Sunday 6 November 2011

Curry's Glen.



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Situated in the townland of Ballyhomra, about three miles from Lisburn and convenient to Ravarnette cross-roads, is one of the most romantic and picturesque spots in the vicinity.

The Glen extends for almost a mile, forming a connecting link between the Deneight and Hillsborough-Legacurry (Blue Gate) roads. Homra House, in the Glen, is located a few hundred yards from the latter. Near the house two streams meet, and, joining forces, from what in winter is a turbulent mountain torrent, but in summer only a sparkling, gentle rivulet.

The Glen rises steadily from Lisnoe Bridge on the Deneight road to a considerable altitude at its other extremity. It is heavily timbered practically all the way, and in the vicinity of the house the sides of the Glen descend precipitously to a great depth, where the stream wends its murmuring way at the bottom.

The water of the united streamlets working ceaselessly through the centuries carved out of the hillside this great chasm, and kindly Nature, taking up the task, has clothed its bare and rugged sides with verdant shrubs and trees and flowers, covering its nakedness and converting it into a thing of beauty.

But man intervened, and on the most beautiful point of that exquisite landscape left his mark in a monument of rain and decay.

Homra House, standing near the junction of the two streams surrounded by huge trees, and almost overhanging the precipitous side of the Glen, is now a picture of desolation and ruin. The roofless walls stand out like ghostly fingers pointing to the sky; the windows, empty and void, suggest unseeing eyes brooding over well-remembered scenes of mirth and revelry, tragedy and sorrow enacted long ago within their shadow. The setting of a wonderful story is there -- the ghostly house, the overhanging trees, the old neglected garden, the deep ravine -- all only awaiting some facile pen to weave around them a fitting tale of tragedy and romance. Could the old walls speak, who may say what tales they could unfold? Who can say what scenes during the long years they have looked upon with stony indifference? But they do not speak now in articulate language; they are silent and only suggest. To the imagination is consigned the task of trying to clothe the dry bones.

Approaching the house from the direction of the Deneight road, in the old faraway days there was a large garden, several acres in extent surrounded by an impregnable hedge, and divided by massive beech hedgerows into squares. Between the garden and the Glen was a narrow plantation of trees. Garden and plantation were there as late as 1865. There is not a trace of either now left. Passing where the large garden stood, and quite close to the house, there are still to be seen at the present time some fine old trees and the remains of flower plots and walks. Immediate adjoining the house at the rear, and away from the Glen, is a yard surrounded by a wall, and containing out-houses, wall and houses now falling into ruins. Here Nature in her activity and profusion is hastening the work of destruction and covering over the marks of decay. Following the narrow path that separates the house from the Glen, not a stone-throw distant from the building a small knoll or headland projects out boldly into the valley. Here there was a small flower garden or pleasance, known as "My Lady's Garden." The gate pillars are still standing. An ideal and beautiful spot this must once have been. In one of the bends of the Glen as late as 1841 there were traces to be seen of the fish ponds, in which, according to the practice of the day, fish were fed and preserved alive till they were required for the table.

Possibly the Earliest Tradition

regarding Homra House is to be found in Edmund Gosse's life of Bishop Jeremy Taylor, where, on the authority of Canon Lett, Loughbrickland, it is stated that the Bishop owned, and during the later part of his life often resided at, Homra House, and also occupied, and is even said to have built, a house in Castle Street, Lisburn, opposite the entrance to the Cathedral. Independent of whatever evidence Canon Lett may have had for locating Jeremy Taylor temporarily at Homra House, it may be accepted that the assumption is not unreasonable. Bishop Taylor resided during the later part of his life -- 1660-1667 -- chiefly in Lisburn, Hillsborough, and the neighbourhood, and for a considerable time was an honoured guest at Hillsborough Castle. From the centre at Hillsborough he visited, frequently on horseback, his Cathedral churches at Lisburn and Dromore. His love of solitude and retirement is well known, as evinced by his sojourn at Portmore and Magheraleave; and where, when seeking seclusion and rest, could he have had it more effectually or been more suitably located for the discharge of his duties than in the leafy solitude of the Ballyhomra Glen?

On the 23rd January, 1699, in the reign of William III., "Edward Harrison, Esquire, and his eldest son Michael," by an "Exemplification of Recovery" were possessed of the lands of Ballyhomra and Magheradartin. This "Exemplification" went to show that they had been in occupation of the lands for a considerable time previous to 1699.

The Dictionary of National Biography states that Bishop Taylor's second wife was Joanna Bridges -- 1655 -- said to be a natural daughter of Charles I. Their daughter -- also Joanna -- married Edward Harrison of Magheralin (Magheraleave?), a member of the Irish bar and M.P. for Lisburn.

