanes and O’Neills in their common cause against the invading Sassenachs or Scots. Is it to be wondered at, then, that a powerful body like the London Corporation were required to plant and reduce this turbulent area to order and good government? Or that Pynnat, the surveyor, hesitated about wandering far into the woody region about Kilrea, where it was reported that a herdsman was seized and hanged on a neighbouring tree? Or had he heard of the reception given to a map-maker, when the Irish of Tyrconnel took off his head because “they would not have their country discovered?” It is worth repeating another reason given by Sir Thjomas Philips for the introduction of the City Companies into Ulster – that if Spain and the other enemies of England were aware that London “had a footing in the Plantation they would be terrified from looking into Ireland – the back-door to england and Scotland.”

There were successive attempts at insurrection in the years following, and the history of Ulster during the whole of the century was one of unsettlement and uncertainty.

Pioneer Planters


The Irish Society was constituted for the purpose of the Plantation in 1610, three years later the allotments to the Companies was made, but so slow was the progress made that the conveyance of the manors was not completed till 1618. From a memorandum attached to the deed of conveyance at Movanagher Castle when one Robert Goodwin, representing the Irish Society, did enter Movanagher, and at the Castle there did give and deliver full 9 and peacable possession of all the manor lands unto Richard Vernon, agent-attorney to the Mercers’, and in the presence of the witnesses Oliver Mather, clerk; Robert Thornton, Wm. Perry, Thos. Hudson, John Hudson, Ralph Vernon, Donnell O’Quin, Charles Williams, William Cofton, and Hugh O’Curan.


The manor lands of the Mercers covered, roughly speaking, the parishes of Kilrea and O’Crilly (northern portion), and a small part of Destertoghill.Tamlaght They were reckoned at that time as containing 3,210 acres. Pynnar reported the castle as being “not inferior to any that is built, for it is a good strong work and well built; and a very large bawne of 120 feet square, with four flankers, all of good stone and lime.” There are other points of his report which are graphic and significant. “There are divers other houses of slight building, but they are far off and dwell dispersedly in the wood, where they are forced of mere necessity to relieve such woodkearn as go up and down the country; and as I am informed by divers in the country, they are in 46 townlands of this proportion [the Mercers’] that are set to the Irish of the sept of Clandonnells (descendants of a Donnell O’Neill)” – in short, our erstwhile friends, Brian Carragh O’Neill’s merrymen. This was contrary to the conditions of the Plantation, but the fact is tenants were hard to get; and if these wild and lawless freebooters were induced to renounce the sword for the plough, such covenant-breaking was perhaps pardonable. And yet it was rather soon for the plough. The forest, “the noblest of them,” was doomed to destruction: and if the Irish were persuaded, by whatever means, to join in the havoc in the woods, they were shearing themselves of half their strength, but making for better civilization by resorting to ways of husbandry. It is truer, however, to regard them rather in the light of herdsmen, for the habit of “creaghting” was strong in them. It is to the strangers – pioneers, if you will – we must give the credit of “planting,” and to the Scotsmen particularly. It was observed that but for 10 their industry at the plough, there would have been starvation in the Northern parts. The natives counted their wealth by the heads of cattle they possessed.

The London merchants saw the immense wealth of timber in the forest, and soon the colonists were hard at work felling, building and exporting. Just picture to yourself pioneer work in the backwoods of America, and you have the scene along the banks of the Bann. The 1611 report explicitly mentions masons, carpenters, tilemakers, quarrymen, bargemen, sawyers, wainmen, woodfellers, floaters of timber, and cottmen.

Defensive Operations

Progress was slow. But in 1622 Sir Thomas Phillips, who had acted as guide at first for the King, made a report of the Mercer’s estate:

“The principal house is a three-storied house of stone, slated, with circular towers with conical roof at each angle of the house, with two red brick chimneys standing at the side of the bawn. The bawn is square, the wall of stone, with red brick battlements; at three of the angles of the bawn, circular flankers with slated roofs of conical form. Under the house is written ‘Mr. Valentine Hartop.’ There are four two-storied houses of frame-work, with apparently shingle roofs; under three are the names: ‘Mr. Madden, minister; Dixon; Charles Williams;’ the fourth has no name. There are besides four other small houses thatched; only one is names, ‘Thomas Bromley.’ There are two low circular dwellings without names. There is a river or large stream, and near it a water-mill. The whole is represented as in a forest.”


Such is a description of the plan as found in State Papers. There were at this time 3 freeholders, 52 “British men,” and 145 natives on the Mercer’s proportion. The growth of the settlement can be judged by the number of men – 17 men in 1618, 52 in 1622, and 8711 in 1631 (See the Appendix.) We quote from the plan again:

“Upon it there is a place Greanaghan, four miles from Dongladye towards the mountains, whereon a plantation is fit to be made for the safety of that part of the country. where many murthers and robberies have been committed, to the great terror of the poor inhabitants.”

Granaghan was a strategic point between the celebrated fort of Dunglady and the mountains.

What was the system of letting the lands? Each Company was obliged to make six freeholds. There were also lessees of estates of anything from 30 to 200 acres, and each of these again had undertenants. The agent of the Mercers followed the practise of letting for periods of 31 years. Rents were low, probably. There was a complaint made that rents of one shilling an acre were raised until, about 1637, they amounted to about ten times as much.

The Early Settlers


We have already gathered something of the character of the native Irish. What of the immigrants? At first, the names were predominantly English in Co. Derry, but an influx of Scotch soon altered that. The suppression of the Border wars sent afloat large numbers of wild and turbulent men, who, it may be allowed, found their way to the new colonies. We have it on Sir Walker Scott’s authority, at least, that the transportation of the Graham clan to Ireland followed on the cessation of Border hostilities. Nor do the McFarlands resent a reminder of their association with moonlight raids and reivers in the celebrated phrase applied to the moon = “McFarland’s lantern.” Part of the conditions imposed on the “undertakers,” as the principal planters were styled, required the establishment of the reformed religion. This was assuredly a task of great dimensions, considering the type of men who came over from Britain in the earliest years of the Plantation. Religion12 was ar a low ebb, and it is to the great credit of the ministers of religion that in subsequent years Ulster became such a God-fearing province. A Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Andrew Stewart, can be easily believed, when he states that most of the colonists were of different names, nations, dialects, temper, and breeding; “and, in a word, all void of godliness, who seemed rather to flee from God in this enterprise that to follow their own mercy; yet God followed them when they fled from Him – albeit, at first, it must be remembered that they cared little for any Church.” Other authorities might be quoted to similar purpose. Transplantation and the assurance of a return in the shape of golden harvests worked wonders. In a short time, they were trooping across the Channel in companies of a hundred at a time. From this original substratum of early colonists very few of our modern Ulster families can claim descent.


A sermon preached in 1622 conveys the impression that the preachers were of the same complexion as the people. This arose from the difficulty of finding preachers for the parish churches. It was not till after the outbreak of the 1641 Rebellion that organised Presbytery was introduced into Ulster, and a real revival of religion began. The jealousy that arise in consequence is clearly outlined in the language of that High Churchman, Peter Heylin, chaplain of Charles I. Speaking of the Londoner’s plantation in Co. Derry, he said – “It was carried on more vigorously, as more unfortunately withal, by some adventurers of the Scottish nation, who poured themselves into this country as the richer soil: and though they were sufficiently industrious in improving their own fortunes there, and set up preaching in all churches wheresoever they fixed; yet whether it happened for better or worse, the event hath showed. For they brought hither such a stock of Puritanism, such a contempt of bishops, such a neglect of public liturgy and other divine offices of this church, that there was nothing less to be found amongst them than 13 the government and forms of worship established in the Church of England.” Had not Heylin, or rather his friend Laud, introduced the deplorable cleavage in the Protestantism – the Broad Church – of Ulster, we might have now a different story to tell of the progress of the reformed religion in Ireland.

Dr. Peter Heylon knew something of the Londoner’s Plantation. He was nephew of a Master of the Ironmongers Company.

A Prophet in the Wilderness

Going back a little in the Plantation period, that of the early abortive insurrections, when racial differences were strongest, there were added the religious divisions, which were fomented by the religious orders in their fear of losing control over the natives. The State Papers have preserved a graphic picture of a Franciscan friar in the woods of Loughinsholin addressing a crowd of one thousand people, and like a second John the Baptist, urging them to reform their wicked lives; and adding to the suggested reformation an injunction not to enter the “English” churches. He assured them that he was sent by the Pope, and that “those were devil’s words, which the English ministers spake, and all should be damned who heard them.” The old story! As Dr.John McDonnell wittily remarks, the one were assuring the other of their quick descent along the primrose path to the everlasting bonfire, or even minus the primroses. And at the conclusion of the friar’s sermon came the inevitable collection. He received a great gift of oxen, sheep, and money, which the chronicler was so unkind as to suggest was to be carried off to the friars of Louvain from the poor distressful country.


Trouble was in store for the London Companies when Charles I came to the throne. This impecunious monarch had as faithful ally and watchman Sir Thomas Phillips, of Limavady, who made all sorts of allegations against Londoners for mismanagement, making public details of rents and profits. But as the value of 14 money has altered so considerably since then, the money transactions need not be given. There was probably some ground for the charges, and whether they were justifiable or not – some of the conditions of Plantation were probably impossible of fulfilment – they had serious consequences for the Companies during this reign. Three informations were exhibited in the Court of Star Chamber on the plea of non-performance of agreements and covenants. The Companies had also the Church against them in the person of Bishop Bramhall. The result was that the City was fined in the sum of £70,000, the Irish lands were seized by the King, and the Companies’ tenants were turned out of possession. The wealthy Londoners were a good mark for a needy Sovereign. In panic the Companies offered a lump sum to get clear of all obligations in connection with their Irish estates, and their patents being made void, the King had possession of the lands for a short space, till a turn of affairs of State produced another claimant for their favour; and in the dispute between King and Parliament lay their opportunity. It was not the Companies, however, but their Irish tenants who petitioned Parliament against the Star Chamber proceedings. In May, 1641, it was resolved that the sentence passed by the Star Chamber was arbitrary and unjust, and the King was requested to restore the charter to the Companies. But while this was being done the great rebellion broke out.

The Rebellion of 1641

In the words of one who arrived in Magherafelt a few years later:-


“Within a few days, all the houses whatsoever in the County of Londonderry, excepting the city of Derry and the town of Coleraine, and one poor tenant’s house that stood in the woods, and so of all the province of Ulster, excepting the great towns of strength, were burnt, and their Protestants that could not make their escape to some place of strength were murdered, and 15 the stock they had both of live and dead goods taken away; and from that time to the year 1656, there was not so much as one single [British] inhabitant upon your land, nor upon any other of the Companies’ lands that ever I heard of.”

Rents were therefore non-existent. It was not until 1656 that the Companies had a re-grant of their Londonderry lands made by Cromwell, who was only too pleased to be able to give compensation for the advances of money made for his campaigns by the Londoners.

What is known as the “Portna Massacre” was the chief event of the rebellion as far as Kilrea was concerned. In the months succeeding the outbreak all the British were cleared out of County Derry. The Ordnance Survey Memoirs preserve a tradition to the effect that the Mercers’ chief tenant, Thomas Church, was besieged in his castle at Movanagher, was driven out, and in turn besieged the invader, but was again routed and pursued, losing all his men. What ttruth there may be in the story is uncertain. At any rate, the castle was burned, and Church found his way to Coleraine, where he was one of the besieged along with his minister, Collins, who died of his sufferings.


The west side of the river was completely in the hands of the rebels, and to keep these in check a regiment raised by Lord Antrinm’s agent, Stewart, was disposed at various points along the Bann. The regiment was composed of Roman Catholics and Protestants, among whom a division of opinion arose, as was to be expected. While Stewart and some of his men were absent succouring Canning at Agivey Castle, part of the remaining force fell upon their comrades and killed sixty of them. The evidence of the T.C.D. depositions goes to show that the assailants were coming from the Derry side of the river at Portna ferry. The Protestant companies were aroused at dawn by a turmoil, and on going out to ascertain the cause, they “saw McDonnell’s men approaching, wearing British colours and 16 carrying a white flag. Unsuspecting and unprepared, they were attacked on all sides – stabbed, shot, and murdered.” That is in brief the best account of a painful episode. At any rate, it is quite certain the Irish marched to Ballymoney followed by a plundering and murdering mod. The massacre occurred on the second day of the new year, 1641-42.

We have already seen that there were no setters of British blood on any of the Companies’ lands for many years after the outbreak. The Mercers’ lands were no better than, say, the Ironmongers at Aghadowey, or the Salters further south. All the buildings were completely demolished, and tenants were chary about rebuilding except on very easy rents. The tenant of the Salters Company said –

“In the year 1657 I went over and got a few straggling people to come upon your [the Salters’] land, but all I could get out of it for four years until the year 1660 was but £134 above the public taxes laid upon it. The Company then claimed four years’ rent from 1656 to 1660, and were pleased to accept of £160 for it, which was more by £26 than ever I made of it.£”

The Origin of Kilrea


When order was restored, and the settlers returned to the land, we find the Movanagher site abandoned. The position was proved bad for a beleaguered garrison. To provide a safe retreat in case of attack with every chance of continued defence, the high ground on which Kilrea now stands was chosen for the new settlement. The church and a few houses were already there. The name most prominently identified with the Mercers’ Estate during the period before the Restoration was that of Thomas Church. The family pedigree claims that he settled at Landmore, between Kilrea and Aghadowey, as early 17 as 1601. The earliest documentary reference to him I find in a juror’s list of 1622. There is no mention of him in any of the reports made regarding the Mercers’ property in this year, but in a muster-roll made about 1630 he is the chief man, with the style of “Knight.” He had 87 men, including two sons (see Appendix). He was armed with “sword and pike,” while his son carried a “sword and caliver.” After his escape from Movanagher, he appears to have gained prominence in Coleraine in 1642, having been despatched with others to London for help for the besieged town. By an order of 7th September, 1642, Parliament ordered £450 to be paid to several captains of Coleraine, including Thomas Church. They were also to be recouped for their expense and losses by a gift of land, when the trouble was over. Thomas Church was living in 1657, and it may be the same who is given in the Hearth-money Roll of Kilrea parish as being rated for three chimneys. A son, George, help the Moyletra (“The Grove”) freehold, which had been purchased from Charles Williams, the original freeholder. Thomas’ two grandsons were in Derry during the Siege. One of them, a major of horse, died of his wounds – “lost his hand, but gained much renown,” as the diarist Ash expressed it.

