W. H Maitland.

History of Magherafelt, Ireland online

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3 1833 00729 8901

Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center







ii o

The Mid-Ulster Printing Work?


F Ma it land, W H.
42955 ~~

.54 History of Magheraf elt .. Cooks town


Reprinted from the Mid-Ulster mail.


B 13700

NL 31-5200

The publication of the following sketches, in reference to Magherafelt,
was suggested by the celebration in 1 9 1 3 of the tercentenary of the Irish
Society, which was constituted to undertake the Plantation of Co. London-
derry and which granted various estates to twelve of the London Companies.

I regret that, owing to circumstances over which I had no control, the
information is not as full as I would have wished.

With gratitude I desire to acknowledge ray indebtedness to Mr.
Maxwell Given, C.E., Coleraine ; Mr. J. Yv. Kernohan. M.A., one of the
Hon. Secretaries of the Presbyterian Historical Association ; and to Mr. J. i.
Donaghy, B. A., Solicitor an 1 Registrar of th: Counly C vart, ire vahuble



1 BI3700


Magherafelt, according to tlic Census of
1911, is a town of 1,233 inhabitants. It is
situated in the southern end of County
Londonderry, is the recognised capital of
that portion of the county, lias ;x nourishing
market, and is situated in the barony of
Loughinshollin. It is 35 miles distance from
Belfast, 38 miles from Londonderry, and 114
miles from Dublin.

The name Magherafelt, according to some
authorities, means the "Plain of Fegads
Fort," while others have it "The Plain of
Felta." It was anciently "Tafelta," the
house of Felta. When it first took shape it
is difficult to say with certainty. It is con-
sidered by some to be a town of great anti-
quity owing to the old church, whose exist-
ence can be traced as far back as the year
1425. How long prior to that date the well-
known authorities, Reeves and 'Ware, do not
state, but it was then considered the ancient
church of Magherafelt. Very little, how-
ever, is known of Magherafelt prior to the
"Plantation days-" No doubt there must
have existed houses, probably of c:tge work,
belonging to the native Irish, scattered round
the old church. There is a tradition that St.
Patrick considered it of such importance that
he worshipped in the old church and plated a
stone at the bottom of the well opposite the
church gate. It was believed that if the
stone was lifted out the well would go dry,
and remain so until replaced. In 183G the
inhabitants actually believed that some time
previously the well had become dry because
tho stone had been removed for cleansing
purposes, and had not been put back. Tho
well was then tho chief water supply for tho
town, and the people declined to try any
experiment upon it. This well is still in
existence, but as the water has been con-
demned it is seldom, if ever, used.

There was a prevalent idea that it
was originally intended to build the town in
Megargy, almost two miles distant from its
present situation, and in support of that view
it is pointed out that portion of that town-
land, comprising a number of houses, is called
"Tho Oldtown." However, the generally
accepted theory is that Magherafelt (whoso
ancient name was identified by the late
Bishop Reeves as "Teoffigalta") took
practical shape with the "Plantation," and
consequently wo may take that period as a
starting point and, in this connection,
it might not be out of place to give
a short account of that scheme which
is associated with the name of King James L,
known as the Plantation of Ulster. It was
tho outcome of a large territory comprising
tho greater portion of the six Counties of

