Thursday 28 June 2012

Origin and Characteristics of The Population in The Counties of Antrim and Down.


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Ulster Journal of Archæology, Vol. 1, 1853.

This article and the accompanying maps occupy some 44 pages of the Journal, and deal with the antiquity of the district, importance of the district, topographical outline, physical peculiarities, condition of the country before the Plantation of Ulster, position of ancient districts, the Plantation of Ulster, English settlements in Antrim and Down. The title of the article is rather misleading, as the author confines himself exclusively to the English settlement, practically ignoring the existence of the strong Scottish element which predominates in both counties.

In Ulster the people of Anglo-Saxon ancestry are found in greatest numbers, and there the modes of thought and habits of action bear the closest resemblance to those which are found in Great Britain. There is the stronghold of the United Church of England and Ireland; and there also are found the numerous Presbyterian communities which claim proximate or remote relationship to the Established Church of Scotland. In Ulster, too, partly as a consequence and partly as a collateral fact, law and order are respected, life and property are secure. The wheels of commerce and social life move smoothly on; allowing for slight exceptional cases, property and population maintain a steady increase; and the visitor of enlarged views finds that, as in Scotland, a soil which was naturally unproductive has nourished a population of high promise. In short, except geographically, Ulster is not Irish at all.

What Ulster is to Ireland, Down and Antrim are to Ulster. Within their limits every favourable influence exists in the greatest force, and the elements of civilisation and progress have arrived at the greatest maturity. For three centuries the history of Ulster, and in a less degree of the whole island, belongs mainly to these two counties. They lie in the pathway to Scotland, from which the largest tide of immigration flowed; and they opened their arms to the gallant adventurers of England who risked danger and difficulty in the permanent purchase of title and estate. Whenever blood has flowed in Ulster, whether for the defence of civil liberty or in the deadly feuds of race and creed, the fields of Antrim and Down have been moistened; and in guarding their own hearths and homes, as well as in affording more than a fair proportion for the public service, their sons have never been found wanting.

One reason for the variety of population which these two counties contain is the fact that they were always regarded as a sort of sanctuary. The Huguenot of the Seine felt that he might thank God and take courage, not only in Portarlington, but on the banks of the Lagan. The persecuted Cameronian, fleeing from the enemy or the avenger, hung up his claymore in peace in a farmhouse of Ahoghill or Ballyeaston. The crest-fallen cavalier in the days of Cromwell, and the stern Puritan in the days of "the Merry Monarch," pledged their respective toasts without molestation in Dromore, Carrickfergus, or Ballymena. And later still, the songs of the expatriated Jacobites were sung over the loom and plough by those who little knew what inflammable materials they were handling "while George III. was king."

When the guns of Thurot in 1760, and those of Paul Jones in 1778, woke the echoes around Belfast Lough, they acted as a call to arms of the people in the neighbouring district. Many a "village Hampden" who found a new home in the Western States of America, and many a grey-haired patriarch on the plains of Australia, has secured the breathless attention of an humble auditory as he related with pride how his father rushed to the mustering at the "Maze Course," or in the market-place of Newtownards.

Topographical Outline.

Several of the baronies are sub-divided, for the sake of convenience, into upper and lower districts.

The explanation of this is, that the terms were not fixed by the local inhabitants, nor with relation to the assize town of each county, but by authority and in relation to Dublin. The metropolis of every county is figuratively a head, and provincial districts are the members; so that we are said to go up to the former, and down to the latter. Thus we go up to London, which lies in a basin, and is connected with the sea by a navigable river; we go down to the Scottish border, or to the region of Snowdon. In like manner, in Ireland we go up to Dublin, which is on the seaside, from Croagh-Patrick or Mangerton; we go down to Knock-Layd or Slieve Donard. If therefore, we take the Metropolis as our point of view, even the apparent anomaly vanishes. In every case the district known as "Upper" is nearer to Dublin in geographical position, or at least by the ordinary route for reaching it; and that which is called "Lower" is more remote.

The ecclesiastical arrangements in Antrim and Down differ in some respects from the civil ones. There are three dioceses, which are almost co-extensive with the two counties, but embracing a few additional parishes. The Dioceses of Down and Connor existed distinct from each other from about A.D. 500 to 1441, that is for a period of nine centuries; and as their union took place before the Reformation, they are united at present in the arrangements both of the Established and the Roman Catholic Churches.

Dromore existed as a separate diocese from about 550 to 1842, or during thirteen centuries; it is still so in the Roman Catholic Church, but in the United Church of England and Ireland it forms part of the union of "Down and Connor and Dromore," in accordance with the Church Temporalities Act of 1833.