The next in succession to the lands of Ballyhomra was Francis Harrison, of the city of Dublin, banker, and partner with Benjamin Burton, Lord Mayor of Dublin 1706, and M.P. for Dublin from 1703 till 1723, and who was the eldest surviving son of Edward Harrison and Joanna Taylor. He devised his estates in the counties of Down and Kildare to his brother Jeremiah and his issue male, and in default of same to his remaining brother Marsh. Francis Harrison died unmarried in 1720, and Jeremiah having predeceased him without issue, Ballyhomra, according to the terms of his will, devolved on his only surviving brother Marsh Harrison, who, dying without issue in 1727, bequeathed by will dated 1726 his estate to his elder sister Mary, wife of Sir Cecil Wray, Bart. Their daughter, Frances Joanna, married before 1725 William Todd. By Indenture of Lease bearing date 1731 William Todd demised the lands of Ballyhomra and Magheradartin to Valentine Jones, of Lisburn, for 931 years. Conway Jones, of Lisburn, the third son of Valentine Jones and Mary Close, married in 1753 Mary Wray Todd, second daughter of William Todd,, and their son, William Todd Jones, sold Ballyhomra and Magheradartin to Wills Hill, first Marquis of Downshire, in 1790. It would appear that the consideration given by the Marquis for the said lands was in the nature of an annuity to William Todd Jones and his three sisters for the term of their lives.

      Jeremy Taylor -- Joanna Bridges.

      Joanna Taylor -- Edward Harrison.

      Mary Harrison -- Sir Cecil Wray.

      Francis Joanna Wray -- William Todd.

      Mary Wray Todd -- Conway Jones.

      William Todd Jones.

The foregoing genealogical record is supported by documentary evidence in possession of the Downshire Estate Office, Hillsborough, extracted and supplied by Mr. W. H. M. Smyth, of that office.

It is not improbable that Todds Grove, situated a shirt distance from Ballyhomra, was so named after William Todd.

It is generally believed that there was an older structure on the site now occupied by Homra House, and that the present building was erected by William Todd Jones about the year 1780.

Ravarnette House, in the townland adjoining Ballyhomra, was built in the year 1789, as recorded on a date-stone in the building. It was formerly known as Agnesville, and owned by a family of the name of Anderson or Henderson. Henry Hart, father of Sir Robert Hart, of Chinese fame, became lessee in 1860: John Sinton in 1873.

Bishop Heber, in his life of Jeremy Taylor, 1824, states that William Todd Jones was collecting material for a life of Bishop Taylor, and had a series of autograph letters to and from the Bishop, and "a family book" in the Bishop's handwriting containing an account of his parentage &c. The greater part of his family papers Jones had, on the sale of Homra House to Lord Downshire, transferred to the care of the Earl of Moira at Montalto. They are believed to have been destroyed by an accidental fire in London on their way to Lord Moira's residence. Some letters and notes made by Mr. Jones were, however, preserved, and remained in the possession of his sisters. These were subsequently supplied to Bishop Heber. The following notes are also culled from Heber:-- Michael, the eldest son of Joanna Taylor and Edward Harrison of Maralave, died without issue. Jeremiah also died without issue at Brook Hill, Lisburn. Francis was a partner in a large private bank in Dublin. He died intestate in 1729, leaving his affairs in a confused state. Marsh Harrison inherited his brother's estate. He was a captain in the army, a weak and dissolute man, and unfit to manage his brother's large affairs. Under his management the bank failed. A considerable surplus was saved from the wreck, and passed to Mary, the survivor of the family. Mary married twice -- first Colonel Francis Columbine; secondly, Sir Francis Wray. Their daughter Frances married William Todd. Lady Wray during her life gave the greater part of her Irish property to her daughter Frances and her husband, William Todd. Their daughter, Mary Wray Todd, married Conway Jones, of Lisburn -- the parents of William Todd Jones.

Jeremy Taylor.

Edmund Gosse, in his life of Jeremy Taylor, thus refers in the prefatory note to the work of William Todd Jones, and to the reminiscences of Lady Wray:--
When Heber was collecting material for the 1822 edition he was favoured with some manuscripts which he described as "amongst the most interesting hitherto recovered concerning Bishop Taylor's private concerns." They purported to be the papers of William Todd Jones of Homra, who had been occupied all his life, so it was averred, in collecting documents for a biography of Jeremy Taylor, from whom he was lineally descended "in the fifth degree." Mr. Jones died suddenly in 1818 by being thrown out of his carriage, when all his notes and manuscripts were found to have absolutely vanished. In a mysterious way, however, some of them, and particularly reminiscences said to have been contained in a letter written in 1782 by a Lady Wray, a granddaughter of Jeremy Taylor, were eventually placed in Heber's hands. Many of the statements which Heber did accept -- he did not accept all -- were quietly expunged later on by Eden. But many more have hitherto been repeated, until they form part of Taylor's accepted biography. In very careful examination of what remains of Lady Wray'e reminiscences have gradually come to the startling conclusion that they are apocryphal, and my narrative is accordingly deprived of some romantic but ridiculous incidents. It is of course always possible that the letter of May 31, 1732, may have existed, and may even have been written in good faith, though in that case with a recklessness of ignorance positively amazing.