Donegal, Armagh, Coleraine, Tyrone, Fer-
managh and Cavan falling into his hands,
owing to O'Neill, Earl of Tir-owen, with
several other chiefs, having rebelled against
the Crown of England. They were finally
subdued and attained of High Treason, and
their possessions made over to the British
Crown. Ulster had been notorious for afford-
ing shelter to rebellious subjects, and the
King determined to put an end to such a
state of things by inducing English and
Scottish Protestants to settle amongst a
penplo "so turbulent as the Irish were." At
hist County Tyrone was the only part con-
templated as tho field of operations, but Sir
John Davys persuaded the King to extend it
to the whole of Ulster, and the London
Companies were asked to undertake tho
Plantation. On the 29th March, 1G13, the
Charter was granted incorporating the Irish
Society and making over to them sub-
stantially the whole, of County Londonderry.
Amongst other things the King provided for
the appointment of a Recorder of London-
derry, a sword bearer, and Sergeants at Mace.
Prior to the issue of the Charter, on 1st
August, 1G09, it was resolved by the Society
to send four wise, grave and discreet citizens
to visit and view the site of the suggested
Plantation. This deputation consisted of
John Broad (goldsmith), John Munns
(mercer), Robert Treswell (painter,
stainer), and John Rowley (draper). They
accordingly came over, viewed the land and
made their report, which was favourable- It
might have been otherwise, but care was
taken that it should be favourable, for we are
told in the "Story of the Irish Society,"
published bv the Irish Society's directions
in 1913, that Sir Arthur Chichester, tho
Lord Deputy in Ireland, had been instructed
to use the greatest care and discretion as to
those with whom the deputation should view
the land, and their conductors were to be
men of such understanding and experience
that they should be able, "both by discourse
"and reason, to controule whatsoever any
"man shall reporte, either out of ignorance
"or malice, and to give the undertakers
"satisfaccon when they shall be mistaken or
"not well informed of any particular."

Sir Arthur Chichester faithfullv carried
out his instructions, for Sir John Davys, ono
of the King's Commissio<ners, wrote on 28th
August, 1609, that "The Londoners have now
"come and exceedingly welcome to us. Woo
"all use our best rhctoriek to persuade them
"to go on with their plantation, which will
"assure the whole island to the Growne of
"England for ever. They like and praise tho
"cimtrcy very much — especially the Banne
" ncl the river of Logh Foyle."


To givo a faint notion of the condition of
the country round Magherafelt, we learn
from "Hill's Plantation of Ulster," that the
Commissioners left Dungannon on 21th
August, 1609, and marched towards the
County of Coleraine (now Co. Londonderry).
The Mountains of Sleivgannon (Slievegallion)
not being passable with carriages, they were
constrained to pass by Desert Linn and Glan-
conkeane, neur to Killctragh, the greatest
fastness of Tyrono.The road by Desert Lynn,
however, although leading through woods and
wilds, was level and had at least one rare
attraction for Chichester and Bodlcy as
conducting them to the celebrated lake dwell-
ing of Lochinnis-O'Lynn, on which they were
determined to erect a Fort for the protection
of coming settlers in that district- A Fort
was built, and in 1041 was held by Shane
O'Hagan- The lake is partly in the townland
of Desertmartin and partly in that of Annagh
and Moneysterlin — the latter being a
corruption of Mainister ()• Fhloinn, and
derived from a religious house, founded by a
Chieftain of the O'Lynns. This position was
evidently one of importance, as it gave its
name to the district now known as the
Barony of Loughinshollin.

After the return of the four "wise and
grave men" to England, and the presen-
tation of their report, the lands were divided
into twelve portions of nearly equal value,
in such a manner that each portion renre-
sented an expenditure of £3,333 Gs 8d. That
amount was afterwards found insufficient,
and in 1615 a further sum of £1,606 10s Od
was paid by each of the Companies. The
Salters had five Companies associated with
them, viz. — The Wool-men, The Dyers, The
Saddlers, The Cutlers, and The Joiners, and
the amount which each of these contributed
towards the purchase of the Salters' portion,
was as f ollows :— Salters' Co., £L>,931 6s 8d ;
The Woolmon (purchased by the Salters),
£30; The Dyers, £870 0s Od; The Saddlers,
£585; The. Cutlers, £337 10s Od ; The Joiners,
£246— Total, £4,999 16s 8d. It may here be
stated that according to the report of the
Morley Committee on the Irish Society, and
London Companies, in 1890, the Land
Commission advanced £230,596, as the price
of the Salters' Estate, which was sold in 1885-

