Joseph Davison Cowan.

An ancient Irish parish past and present, being the parish of Donaghmore, county Down online

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In issuing ' An Ancient Irish Parish — Past and Present,'
I desire to record my sincere thanks to the many
kind friends who assisted me in the work, among
whom I must specially mention Dr. F. Elrington
Ball, Litt.D., Mr. Stanley Howard, F.R.S.A., Dr.
P. W. Joyce, LL.D., Rev. S. Baring-Gould, M.A.,
Rev. C. T. McCready, D.D., Rev. J. B. Leslie, M.A.,
Rev. W. T. Latimer, M.A., Mr. Phihp Crossle, and
Mr. J. F. Small. I am deeply indebted to the Rev.
Canon Lett, M.A., M.R.LA., and Mr. Hugh Digenan
for valuable information regarding the ancient place-
names and the Glen surnames.

I am under special obHgations to the Rev. H. B.
Swanzy, M.A., for much information of a genealogical
nature, and for his kindness in writing the Index.

I must also express my grateful indebtedness to
Mr. James Mills, Deputy- Keeper, Public Record
Office, Dublin, and to the Librarians and Assistants
of the Library, T.C.D., Marsh's Library, the National
Library of Ireland, and the Linen Hall Library,


Belfast, for having afforded me so many facilities
for research. I gratefully acknowledge the kind
assistance of deceased friends, among whom were
the Rev. W. A. Reynell, B.D., the Rev. Canon
Scott, M.A. (Belfast), and the Rev. Canon Moore
Morgan, LL.D., Librarian, the Public Library, Armagh.
I also received much assistance from my wife in
various ways, and especially in reading the proofs.


Feast of St. MacEbc
(First Bisiior of Donaghmobe),
July 0, 1913.







. 37


Antiquities of Donaghmore

. 120



. 164


Donaghmore Parish Vestry Books

. 213


Donaghmore Presbyterian Church

. 260


Donaghmore Dispensary

. 304


Glen and Fotjrtowns .

. 336


Donaghmore Churchyard

. 370


. 399


Droman-tine House

Celtic Cross



To face p. 156







The parish of Donaghmore takes its name indirectly
from the church, and hence has an ecclesiastical
Domnaeh o^^igin. The townland in which the church
nior— De- is situated was originally called Donagh-
rivation and more, and from thence the name was
i eamng. applied to the parish, ^^^len parishes were
formed the names given them were generally those
of townlands within their respective limits ; but, in
almost all cases, the townland in which the church
was situated gave its name to the parish.

The Irish language afforded St. Patrick and the
other early Christian missionaries few terms which
could be used for ecclesiastical purposes. Conse-
quently, the}' had to borrow from the Latin, and some-
times from Greek through Latin — while the words
thus appropriated became ' changed in form to suit
the L'ish laws of pronunciation.' i

One of these words was Domnaeh, which is derived
from the Latin, {Dies) Dominica, and signifies in Lrish
' Sunday,' or ' the Lord's Day,' and also a ' church ' ;

' See Joyce, Social History of Ancient Ireland, vol. i, p. 316.



and, according to the best authorities, all the churches
in Ireland which bear the name Domnach, or— in its
anglicised form — 'Donagh,' were so called because their
foundations were marked out on Sunday, or the Lord's
Day. Mor in Irish means ' great ' — anglicised, ' more '
— and hence 'Donaghmore ' signifies the 'Great Church.'

The spelling of the w^ord varies but little at present.
In the older records the Irish is more or less preserved
— where we have Dompnachmore, Domnachmore,
Donnachmore and Donachmore. In modern times
it is generally spelled Donaghmore or Donoughmore ;
but the former is undoubtedly the correct orthography
and is that adopted on the ordnance map.