Bann Valley Genealogy
The Parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght O‘Crilly

By J.W. Kernohan, M.A.


Part II – From the Restoration to the “Ninety-Eight”, Part 1

God Save the King


We have seen that Cromwell restored the Charter to the Companies a few years before the Restoration. The return of Charles to the throne altered the state of affairs at Kilrea. Perhaps it would not be incorrect to surmise that the Mercers hastened to pay homage to the new monarch. Even in the distant parish by the Bann there is proof of it in the bell that was then erected in the Church, and which still hangs in the steeple of the present Church. It has inscribed on it 18 the significant words, “God save the King, 1660.” No doubt it added its music to the general peal of joy at the restoration of the monarchy.

The Poll Tax returns of 1660 enable us to state the number of people, over 15 years of age, who were resident in the parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght – 334. Of these 105 were English and Scotch and the remainder native Irish. By the Subsidy Roll of 1662 we find the names of the most substantial persons to have been – Thomas Church, Robert Bennet, and Thomas Giles, all living in Kilrea; John Read, Moynock; Charles Church, Movanagher; Robert Gregor, Fallahogey; Robert Ker, Moneygran; and Robert Campbell, Moyagney. Robert Bennet seems to have been the new agent of the Company. His services would be dispensed with when the Mercers leased their estate to one of the Jackson family of Coleraine in 1663. The Mercers and the other Companies had received conveyances of their manors again in accordance with the new charter issued to the Irish Society by Charles II. The Mercers’ Company continued this system of letting their lands to middlemen from 1663 till they resumed the management in 1831. Jackson’s lease ran from 1663 to 1713, and the yearly rent paid the Company was £300 with an initial fine of £500. In 1714 a new lease was made to John McMullan at an increased rent of £420, with £6,000 fine. In 1751 the third letting for 61 years and three lives was made to Alexander Stewart, of Newtonards, at the same rent, but with a fine of £16,500.

Exit the Company


This renunciation of their duties to their estate and tenants for such a length of time by handing them over to the tender mercies of middlemen, who had frequently other tenants between them and the tiller of the soil, was the worst feature of the land system of Co. Derry. The rack-renting that ensued and the disregard of the interests of the tenantry by absentee landlords was responsible for much of the 19 poverty and discontent that prevailed in the district, and furthered the emigration of the populace to the American Colonies in the eighteenth century.

Information is very scant about the period between the restoration and the Revolution. Considerable progress was being made. Trade had revived. There exists a trade token, dated 1678, having the name on Nicholas Edwards, “of Killrea,” inscribed on it, and a figure of a female head and bust, which was clearly intended to represent the “coat and crest” of the Mercers’ Company – the virgin’s head. This Edwards was one of those attainted by the Parliament of James II in 1689. On the various estates works for smelting iron were constructed, which caused great havoc among the woods still remaining, owing to the quantities of timber required as fuel. Forge Lough, as the name signifies, was where the iron works were located. There were others at Castledawson. The names of the ironworkers were given as Hodgins and Mayberry. The chief tenant of the Salter’s Estate has a doleful account of this period. He had spent considerable sums on re-building and planting after the last rebellion. “But so soon as the late King came to the Crown, he put the government and arms in Ireland into Popish hands, and thereby put the Protestants in fear, so that trade and rents began to cease, and the people that had anything considerable to remove out of the Kingdom, and so it continued until the happy Revolution.”

A New Account of the Siege of Derry

The same gentleman’s remarks regarding the country at the time of the Siege of Derry may be quoted as those of an eye-witness of the events of that stirring year, and may be taken as applicable to neighbouring estates.


“At the same time happened that fatal Siege of Derry, into which almost all the people of that country, that hd either purse or strength, and were not fled into England or Scotland, went and 20 were besieged sixteen weeks, and wherein many thousands died, of which I had above sixty whose hands I now dearly want; and when that siege was raised. the Irish, out of malice, burnt almost all the whole country, some few houses excepted, and drove and carried away all their cattle and goods, and left only a few poor naked people ready to perish for want. . . . . It was not in your nor my power to hinder what hath happened; was, fire and the sword hath done it, and I am a very great loser by it, never to be repaired – never will that kingdom in twenty years of peace be put into the condition they were before these calamities happened; besides the vast losses to the owners.”

Before the retirement of the inhabitants of the county to Derry, we have a solitary item of information about Kilrea preserved. Several regiments were disposed at point along the Bann, and at Portglenone severe fighting took place. Mackenzie, in his “Narrative of the Siege,” quotes from a diary of Sir Arthur Rawdon – “Colonel Canning’s regiment was also ordered to Magherafelt and Moneymore; Sir John Magill’s was sent to Kilrea, and that part of the Bann; care had been taken before to sink most of the boats and cots on the Bann river.” Many of the tenants on the Kilrea estate were in Derry during the Siege. Mayberry, the ironworker, is said to have been one of the brave defenders. Captain Steven Miller, who was an ensign in Lord Mountjoy’s regiment in 1684, was at Derry a captain in Colonel John Mitchelburn’s regiment. He died at Kilrea in 1729. The Presbyterian minister of Kilrea, the Rev. William Gilchrist, accompanied his people, and perished in the besieged city.


There is no need to recount here the oft-told story of the Siege. Fever and famine had done its worst; but the indomitable character of the besieged held 21 put till relief came, and Derry saved for Ireland, and Ireland for the Empire. Waste, havoc, and ingratitude remained. but the “happy Revolution” was consummated.

Waste Lands Filled


The stream of immigrants soon began, attracted by cheap land and opportunities for trade. It is estimated that in ten or fifteen years after 1690, 50,000 people came to Ulster from Scotland. But when the country filled up again, landowners, who, we have seen, had not made much of it hitherto, raised the rents. The next feature of the period that meets us is the very serious depopulation that began through emigration to America. ~In some of the Presbyterian Churches there are still preserved books showing the poverty that was everywhere prevalent to such an extent that ministers, who were dependent almost entirely on the givings of the people, found it difficult getting a livelihood. It might have been supposed that the people would have no obstacles thrown in their was to hinder their progress and settled conditions. The Protestant Dissenters had especially distinguished themselves in the late campaigns. The larger part of the rank and file of the defenders of Derry were Presbyterians. When a local gentleman would have urged the people of Enniskillen to admit the soldiers of James, the Presbyterian minister, Kelso, opposed and was obeyed. The grant of Royal Bounty to the Presbyterian ministers by William III, was in recognition of the services rendered by them and their adherents. The Presbyterian population far exceeded that of other denominations. They were chiefly traders and farmers. Bishop Nicholas in 1718 said that in some of the parishes of his (Derry) diocese there were forty Presbyterians to one member of the Established Church. As has been said, these were the very people to get every encouragement; but the reverse was the case. Religious bigotry combined with commercial drawbacks to turn them into a discontented and unsettled population. The ruin of the woollen 22 trade saddled the country with much unemployment, which affected most of the members of the Established Church. In addition to trade jealousy,there were the political disabilities which Dissenters had long suffered and chafed under. The Test Act alone may be mentioned. By it the taking of the sacrament according to the rites of the Established Church was made a condition of holding any office, civil or military under the Crown. And Tisdall, Vicar of Belfast, the bitter champion of the Conformists of the time, openly admits it was because of the progress of the Dissenters in trade and influence in the corporate towns that the Test Act was extended in Ireland. Even when the country was in danger in 1715, Presbyterians enlisted in the militia in defiance of the Act, and were only saved from prosecution by special procedure of the House of Commons.

Scotch-Irish Emigration


We have mentioned these disabilities merely to account for the readiness with which the people embarked for the freer atmosphere of the New World. It is with a kind of relief that one concludes the perusal of the Aghadowey Book for the period, 1700-1718. The latter year forms a landmark in Ulster history. Then began that stream of emigration which extended through almost the whole century, and the valley of the Bann has the distinction of being the pioneer district in this fateful work. High rents, exaction of tithes, and religious persecution did their work; and masters of vessels returning from America gave great accounts of the advantages gained and progress made by those who had already ventured into New England. One Captain Robert Holmes, son of an Irish Presbyterian minister, had special advantages on account of his intimacy with the northern counties then to place the prospects of emigration in the best light, and by seeming to open up brighter visions in the far-off land he was at the same time opening up a new and 23 profitable trade or ships sailing the Atlantic.

The result was the inhabitants of the Bann valley and the neighbouring ministers sent over the Rev. Wm. Boyd, of Macosquin, as their agent to petition Governor Shute for facilities for the settlement of colonies of Ulster Scots. The petition itself is still preserved, with the signatures – names such as are still found in the counties Derry and Antrim. In the summer and autumn of 1718 five ships landed at Boston, the first organised transportation of Scotch-Irish. They were mostly from the ports of Coleraine and Londonderry, and bore such names as the “William and Mary,” the “Three Anns and Mary.” These vessels have as much significance for the Scotch-Irish as the earlier “Mayflower” and “Speedwell” for the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers. Some of these were not rich in worldly substance, while others were people of some estate who had paid their passage-money in coin of the realm. Others sold their services for some years to masters, who advanced the price of the passage. Cotton Mather, the New England divine who gave these people encouragement, said – “The people who are upon this transportation are of such principles, and so laudable for their sobriety, their honesty, their industry, that we cannot but embrace you with a most fervent charity, and cherish hopes of noble settlements to be quickly made.” It was at this time so many of the Aghadowey and Kilrea people departed, and with their leader, Rev. James McGregor, of Aghadowey, formed eventually the township of Londonderry. The names of some of these emigrants have been preserved – Matthew Watson and Thomas Holmes from Coleraine. Robert Waite from Aghadowey, Jane Macmullin from Castledawson, and Margaret Stuart from Boveedy.

Ulstermen and the War of Independence


So quick was the stream of emigration after this that it was thought all the North of Ireland would be deserted. An eye-witness of the landing wrote – “I am 24 of opinion all the North of Ireland will be over here in a little time. . . . 20 ministers with their congregations in generall will come over in spring; I wish their coming over do not prove fatall in the End.” The hardships these pioneers in the wilds of America had to endure were great, but evidently they preferred it to the harder conditions of Ireland. In the period 1720-1730, harvests were a failure, and there was almost a famine among the poor. In 1727 the potatoes, the winter food, were consumed in two months, and with the linen trade in a depressed condition there was everything to drive the people to turn their belongings into money and cross the sea. In 1740 again famine was the moving power. The people were going at the rate of 12,000 a year, and ot was estimated that in fifty years 200,000 had entered America from Ireland.

[As these words are written comes the terrible news of the disaster to the “Titanic” with its human freight of 2,300 souls on board, which raises comparison with the modest Transatlantic service of the early emigration days.]


To the consternation of the Government the finest blood and sinew had left these shores, and carried with them not only the linen workers, but the sturdy qualities and “lasting grudges characteristic of Scotch Irishmen.” And these lasting grudges told terribly against England in the War of Independence. Bancroft, the historian, says of the Ulster Scots – “They brought America no submissive love for England; and their experience and religion alike bade them meet oppression with prompt resistance. We shall find the first voice publicly raised in America to dissolve all connection with Great Britain came not fro the Puritans of New England, or the Dutch of New York, or the planters of Virginia, but from Scotch-Irish Presbyterians.” Froude confirms – “The foremost, the most irreconcilable, the most determined in pushing the quarrel to the last extremity were the Scotch-Irish.” “The famous Pennsylvania 25 line was mostly Irish,” says another.

Here a footnote appears

Inquiries have been made from America regarding the ancestry of the following emigrants of the eighteenth century, mostly from Derry or Antrim counties:- Alexander Andrew (Coleraine), Robert Henry, Wm. Howard Burns, Rev. Alex. Miller, John Stewart (Magherafelt), Alex. Wilson, Robert Baird, and John Douthit (Coleraine).

When the Ulster Scots were asked how they reconciled their rebellious attitude with their oaths of allegiance, their reply was, “The oath binds only while the King protects.” How similar a spirit was displayed by an Ulsterman, as reported by Tisdall, when asked would he not be true to Queen Anne in the penal days – “We’ll be true to the Queen, as long as she’ll be true to us.”

About 1720-1730 the country was not quite settled. There were lawless men who were declared “tories, robbers, and rapparees, out in arms, and on their keeping and not amenable to law.” One of these, Roger O’Cahan, of Kilrea, was proclaimed, with others, but burglariously entering and carrying off a woman in Drumcroon in order to marry her. Froude gives some horrible examples of this kind of abduction. The burning of the mansion house of Vow, lately, occupied by Mr. William Galland, was the work of tories.

Kilrea in the 18th Century


The only local record for the history of the Kilrea of the eighteenth century is the Parish Vestry Book (1733-1876), kept by the rectors of the parish Church, and very kindly placed at my disposal by the Rev. A.E. Sixsmith, B.A. It has more than a denominational importance, being a record of the procedure of the vestry, which in those days managed the affairs of the parish, and had representatives of the various denominations at its meetings. The minutes of the meetings have more or less of a similarity. The most usual 26 entries are the appointment of persons to superintend and look after the upkeep of the roads in the parish. From the time of the Plantation the practice was for the parishioners themselves to make and repair roads, each person (except a labourer) giving six days‘ free labour, and directors or overseers were appointed annually for this work. In 1754 the entry runs — &Quot;That ye road be laid off from Inverroe Bridge to ye lowere end of parish in proportion to ye number of plows.&Quot; But in 1768 the six days‘ labour system was abolished and replaced by grand jury presentments. The Vestry Book has also many particulars regarding the Church, which I give elsewhere, and a few details of education, and notes of levies made for the militia on several occasions. The book itself was a gift of a member of the Wilson family of Purdysburn, near Belfast, and on the first page there is an entry of a subscription to the Church by Hill Wilson, Esq., whose daughter Anne was wife to the Rev. Michael Sampson, rector of Kilrea at that date, 1749. The two names, Francis Clinton and James Henry, occur frequently together in the minutes, the former being the representative of one of the oldest families in the parish. The name is found in a list of 1630. James Henry was a merchant in the town, and died in 1752. He had two sons, Hugh of Ballymoney, and James, of Kilrea. The latter is probably the same who was agent for the lessee of the estate, Alexander Stewart, and is referred to in the Boveedy sketch as a bleacher, and responsible for establishing the Presbyterian congregation in the town. His father was a ruling elder in the congregation when it worshipped in Boveedy. There has been preserved a twopenny trade token issued by this man. On the obverse there is a figure of a halberdier crowned, girt with a sword; in his right hand a halberd; with the motto, &Quot;virture mine honour.&Quot; The reverse side has — &Quot;I promise to pay bearer two pence. James Henry, Kilrea, 1736.&Quot; Names of other prominent people about this time were William Warren, John Church, Henry 27 Ellis, Robert Orr, James Duncan, John McAllister, Lawrence McAllister, and Francis Kane. Warren was married to the daughter of a late rector, Clutterbuck; Ellis was the Innisrush family of that name probably. The McAllisters resided in Moyagney; and when were there not Kanes or O‘Cahans in Kilrea? There were only 13 families in the town at this time, according to the Ordnance Survey Memoirs, while in 1836 there were 191 houses.

