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

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