Donaghmore w-as anciently termed by w'ay of
distinction Domnach Mor MuigJie Cohha — i.e. Donagh-
more of Magh Cobha — Magh Cobha being
Domgh- ^j^g name of the territory in which it was

more ot . , • « i

Magh Cobha. Situated. In the early centuries of the
Christian era there were no parishes in
Ireland, and during this period Donaghmore was simply
the townland which contained the church — subse-
quently called TuUynacross — and at present the Glebe
on the ordnance map. It will therefore be necessary
to treat of the territory in general, of which the several
townlands of the present parish of Donaghmore in
early times formed a part. Bishop Reeves (' Ecclesi-
astical Antiquities '), in his sketch of Donaghmore and
its ancient church, refers at length, in the same con-
nection, to Magh Cc bha, while Dr. Jthn O'Donovan, in
his notes on the Four Masters and the ' Book of Rights,'
constantly associates this territory with Donaghmore
and its church.


Magh Ccbha (pronounced Moy Cova) signifies the
Plain of Cobha, and was doubtless known as such for
Ma h Cobha ^'^^^J centuiies before the Christian era.
— Significa- Bishop Eeeves i informs us that according
tion and Lo- to the ' Eennes Dinnsenchus ' ~ Magh Ct bha
cation. ^^.^g surnamed after Ctbha, the huntsman

of the sons of Miletius ^ of Spain. D( ubtless, the
particular passage referred to in the ' Dinnsenchus '
by Dr. Eeeves is that quoted by Dr. Joyce as
follows : — ' Ccba (Cova), the Cuchaire or trapper of
Heremon (first Milesian King of Ireland) sen of Mile-
sius ; it is he that first prepared a trap {airrdiis) and a
pit-fall [cuiihecli] in Erin ; and he himself put his foot
in it to try if it was trim, whereupon his shin-bcne
and his two forearms were fractured in it ; and his
drinking-cup, after being emptied, fell down, so he
died thereof (i.e. of the wound and thirst) ; whence is
derived Mag Coba, Cova's plain.' *

In the third century this territory was ruled by
Prince Eochaidh ^ Cobha (Eochaidh in Iiish denotes
eques, horseman), and was known as the plain of
Eochaidh Cobha. The tribe name ancientl}^ borne
by the territory was Uibh Eathach, from which, when
anglicised and the silent letters dropped, we derive
Evagh, Iveach or Iveagh, the name of the barony.

' Ecclesiastical Antiquitits, p. 349.

^ A tract giving the legendary history and etymology of the
names of remarkable places.

•^ The Milesian Colony, of Spanish origin, arrived in Ireland about
thirteen hundred years before ihe binh of Christ.

* Social History of Ancient Ireland, vol. ii. p. 469.

^ This prince was the great ancestor of the Mageni ises and other
ancient families of the race of Ir-one of the Milesian Kings of Ireland.


There seems to have been a conflict of opinion at
one time in regard to the location of the territory of
^lagh Cobha— chiefly owing to an error of the Four
Masters in placing it in Tyrone. Dr. John O'Donovan,
in the notes to his translation of the Four Masters,
thus refers to it :

' The Four Masters, and from them Colgan and
others, have erred in placing the plain (Magh Cobha)
in Tyrone, and Dr. Lanigan has been set astray by
them, where he conjectures (' Ecclesiastical History of
Ii-eland ') that Magh Cobha was probably where the
village now called Coagh is situated ; but the situation
of the plain of Magh Cobha is fixed by the older writers,
who place it in Uibh Eathach, now Iveagh, and who
placed it in the Church of Domhnach More Muighe
Cobha, which is unquestionably the present Donagh-
more, in the barony of Upper Iveagh, nearly midway
between Newry and Loughbrickland.' i

O'Donovan cites the best authorities for his con-
tention both here and in the ' Book of Rights,' ~ where
he affords us some idea as to the extent of the plain —
placing it ' in the monastery of Druim Mor (Dromore)
and the Church of Domhnach Mor Muighe Cobha '
(Donaghmore). ' Donaghmore of Magh Cobha ' has
been so closely connected with this territory that some
have been led to suppose that it was coterii inous with
the present b )undaries of the parish of Donaghmore,
but this is a mistake.