An Honourable Record of Loyalty

Kilrea has always been sensitive to any public movement that was likely to endanger civil and religious liberty. An interesting memorial to the 1745 Rebellion in Scotland is preserved in the Vestry Book, where the Kilrea folk met and pledged themselves “in the most solemn manner” that they would every one of them to the utmost of their power and at the hazard of their lives and fortunes oppose all attempts against his Majesty’s person and Government, and particularly that abominable and unnatural Rebellion then being carried on in favour of a Popish Pretender. The pledge concludes thus – “And we do hereby promise and engage to arm ourselves (to the utmost of our power) and to assemble together from time to time, as often as may be necessary to concert measures for effecting the purpose of this our Association, the defences of ourselves, our religion and liberties, against Popery, France, and Arbitrary Power.” Times and movements have changed, but the temper of the Kilrea men in times of national danger seems unalterable. The signatures attached are of persons belonging to both the parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght O’Crilly. I give them with suggested residences where possible –

  • Samuel McTeer
  • Robert McGreger
  • Robt. Stewart
  • Jas. McCartney (Kilrea)
  • David Long
  • Jas. Woods
  • Danl. Campbell
  • Danl. Shaw
  • Jas. Campbell
  • Jas. Scott
  • Robert Miller
  • Hugh Miller
  • Jas. Kelsy
  • Francis Clinton (Kilrea)
  • Hugh Morrison (parish clerk, Kilrea)
  • Robt. McAwly28
  • Robt. Jamieson (Movanagher)
  • Thos. Craig
  • John Dempsey
  • Aaron Workman (Churchtown)
  • John Sloan
  • Wm. Moon
  • John Kelley
  • John McMullan
  • Wiliam Reid
  • Archiball Camell
  • Jno. Crockton
  • Adam Kellpatrick
  • Jno. Crawford
  • Danl. Houston
  • Samuel Davison
  • Jno. Cary
  • Will Hutchison
  • Michael Sampson (Kilrea)
  • Jno. Church
  • Wm. Warren (Kilrea)
  • Hen. Ellis
  • Jas. Henry (Kilrea)
  • Arthur Sampson
  • Robert Orr
  • Jas. Dunkin
  • Jno. McAllister and Lawrence McAllister (Moyagoney)
  • Thos. McAllister
  • Fran. Kane (Kilrea)
  • Edw. McAllester
  • Wm. Collins
  • Saml. Killpatrick
  • Jno. Atkinson
  • Alex Kellsy
  • Richd. Grant
  • Jas. McCartney
  • John a Madekine
  • Robt. Gilmore
  • Saml. Walker
  • Will. William
  • Jas. Ffarmer
  • Jno. William
  • Alex Rea
  • Wm. Catherwood
  • Jno. Miller
  • David Blear
  • Jno. Henderson (Kilrea)
  • Saml. Hogg
  • Solomon Brown
  • Jas. Falconer
  • Jas. Sim
  • Hugh Smith
  • Samuel Stewart
  • Cornelious O‘Cain
  • Geo. Wray
  • Jas. Laughlin
  • Geo. Atkins
  • Sml. Dunlap
  • Robt. Sloan
  • Jno. Ballantine
  • Chas Young
  • Jas. Wallace
  • Will. Wallace
  • Geo Smirle (&Quot;at the Mill Claragh&Quot;
  • Thos. Wallace
  • Will. Hamilton
  • Jno. Cox
  • Jas. McDonel
  • Will. Boyle
  • Will McDonnell
  • Jno. Wallace
  • Jas. Clark (Erganagh)
  • Duncan McCay
  • Matt. Wallace
  • John Mulleney
  • Thos. Caruthers
  • John Rea
  • Daniel McPeake
  • Jas. Smith
  • John Mitchell
  • John Shaw
  • Jas. Sloan
  • Alex McKachan
  • Richd. Williams
  • Chas. Richey
  • Mark Kerr (Moneygran)
  • John Smirle,
  • Jno. Campell
  • Jno. McMighell
  • Wm. Bellingham
  • David Campbell (Kilrea)
  • Robert Stewart (Leitrim)
  • William Snipe
  • Pat. O‘Deeghan
  • John Campbell
  • Alex. Turner
  • John McKay
  • John Marks
  • Will. Cox
  • Edw. Cox
  • Robt. Cox
  • Robt. Stewart
  • Geo. Smirle
  • John Mebrey
  • James McCart
  • Will Murphy
  • Andw. Walker
  • John Dunbar
  • Jno. Bell
  • Jos. Dunbar
  • _____ McCloy
  • E. Richards.

These all signed with their own hand.


The name McKinney does not occur here.29 The bleach green that existed in Moneygran in the latter part of the eighteenth century was built by John McKinney, whose father fled from Scotland after the battle of Culloden.

Up till the middle of the century, the parish was for the most part agricultural. The town consisted of a few houses in continuation of what is known as &Quot;The Old Row&Quot; behind the church. In 1834 sixteen thatched houses were demolished by the Company; there were 191 houses in 1836, 51 or two storeys, and 3 of three storeys. When Mr. Stewart got the estate in 1751, he made some improvements. About this time the town had extended northwards, and the square called &Quot;The Diamond&Quot; was laid out.

Incidents in the Rebellion

We may pass on to the end of the century, there not being much definite information to call for attention before then. But in the Rebellion of 1798 Kilrea was not unconnected with the ferment of that period, and doubtless with good cause. The country was filled with discontents, and undoubtedly many of the inhabitants of Maghera and Kilrea districts were in sympathy with the party, the United Irishman, that fostered the movement for social and political reform. Even after many Protestants had withdrawn, when they saw the extremes to which the United Irishmen were going, there was a remnant left to perform what appears to us some ridiculous antics.


In the struggle of the American colonies for independence there was much sympathy from their kinsmen in Ulster. The spirit of the French Revolution had also affected Ireland much, and in preparation for a similar revolution at home “a guillotine was made by a mechanic in the vicinity of Kilrea, and a list made out of those to be decapitated, or, as it was said, ‘to oil first the wheels of the revolution for the public god.’ As in France, the properties of the wealthy were to have been confiscated for the benefit of the republic, and hence, in the language of Robespierre, the guillotine was to have been called the 30 National Mint,” a phrase much applauded for the expressive ingenuity of the application. McSkimin, from whom I quote, proceeds with the description – “The Kilrea instrument was nearly ten feet in height, its axe sharp and heavy, and about ten inches deep. It was moved up in a groove by a pullet and rope. Lead being scarce, from the great demand of that metal for bullets, the axe was loaded by a piece cur off an old mill-stone. A few experiments were made by beheading dogs and cats, which being declared satisfactory, the maker was said to have deserved well of his country, and the instrument was carefully deposited in the corn mill of Lisnagrot.” There were remarkable scenes to be witnesses in these stirring times. The farm work of those who were in detention on a charge of seditious practices was performed by bodies of sympathizers, who marched through the country in large bodies after gathering the potatoes of a friend. McSkimm records the following proceeding at Kilrea – “A wretched vagrant named McCaul, who, a few years after, was transported for stealing cattle, made oath before Rev. John Torrens, that seven persons whom he named were captains in the army of the United Irishmen. The persons accused, fully aware of the danger to which they were exposed by the machinations of such a ruffian, fled, and their flight was immediately proclaimed by his reverence as an indubitable proof of their guilt. A few days afterwards a detachment of the Kerry militia arrived at Kilrea, and, under the direction of Mr. Torrens, they proceeded to set fore to the house of James Stewart, one of the persons who had fled. The houses ot two of the others sworn against my McCaul, being connected with others, were not burnt, but their scanty furniture was carried out and consumed. During these proceedings his worship observed in a jocular way to those near him, “Boys, I have made you a good bonfire.”


When the preconcerted date of the rising arrived, Maghera was found in some degree of preparedness, On the eve of 7th June, one of the Kilrea men turned 31 informer and joined the yeomen, which had the effect of preventing a rising there. The Bovagh cavalry under Captain Heyland marched through in the direction of Dunglady, and found all quiet. Even at Maghera on the news of the failure at Antrim the rebel force dispersed.

Bann Valley Genealogy
The Parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght O‘Crilly

By J.W. Kernohan, M.A.


Part II – From the Restoration to the “Ninety-Eight”, Part 2

Causes of the Rebellion


That there were good grounds for this ill-fated revolt, no one doubts. The causes were evident, but need not be pressed at this time when the grievances have ben removed. An illuminating comment on the state of the country which we are reviewing is available from an unbiased authority – the Secretary of the Irish Society, who made a tour of the estates of the Londoners in 1802. The recent outbreak had the effect of drawing public attention to the condition of affairs in Ireland, and the candid remarks of the Secretary are worth quoting – “Inquiring into the reason of the want of accommodation and the apparent poverty of the place. the master of the inn [at Kilrea] observed that it could not be otherwise in a part of the country where they never saw the face of the owner of the soil, or even his undertenant. . . . I felt the force of the observation, which impressed me with a greater degree of indulgence for the poverty, ignorance, and laziness of the lower order of the people, who toil for a miserable subsistence, and see the fruits of their labour carried off from time to time by an agent of their landlord to be spent in a foreign country.” After a comparison with the tenants and their landlords in England, he proceeds – “This want of example, assistance and consolation from the resident land owners deprives the inhabitants of all inducement to union, so that each family lives by itself in a little cabin without a chimney, with a clay floor and a bed of straw or rags. A group of nearly naked figures is often seen at the doors, consisting of the wife and children. The husband finds the means of working at his loom to pay an extravagant price for four or five acres of land, on which a cow is kept for the family and some potatoes 32 and flax are grown. This, with a turf fire kindled in the corner of their cabin, round which the family crouch, with some oatmeal for stirabout, constitutes all the wants, and whiskey the luxury, of the Irish peasant, while never looking beyond it has no temptation to enterprise or exertion.”

Mr. Slade continues his report of what he saw at Kilrea – “The lands belonging to the Mercers’ Company extend from the left bank of the Bann, near Kilrea, for the space of about six miles towards Boyd’s mountain, and are lett, as I was informed, in small parcels from five to thirty acres (which is considered a large farm) at an average of about £1 3s an acre. There are no timber trees on the property, but I learnt from the conversation I had with the landlord of the inn that about fourteen years since, Mr. Stewart, the tenant, had cut down a great many trees, chiefly ash and sycamore, in the neighbourhood of the town. Mr. Orr, a linen merchant of Londonderry, has a handsome house near the high road, and is now building some cotton or linen works towards the foot of the mountain which, notwithstanding, its dreary aspect and unprofitable soil, is interspersed with cabins, in many of which whiskey is distilled, and afterwards sold at a price below what can be afforded by the fair trader. The stills used on this occasion are constructed on so small a scale that it is no uncommon thing for the proprietors of them on seeing from their cabins on the mountain side the approach of an excise-officer to remove the whole apparatus and conceal it in the bog before the approach of the exciseman.”

Natural Features


Confirmation of the naked character of the soil comes from Sampson. “From Tamlaght Bog to Kilrea the same naked knolls, the same bog, the same fruitless soil. Here and there below the rocky knoll a lake is in place of a bog; but the tree that used to shelter that lake and to shadow that rock is no more. High gravels and lakes at Kilrea which want only good soil with wood to form a landscape. 33 This pleasing picture is of short continuance.”

Sampson gives an example of the cost of living on a farm of five acres, where, after deducting rest, cess, and tithe, the sum of £9 15s 6d was left for the support of a family. He says – “Even from this is to be deducted for all misfortunes of domestic sickness, or loss of cattle, a certain something besides the clothing of old and young. It is therefore astonishing how life is supported, and yet, I assure the reader, as to the present instance, there was no filth, no famine, no repining. But this will be accounted for – the whole family were laborious, and their breasts were cheered with that most delightful sunshine, a peaceful conscience, and a tender reliance on the mercy of Providence.”

The Bogs


At the beginning of last century the roads intersecting Kilrea and Tamlaght were pronounced good, that is, comparatively speaking. This sounds not quite in harmony with the rather wild natural appearance of the country around, and the prevalence of the bog. Indeed with its chains of loughs and small knolls it is even today a fruitful area of study for the geologist and naturalist. The prefix “drum” (“ridge”) in so many townlands is a perpetual reminded of the character of this somewhat barren and rocky region. Some eighty years ago the bogs were more eloquent of the hand of Nature than now, when so much has been cut out. From time to time as “cutting” proceeded they gave up their buried secrets, their different strata showing tiers, sometimes three deep, of successive primeval forest growths – oak, fir, and yew. In a small black bog in Kilrea townland (now reclaimed) there was an oak stick found 72 feet in length. Another piece of bog in Kilrea was converted into arable land. Many of the Irish names of the bogs have been lost. In one that ran right up to the town of Kilrea – “Drumimeric Flow” – there was fir, oak, and hazel found, and at the north end of it was a big oak stick with a gravel 34 hill over it. Curious too were the islands in the bogs – not an uncommon feature of the district. “Tod Island” and “Wolf Island” have wrapt up their very names in an interesting bit of history. Edendarragh Hill was wholly surrounded by bog.

