Saturday, 23 May 2020

Storied Homes of Ulster – Galgorm Castle

The following is part of a series of articles which appeared in the Belfast Telegraph in 1953 under the pen name 'Fina'.

Galgorm Castle

THE road that leads to Galgorm Castle is dominated by woods on either side. It is a smooth, curving road with strongly built and well-kept walls. How different it must be from the road which Sir Faithful Fortescue travelled in the second decade of the 17th century when he was seeking a site on which to build a bawn.

Sir Faithful was a servitor of Queen Elizabeth; his very name suggests a plain and honest Puritan gentleman.

Whatever the condition of the road when Sir Faithful travelled it, he doubtless heard the rooks filling the air with the noise of their cawing, just as I did when I went to view Galgorm Castle on a day in early spring.

The Castle is set well back amongst great elms, and like the name of the man who first built on this spot, it has a Puritan air. Covered in creeper, the appearance of the house is most symmetrical.

There are eleven chimneys on either side, and one in the middle to complete the balance. Three parapets flank a curved Dutch gable, and this curved gable is echoed by the doorway.

The whole atmosphere of the place is one of utmost neatness, from the primly curtained gatehouse to the pairs of stone balls that line each side of the straight driveway. The ruins of a chapel in the vicinity serve only to emphasise the balance of the rest.

The castle that we see to-day is one built upon the site of the original bawn by Dr. Colville, rector of Ballymoney, in 1632. This gentleman purchased the estate from Sir Faithful and many stories are told concerning him.

In a pamphlet on witchcraft which Classon Porter brought out. It is stated that Dr. Colville's contemporaries accounted for his great wealth by alleging that he sold his soul to the Devil for a hatful of gold.

Such was the Doctor's craft that he arranged to meet the Devil on a limekiln at the Whitewall and slit his hat so that the gold fell through and filled the kiln as well as the hat.

In this type of story, the Devil is always represented as simple and good-natured, and when he later came to claim his victim, the Doctor pleaded for just sufficient time to let the candle by which he was reading the Bible burn away. When the Devil agreed, the Doctor immediately blew out the candle and locked it away in an iron box.

Whatever the truth of this tale, when alterations were carried out at Galgorm in the year 1850, an iron box, a candle, and a Bible were found.


Next week – Carrickblacker, Portadown.

Belfast Telegraph, Wednesday, 15th April 1953

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Storied Homes of Ulster – Waringstown House

The following is part of a series of articles which appeared in the Belfast Telegraph in 1953 under the pen name 'Fina'.

Waringstown House

THERE have been Warings living at Waringstown House ever since it was built in the seventeenth century. The first Waring came to Ulster from Lancashire, fleeing the persecution of Queen Mary.

It was the grandson of this pioneer who introduced linen manufacture to the district. He brought artisans from Holland to help to establish the industry and it may be that the rather Dutch air of this house can be attributed to the influence of some of these Dutchmen.

Waringstown House fronts the main road between Banbridge and Lurgan. The facade is typically early Renaissance in that its most symmetrical. There is a very gay air about the house due chiefly to its wonderful coral colour. Built of enormous stones and mud, then covered with stucco and washed with this glorious soft pink, the house presents a challenge to some of our grey, modern cities.

Although the facade is so formal, a more human and boisterous type of architecture is revealed when the house is viewed from the garden.

A jolly Dutch gable is thrown up here and a bowed window juts out there. It is as if a joyous country lady had put on a stately countenance for a Court occasion, but could not suppress her roguish dimples. Indeed the house puts one in mind of a lady whose dress shows a beautiful sense of colour, for even the slates, grape blue, have taken on a hint of rose through the years. The clean lines of the windows are outlined in white, sharp against the coral of the house, and to heighten the effect of all this colour, an age-darkened yew hedge is set against the house

Succeeding generations of Warings have left their mark upon the place. Dean Waring of Lurgan wrought most beautiful carvings on the Irish oak of the hall and staircase. Some of the Dean's work is also to be seen in the lovely Jacobean church, built very near to the house on land given by the family. Pulpit, roof and pillars of local oak are wonderfully and lovingly carved with fruit, leaves and flowers. Over the family pew, Dean Waring carved a stork, the family crest. This lovely work is surely a most beautiful memorial of him, an unsung Ulster Grinling Gibbons.


Next week – Galgorm Castle.

Belfast Telegraph, 8th April 1953

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Storied Homes of Ulster – Antrim Castle

The following is part of a series of articles which appeared in the Belfast Telegraph in 1953 under the pen name 'Fina'.

Antrim Castle

IN 1605, two years after the death of the first Elizabeth, a bawn was built where the ruins of Antrim Castle now stand. The castle itself was begun in 1610, and Hugh Clotworthy completed it in 1613. During the reign of the second Charles additions were made by the first Viscount Massereene.

Only the death mask of that gracious place now stands gaunt and stark against the sky. This facade, though windowless, is almost perfect, particularly when the castle is viewed from the terraced gardens. The interior is a complete ruin, destroyed by a disastrous fire In the early 1920s. The hall which once contained the Speaker's chair of the Irish House of Commons is now quite overgrown with ivy.

As I walked along the terrace by the river I saw two pigeons flying above the roofless shell to perch on the single chimney pot incongruously standing on one of the remaining walls. Two mermaids, gazing into a mirror, comb their hair above the door that faces the river, and a similar pair decorate the lintel of the main doorway.

Carved above the preening mermaids is the stone biography or the castle. The arms and portraits are in such good order, that the likeness of Charles I. placed there by the first Viscount Massereene, is still recognisable.

In great contrast to the ruined castle are the beautifully trim grounds. Terraced gardens rise on what were once the bastions, and mellow red brick, ornamented with graceful urns, form* a wall for an inner garden beyond.

Many legends attach themselves to this historic place. One concerns a certain Lady Marian, living at the time of the building of the bawn. Whilst walking one day she was attacked by a wolf and fainted in fright. She recovered to find a wolf-hound, badly wounded, licking her hands and face, and the wolf lying dead nearby. The hound was taken to the castle and treated as a pet, but disappeared without trace after a little time.

Many years later, after the present castle was built, it is said that during a battle a stone hound appeared suddenly on one of the towers, so frightening the attackers that the rising was quelled.

The stone effigy which thus averted disaster did not disappear in the mysterious fashion of its flesh and blood counterpart, for within living memory it was to be seen within the precincts of the castle.


Next week – Waringstown House.

Belfast Telegraph, Wednesday, 1 April 1953.