' Vol. iii. p. 3-14. - Note. pp. Hw-li


The territory was of considerable extent and em-
braced a large portion of Iveagh — extending from
Donaghmore to Dromore. According to Hogan's
' Onomasticon,' the river Lagan at Dromore was in
Magh Ccbha. Some authorities consider that this
territory extended from Newry to Dromore,^ but the
probability is that it included only the north section
of the lordship of Newry.

According to the Four Masters, Magh Cobha was
cleared of wood and the forts erected a.m. 3529,
during the reign of Irial (known as the Prophet), son
of Eremon, Ejng of Ireland. With all due respect,
however, to such eminent authorities, it may be
safely asserted that there were great forests in
Magh Cobha for many centuries after this date,
while doubtless only some of the forts were then

The ' Annals ' also record the names of several kings
or chiefs of the territory as at the following dates :

A.D. 683— Fearghus ; 732— Cuanach ; 734—
ChiSsof Feaxghus Glut; 771— Conall Crai ; 796
Mlgh^Cobha. (^^cfe 801) Euchaid ; 851— Cearnach ; 879—

Conallan. The Magennises were chiefs of
Magh Cobha in the twelfth century, and indeed for
a long time afterwards. They superseded another
branch of the Magennis family — named O'Haideth —
the last of whom was slain a.d. 1136 — while, accord-
ing to O'Dubhagam's ' Topographical Poem,' the
O'Quinns, the O'Garveys and the O'Hanveys were
among the petty kings in Iveagh.

' See Orpen, Ireland under the Normans, p. 117.


It is interesting to know the rights and revenues
of these petty Kings of Magh Cobha. This ui-

formation is afforded us in the ' Book of
Rrhta"^ Eights,' which gives us 'an account of

the rights of the Monarchs of all Ii'eland,
and the revenues payable to them by the principal
Kings of the several provinces, and of the stipends
paid by the Monarchs to the inferior Kings for their
services. It also treats of the rights of each of the
provincial Kings, and the revenues payable to them
from the inferior Kings of the districts or tribes
subsidiary to them, and of the stipends paid by the
superior to the inferior provincial Kings for their
services ' (Introduction, ' Book of Rights ').
Stipend of ^^^® following is the stipend of the King

King of of Magh Cobha paid by the King of

Magh Cobha. \J\.^(\l-^ . 1

'The stipend of the King of Cobha of Victory (is)
Ten drinking-horns, ten wounding swords,
Ten ships which a host mans,
Ten cloaks with their borders of gold.'

He had also the followmg rights :

' Entitled is the King of Magh Cobha
Of the light and thin -edged weapons
To eight greyhounds and eight steeds
And eight mares in fine rurming order.'

The ' Book of Rights ' contains no record of the
King's Lee-Metfords, motors, or aeroplanes !

Doubtless, there was a castle, or castles, in Magh

' Ul.iflh was the name applied to the entire province of Ulster
lip till 332 — after which it embraced the counties of Antrim and
Down only — kno^vn as ' Little Ulster.'


Cobha from the earliest times. One of these structm'es
is mentioned by the Four Masters, where we read of
' the foreigners of the castle of Magh Cobha ' making
an incursion into Tirowen (Tyrone) in 1188.
Castles of j-^,^ ^j^^^ ^^^^, ^j^-^ ^^^^^e is Said to have