On 17th December, 1613, at a Court of
Common Council, Mr. Alderman Cockaine,
the Governor of the Irish Society, and the
Master and Wardens of the several
Companies being present, the divisions were
numbered, and the numbers put on twelve
separate pieces of paper, which were rolled
and tied up separately and brought into the
Council Meeting in a box, from which the
drawing took place. The different Companies
then entered into possession. Settlers
shortly afterwards began to arrive, and it
whmiis that frames of houses wore sent over
with the settlers by the Companies. Pho

Salters' portion, however, must have offered
great facilities for the building of houses, aa
it would appear to have been well covered
with woods. In a report made by a depu-
tation appointed by the Irish Society to visit
the plantation of Ulster in 1836, they stated
"thero must have been large forests on the
"Estate, as from records of the Society of all
"the orders for timber, most of them were
"given on the Woods of Salters Town and the
"Society regularly paid salaries to tho
"Rangers and Caretakers of the Woods." In
Mitchell's Life of Hugh O'Neill we are told
that the deep woods and thickets of Glan-
conkcano (the name of that valley through
which the Moyola winded its way to Lough
Neagh, then the most inaccessible fastness in
all Tyrowen) afforded shelter for O'Neill and
his followers, where he defied the armies of
England for a whole winter. It is also said
that a "Martin" could hop from bough to
bough, from Tobermore to the Lough; that a
person could walk from Magherafelt to Cole-
raine on tree stumps, and in later years, that
bells had to be attached to tho necks of
cattle grazing on Megargy Rocks in order to
locate them, so dense was the wood-

About the year 1615 the Salters' Co. sent
over an agent and workmen to commence
building a Manor House and Bawn, and other
preliminary works for planting their estate
with settlers.

To ensure that the County might not in
future be peopled wholly with Irish, the Irish
Society (which was the parent Society) re-
solved to send out twelve boys from Christ's
Hospital, together with other poor, to bo
apprenticed, and the settlers were precluded
from taking Irish apprentices.

The trades, which were considered proper
to introduce were : — Weavers of Common
Cloth, Fustians (Corduroy) and New Stuffs,
Trimmers of Hats and Hatband Makers,
Locksmiths, Farriers, Tanners, Fellmongers
(dealers in skins), Ironworkers, Glass Makers,
Pewterers, Coast Fishermen, Turners,
Basket Makers, Tallow Chandlers,, Dyers
and Curriers, and skilled workmen of these
trades were sent over.

Means were also taken that as far as pos-
sible the customs of the Irish should not bo
followed, as one of the articles of the Plan-
tation stipulated that the undertakers "shall
"use tillage and husbandry after the manner
"of the English Pale." Pynnar, in his
survey, explained this to mean that the lands
should not be tilled with ploughs attached
to horses tails, and Sir Arthur Chichester
gave a description of their manner of working
in a report in which ho stated:— "Their
"short Irish ploughs wero drawn by the tail.
"Their team consisted commonly of "five or six
"horses, all placed abreast, having neither
"cords, chains nor lines whereby to draw,


"but every horse by his own tail, and to every
"man a horse." The cruel practice was
subsequently prohibited by Act of Parliament.
The Charter also directed the formation of
the County of Londonderry — and the Barony
of Loughinshollin— which was taken from Co.

In the year 1613 two members of the Irish
Society were sent over to make inquiry as to
the erection of fortifications at Deny and
Coleraine, and in the course of their report
they stated that the prices of provisions in
Ulster were 15s for a cow or bullock (about
one halfpenny per lb.), Is -Id to 2s for a sheep,
2s for a hog, lid a bushel for bailey, 4d a
bushel for oats, and lG.s a barrel for strong