The Churches

When stock was taken of the Church property in 1622, there were two churches in our parishes – Tamlaght and Kilrea. The Pope Nicholas taxation of 1306 shows there was another church and parish – Dromogarnan – that was subsequently merged into Tamlaght. The site of the church was probably on the ridge of Drumagarner, called Church Hill, on Hutchinson’s farm, where there had been a forgotten burial ground, and where a baptismal font was unearthed.

The church buildings were in a state of decay and ruin when the Londoners came. It is recorded that the Mercers’ Company “repayred” the Kilrea Church, and that Tamlaght Church had a roof of timber only. And in the condition of the ecclesiastical structures was reflected the changing and turbulent history of the century. The year 1654 once more saw these two Churches in ruin, but in 1679 the Church of Kilrea was “in a good state.” This was the time when the Rev. Lawrence Clutterbuck was rector, which would account for the preposterous condition of the Church. He was a man of wealth. He was probably son of Richard Clutterbuck, the Mercer, who presented the silver chalice to the parish in 1664. He was also connected by marriage with the Church family. From 1624 to 1675 Tamlaght and Kilrea were served by the same rectors; one of them, Richard Collins, fled to Coleraine in 1641, and perished in the siege of that place.

Denominational Friendship


A new building for the Episcopalians of Kilrea was necessary in 1776, although a new belfry had been built a few years before. It was reported that the gallery was in danger of falling, and was being taken down. The money had to be levied 35 on the whole parish, probably a difficult matter in those days. In 1779 the Vestry met and agreed on the proposed plan, but without much success in practise. For nine years (1783-1792) the Episcopalians worshipped in the recently erected Presbyterian Church, a fire having occurred about 1780 which left the bare walls only of their own building standing. A very important meeting of the Common Vestry was held in the Meeting-house, when two resolutions were adopted. The first was to the effect that the Episcopalian congregation having been obliged to meet for worship in the Presbyterian Meeting-house, and on order to show their gratitude, resolved that, as the Meeting-house was “unenclosed and exposed to the daily profanation of cockfights and other disorderly persons” it was “reasonable, equitable, and therefore incumbent on the Episcopalian congregation to afford the Dissenters of this parish a seasonable proof of the just sense they entertain of the indulgence granted to them in the use of the aforesaid place of worship,” and the said place should be enclosed with a wall. The sum required was £10, which was ordered to be “levied on the taxable parishioners and paid by the church-wardens into hands of Rev. Arthur McMahon, minister of said Dissenting congregation, and John Macartney and Joseph Marshall, elders of the same.” The humour of this generous action cannot fail to be observed, when it is remembered that the majority of the aid parishioners were Dissenters, and that it was like robbing Peter to pay Paul. One wonders if the taxable parishioners all believed it to be “reasonable and equitable” to make such a levy, r even the resolution that succeeded it, which was that “considering it a reflection upon the piety of a people at all times distinguished by a zealous attachment to the principles and practise of their religion it was resolved to collect £150 in three years” to rebuild the Church. But as personal subscriptions in this case amounted to about £80 the parishioners’ quota would not be so great. 36

The Old Church Rebuilt

The Church was rebuilt, the all enclosing it was completed, and a vestry was again held in the building in 1799. It was in dimensions 60 feet X 25 feet X 12 feet, with 18 pews to hold 120 people. The glebe lands of Kilrea parish were in Killymuck and there was a gort of a few acres at the Glebe House, which was erected in 1772.

The glebe of Tamlaght Church was the townland of Killygullib, and in 1814 the rector attempted to get a new church built there. Nut an unseemly row was created at the vestry meeting of parishioners, and the project fell through. The story, if told, would only recall the denominational differences of the time and the arrogance of the aristocrat so inimical to true religion. The next rector, Knox, succeeded in having the present Church built the following year. It is to know that the Glebe House at Hervey Hill was one of the many architectural conceptions of the eccentric Bishop of the diocese, the Earl of Bristol, and was erected by him about 1774. It was raised a storey higher in 1811. In Tamlaght parish the Presbyterians numbered 3,650 in 1834, and the Episcopalians 1,538.

1st Kilrea Presbyterian Church

As we have seen, the Presbyterians of Kilrea being in the enjoyment of a new meeting-house were in a position to oblige their Episcopalian neighbours. In the account of Boveedy Congregation it is stated that the minister of the united congregations – rather, there was but one congregation previously – the Rev. John Smyth, with a portion of his people, decided to form a separate congregation in Kilrea town. The new building was erected in 1783 or 1784. Smyth’s ministry ended in 1785. For the earlier history of Kilrea congregation when it was a part of the body worshipping at Boveedy the reader is referred to page 52 et seq.

Rev. Arthur McMahon


The next minister of Kilrea was a 37 licentiate, who was a native of Downpatrick neighbourhood. He had been a tutor in the Londonderry family. It was in this way he was introduced to Kilrea through the influence of the landlord, Alexander Stewart; in the words of the local record – “Compulsorily forced upon the congregation by the influence of Alexander Stewart, the landlord, and his agents. This very unpresbyterial act was so highly and justly resented by many members of the congregation that all the respectable Presbyterian families in and around Geddestownm etc., until then worshippers at Kilrea, withdrew to Garvagh. Arthur McMahon, after residing at Kilrea for some years and establishing a character there as a most daring and pugnacious man, impatient of all defiance and opposition, was called to Holywood as minister of the [non-subscribing] congregation there. He was settled in Holywood in October, 1794, but his ministry there was brief.” Like many other generous-minded and patriotic men he became implicated in the movement which culminated in the Rebellion of 1798, and found it prudent to retire to the Continent in 1979.” He was afterwards recognized having charge of British prisoners by a soldier from Kilrea, who had been taken prisoner by the French after an engagement. The soldier’s name was McCamphill, of Lislea, who wrote home that being among a party of troops captured by the French, he recognized McMahon after his capture as a French officer, and was in turn recognized. McMahon promised to return next day, but the same night the British troops released the prisoners, and the soldiers never returned home.


McMahon married Sophia Ashbourne, an English lady, supposed to have been a governess in the Londonderry family. He and she resided at Lisnagrot, being possessed of a manse house and farm of sixty Irish acres prime land.He had some children. he as a very fine “personed” man, of high courage and very red hair. His gifts as a preacher were considered inferior. So far our authority is the congregational book, and its interesting 38 memoirs by the Rev. H. W. Rodgers.

The subsequent career of this man is a matter of some controversy, which can be seen in the “Ulster Journal of Archaeology” vol xv. At any rate, he saw service in Napoleon’s Irish Legion, and rose to the rank of captain. At the capitulation of Flushing in 1809 he was made a prisoner and sent to England; and on the fall of Napoleon he returned to France. McMahon’s family believed that he fell at Ligny or Waterloo.

Rev. John Smith

If McMahon was a sympathizer with the reform movement of the time, his successor, who remained at his post in 1798, suffered for his opinions. He was a native of Moneymore district, and cannot be better described than in the remarkable account buy his own successor in Kilrea congregation, which s here condensed. Besides giving the character of the man himself, it throws a light on the circumstances of the time. He was a man of talent and celebrity during his studies at Glasgow; of independent mind, great imprudence, great misfortunes, and somewhat secular in his pursuits. Being suspected as an implicated character in the melancholy Rebellion of 1798, he was dragged to prison, placed under confinement in Derry, Belfast, and next at Fort George in Scotland, for two years altogether, and then was liberated unconditionally. Meanwhile, his large farm and respectable house in Lisnagrot – a valuable property – with all his stock and crop thereon (he having no wife and family at that time) were taken from him and he was left homeless and beggared, when again permitted to return to his people, who still clung to him. He afterwards married a Miss Galt of Moyagney, and purchased the farm and residence of his father-in-law.


His troubles were not ended. Owing to an imprudent action in a matter affecting the parish he was prosecuted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, of the justice of which many good and intelligent men had their doubts. He was also involved 39 in a dispute with a licentiate of his own Presbytery, who was apparently acting on the instigation of another party, whose aim was to injure the minister of Kilrea.

I have various extracts from Church records and prints of the time relating to the affair, which are too lengthy for insertion here.

These varous misfortunes may have originated in imprudence. The party, however, who doubtless abetted the apparent enemies who were put forward to assail him, were the same; their spirit was intolerance and persecution. They were impatient of a man who studied on all occasions to show his utter indifference to the arrogant and supercilious great men of another religion that then recklessly domineered around him. His imprisonment for suspected disloyalty first, his imprisonment for riot secondly, and his punishment for defamation were all unjust – the vexatious, vindictive, Hamam-like schemes of unprincipled and cowardly local tyranny, putting forward tools to achieve the vengeance they dared not openly avow. These persecutions led him to adopt a course scarcely consistent with his high profession. He plied the world that he might lift his head high as his persecutors in the idea of his earthly independence, with much success, and strict moral honesty. But the interests of religion and his congregation declined. His wife died at the early age of 29, and six weeks later he also sickened and died after a few days’ illness.

Rev. Hugh Walker Rodgers


The congregation was vacant for a few years until Mr. H. W. Rodgers was ordained, 12th April, 1825. Mr Rodgers was born at Edergole, near Omagh, in 1797, but came to reside at Groggan, near Randalstown, and was a licentiate of the Ballymena Presbytery. The Rev. Wm. Wauhope, of Ballymena, moderated in the call, and the Rev. Robert Magill, of Antrim, preached the ordination sermon. The progress made by the congregation after the settlement of the new monister was 40 considerable; and religious and moral advance in the whole community was apparent during the whole of Mr. Rodgers’ ministry. He ably seconded the efforts of the Mercers’ Company at improvement when they resumed the management of the estate. He interested himself largely in social reform, and his influence as exerted in reducing the number of early marriages by requiring the consent of the parents in every instance. To keep pace with the growing disposition for reading and education generally, Reading Societies were formed in connection with the congregation. They met at stated times, and some of them subscribed for the purchase of books. There were eight of these societies in the two parishes. Mr. Rodgers was also librarian of the Library founded in Kilrea by the Company at his suggestion.

Rev. James Maxwell Rodgers

Rev. H. W. Rodgers died on 12th July 1851 and his son, James Maxwell, who was finishing his divinity course at College when his father’s death occurred, was ordained in Kilrea on 22nd June 1853. Both father and son delivered lectures, which were published. The income of the minister about 1830 was drawn from the Regium Donum (£50), and the stipend (£75).

The ’59 Revival movement touched the congregation deeply, and a great improvement was reported in many ways – in attendance on the weekly union prayer meeting, in the number of communicants, and in general morals. There were no “prostrations” as in other places. The converts evinced a sincere desire to learn, and the young believers were greatly in advance of the old in faith and love, in tenderness of conscience and humility.


On the removal of the Gt. James’ St. Congregation, Derry, the Rev James Heron, whose ministerial jubilee was celebrated by the presentation od a portrait to the Assembly’s College on 11th April, 1912, was installed as successor on 7th May, 1869, having been called from Muckamore. 41 On Mr. (now Dr.) Heron being called to Knock Congregation, Belfast, the Rev James Stewart, B.A., was installed in First Kilrea on 27th February, 1874. He had been ordained in Drumlee, Co. Down, in 1870. I am indebted to Mr. Stewart for information for these sketches.

The Meeting House

When the foundation stone of the present Presbyterian Church was laid on 23rd June, 1837, it was noted by Mr. Rodgers, that it was the fourth house of worship they should enjoy. The first, which was erected in 1643 at Moynock, “was destroyed in a season of national convulsion;” the second was at Boveedy; the third was the first on the site occupied by the present fine erection, and was built in the year 1784, or the year after the construction of the Portna bride. It was on 23rd June, 1839, that the present Church was opened for public worship by the Rev. J. Seaton Reid, D.D., the learned historian of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. The parish does not seem to have assisted the previous erection by a levy till the enclosing wall was built, and some years after £5 was “laid on” the parish for the repair of the meeting-house. It was built by subscription, and was described as being in 1836 in bad repair, and without a ceiling. It was one of the old-fashioned type, whitewashed on the outside, and with a plain slate roof. On the outside it was 70 feet long by 28 feet broad, and had 60 single pews, which was quite too small for the very large congregation that worshipped in it.

Ruling Elders

I append the names of ruling elders of Boveedy and Kilrea from an early period to 1820, as recorded in the “Synod of Ulster Records”:-

  • Saml. Reid
  • Robert Huy (Huey)
  • Geo. Woodburn
  • Hugh Kennedy
  • Alex Wilson
  • Sam. Torrence
  • John Wiley (1707-22)
  • Arch. Sterling
  • Hugh Owens
  • Arch. Stewart
  • John Hasletown
  • Juhn Hughey
  • James Kerr (1723-44)
  • Robt. Huey
  • Jas. Henry
  • Jno. Reid
  • Jno. Kelso
  • Hill Collins
  • Aaron Workman (1747-1816)



Although education went hand in hand with religion, we have no evidence of the particular schools attached to the Presbyterian Churches until a late date. Mr. Rodgers gave much help in establishing schools in outlying districts, and so late as 1845, before all education was brought under the National Board, the schools on the estate were salaried by the London Hibernian Society, the Board of Erasmus Smith, and by the Mercers’ Company. There was, however, a school maintained by the parish. In 1735 a levy was made for the encouragement of a schoolmaster in the town of Kilrea, and Ezekial Richardson was the name of the one appointed. There was a resolution of the Common Vestry in 1745 that Robert Orr was to “build and scraw a schoolhouse.” Daniel Livingston was schoolmaster in 1771. Twenty guineas were levied in 1813 to purchase the good will of Hugh Hamill’s field for a new schoolhouse, the remains of which are remembered by many at the ends of the Old Row. The Mercers’ Company, as was to be expected by the conditions of Plantation, spent considerable sums in assisting education after 1831, but the period before that is a blank as far as they are concerned, a fact which must ever remain to their discredit. No estate has now finer school buildings than are to be found on the Kilrea estate. The Mercers claim to have spent £20,000 on schools alone. There is a curious entry in the Vestry Book about expenditure in 1814 on an “alphabetic wheel, a telegraph, and other necessaries” at a cost of £15, which surely indicates a great advance for that early date.