Cobha. , , , , ^ ,. ,

been a strong one — possessed by the English
(' the foreigners '), who doubtless captured it from a
native chief or king. This castle is also mentioned
in the ' Confirmation ' of Innocent III. of John
de Courcy's Charter to St. Andrew de Stokes
(' Papal Letters,' vol. i. p. 17). According to
the ' Annals of Ulster,' it was rebuilt of stone
in 1252 by the son of Maurice Fitzgerald, and
denulished by Brian O'Neill in the following year —
having met the fate of many similar buildings in
those troublous times. It was restored 1260. Knox
informs us that this castle was in Donaghmore.i
Probably Knox is indebted for his information to
Harris, who states that castles were formerly erected
at Tuscan Pass (Jerretspass) and Fenwick's Pass

The ' Annals of the Four ]\Iasters ' record various
exploits in Magh Cobha at the years herein mentioned,

and although no particular spot in the
SlghCobha. territory is specified as a _ scene of

action, yet we may feel certain that no
portion of the little kingdom stood aloof and
unaffected in the circumstances. Indeed, it is
more than probable that some of the principal
scenes of action in many of the stirring events and
sanguinary conflicts recorded lay within the modern

^ HUtory of Down, p. 356. - Down, p. 85.


bounds of the parish of Donaghmore, and especially
in that portion contiguous to the Passes from Armagh
to Down, viz. Jerretspass and Poyntzpass.

A.u. 998, Magh Cobha was plundered by Aedh,
son of Donihnall i when a ' great spoil of cattle ' was
carried off —after wards called ' the great spoil of Magh

A.D. 11U2, an army was led into Magh Cobha by
the Cinel Eoghain.- The Ulidians 3 entered their
camp during the night and slew two distinguished

A.D. 1108, a ' great war ' was waged between the
Cinel Eoghain and the Ulidians, with its seat princi-
pally in :Magh Cobha— though the first battle seems to
have been fought close to the city of Armagh. Large
forces proceeded to Magh Cobha to reheve the Uhdians,
viz. ' Muir Cheartach Ua Briain (O'Brien), with the
men of Munstcr, Leinster, and Osraige (Ossory), and
with the chiefs of Connaught, and the men of Meath
with their Kings.' ' Both parties went all into Machaire
Arda-Macha ■i— and were for a week laying siege to
Ardmach ' (City of Armagh). Muir Cheartach, it
seems, when ' the men of Munster w^ere wearied,'
entered Armagh by a devious route, ' and left 8 oz.
of gold upon the altar, and promised 8 score cows,' —

' Kiiig of Aik-ach — Ela;^h — in luis-Eoghaui, Inisho\\en iii Coimty

' The race of Eoghaui — the O'Neills, MacLaughlins, and their
' correlatives in Tyrone.'

* The jxople of Uladh — called by O'Flaherty, who wrote iii
Latin, Uhdia, wliUe he designated the other portion of Ulster

* The pluiji of Armagh — lying round the city.


after which he returned to Magh Cobha, where a
' spirited battle ' was fought on ' Tuesday the Nones i
of August,' between Domhnall Ua Lochlainn, with the
Clanna-Neill of the north, and the men of Munster,
Leinster, and Ossory. The latter were defeated with
great slaughter by the Clanna-Neill, who ' returned
to their forts victoriously and triumphantly, with
valuable jewels and much wealth, together with the
royal tent, the standard, and many other precious

A.D. 1103, Maghnus, King of Norway, who had

contemplated the invasion of all Ireland, was slain by

the Ulidians, and his people slaughtered at

Kiiig of Nor- j^j^Qy Cova, while on a predatory excursion

way si. in m \

Magh Cobha. "^ this territory.

The ' Annals of Ulster ' also record that
the King of Norway was slain in this year (1103) ' at
Moy Cova in which is situated Donaghmore beyond
Newry in Iveagh.'

A.D. 1104, Domhnall, grandson of Lochlain, led
an army to Magh Cobha when he obtained ' the host-
ages of the Ulidians.'

In A.D. 1109 another attack is made on the Ulidians
who were in Magh Cobha by ' the people of the North
of Ireland, with the Cinel-Conaill and the Cinel-
Eoghain— when the UHdians gave them the three
hostages which they themselves selected.'