The boundary line of the Diocese of Dromore coincides with the county boundary near Lough Neagh; then making a circuit north of Aghalee and south of Hillsborough, it includes Anahilt, Magheradrool, Drumgooland, and Kilmegan. This includes the nominally "exempt jurisdiction of Newry and Mourne," of which the Earl of Kilmorey is the lay Lord Abbot. The Diocese of Dromore also includes the portion of Armagh cut off by the upper Bann, and which, therefore, naturally belongs to the County Down. In this is situated Seagoe, reaching to within a mile of Portadown; Moyntaghs, a wilderness of bog on the shore of Lough Neagh: and Shankill, in a portion of which, belonging to Down, the Belfast canal joins Lough Neagh. The only parish in Antrim which belongs to this diocese is Aghalee, which, with the two parishes of Aghagallon and Magheramesk in the Diocese of Connor and County of Antrim, forms a union. A Roman Catholic tradition partly explains this exceptional fact. It is said that Aghalee was formerly like Moyntaghs, and uninhabited, and that it was united, to the Diocese of Dromore as a circumstance of no practical importance.

The Diocese of Down comprises the remainder of the county of that name; except portions of Blaris (i.e., Lisburn), Lambeg, and Drumbeg, which lie across the county boundary, but are included in Connor. In each diocese of the union there is but one archdeaconry, which is, of course, co-extensive with it; and it is a curious fact that the Archdeacon of Down, which is ex-officio rector of Hillsborough, resided till 1842 in the parish adjacent to the Bishop of Dromore. A design once existed, to bring the two episcopal residences into closer proximity. The first Marquis of Downshire, a man of great public spirit, who died in 1794, was the contemporary of Bishop Dickson of Down and Connor. When his Lordship had erected the magnificent church of Hillsborough, which is his noblest monument, he was desirous to induce the Bishop to fix his residence in that town. With the Consistorial Court at Lisburn (only three miles distant), there would certainly have been concentration of offices -- though not at the most convenient point.

The Diocese of Connor is as large as Down and Dromore together. It includes the whole County Antrim (Aghalee excepted), small portions of Down, as we have seen, and part of Londonderry. Following the natural boundary, as the Diocese of Dromore does, It includes Coleraine and Agherton or Ballyaghran, both of which lie wholly within the "Liberties of Coleraine." Within the same limits lie also the principal portions of the parishes of Ballyrashane, or St. John's Town, and Ballywillin, or Milltown; the remaining portions of which are in Antrim. The parish of Ballyscullion, lying west of Lough Beg and the Bann river, is mainly in the County Derry, yet in the Diocese of Connor. A small portion of it, together with the Grange of Ballyscullion, is situated in Antrim.

Parishes are also ecclesiastical divisions, though used for civil purposes.

Since neither diocese nor parishes conform to the limits of counties, it is not to be expected that the latter will be regulated by divisions of a subordinate kind. Accordingly, we find that many parishes are situated partially in each of two baronies.

In Antrim, the parishes of Billy, Killagan, Antrim, Shankill (Belfast), Derriaghy, and Templepatrick are examples of those which extend to two baronies.

The names of parishes are usually those of townlands within their respective limits, each being usually named from that one which contains the church or village, or both. The name of the village often supplants that of the ancient townland, and sometimes both preserve collaterally a dubious claim to notice.

In the parish of Saintfield, the name of Tonaghnieve has disappeared; but there can be little doubt that that was the name of the townland originally, especially as the fraternal name of Tonaghmore still survives. It is not improbable that the ancient name of Dromore parish was Ballymaganlis, from the townland of that name; but the name of the town has naturally superseded it. In Hillsborough parish, the ancient name of Camlin or Crumlin has long ceased to possess any official existence. It is still, however, traditionally known in connection with the ancient burial-ground, now forming part of the lawn of Hillsborough Castle, and its position is marked by the well-known Kate-Rush tree. Hillsborough Church was removed to its present position in 1662, but occasional interments took place in Crumlin burying-ground for nearly thirty years after. The name Shankill, derived from a townland which included a burying-place, is more than obsolescent; except to the inquirer, it may be regarded as obsolete. The town of Belfast constitutes so important a portion of the whole parish that its name has taken precedence; and instead even of the townland of Shankill we read "Edenderry."

Blaris parish is named from an obscure townland in the County Down; and Lisnagarvey, an equally obscure one in the County Antrim, gave name to a town within its limits. The latter was nearly burnt down, and was thence called Lisburn; and the little parish being united with one on the other side of the Lagan, the whole took the name of Blaris.

Moira (also written Moyrath, Moiragh, St. James of Moira, and Magh-Rath) is a name known for more than 1,200 years; yet the name of the townland in which the village is situated is Carnalbanagh and the parish was only constituted from portions of Magheralin and Hillsborough in 1725.

The townlands in Ireland are equivalent to the townships in England; in Scotland the same purpose is generally served by a minuter naming of farms and houses. The townlands are civil divisions; but in one respect they coincide with the ecclesiastical; for all parishes are composed of several of them complete. Their names are very peculiar; in short, the history of their names might almost be made a history of the country.

In the lower parts of Antrim, along the river margins, are to be sought the past and present sites of marshes. The parish of Moyntaghs, in Armagh, has its corresponding townland of Moyntaghs in Aghagallon; both of which will disappear in time, so that the philologist may have to inquire hereafter for the reason of the name. The Bogs of Kilwarlin, the Maze Moss, Blaris Moore, and many such places have become fertile fields; and the numerous names (such as Moss-side, where there is now no moss) are historical as well as topographical.

(To be Continued.)

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 28 June 1918 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week for several years. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

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