Gosse's strictures on Lady Wray's reminiscences would appear to be confined chiefly to her remarks on the Bishop's ancestors, and her statement that Joanna Bridges was the natural child of Charles I. He does not mention the daughter -- Joanna -- and makes no comment on or reference whatever to the Bishop's descendants. He makes a curious mistake calling Lisnegarvey "Lismagarry," and evidently did not know that Jeremy Taylor had also a residence at Magheraleave, which is still standing.

This genealogical survey, covering the Downshire records and Bishop Heber's account, connects Bishop Jeremy Taylor and his descendants, through his daughter Joanna, intimately with Ballyhomra from 1665 till 1790, and goes to confirm the statement in the Dictionary of National Biography that William Todd Jones was a descendant of Jeremy Taylor.

The life of Jeremy Taylor is also dealt with in Wills' "Irish Nation" Biography, 1876, vol. 2, and Sir James Ware's works, 1739, vol. 1.

In the light of to-day some of Jeremy Taylor's acts appear harsh and arbitrary. He at one time declared thirty-six parishes vacant -- this is, he evicted thirty-six Presbyterian ministers from their livings and homes, and filled their places with men he invited over from England. Important meetings between the Bishop and the ministers in regard to this matter took place in Lisburn. No one now doubts the Bishop's saintly life and singleness of purpose, but it is a strange commentary on the fallibility of the human intellect to find him writing:--
Here I am perpetually contending with the worst of the Scotch ministers. I have a most uncomfortable employment, but I bless God I have broken their knot, I have overcome the biggest difficulty, and made the charge easy for my successor.

Jeremy Taylor's will -- 1667 -- may be seen in the Record Office, Dublin.

Edward, perhaps the only son of Jeremy and Joanna Taylor, was buried at Lisburn on the 10th of March, 1661. He could not have been more than five years old at the time.

On the 24th July, 1667, the Bishop visited the bedside of a fever patient in Lisburn. The following day he was taken ill. He lay sick for ten days in his house at Lisburn, the disease being described as a fever, and on the 13th August, 1667, he died, being about 54 years of age. His last words were, "Bury me at Dromore." His body accordingly was taken on the 21st August to the Cathedral which he built in that town.

It is rather curious that John Ward F.S.A., in "Notes and Queries," November. 1910, states that Joanna, daughter of Jeremy Taylor and Joanna Bridges, married a Mr. Jones of Lisburn.

William Todd Jones

was a celebrated character in his day. He was born in Lisburn in or about 1760, and died in 1818. In conjunction with Colonel Sherman in 1783 they defeated the Hertford office nominees, and were returned as the popular representatives to the Irish Parliament for the Borough of Lisburn. Jones was a noted pamphleteer and writer of verse. Some time about the year 1802 he appears as a prisoner in the county gaol of Cork upon a charge of high treason. Later he fought a duel with Sir Richard Musgrave, and shot him through the body. The details are given in a pamphlet dated 1802. This pamphlet, and several others by Jones, are in the Linen Hall Library, Belfast.

In "The Annual Biography and Obituary" for the year 1821 appears an account of the life of William Todd Jones, extending to four pages.

Mr. Jones, of Ross-Trevor, was born in Lisburn about the year 1760. He was called to the bar, and soon aspired to obtain a seat in Parliament. He became a candidate to represent his native town of Lisburn, and finally succeeded, but not without some severe and expensive contests, that hurt his fortune and shackled his future endeavours in life.

He threw in his lot with Grattan and Curran, and was a strong advocate of the claims of the Catholics.

He became an object of suspicion in 1798, and experienced a variety of hardships. He applied by petition for redress, in which all his grievances were stated, to the English Parliament, but without success.

In later life he courted the shade and lived in great obscurity, sometimes Wales and sometimes in Ireland.

He died at Ross-Trevor May 10th, 1818, from the effects of a driving accident.

William Todd Jones was evidently a contentious and finally a disappointed man. Sir Richard Musgrave, author of "Memoirs of the different Rebellions in Ireland," writes very unfavourably of him; others speak in the highest terms of his ability, character, and attainments.

In 1792

Wills Hill, Marquis of Downshire, granted to Henry Clibborn, of Lisburn, a lease of Homra House and lands for three lives or thirty-one years. This lease expired October 2, 1860.