A.D. 1113, Magh Cobha is once more the seat of

^ In ancient times the month was divided into Kalends, Nones,
and Ides. The Nones fell on the 5th of the month, except in May,
March, July and October, when they fell on the 7th. The Ides in the
latter four months fell on the loth, but generally on the 13th.


war. Donnchcadh ' is banished from Ulidia, his king-
dom divided and given to others. His old alUes, the
men of Munster, Leinster, and Connaught, proceed to
Magh Cobha to his aid. ' Another army . . . was
marched by Dondmall Ua Lochlainn to relieve the
Ulidians : and there was a challenge between them,
but the successor of St. Patrick separated them,
under the semblance of peace and tranquillity.'

A.D. 1128, the hostages of Ui-Eathach were
carried off by a plundering army which entered Magh

In A.D. 1188, we are told, the English of Moy
Cova Castle and a party from Iveagh set off on a
plundering excursion all the way ' into Tyrone '—
where they seized a number of cows. They were
pursued by Donnell O'Loughlin and his retainers, who
defeated them with great slaughter. ' But Donnell,
the son of Hugh O'Loughlin, Lord of Aileach, and
heir-presumptive to the throne of L'eland, . . . alone
received a thrust from an English spear, and fell in the
heat of the conflict.'

It would be deeply interesting to know something
in regard to the people who lived here in ancient
times — their lineage, social condition, and
coWms^' Planners and customs, together with the
physical aspect of the place ; but such
information is only afforded us from what is
known of the Irish people and the country in
general at the period. In ancient times the Irish,
though a mixed race, were certainly more closely allied

' King of Ulidia.


in blood than we are to-day ; their social condition,
manners and customs were more uniform than at
present. Between Ulster and Connaught there was
no substantial difference in these respects, while the
physical aspect of the country as a whole was much
the same' — apart from its natural conformation.

In these several respects, therefore, anything that
may be said of Ireland and the Irish people in general
is largely apphcable to Moy Cova and its people in
particular. In regard to Pagan times we are lost in
the mists of legend and myth, though doubtless these
contain kernels of truth ; but we are on surer ground
when we to the earlier centuries of the Christian
Era. It is not to be inferred, however, that Chris-
tianity changed all ; for, as a matter of fact, much was
handed down from Pagan times, and survived for
centuries ; and even yet traces may be found of customs
— at least' — which have been in vogue from time
immemorial. It is worthy of note, too, in this connec-
tion that ' The Institutions, Arts and Customs of
Ancient Ireland, with few exceptions, grew up from
within, almost wholly unaffected by external influence.'^

Rome, which conquered and influenced most of
the ancient world, never subjugated Ireland — what-
ever she may have done ecclesiastically in bygone

Much of this preliminary chapter, it is to be feared,
may appear a digression from that which the reader
had expected, but as our intention is to give a ' pen
picture ' of things as they were here and elsewhere
in past times, and which we understand will be of

' Joyce, Social History of Ancient Ireland, vol. i. p. 1.


interest, we crave the pardon of those who are Hkely
to prefer something more njodern.

The Moyeovians were doubtless for the most part
a portion of the great Celtic family which colonised
Ireland at an early date, and largely
Moycoviuis possessed the characteristics of their race
SuicFamiiy.iii ^3'pe and temperament. They were
' certainly of purer stock than those of a
subsequent period, while it is to be feared that at
present among the modern inhabitants it would be
impossible to find a ' pure Celt ' anywhere — though
some possess the pardonable pride that they are such.