“Second Kilrea”


Little is known about the origin of Second Kilrea Presbyterian Congregation. It met for Divine service in a linen cloth sealing-room in Bridge Street. In 1832 it was received under the care of the Secession Synod, and its first minister, the Rev. James McCammon, was ordained in Kilrea on 18th June of the following year, 43 1833. The new building was not ready for Divine worship till 1838. There is a tradition that Mr. McCammon, whose death occurred in 1839, strained himself while giving personal assistance at the erection of the Church. His income amounted to £70, of which £50 was drawn from Regium Donum. On his Congregational Committee were:-

  • Wm. Catherwood, sen.
  • Thos. Catherwood
  • Daniel Campbell
  • John Caskey
  • Alexander Craig
  • Hugh Stewart
  • James Hasty, jun
  • Robert McIlwrath
  • Henry McCahon

while Robert McCahon acted as treasurer.

Mr. McCammon’s successor, the Rev. Joseph Dickey, was ordained 31st March, 1840. He belonged to a family which has given several ministers to the Presyterian Church. If Mr. McCammon was reputed a pious man, Mr. Dickey’s name will be ever held in sacred remembrance as a godly pastor wearing the white flower of a blameless life. His wife was a daughter of Mr. Robert McCahon, of the Diamond, Kilrea.

Mr. Dickey died in 1883, and was succeeded in the pastoral charge by the Rev. F. O. M. Watters, son of the minister of Newtownards, being ordained 17th January, 1884. Mr. Watters resigned in 1888 on receiving a call to Sligo, and was succeeded by the Rev. John Colhoun, a licentiate of Letterkenny Presbytery, whose ordination took place in October pf the same year. He died 13th February, 1892. On 21st June of this year, the Rev. Alexander Gallagher, a licentiate of Derry Presbytery, was ordained in the charge of Second Kilrea, and laboured with much acceptance till he was called to the Congregation of Fountainville, Belfast, in 1902. The present highly-esteemed pastor, the Rev. W. J. Farley, B.A., a native of Armagh, was ordained in Kilrea, 6th March, 1902.

Bann Valley Genealogy
The Parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght O‘Crilly

By J.W. Kernohan, M.A.


Part III. Kilrea in the Ninetenth Century


Before proceeding to some details of the improvements that began on the resumption of the estate by the Mercers’ Company,44 we may look at the condition of the town at the beginning of last century. There were 110 tenements in the town in 1814, but in 1840 these had increased to 195. The population of the town, which was reckoned at 973 in 1824, had reached the highest point in 1831, when it was 1,215. In the whole parish of Kilrea the inhabitants were classed in 1834 as –

  • Episcopalians, 773
  • Presbyterians, 1,583
  • Roman Catholics, 2,078

The population was chiefly agricultural, and the holdings on the estate ranged from five to thirty acres. The rents were on an average at twenty-three shillings an acre in 1802. An interesting list of 1824 shows the professional gentlemen in the town to have been Arch. Adams, John Ferrier, and Daniel Mooney, all “surgeons;” and Charles Stewart, land surveyor. The publicans number thirteen, and the general shopkeepers and traders were as follows:-

  • John Blair,
  • John Henderson,
  • John McKinney,
  • Pat. Quin,


  • James Taggart and Lawrence O’Regan, woollendrapers;
  • John Bradley, baker;
  • Wm. Brown, leather cutter;
  • John McCosker, wheelright;
  • Geo. Moore, watch and clock maker.
  • The postmaster was Felix Cunningham O’Neill.

Travelling Facilities

The mails went by Portglenone to Belfast and Dublin, and by Donaghadee for Scotland. There was also a mail that went to Coleraine at five o’clock in the morning. There was at this time no coach calling at Kilrea, the nearest being that which passed through Ballymoney from Belfast, and another through Garvagh. But in 1836 by the aid of the Company an outside car to hold twelve passengers, called the “Enterprise,” was started, and ran thrice weekly to Belfast. About the year 1854 a Railway Act was passed to unite Belfast, Coleraine, and Derry by a line which would have opened up the estates of the Mercers and the Ironmongers, but not receiving the necessary encouragement or facilities, a line was made on the Antrim side of the Bann.


In 1836 the merchants of Kilrea were45 classed as six haberdashers, twenty-four dressmakers, twelve grocers, nineteen publicans; and there were five schoolmasters.

The Historic Pump.

To a town situated on an eminence like Kilrea the water supply was a difficulty. In the old days before the erection of the pumping works to Toberdoney, when as yet there was no Engineer McFadden to look after the supply, the townsmen had to resort to the well at Toberdoney, which some people still remember. It was formerly a holy well, and its sacred thorn so venerated by superstitious persons and adorned with rags remained till some years ago. To remedy the defect a pump was sunk at the expense of the inhabitants in 1829 right in the centre of the Diamond-a construction whose ornamental top has since become quite historic, and at times was regarded as an object of devoted attention on the part of rival parties. The well was fifty-four feet deep, and cost £90. A man was employed to keep the cistern full, and householders paid in proportion to the quantity of water consumed. Publicans and grocers paid 1s 3d per quarter, private houses 1s and hotel-keepers 5s.

The trade of the town and district was in agricultural produce and linen weaving chiefly, and the Bann being navigable, merchandise was conveyed in vessels of fifty or sixty tons from Belfast and other towns. At Portna was a very old ferry much used before the bridge was built further down in 1783 by both counties at a cost of £2,000. The stones for the bridge were brought from Portna. The fisheries on the Bann have always been an important feature, the letting of which varied greatly. The eel fishery at Portna was worth from £500 to £700 a year, and in the best month, October, as many as 30,000 were caught in a single night, it was said.

Law and Order.


The chief offences which the officers of the law had to deal with were assaults arising generally from drunken quarrels on fair and market days. Drink was the curse of the whole district, and was responsible 46 for much of the poverty and distress. Party riots were a recurring trouble. A curious account of a riot in Kilrea is preserved. A mob calling themselves Freemasons assembled in a very tumultuous manner, armed with large sticks or quarter poles, and offering every provocation, called for any Orangeman or Protestant. Some Orangemen suffered the affront without retaliation, until being attacked severely they were obliged to find refuge in a house, from which the assailants were driven off only after recourse to firearms, and when two men were killed and several badly wounded. The originators of the outrage were from Co. Antrim. Again in 1835 there were riots in which several men were sabred by the military. The only magistrates then were the rector and the agent of the estate. One constable and five sub-constables were responsible for the peace. The Revenue police numbered ten men, with a lieutenant and a sergeant. The Petty Sessions were held in a house in Coleraine Street. The earlier Manor Courts sat for the recovery of small debts, and were presided over by the Seneschal of the Manor. Mr. John Henderson, Seneschal of the Manor of Mercers, was appointed first in 1802, and received a new appointment by the Mercers’ Company. He was the assistant agent of the estate. Major David Stark was Mr. Stewart’s agent. This gentleman had a summary way of dealing with offenders. When the streets were long of clearing on a fair evening the gallant Major would step out, and with a liberal use of a horse whip make his presence felt and the offenders scarce.


The consumption of drink in Kilrea and district was so great that praiseworthy efforts were made by the Company’s agent to mitigate the evil. Rewards were held out to induce traders to give up the sale of liquor. In one year 3,357 gallons were received by permit and consumed in the spirit shops of Kilrea, the customers being drawn from a district of several miles round. It was calculated that in a year £6,934 was spent on drink, and £1,000 more if beer, ale, rum, and “fruit-wines for promised men” were included. 47 The whole rent of the estate was not much greater.



We have learned that when the Company took over the management of the estate in 1831, they began a period of improvement which worked wonders both in the appearance of the town and the material condition of the district. Between 1830 and 1890 the Company claimed to have spent £300,000 on the estate. A few of the improvements out of a long list may be mentioned. Nothing, of course, was spent on private individuals, as farmers and others made their own improvements. The expenditure on drainage in fifty years amounted to £6,300, while there was an outlay of £523 on the Garvagh new road, of £3,227 on planting and fencing, of £7,605 on roads and footpaths, of £400 a year on schools, of £211 on a wharf at Portna, and of various amounts on cottages, emigration, loans, purchase of tenant right, poor relief, seed, deputations and on the Derry Central Railway. Assistance was given in various buildings of a more or less public order. The new inn in Bridge Street cost £400, and the police barrack was built at an initial cost of £350, the total expenditure on it being over £1,000. The corn-mill cost originally over £1,500. In accordance with the original charter to the Companies religion was to get support, and so the Company gave assistance in the erection of churches. The Parish Church, perhaps the finest architectural feature of the town, was erected about 1840 at a cost £6,000. Liberal financial support was also given to the new Presbyterian Churches. About £3,000 was spent on the building of the Markets. A new hotel (£800) beside the Market-house replaced a building which had been long before the residence of the agent, while under the same roof was the Estate Office, over which the bailiff had an apartment.. It had been used as a barrack in 1798. The agent’s residence, the Manor House, which was built in 1835, cost about £4,000, and a new suite of Estate Offices cost £1,300. There has been expended on the Waterworks 48 over £2,000 in all. These items of expenditure are gathered from evidence given before a Committee of the House of Commons, and were furnished by the Company’s witness.

Were the Companies Trustees?

It was elicited also that about half of the total rent received was expended on the Estate. The tenants, it is well known, made their own improvements at their own expense, and the public improvements undertaken by the Company not only contributed to the benefit of their property, but to the comfort and advancement of the tenantry. For long there was a controversy about the propriety of the Company spending as absentee landlords half of the income of the estate in England, and an action-at-law promoted by some individuals representing the tenants of the whole county was unsuccessful in determining how far the Companies were trustees for public purposes. Before the Company took over the estate in 1831 the tenants were rack-rented, so that rents were reduced about 18 per cent., but under a new valuation in 1854 they were again raised by the same amount. Again in 1874 the rental rose to over £11,769, which had the effect of causing a refusal on the part of some tenants to pay their rents, and as a consequence a number of test cases were evicted. The Land Act of 1881 came with vengeful hand, and reduced rents again 20 per cent.

The Staple Trade.


In what some would call the good old times Kilrea enjoyed its fair share of the principal industry of the county, the manufacture of linen. And it was regrettable that the decline in the trade came about, because it had certain advantages in respect of the amount of labour it brought to farming districts. On a farm the flax grower, the spinner, weaver, and seller might be found in one family, women and girls finding suitable employment, while the men could also work the farm. The merchant purchased the web, and after bleaching and finishing exported it. Gradually this system was altered. The pleasant whirr 49 of the wheel and click of the loom in the cottages grew less and less. The introduction of the factory and machinery both centralized the above operations and reduced the pay to be earned by hand power. The introduction of cottons was also blamed, as well as the increase of the trade in Scotland. On the other hand, it was urged that the devotion of energy to divided occupations was a bar to the effective employment of capital on a single vocation or industry. Be that as it may, the busy scene on market days when there were many buyers and hundreds of weavers doing business, was pleasant to behold; and the long queue of carts laden with flax “reaching away down the Moneygran road” is spoken of with wistful regret. On two days in the month there was a market for linen, and in good times it is said there would be as much as £1,200 worth sold in a day.

An Agricultural Dinner.


As this industry declined, trade in agriculture, horses, and cattle progressed. In former times cattle dealers had to be content with a field off the Garvagh road, and horses were disposed of in the open space opposite the Church. Later the fine Fair Hill was provided more in Keeping with the fame of Kilrea for its horse fairs. Agriculture also received much attention, and we shall close this account by a description of an agricultural dinner, held under the auspices of the Kilrea Farming and Flax Improvement Society in 1845. The occasion was the first annual Cattle Show held in the new cattle market. The agent, Mr. Bicknell, was in the chair, and among those that sat down to dinner were Mr. Alex. Clarke, Mr. R. McChlery, and the judges-Mr. James Johnston, Mr. Henry Wallace, and Mr. P. Maguire. The chairman’s remarks were well-timed and appropriate to the position of an estate agent conscious of the duties of his office. His aim, He said, was to secure more productive farming, and more comfortable homes for the tenantry; and by making them take a proportionate interest in their homes and their occupation to educe more 50 peaceable and contented living. Mr. Alex. Clarke, in responding, alluded to the kindness of their “paternal landlords.” The judges confined themselves to a criticism of the quality of the exhibits of the day.

The Company’s Responsibility.

The agents of the Mercers’ Company have been, on the whole, men of distinction, animated, as far as was possible, under the land system of their time, by a sincere desire for the elevation of the people in their material and moral condition, and ever strove to extinguish the unfortunate party spirit which occasionally broke out with such disastrous results to all concerned. Whether the companies did all they were legally entitled to do for the material progress of the people under their supervision need not now be discussed. It was scandalous that one of these great guilds should use any of the profits of its Irish estate for lavishing vast sums on a London philanthropical institution. The Mercers had a regard for the sick and poor on the estate, and exerted themselves, though at a late hour, to improve their chief town. But did they or their fellowguildsmen make the most of the natural resources of the country, say, the valuable water power of the great river that skirts their territory? The mill sites erected by the Board of Works at Portna, if utilized, might have made Kilrea a manufacturing town, drawing to it some of the wealth of the outside world. Had the Companies withdrawn less from their estate for expenditure in London, the County of Londonderry might be now the model county of Ireland, and the old inscription on the wall of Derry Cathedral would receive a most forcible and modern application–

“If stones could speake Then London’s prayse should sounde.”


With the passing of the local Government Act and the Land Acts, and the transference of the land to the occupier, the people are thrown upon their own resources, and it remains to speculate on what the beginning of a new century may bring. 51

Bann Valley Genealogy
The Parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght O‘Crilly

By J.W. Kernohan, M.A.


Part IV. Historical Account of Boveedy Congregation

I. – Pioneering Days

Tradition has preserved two facts regarding the past history of the neighbourhood in which Boveedy Church is situated. The older people, if asked, will tell you that in previous times the condition of the country was such that you could walk from Magherafelt to Coleraine on tree stumps; and that the worshippers at Boveedy came from distant parts, even from across the Bann. The truth of the latter tradition will be seen in the course of our narrative; the former tale merely serves to indicate that a large part of the country, including the Boveedy district, was once covered with forest, which provided splendid cover for the native Irish in the constant warfare of Queen Elizabeth’s days. In fact, in official correspondence it was called the “strongest fastness” in all the country, harbouring the Neales, the Haggans, the Mulhallans, the MacCahirs, the Quins, and other dependents of the great O’Neils.