Richard Fulton was in occupation of the house and lands from 1798 till 1806. The interest in the lease was purchased in 1806 by Edward Gayer, Esq.

The Gayers or Goyers were of Huguenot extraction. Peter Goyer, a silk weaver, and a native of Picardy, acted as clerk about the year 1700 in the French Church, Castle Street, of which the Rev. Charles Lavalade was pastor. In 1780 the worship at the French Church was discontinued. An Edward Gayer was one of two brothers who were clerks of the Irish House of Lords, and resided at Derriaghy. It was at Mr. Gayer's house that the Rev. John Wesley frequently visited, and there that on one occasion in 1776 he had a serious illness. Wesley described the home of the Gayers at Derriaghy as one of the pleasantest spots in the kingdom. The ground on which the old Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was built in Market Street was granted for ever by Edward Gayer, Esq., of Derriaghy, about 1772.

Marcus Corry

appears in the Downshire estate books as in occupation of Homra House in the year 1813. It remained in possession of the Corry family till 1863, when Andrew Morrow succeeded to the property. The name of Marcus Corry, Esq., of Homra House, appears in "Ireland Exhibited to England," by A. Atkinson, in 1823.

For some years after 1863 a man named Carlisle lived in Homra House, and conducted a school there. It then became vacant, and has since gradually fallen into ruin and decay.

A tradition appears to have grown up that a Miss Corry met with a tragic death in front of her own drawing-room window. The story runs that Miss Corry returning one evening from the hunt, her horse bolted, rider and horse going over the edge of the Glen, both being killed in the valley beneath. The usual ghostly appearance on a certain night each year, when horse and rider might be seen going to their death, was of course the natural sequence. This tradition, although not quite true, has, like most traditions, some foundation in fact. The actual facts are that Miss Caroline Susan Corry, returning from a drive on an open car, was killed quite close to her home by the overturning of the vehicle.

The natural inference would, appear to be that the Glen derives its name from the Corry family, who resided in Homra House from about 1813 till 1863. Canon Lett however, makes another suggestion:--
On one of the streamlets that enters the Glen there is a pit or hollow into which the water falls, and is known locally, as the "Rumbling Hole." The Irish name for this pit or hollow is Lag-a-choire -- the hollow of the cauldron. There is little doubt but that this is how the name "Curry" came to be applied to the Glen, and not from the Corry family. This Irish word also gave a name to a neighbouring townland -- Legacurry.

The "Rumbling Hole" is located a few hundred yards from the house, on the main stream, in the direction of the Blue Gate road. For twenty or thirty yards above the fall the stream rushes down a sloping incline, then passes between two rocks in a cleft in the hill about three feet apart, and drops some twenty feet into a deep pool that the falling water has carved out of the rock.

Canon Lett's suggestion regarding the origin of the name of the Glen is interesting, even if not very probable, and it may be pointed out in regard to the townland that the "Rumbling Hole" is in Ballyhomra, and that Legacurry, although in the neighbourhood, is a considerable distance away. Joyce in his "Irish Names of Places" similarly attributes the name Legacurry to the Irish word Lag-a-choire.

In the "Memorials of the Dead," vol. vi., is to be found a sketch of the Corry family by Canon Lett, of Loughbrickland. In the parish churchyard, Hillsborough is a flat slab bearing an inscription to the effect that the Rev. H. D. Corry, A.B., son of Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Corry, J.P., D.L., for sometime assistant curate of Hillsborough, died at Homra House, April, 1835, aged 28 years. There is also an inscription referring to the decease of two of his sisters and mother.

Marcus Corry, of Ballyhomra and Newry, was the eldest child of Isaac Corry, Abbey Yard, Newry, and was born at Newry in 1771, and died at Marketdrayton in 1849. One of his daughters married the Rev. Charles Lett. Their son is the Rev. Cation Henry William Lett, M.A., Aghaderg, Loughbrickland. Another daughter of Marcus Corry married Archdeacon Mant, of Hillsborough, and died in 1865, as the resist of burns caused by the overturning of a lamp.

And so ends a record of the Glen extending over two hundred and fifty years. The actors appear upon the stage and pass away into the darkness, leaving in most instances no trace of their passing but a name. Some few are more fortunate, but they to are forgotten save when the searcher amongst the musty records of the past resurrects their dry bones, and for a fleeting moment makes the story of their lives live again. But the Glen! the Glen itself is ever fresh and new. The old house and the people who lived and loved and died therein were only as melting, snowflakes on its bosom. The people are gone; in time the old house too will disappear; but the stream in the valley runs on for ever, and kindly mother nature each returning year clothes anew the rugged sides of the Glen in beautiful garments, as she has done through the long centuries that are past.

Next Week: Prerogative Wills -- Lisburn and District -- 1536-1810.

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 9 November 1917 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week through 1917 and into 1918. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

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