During the long lapse of centuries the Irish have

become a very mixed race— for the most part,

' descendants of Firbolgs and other British

I™'\"'„ and Belgic races, Umorians, Formorians,

Jlucfd Race. ^ , ■,^., • ^ i -kt

Tuatha De Danands, j\lilesians, Gauls, Nor-
we.izians, Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Normans, and English.'
Sullivan, who, if he could advocate the existence
of a ' pure Celt,' would certainly do so, yet, in view
of this admixture of race in Ireland, makes the
following significant comment : ' This (admixture)
is a fact which should be remembered by those who
theorise over the qualities of pure Celts, whoever
these may be.' ^

It seems there were two distinct types of people in
ancient Ireland, and it is confidently asserted that,

notwithstanding the subsequent admixture
wo yFso £ race, such can still be traced. Sullivan

Ancient Irish. , '

considers that there are a few broad
facts regarding the ethnology of ancient Ireland

' Introduction — Manners and Cuslotns of the Ancie7it Irish,
O'C'urrv. p. xxiv.


which may be taken as certainly estabhshed.
' In the first place, there were two distinct types of
people — one a high statured, golden-coloured or red
haired, fair-skinned, and blue, or grey-blue eyed race ;
the other a dark-haired, dark-eyed, pale-skinned,
small or medium statured, little-limbed race. The
two types may still be traced in the country, and are
curiously contrasted in their blushes : the fair-haired
type has a pinkish tinge, the other a full red, with
scarcely a trace of pink in their blush.' ^

We fail to trace these types in Donaghmore — at
least so far as blushes are concerned. The truth is,
we are not a blushmg people, but should we occasionally
' colour,' the hue seems to be a deep crimson !

Dr. Joyce gives us the ' marks of aristocracy '
among the ancient Irish as ' an oval face, broad above
Ancient ^^^^ narrow below, golden hah', fair skin,
Physical white, delicate, and well-formed hands,
Mariis of -with slender tapering fingers.' ~ We are not
ns ocracy. ^^^^j.^ ^^^ £^j, ^^q^q ' niarks ' are traceable
in our modern aristocracy. Certainly, ' the true Celtic
head of Ireland ' is wanting, which O'Curry describes
as ' a face broad above and "harrow below.' 3

Canon MacCulloch, D.D., in his recent standard
work on ' The Religion (Pagan) of the Ancient Celts,'
after showing in the opening chapter (on ' The Celtic
Family ') that tHey were a mixed race — having mixed
not only with the aborigines of the lands in which they
settled, but with other peoples — refers to their types and
characteristics. They were, we are told, of differing

' Introduction — O'Curry, p. Ixxii.

^ Social History, vol. ii. p. 176.

^ Manners and CvMoms, vol. iii. p. 94.


types ; some short and dark, others tall and fau',
and blue-eyed. But among all there is a common
Celtic fades ; the same old Celtic charac-
Celtic Types teristics are exhibited by all — ' vanity,
terisiics!"'^' loquacity, excitability, fickleness, imagina-
tion, love of the romantic, fidelity, attach-
ment to family ties, sentimental love of their
country, religiosity passing over easily to superstition,
and a comparatively high degree of sexual morality.'
The Moycovians lived under the clan system — a
grouping of society which was far different from that
of to-day. The people were divided into
^,^, ^^ tribes and clans, as were the Scotch and
the Anglo-Saxons in remote tnnes. In the
expanding series there were : the Family (' the living
parents and all their descendants '), the Sept, the
Clan, and the Tribe. These several divisions were
supposed to be united hy descent from a common
ancestor ; but such descent was more or less fictitious,
as ' those whose degree of consanguinity was doubtful
or obscure,' and even strangers, were frequently
adopted into all the groups.

Under the tribal system Ireland was blest with a
multitude of kings — in regular gradation order.
Besides the supreme monarch, there were
o7'Kingr *^® Kings of the Five Provinces, i and
those of the Tuaths, and Mor Tuaths, i.e.
a number of Tuaths united. A Tuath, we are
informed, contained about 177 English square miles,

' In the bcginnning of the second century Ireland was divided
into five Provinces, the fifih being Meath. This division continued

Online LibraryJoseph Davison CowanAn ancient Irish parish past and present, being the parish of Donaghmore, county Down → online text (page 1 of 26)