When King James I was arranging for the colonization of Ulster in the great Plantation of 1610, it was deemed prudent on account of the difficult and dangerous nature of the country to entrust the planting of the “County of Coleraine,” with the subsequent addition of the Barony of Loughinsholin, to the wealthy London Companies. In the sub-division the Mercers’ Company was allotted the larger part of the parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght O’Crilly, with a small part of Desertoghill, or the area of country which subsequently became the congregational district of the ministers of Boveedy.


Considering the hostility offered by the dispossessed and rebellious Irish, slow progress in “clearing” the country was 52 made by the colonists, who were at first chiefly English, and but few in number. Before 1641, however, large numbers of Scotch, hardier in constitution than their English comrades, were introduced on the Companies’ estates, only to be driven out when the great rebellion of that year began. Direct evidence is available to show that the English and Scotch settlers were worsted at Garvagh in December, 1641, a garrison having been placed there under Edward Rowley, Esq., of Castleroe. In the engagement that took place one of the Cannings of Garvagh was killed, having taken refuge, it is said, in the old church of Desert. This is still spoken of as the Battle of Revelin’s Hill. But the most terrible local event of that critical period for the Protestantism of Ulster was the massacre of Protestant soldiers which took place at Portna on the 2nd of January following. Some companies of soldiers were guarding the passage of the Bann at this point, and among them were Roman Catholic Highlanders, who, with the Scots Protestants, composed the regiment of Lord Antrim’s agent, Archd. Stewart. While a section of the Protestant troops were on duty further down the Bann, the Roman Catholics fell upon and murdered their comrades.

First Introduction of Presbyterianism


This disaster is of importance for out story. Tradition has it that about this date the meeting-house of the Scots Presbyterians at Moynock was destroyed. Considering the nearness of Moynock to Portna, and the existence of a strong colony of Presbyterian farmers at the former place, there is every probability that the first meeting-place for Presbyterian worship in part of the country was at Moynock. It is believed a minister of this persuasion was also settled at Garvagh as early as 1641. Certainly John Law had the tithes of Desertoghill and Errigal in 1658, and was ejected for nonconformity from these livings in 1661. He continued to preach at Garvagh till about 1673. He was the only minister in this particular part who was deposed for 53 conscience sake, and we may conclude that there was no Presbyterian minister at Boveedy or Kilrea as yet.
Here is inserted a footnote:-

When the Rev. Thomas Boyd resigned Aghadowey in 1661, he seems to have gone to Desertoghill. He was ordered to appear before the Assize Court for holding a conventicle in that parish. I find reference also to a Mr. McLean, a minister who died in Desert Parish after the Siege of Derry. He probably succeeded Mr. Gilchrist.

The rector of Kilrea and Tamlaght had perished in the Siege of Coleraine in 1641. The Scotch were returning to their farms, though Cromwell expressly stipulated in his new charter to the London Companies that Scotch settlers were to be discouraged on their Irish estates.

At what time the Presbyterians of Kilrea and Tamlaght or Boveedy erected a new meeting-house, or when Mr. William Gilchrist became their minister, we have no evidence to show. We merely know that he was one of the heroic band of Presbyterians who “turned at bay” behind the wall of Derry in the famous Siege, and had ministered at Tamlaght and Kilrea before that. There was a student of that name at Glasgow University in 1660, and laureated in 1663, who may soon after have been settled at Kilrea. When Sir John McGill’s regiment, which was stationed at Kilrea, and the other officers were no longer able to defend the passes of the Bann, the Protestant population fled over the mountains of Derry, and with them went their minister never to return. His poor widow was supported by the congregations of the Presbytery of Route for many years afterwards.

Matthew Clark, Soldier and Preacher


For some time after the Siege the country was in a state of desolation. It was not till 1697 that the inhabitants of Boveedy were in a position to secure a minister-Mr. Matthew Clerk, who had been licensed a short time previously. 54 Mr. Clerk had already a fine record, having served as a Lieutenant in Derry during the Siege, where he received a wound on the temple from a bullet. His ministerial career accorded with his character as a soldier. He entered with energy and enthusiasm into the controversy which raged round the question of subscribing the Westminster Confession of Faith. He boldly published two pamphlets, to which he appended his name, and in which he defended Subscription with stout, if somewhat rude, courage. He was, according to his American biographer, “sound in the faith, decided and independent in his sentiments, and fearless in defence of what he judged to be correct in doctrine or in practice.” Several stories are told which serve to attest his distinctive character and outspoken nature. “While sitting as a Moderator of the Presbytery, the martial music of a training band recalled his youthful fire, and for a while he was incapable of attending to the duties of his office. To the repeated calls of the member his reply was, ‘Nae business while I hear the toot of the drum.'” It is also recorded that when preaching on the confidence of Peter, he remarked, “Just like Peter, aye mair forrit than wise, ganging swaggering aboot wi’ a sword at his side; an’ a pui han’ he mad o’ it when he cam’ to the trial, for he only cut off a chiel’s lug, and he ought to ha’ split down his heed.” Still another example of his preaching. He began with the words: “‘I can do all things.’ Ay, can ye’, Paul? I’ll bet a dollar o’ that!” whereupon he drew a Spanish dollar from his pocket. Then he continued: “Stop! Let’s see what else Paul says: ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’ Ay, sae can I, Paul; I draw my bet!” Such was the man who for thirty years ministered Boveedy.

His Extensive Parish


Let us consider the field of his operations. His parish was a wide one, including the parishes of Kilrea, Tamlaght-O’Crilly, Desertoghill, and probably Errigal. There was for twenty years after the Siege no minister at Garvagh, which lay at the junction of Desertoghill and 55 Errigal, so that the tradition before mentioned is well founded that worshippers came from all parts to Boveedy. Mr. Clerk was clerk of the Route Presbytery, and has left a record largely in his own hand of Presbyterian discipline in the opening years of the eighteenth century. From his account of a visitation at Kilrea, we learn that he preached a sermon which he had to guarantee to be of uniform quality with his ordinary discourses; and the people were required to be good sermon tasters for once and confirm the point. In addition to preaching he lectured, visited, catechized, and administered the Sacrament of the Lord’s supper once yearly. There were regular meetings of Session, at which the elders attended. The awkward questions were those put to the representative elder. It was easy to express satisfaction with the minister in every particular; it was a different matter to give satisfactory answers about stipend and repairs to the meeting-house and minister’s dwelling-house. Although the parish was so wide, default in payment of stipend was so frequently before the Presbytery that Mr. Clerk was to be “declared transportable” if there was no improvement-a drastic procedure in those days of few ministers. There were promises that as soon as harvest was over or when the butter was sold the meeting-house would be thatched, the minister’s dwelling-house and office houses finished, and arrears of stipend paid. In 1703 Thomas Reid appeared from the congregation (then known as “Kilrea”) saying that some of the people have provided “boards to floor their minister’s cellar,” but that the parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght had done nothing.

Ministerial Maintenance

The following extract is instructive as to the difficulty of getting maintenance for a minister:-


George Woodburn and David Gordon 56 appeared from Kilrea, the first declaring that they are using diligence to collect stipends in Desart and doth now ask the Pby whether they shall take corn from some of ye people at one shill per boll more yn ye market rate and whether they shall prosecute by law such as will not pay or deprive them of church privileges. The meeting makes answer they cannot take corn above market rates and for suing at law the Pby will not hinder them but for depriving them of church privileges the Pby has determined already that such who are able to pay stipends and will not shall be deprived of church privileges.

The second, namely, David Gordon comes only from ye parish of Kilrea, one of ye four parishes of Mr. Clarke’s congregation and he promises that that parish which was only ye most deficient of ye four are now designed to be as forward if not more than any of ye rest.

The Presbytery appoints ye whole congregation in gross to give account at our next meeting of what duty they have done to their minister.

How shorn of their former powers are our modern Presbyteries! With what eagerness would a present-day Sustentation convener in his returns make a shilling count a florin, or a shilling “more than ye market rate!”

Earlier Meeting-houses


Where was this thatched meting-house of 1700? We can only assume it was on the site of the present structure. Why was it built here? Possibly on account of its central position for the four parishes. It is traditionally reported that it was removed from Moynock about 1650 through the influence of the Cannings of Garvagh. Boveedy townland was one of the six freeholds on the Mercers’ Estate, and was held by the Carey family in the seventeenth century. There was a considerable number of houses forming a village, and every Christmas a fair was held at it where singing, 57 dancing, cockfighting, and drinking were a common practice.

The Ordnance Survey Memoirs preserve particulars of the meeting-house that preceded the present structure. The building was erected about 1756 on a site presented by Mr. Carey, and cost £150. It was of the usual unpretentious kind, with thatched roof and clay floor. Its dimensions were 58ft. 10in. by 21ft., the receding aisle at right angles to the main portion measuring 27ft. by 21ft. The windows, twenty-five in number, were diamond-paned, and in 1836 the pulpit, pews, etc., were not in good repair. A later proprietor of Boveedy, Andrew Orr, Esq., of Keely, ornamented it with a fence and plantation of trees. The session-house was on the opposite side of the road.

To return to Matthew Clerk’s ministry, it may be interesting to have the names of elders and other members of the congregation-David Morrison, Robert Cochran, John Campbell, John Reid, John Paton, Ninian Pattison, David Gordon, Alex. Hinman, Hugh Young, Daniel Kerr, Geo. Woodburn, John Lilly, Wm. Clark, John Moorhead, James Stranahan, Samuel Reid, James Sterrot, Thomas Reid, Robert Houy, Alex. Wilson, Robt. Wallace, William Shearer, Robert Hill, John Millar, and Robert Hendry. These belong to the period 1701-1706.

Emigration to America


After this time the seasons grew gradually worse, with the result that there were bad harvests and much poverty; and Presbyterians were subjected to much oppression both from landlords and the State Church. Hence a tide of emigration to America started in 1718 from the valley of the Lower Bann. James MacGregor, the minister of Aghadowey, with many Presbyterian families of Kilrea, Aghadowey, Coleraine, and Ballymoney joined in the exodus, and after some wanderings settled in New Hampshire and formed the progressive township of Londonderry, their express design, in the words of their minister and leader, 58 MacGregor, being to avoid oppression and ruin, and to have an opportunity of worshipping God according to the dictates of conscience. MacGregor had been a lieutenant in the Siege. His comrade in arms Matthew Clerk, laboured on in Kilrea and Boveedy to 1729, when at the age of 70 or upwards he also went to New Hampshire, only to find his friend had just died, and to become pastor of his flock for six years.

“Long as stands good Londonderry,
With its stories sad and merry,
Shall thy name be handed down
As a man of prayer and mark
Grave and reverend Matthew Clerk.”

It is related that John Scott, a member of Boveedy, enlisted in William’s army about 1690, crossed the Boyne and after five or six years deserted. Being pursued to Boveedy, he escaped by the aid of Mr. Clerk and settled in Lismoyle.

Revs. Robert Wirling and Alexander Cumming

Little is known about the next minister, the Rev. Robert Wirling, who was installed in Boveedy, 25th July, 1732. He was a member of the Belfast Presbytery, and had been ordained some years earlier to the company of the ship, the “Revival,” of London. He removed to 2nd Donagheady in 1741. Before his departure Boveedy presented a petition to the Synod of Ulster complaining that the congregation had been “greatly weakened by defalcations made on both ends of it,” and were in danger of being deprived of Gospel ordinances. They were receiving assistance from the Sustentation fund of that time, but it was so much in arrear that they were in very straitened circumstances. The Presbytery, to whose negligence their plight was due, were instructed to attend to the matter and do justice to Boveedy.


Circumstances must have improved, for Mr. Alexander Cumming, a native of Kilraughts, was ordained 22nd May, 1744, and remained there till his death in November, 1748. 59

Where Matthew Clerk resided is not known, but during the ministry of his successors, Wirling and Cumming, the manse was in Drumagarner, where the Hutchinsons subsequently resided. Mr. Cumming left a widow who married his successor, Mr. John Smyth, half a year after the ordination of the latter, which took place 31st October, 1749. Smyth was from near River Roe, parish of Boveva, and must be carefully distinguished from his successor of the same name.

Bann Valley Genealogy
The Parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght O‘Crilly

By J.W. Kernohan, M.A.


Part IV. Historical Account of Boveedy Congregation

II. The Parting of the Ways.

Rev. John Smyth.

Mr. Smyth’s ministry was an eventful one in the history of the congregation and in the fortunes of his family. During his ministry Kilrea became a separate congregation, and Boveedy joined the Seceders, who were making steady progress and growing in numbers and importance. Since 1751 Mr. Alexander Stewart, of Ards, was lessee of the Mercers’ Estate, and had as agent Mr. Henry, a bleacher, and probably the most influential Presbyterian in Kilrea. At Mr. Henry’s solicitation Mr. Smyth and the larger part of his congregation were persuaded to remove to Kilrea, which was now becoming a town. The minutes from the sub-Synod of Derry’s records will explain the situation:_


May 18th, 1779. From Kilrea(in the bounds of the Presbytery of Rout) appeared a supplication (Samuel Read, etc., Commissioners) informing us that a division is likely to take place in that congregation, that this matter was canvassed at the Presbytery, but that they could not make up the breach. They therefore refer the matter to this sub-Synod, as appears from their minutes which were read; and requesting that we may order their minister, Mr. Smyth, to preach alternately in Kilrea and Bovidy (as there is a great majority of the congregation for a coalition.)60

From Bovidy appeared a supplication (Wm. Gilmer, etc., Commissioners) requesting that this Synod may order Bovidy to be declared a vacant congregation, and that supplies may be granted them, particularly Mr. James Elder. Mr. Smyth and the Commissioners from both places were heard at a considerable length.