King James, wishing to be informed as to
the progress made by the several Companies,
directed surveys to be made. The following
appears in "Carew's Survey": — "Hereafter
"followeth a declaration of what is done in
"the Woods of Glanconkeyne, in. the Barony
"of Lough Enish-O-Lyne, granted to the
"Londoners. There is 400 loads of tymber
"feld and square!, and most of it drawne to
"the Bann Syde ; 400 trees wch lye ready
"felled ; about 20 Irish houses tatched with
"chimneyes buylte at the woods for dwellings
"for workmen ; a house wherein Mr.
"Hilliocko dwelleth beinge of four bayes, a
"storie and half high with a fflourc, two
"chimneyes, covered with horde. About 200
"duzen of Birtch poles felled for buyldinge of
"scaffoldinge and burning of bricke and tyle.
"About 100,000 lathes already riven in the
"Woods. By estimation, there have byne
"digged upwards of 40 sawe pitts, in such
"places from whence tymber could not bo
"drawn. Ffoure men contynually imployed
"aboutc making of cashes to drawe tymber
"of the woods to the Bann. About 300 horse
"load of Wattles lying ready in the Woods-
"Two frames of houses of six bayes apice in
"hand, and neere finished by Moore and
"Wilson. Tymber for one ship ready squared
"and sawen; for another, tymber felled and
"squard. Great store of firewood for burn-
"inge of brickes and tyle ready cutt at the
"water syde. Ffoure and twentio oxen
"eontynnually imployed in the Woods for
"drawinge of tymber to the watcr-syde. In
"the Countie of Colrayne wo neither found
"nor understood of anie thinge done or in
"hand to bo done by the Londoners towards
"the p'fonnance of the Articklos of the
"Plantation. Their agents receive the rents
"there and in the barony of Lough Enisli-O-
"Lyn from the natives, and seeke not to
"remove them, w'ch makes the said natives
"to conceive that they shall not be displanted,
"w'ch is a great hindrance to the Plan-
"tation of that Countie, and ane vile example
"to their neighbours. Workmen and
"Labourers imployed in the Woods:—

"Shipwrights, 4 ; Sawyers, 9 ; Tymber
"Squarrers, 4; Waymen, 8; Tymber and
"Wood Sellers and Rafters of tymber and
"Wood, 12 ; Cottmen from the Woods to the
"Leape, 9; Lathe Renderers, 20; Overseers
''thereof, 3 ; Ffloters of tymber from the
"Leape, 3 ; English and Irish men employed
"by Mr. Nugent in the Woods for the fellingo
"and squaringe and bringingc down of
"tymber, 32."'

The work of the Plantation was not allowed
to go on smoothly, for according to the
"Story of the Irish Society," already referred
to, an Irish conspiracy to surprise and destroy
the new Plantation was discovered in 1615.
However, the organisers of the conspiracy
were arrested and brought to justice afteV
trial at Derry, six "Gentlemen of the North,"
"who were near kinsmen of Tyrone," were
found guilty of treason and executed.

Another survey was made in 1618 by
Captain Nicholas Pynnar, who reported that
he found Hugh Sayer (probably the first
lessee or agent) upon the proportion of the
Salters' Co. "At Marifelt there is a Bawn of
"eighty feet square of lyme and stone, with
"two Hankers, and the ('astle is now in
"building, being 60 feet long and 20 feet
"wide. This is now 3 stories high, and the
"roof ready to be set up. The walls of the
"Bawn are not as yet above 10 feet high.
"Near unto the Bawn there are seven houses
"of slight cage work, whereof 5 are inhabited
"with poor men, the other two stand waste."

According to the the Muster Roll of County
Londonderry, there were on the Salters'
Proportion— Mr. Sayer— 16 men; 12 muskets-
and 4 Halberds.

A further survey was made in 1622, from
which we learn that on the Salters' pro-
portion there were 6 freeholders, one free-
holder res'ident ; 12 British men, and 348
natives. The Survey also states :— "Thi.s-
"proportion lies in the fastness of Killetra,
"where it is very fit for the strengthening
"of those parts. There was a Castle and
"Bawn erected between Mayharyfelt and
"Moneymore, at the two Bade Moans. The
"Drapers Proportion, which, with Mayhary-
"felt, being finished, and Freeholds of the
"said Manor well planted in a convenient
"Place, and large Paces cut through the
"woods for highways, will be a great security
"to those parts, and increase of traffic from
"the inland countrys to the said Lough
"Neagh." The Castle referred to is evidently
Salters' Old Castle.