The Synod eventually appointed a large committee, including the members of the Route Presbytery, to meet at Boveedy and endeavour to bring about a reconciliation. The committee’s decision was in favour of the Kilrea petitioners, who are described in the “Synod of Ulster Records” as the “inhabitants of Killreagh, Tamlagh, and Desert.” Their contention was to the effect that to constitute the 226 heads of families of Boveedy into a separate congregation would be injurious to the interests of religion, as the whole stipend not being more than £26 would not admit of division. The committee’s decision to divide the time of Mr. Smyth between Kilrea and Boveedy was upheld by the General Synod. After two years Boveedy joined the Seceders, and Kilrea continued as a separate congregation under Mr. Smyth. The melancholy part of the story so far as he is concerned is that although he removed his residence from Drumagarner on the promise of generous treatment in the matter of house and land in the town of Kilrea, on his death in 1785 “his property is distrained and sold in satisfaction of a claim for rent during the whole of occupancy, and his family are beggared by it.” Part of the “generous treatment” was that he was to be free of rent. His descendants resided in the Diamond, Kilrea, up to the middle of the nineteenth century.

Boveedy and the Seceders


The first minister of Boveedy under the new conditions was the Rev. Adam Boyle, who was ordained there either in 1781 or 1782 by the Burgher Presbytery of Derry that had recently been formed. The nearest Seceding congregations were Garvagh and Knockloughrim. The introduction 61 of this more evangelical, more rigid type of Presbyterianism had, it cannot be doubted, a beneficial effect on the religious life of the community. We may now regard some of its teachings as very narrow, yet that there was a need for the stirring up of spiritual life all over Ulster, such as came with the Seceders, is abundantly evident. And in the particular part that we have under review, the impartial observer will find it difficult, judging by the type of Presbyterians that have sprung from the labours of old Adam Boyle and his successors, to accept the plea of the majority in 1779 that a separate congregation would be “injurious to the interests of religion.”


We have inherited our regard for the Sabbath from the old Seceders. Here is a sample of their teaching regarding its observance. “Others profane that holy Day by idleness, or using it as a Day of visiting their friends and neighbours; some by making it a Day of Reckoning with work men and servants; others profane it by doing unnecessary servile work in and about their houses, which might either be done on Saturday before, or delayed to Monday thereafter, such as cutting of grass, carrying of fire and water, drying of clothes, and the like. Others profane it by unnecessary journeyings or travelling about their secular business. Others profane it by carnal converse and their worldly affairs, and even in going to and returning from public worship, and in the intervals thereof. Also we cannot but testify against parading with the use of martial music and making the Sabbath a Day for learning the military exercises, without an apparent necessity (though practised by many of our worthy and respectable volunteers).” All these were regarded as transgressions of the law of God. Every form of evil the Seceders denounced unsparingly-“blasphemy, profane swearing, drunkeness, detraction, lying, malice.” The Vanity Fair of Boveedy already mentioned, we can very well believe, did not resist long the onslaught of the Seceders. 62

Rev. Adam Boyle

Here is inserted a footnote:-

His grandson, the Rev. S. B. Clarke, M.A., of Cairncastle, possesses a MA. Volume of his sermons, the first of which is dated 1781-possibly the first preached by the old Seceder in Boveedy.

We know all too little of Adam Boyle. He seems to have received his University training at Glasgow. He was 28 years of age when he began his ministry, and when he had long passed the allotted span of life, he was preaching every Sunday and visiting regularly an extended congregation without assistance. His old-fashioned, salutary training developed in him honesty, industry, and, as his ministerial career proved, a singular capacity for work, only giving up the reins to an assistant at the age of 87. His residence was at Brookfield, and is still standing. Three years after his ordination, he, with the other Seceding ministers, was allowed a grant of Regium Donum. When he was eighty, his stipend amounted to £24, supplemented by an allowance of £50 from Regium Donum.

The last record in the Session book at Boveedy made by him reads as follows:–“Married by the Rev. Adam Boyle in the 2nd Presbyterian Meeting-house, Kilrea, July 20th, 1845, James Cooke to Eleanor Gilmore.”

The inscription on the tombstone in Boveedy graveyard reads – “Rev. Adam Boyle, minister of Boveedy, who died 1st November, 1848, aged 94 years.”


Mention should be made of the religious and social organisations that came into being in the bounds of his congregation about 1830. In Trinaltinagh School a Reading and Debating Society was conducted much on the same lines as a branch of the Young People’s Guild of today. It was also a Temperance Society, and met once a month. The class of books read were Hervey’s “Meditations,” Josephus’ “History of the Jews,” Doddridges’s “Exposition,” and Flavel’s “Mind and Soul.” There was a similar 63 Society at Crossland. As a result of such meetings there was a great improvement in the religious and moral education of the people.

Brief Ministries

The Rev. William Denham was Mr. Boyle’s assistant and successor. He was ordained on 30th November, 1841, but resigned in 1844 on his appointment to Duneane.

The next minister was the Rev. D. T. Boyd, who also remained but a few years. It was during his ministry that the new church was built. It was alleged that he collected money outside the bounds of the congregation for which he gave no account. For this and another charge, which was preferred against him, he either resigned or was deposed..


About this time very serious trouble arose in the congregation. The district was one where handloom weaving prevailed, and the population was very dense. There was one place known as the “Cluster,” which an old inhabitant remembers as having at a time thirty-six “smoking chimneys”. At present there are only about four families. There were two or three looms in each house, and the “drapers” came round once a week, gave out the yarns and took back the webs. Sometimes the weaver would have three or four hanks of weft left after the web was finished. On returning this to the “draper” he was fined. Then he began to keep it, and through accumulation of these leavings he had in time as much as would do for the weft of a whole web. The non-weavers in the congregation held this to be a dishonest practice, but the weavers affirmed that there was no harm in it seeing that they turned out as good linen without it, and ran the risk of a fine for their being honest in returning it. The matter got into the Session, and two parties were formed when the vacancy occurred. The Rev. Matthew Macaulay, J.P., who only recently died at McKelvey’s Grove, was one of the candidates, and a Mr. John Gilmore the other. At a vote the two parties were equal, 64 and one voter having recalled his vote for Gilmore, Macaulay was elected by a majority of one. The other party left, erected another building about a hundred yards further up the road, and became connected with the U.P. Church of Scotland. They and their descendants worshipped here for about fifty years, but the congregation gradually dwindled away, and now the building is used by a neighbouring farmer as a barn. Mr. Macauley resigned McKelvey’s Grove, and ministered at Boveedy for about six months. He was never installed. The whole powers of rent office were strongly in favour of the dissatisfied portion of the congregation, and these powers were so mighty in those days that many of the farmers had either to obey the dictates of an arbitrary land agent, and join the dissentient portion of the congregation, or be evicted from their holdings. It was probably the system of landlordism which Macaulay experienced so early in his history at Boveedy that caused him in later years so strongly to espouse the cause of the farmer. He was recalled to McKelvey’s Grove, where he spent the remainder of a long and useful career.

Rev. James Gilmour


Rev. James Gilmore was a native of Garvagh, and was ordained in October, 1848. He found everything in confusion, and a heavy debt on the congregation. The slates and timber used in the construction of the new building were unpaid. The merchants who supplied these were pressing for their money. The potato blight happened about the time, and people had no money. The house was closed until these accounts would be settled. Mr. Gilmore, with the assistance of members of the church, broke open the door, and afterwards raised as much money as satisfied the creditor. During his ministry an attempt was made by the land agent to take from the congregation the portion of ground on which the manse now stands, and also the old schoolhouse. He was a brave man, for he fought the 65 rent office single-handed and came out victorious, and had a trust deed made out which prevents the property from ever being alienated from the Presbyterian Church. During his ministry the present manse was built. At a congregational meeting in 1853 it was resolved and passed unanimously-“That we are anxious that a house be built as a manse for our minister, and that we request Mr. Gilmore to build it to please himself, and that he advance any funds that may be required.” He lived in stirring times, and was subjected to much harassing, but he never lost the good-will of the majority of his people, who to this day remember him as a good minister and a kindly man. He died on the 8th July, 1887, aged 70 years.

Rev. W. J. Hill, B.A.

Was ordained 22nd December, 1887, and since then continues to be the minister of Boveedy. During this time the manse has been remodelled and almost rebuilt, new offices and church stables erected, the church renovated, and a congregational hall formed out of a part of the church building, which was too large for the present members. New entrances have been made and trees and shrubs planted, and the whole property is now in thoroughly good order. The financial affairs of the congregation are at present in a more flourishing condition than ever before in its history.

Educational and other Gleanings


From the earliest days of the Presbyterian Church education has gone hand in hand with religion. But details are wanting of the schools in the vicinity of Boveedy. In Kilrea, a schoolmaster named Richardson, who was also clerk in the Parish Church, conducted a school in 1738. There was a similar school at Moyletra Church early in the late century, which was attended by Presbyterians. The present Boveedy schoolhouse was erected in 1834 by public subscription. Andrew Orr, Esq., the proprietor of the soil, gave £35; the Rector, £4; 66 Rev. Adam Boyle, £1; and the surrounding farmers, £8.
Here is inserted a footnote:-

The greater purchasing power of money at this time must be remembered in all references to subscriptions.

Since this sketch was written – (1910) a new schoolhouse has been erected on the most modern plan.

Trinaltinagh School was in existence in 1828, for Mr. Michael Wallace planted fir and alder trees around it then.

In 1836 the people were in a state of “slow but progressive improvement,” being chiefly occupied hitherto in farming on a small scale, and weaving. This latter industry was steadily declining. The chief hindrance to improvement in farming was the smallness of the farms. Gortmacrane, described as a “barren tract of churchland,” sent five times as many harvesters to England as all the rest of the district.

The dates of the building of the neighbouring churches may be of interest – Churchtown, 1836; Moneydig, 1836; Drumbolg, 1812; Drumagarner Chapel, 1778.

In the whole parish of Tamlaght there were in 1834, 2,787 Presbyterians, 865 Seceders, 1,538 Episcopalians, and 4,735 Roman Catholics.


In these days of consistent loyalty we are not always disposed to give due credit to the motives which prompted the United Irishmen in the movements that led up to the Rebellion of 1798. The disabilities then suffered by Presbyterians and their desire for reform led them to the verge of actual revolt against the Constitution. Maghera formed the centre of a strong movement towards insurrection. The men assembled 5,000 strong on 7th June, 1798, but hearing of the defeat at Antrim and that military forces were marching towards them, their courage failed. One of the leaders, Walter Graham, was betrayed and executed. There was no “rising” at Kilrea,


67 and only a partial attempt took place at Garvagh. Captain Heyland with the Bovagh cavalry proceeded through Kilrea, and dispersed some insurgents at Dunglady Fort. The minister of Kilrea was in sympathy with the United Irishmen, and might have been seen helping with many others to gather potatoes with the aid of his new castor hat on a farm whose owner was in prison on a charge of disaffection.

Bann Valley Genealogy
The Parishes of Kilrea and Tamlaght O‘Crilly

By J.W. Kernohan, M.A.



A: Muster Roll (circa 1631) of British men on the Mercer’s Estate.

  • Thomas Church
  • Valentyne Hartup
  • Lewis Boyer
  • George Church
  • Richard Miller
  • Richard Miller (junr.)
  • Edward Cary
  • William Stotesbury
  • Thomas Church, junr.
  • Humfrey Joanes
  • Thomas Hudson
  • Richard Goodwin
  • Thomas Brame
  • William Gessen
  • John Wilson
  • Richard Michell
  • Richard Drayton
  • Gilbert Brox
  • Alexander Wray
  • Samuel Darwin
  • John Stebrank
  • John North
  • Richard Avery (elder)
  • Richard Avery (younger)
  • Thomas Corbet
  • William Goodman (elder)
  • Valentyne Bradford
  • Thomas Cox
  • James Taylor
  • John M’Coy
  • George Camell
  • Thomas Hitchins
  • Ralph Bartely
  • Thomas Rowley
  • John Didicot
  • Dennis Weredy (O’Redy)
  • Thomas Short
  • John Grene
  • Thomas M’ffarlin
  • Willian Smart
  • Thomas Gyles (elder)
  • John Stanup
  • William Doggin
  • Leonard Vincent
  • John Clenton
  • William Mathers
  • John Michell
  • Thomas Barnes
  • Thomas Barteyn
  • William Hingson
  • Robert Ellis
  • Brian Strabridg
  • William Goodman (younger)
  • Henry Cock
  • John Blanchet
  • Alexander Camell
  • Robert Camell
  • Henry Birch
  • John Chambers
  • Hugh O’Cane
  • John Bene
  • William Buckle
  • Thomas Smith
  • Arthur Irwin
  • John Medley
  • Robert Wilkinson
  • John Brocter
  • Thomas Gyles (younger)
  • James Parson
  • Murto Flyn
  • John Hitchins
  • Edward Norton
  • Thomas Turner
  • Thomas Grahams
  • William Graham
  • Andrew Gordon
  • Richard Collins
  • Edward Ellis
  • George Moore
  • Richard Dragford
  • Francis Clynton
  • William Hitchins
  • Thomas Steward
  • John Clark
  • Edward Westen
  • Rowland Allen
  • John M’Connell


B: Names of the persons who paid Hearth Tax in Kilrea Parish in 1663.

The numbers in brackets indicate the number of hearths where householders were rated for more than one:-

  • Thomas Bunbrie (4)
  • Thomas Church (3)
  • Charles Church (3)
  • Robert Cambell
  • Donnell Cambell
  • John Cambell
  • Robert Magnygrave
  • Hugh O’Reddy
  • William Pattent
  • Edward Cocke
  • James Smith
  • Donaghy MacReddy
  • Brian MacCotter
  • John Read
  • Archibald Cambell
  • Thos. Grills (2)
  • Knogher Fallune
  • Robert Lathum
  • Wm. Mack Fuch
  • Richard Vaws
  • John Clinton
  • Matthew Robinson
  • Alexander Wallis
  • Nicholas Bell
  • Robert M’Clenaghan
  • Robert Bennete (4)
  • Robert Henry
  • Wm. Sloan.

C: Names of those rated for Hearth Tax in Tamlaght O’Crilly Parish in 1663

with names of Townlands

·  Lsogrott – Henry Willoughby

·  Lismoyle – John M’Fall, Daniel M’Fall, Owen Toyle, Hugh M’Ward.

·  Killygollib – Donnel O’Hagan, Manur Mannuly, Multagh O’Kessiday, Brian O’Trolan.

·  Drumsara – Brian O’Cahan, Hugh M’Cotter, John Simpson, Hugh Winner

·  Clanown – Henry Winner, John Miller

·  Killemuck – William O’Creely, Conn O’Neale, Daniel O’Finley, James Watch

·  Drummilish – George Owen (One half of Drummilish waste.)

·  Drumlane – Edward Mandley, Robert Meeker.

·  Drumacanan – Brian Mulhallan, Owen MacPeake.

·  Drumard – Wm. M’Connell, Daniel MacPeake.

·  Drumedan – Druimean – Alex. Rea, John Rea, Thomas Rea.

·  Bovedy – Donoghy O’Quigge, Edmd. O’Madigan, Revellin M’Annely, Tirlo M’Neece.

·  GortmcRean – Art M’Rannell, Dermoyt M’Lare, Tirlo M’Ilduff, Owen O’Flina.

·  Donnagarvan – Wm. Collins, Henry Collins, John Johnstoune.

·  Ballynean – Henry O’Donnell, Art O’Henry, Richd. Landy, Hugh O’Quiggan, Danl. M’Erlyn, Hugh oge M’Tamny, Art O’Henry.

·  Tionee – Patk. O’Maddigan, Hugh boy O’Henry, John Adams.

·  Tioney – Hugh boy Shield.

·  Monyshalin – Dermoyt O’Diamond, Henry O’Drummond, Art O’Henry.

·  BalliM’Peak – Waste.

·  Munistehan – Owen O’Mullan, James O’Mullan.

·  Eden – Teage O’Henrann, Owen O’Henrann, Patrick Mulhallan.

·  Teveconwe – Toll O’Neill.



Appendix D: Protestant householders in Kilrea Parish in 1740:

  • James Henry
  • widow Lilly
  • widow Parrot
  • Robert M’Camly
  • Hugh m’Alshanog
  • Law. Collence
  • James Boyd
  • Mr. Sampson
  • James Money
  • Chas. Clinton
  • James Candor
  • John Sherer
  • James Cally
  • Frans Clinton
  • John m’Cay
  • Con O’ Donnell
  • Eliz. Gibson
  • Willm. Brown
  • John Brown
  • Robt. Orr
  • Willm. Cample
  • widow Smirl
  • Mary m’Tagart
  • Hester M’Colgan
  • Willm. Wallace
  • Hugh Bamfart
  • John Collins
  • James Canders
  • Frans. Cahan
  • John Money
  • John o’Dempsey
  • Mary m’Lane
  • John m’Mullan
  • widow Jemison
  • Neal Brown
  • widow m’Ready
  • James m’Gee
  • Richd. O’Cahan
  • Galland Griffin
  • Willm Boeman
  • Eliz. Richison
  • Robt. Shearer
  • Thos. Anderson
  • Dan m’Lean
  • John Henry
  • Chas. Williamson
  • John m’Carrell
  • Mary m’Caul
  • Neal o’Money
  • Willm. Burrel
  • Jane Watson
  • James o’Cogherty
  • Anne Bryars
  • John m’Kei
  • Chas. M’Cart
  • Will M’Cart
  • Robt. Cook
  • John Henry
  • Henry Henry
  • widow Medley
  • John Cahan
  • widow Mulholland
  • Neal o’Money
  • Frans. Boylan
  • Willm. Warren
  • John m’Cammon
  • widow Smirl
  • Neal m’Cotter
  • Bryan m’Cotter
  • Donoghy m’Cotter
  • William Hunter
  • Saml. M’Cahay
  • George Neiland
  • Willm. Lee
  • James Campble
  • John Smirl
  • Saml. Davison
  • Hugh Woods
  • Bryan m’Cotter
  • Donaghy m’Cotter
  • Willm. Hunter
  • Saml. M’Cahay
  • Geo. Neiland
  • Willm. Lee
  • James Campble
  • John Smirl
  • Saml. Davison
  • Hugh Woods
  • Bryan m’Cotter
  • Darby m’Cotter
  • Richard Campble
  • wid’w Feary
  • wid’w Clark
  • Alex Clerk
  • John o’Diamond
  • Patk. o’Mallican
  • Mrs. Bell
  • John m’Cully
  • John Boman
  • Ferral o’Kennan
  • John Walker
  • David Walker
  • Patk. m’Grah
  • Richd. Clerk
  • John Baldridge
  • David Sloan
  • widow Clements
  • John m’Ashannog
  • widow Church
  • Donaghy o’Mullaghan
  • Danl. m’Cammon
  • Jas. Mitchel
  • Thos. Mitchel
  • Solomon Brown
  • Jas. Sloan
  • James Erwin
  • John M’Neal
  • George Liggett
  • Saml. Kidd
  • widow m’Mighen
  • Robert m’Gregor
  • Saml. M’Almoyle
  • Dan m’Gregor
  • James m’Carg
  • Willm. Kilpatrick
  • Willm. Reed
  • John Reed
  • David Campble
  • Margt Dumbar
  • James Blainey
  • Danl. m’Cay
  • John Wilson
  • John Barber
  • Neice m’Calem
  • Cork m’Cay
  • Lauglin Blaney
  • John m’Alester
  • Adam Dickey
  • Robt. Gordon
  • Robt. Erwin
  • John Henry
  • Rich. Brazier
  • Neal m’Cay
  • Phiy. O’Henry
  • Jane m’Aleester
  • Neal m’Michel
  • John m’Michel
  • widow m’Cay
  • John m’Cay
  • Danl. Blaney
  • Neal m’Cay
  • James Norris
  • Willm. Anderson
  • David Erwin
  • widow Sloan
  • Patk. Campble
  • Willlm. Snipe
  • John Erwin
  • John Crafford
  • John Dunbar
  • Josh. Grahan
  • widow m’Kinly
  • widow m’Conagh
  • Jane Graham
  • Patk. o’Dichon
  • David Campble
  • Aron Gordon
  • John Campble
  • Nichs. Dorothy
  • Sam Gordon
  • John m’Aleester
  • Mrs. Young
  • Chas. M’Allester
  • Thos. m’Ateer
  • Patk. m’Allester
  • James Bay
  • John Mulholland
  • Aron Workman
  • widow o’Diamond

Appendix E: Protestant householders in Tamlaght O’Crilly Parish in 1740:

  • Thos. Church
  • Tole m‘Allester
  • Danl. m‘Allester
  • John Brannan
  • Willm. Campble (sic)
  • Robt. Campble
  • James Killpatrick
  • James Maberry
  • James Karny
  • John Maberry
  • Richd. Maberry
  • John Crosly
  • Mark Carr
  • John Murry
  • John m‘Laughlin
  • Tage o‘Murry
  • Randle m‘Alester
  • Patk. Orr
  • Danl. m‘Allin
  • Hugh o‘Diamond
  • James Wilson
  • widow Hamilton
  • Jas. Williamson
  • Hugh Hill
  • Ninion Smith
  • Willm. Hill
  • George Akin
  • Adam Hill
  • Thos. Madikin
  • James m‘Nickle
  • John m‘Nickle
  • Rose m‘Gulpin
  • Wm. Collins
  • Archd. M‘Alhphatrick (sic)
  • John Martin
  • John m‘Clemont
  • Richd. Gardiner
  • James Collins
  • Willm. Collins
  • Robt. Willy
  • John o‘Neal
  • John Cox
  • Willm. Cox
  • James Gillmore
  • John Campble
  • James Williamson
  • Patk. Mulloy
  • John m‘Peak
  • Widow Mulloy
  • James Creely
  • Danl. Margy
  • Shan. o‘Quin
  • Art o‘Quin
  • John Caskey
  • Saml. Boulton
  • John Boyd
  • widow Casky
  • Danl. Stuart
  • John Moylany
  • John Scott
  • John Casky
  • Thos. Stuart
  • Willm. Boulton
  • widow Boulton
  • Mary Blair
  • John Stuart
  • John Campble
  • Edwd. Cox
  • John m‘Lain
  • Robt. Campble
  • Richard Campble
  • Patk. Mulholland
  • Art Mulholland
  • James Richey
  • Peter Tochel
  • Willm. Stuart
  • Allen Stuart
  • John m‘Randle
  • Shan m‘Randle
  • Alexander Turner
  • Robert Wallace
  • Willm. Hart
  • Thos m‘Killip
  • widow m‘Cart
  • widow m‘Killip
  • Willm. m‘Kaghy
  • Robert Withorow
  • Randle m‘Alester
  • James m‘Connell
  • Dinis m‘Cay
  • John Willy
  • John m‘Cahan
  • James m‘Cahan
  • Josh Willy
  • John Faulkner
  • Willm. Turner
  • Carby m‘Cann
  • John Campble
  • widow m‘Allary
  • Danl. m‘Allary
  • James m‘Keenan
  • widow m‘Randle
  • Shan m‘Allary
  • Juggy Kenedy
  • Dorothy Kenedy
  • Willm. Kenedy
  • Jas. Begly
  • Willm. Begly
  • Richd. Craford
  • John o‘Mullan
  • widow m‘Ready
  • Neal m‘Cotter
  • John m‘Allary
  • Frans. Starret
  • Tole o‘Cain
  • Hugh Glasgow
  • Patk. O‘Quin
  • widow Davison
  • Neal o‘Neil
  • James Graham
  • Hester Laudden
  • Robt. m‘Cormick
  • Patk. m‘Duffe
  • John Woods
  • Chas. M‘Laughlin
  • Danl. Downing
  • Wilm. Catherwood
  • James Hinds
  • Chas. Richy
  • John m‘Kaghy
  • Willm. Johnston
  • Willm. Fleming
  • Robert Campbell (sic)
  • John m‘Donnell
  • widow m‘Kay
  • Bryan m‘Gill
  • widow m‘Gill
  • James Miller
  • John Mark
  • Willm. Bole
  • James m‘Cartney
  • Huy Bay
  • Henry m‘Gill
  • Danl. m‘Peak
  • James m‘Kaghy
  • John Fleming
  • John Rea
  • John Miller
  • Andw. Cochran
  • James m‘Curtney
  • Robert Henderson
  • John Bay
  • John Murdoch
  • David Long
  • Robt. Miller
  • Robt. Workman
  • John Kelsy
  • John m‘Dearmont
  • Danl. m‘Peake
  • Hugh m‘Peake
  • George m‘Kaghy
  • John m‘Kaghy
  • widow Blair
  • Danl. m‘Kaghy
  • Hugh Crafford
  • Chas. Kairnan
  • Archd. m‘Kaghy
  • Art o‘Henry
  • Roger m‘Lairn
  • Cork o‘Henry
  • widow Gilmore
  • Willm. m‘Tammy
  • widow Campble
  • Nathl. Marks
  • John Miliken
  • widow m‘Neal
  • Neal m‘Peake
  • Hugh Henry
  • Willm. Sturgeon
  • Richd. Shaw
  • Robt. Clements
  • widow Hevern
  • Alex. Duncan
  • Andw. Lorimer
  • James Mulholland
  • widow Mullan
  • Robt. Smith
  • Frans. Smith
  • Edmd. o‘Dichon
  • Patk. o‘Keenan
  • Henry Lennox
  • Hugh Glasgow
  • Hugh Allice
  • James m‘Cullough
  • James Knox
  • James m‘Cleland
  • Patk. m‘Veagh
  • Patk. m‘Fadden
  • Thomas Rainy
  • Eneas Welsh
  • Samuel Hasty
  • Willm. Hasty
  • James Neal
  • widow Henry
  • Tage m‘Lain
  • James Laughlin
  • John Murphy
  • James Murphy
  • Josh. Laughlin
  • Alex Huey
  • John Willson
  • John Neal
  • Willm. m‘Mullan
  • John Huey
  • John Reed
  • John m‘Caa
  • James m‘Caa
  • Robt. Orr
  • John o‘Ferral
  • James Hilton
  • Willm. Stuart
  • Frans. Reed
  • Chas. Orr
  • Chars. m‘Kaghy
  • Nichs. Bert
  • Manus m‘Peake
  • John o‘Boylan
  • Bryan m‘Peecke
  • John Mulholland
  • Neal o‘Diamond
  • Willm. Mulholland
  • Jas. m‘Calen
  • David Mulholland
  • James Mulholland
  • Mrs. Mulholland
  • widow m‘Peak
  • Mrs. Mulholland
  • neal m‘Kee
  • widow Raleagh
  • Patrick o‘Rallaghan
  • Hugh Walker
  • Danl. Shaw
  • Patk. Dorethy
  • Willm. Gilmore
  • widow Banintin
  • Robt. Stuart
  • Alex Mott
  • Danl. Workman
  • Adam Blair
  • Thos. Roe
  • George Polike
  • John Polike
  • Alexr. Kelly
  • James Sim
  • Willm. Sloan
  • widow Mulholland
  • John Taylor
  • John Young
  • Wm. Young
  • Willm. m‘Caa
  • Robt. Graham
  • Fras. Roe
  • Jas. Gibson
  • Willm. Workman
  • widow m‘Cullough
  • Bryan Black
  • Jas. Stuart
  • Danl. m‘Conoghy
  • John Gilmore
  • Mr. m‘Lain
  • Willm. Wilson
  • James Taylor
  • John Taylor
  • John Workman
  • Nees o‘Kenny
  • Cola m‘A‘Tamny
  • Patk. m‘A‘Tamny
  • John o‘Daly
  • James Pattan
  • James Reid
  • Roger o‘Henry
  • James Tagart
  • Neal m‘A‘Terr
  • Dunc. m‘Annuller
  • George French
  • Patk. o‘Mullan
  • Chas m‘Lain
  • Henry m‘Anular
  • Edwd. Cox
  • Nees o‘Henry
  • Mr. Worling
  • Patk. o‘Murry
  • Alexr. m‘Alester
  • Art o‘Neal
  • Allen Woods
  • Mary Simon
  • James Woods
  • Hugh Young
  • Robert Smith
  • Willm. Rea
  • Margt. Johnston
  • Robt. Clerk
  • James Smith
  • Alexr. Rea
  • James Rea
  • John Rea
  • George Rea
  • John Bell

I have a Rental of the Mercers’ Estate drawn up in 1814, which is too long for reproduction here.

I am also indebted to Mr. S. E. Smythe-Edwards for Rentals (1791) of neighbouring townlands not included in the Mercers’ Estate, for which his grandfather was agent:- Drumnacannon, Drumoolish, Drumlane, Moyegney, Drumane, Gortmacrane, Killygullib, and others.