(It will be seen that Salterstown was a
more important place than Magherafelt in

The following note is attached:— "This
"Manor House and Bawn begun by the


"Company of Suiters', and builded to the first
"story has so remained these six years, the.
"timber rotting and decaying being now used
"for a Pound for Cattle."

From the Photo it will be observed that
Magherafelt, in 1622 was not a very pre-
tentious place, as it only consisted of a Bawn,
the house used as a cattle pound, and ten
frame workouses — six of which were occupied
two were vacant, and two were in course of
construction. The names under the occu-
pied houses are: — Thomas Cooper, Anthony
Avery, Silvester Fleetwood, Ellis Rodfern,
Joice Everet, and John Redferm Those in
Saltortown are :— Daniel Hall, Thomas Jack-
son, Richard Evans, Edward Young, John
Howgrave, Widow Travels, Rowland 'Way-
bank, Walter Walton, "Sir. Birkett,
minister; Matthew Hill, Mr. Finch Miles
Shingleton, The Pitts, Richard Averv,
Thomas Taylor, Edward Foster, Robert
Scott. It is interesting to note that
at the present time Robert Averall, who
resides in Union Road, and John Redfern,
Mullaghboy, both are direct descendants of
the Averys and Redfems respectively, who
came over at the time of the Plantation. In
1624 the Commissioners of Inquiry appointed
to report as to the further progress made by
the several Companies in carrying out the
Plantation Scheme, stated that 'of the fifty
three and a half townlands belonging to the
Suiters' Co., eleven were planted with British,
and forty-two and a half with Irish— there
being 147 Native Irish Tenants.

Charles the First sent articles to the
Common Council on 27th May, 1625 :— "That
each of the twelve Companies woe to make
six Freeholders of one Balliboe (i.e.— (JO
acres), at least upon every portion, and ten
leaseholders for lives, to whom they were to
set lands— at ninopence the English acre to
freeholders, and twelve pence to leaseholders,
and the rest of their lands they might set to
the natives (Irish), who were conformable in
religion with them, took the oath of alle-
giance and supremacy, learned their
language, wore their fashion of apparel, and
resorted to their Churches. The freeholders
were, according to the original condition of
the grant, bound, amongst other stipulations,
to build a house, enclose it, dwell therein
with their families, and keep arms lor defence.
They were established for the purpose of
ensuring a sufficient number of Protestant
Jurors to assist in the business of the County
at the general Assizes, and to further the
Protestant Religion by their residence. The
Six Freeholds were:— Ballvdrum (Ballin-
drum), Cusheney (Coolshinney), Anna
Knaugh (Ballynenagh), Mova<n-o-oy

(Megargy), Ballygildrig (Hallvmuldorg)? and
Moywillon (Mawillian.)

Fault was found with the companies for
not carrying out their undertakings more

expeditiously, and on the 28th February,
1634, a fine of £70,000 was imposed on the
London Corporation and the Irish Society,
the Charter was cancelled, and the surrender
of the estates was ordered. These demands
not having been immediately complied with,
proceedings were taken in 1638 ; the Charter
was revoked, and the lands seized by the
King- Subsequently the fine appears to have
been commuted to £12,000 which was paid
to the King, and the companies "pardoned"
fur having broken the terms of the Charter.

The companies presented a petition to the
Long Parliament to have the judgment,
which had been obtained against them,
cancelling the Charters, set aside. The
prayer of the petition was granted, Parlia-
ment characterising the sentence as not only
unjust, but unlawful, and on the 10th April,
1602, a fresh Charter was granted by Charles
the Second — the Salters' Company's being
dated 5th June, 1663.

The work of the Plantation, as will bo
gathered from the foregoing, was very slow,
owing to the trouble caused by the revocation
of the Charter, and the consequent dispos-
session of the Companies and their tenant**
In addition, the natives looked with anything
but a kindly eye on the "Foreigners," and
were determined to get rid of them at the
first opportunity. This came in the form of
the terrible Rebellion of 1041. That it was
well planned may be gathered from tho
following, which is culled from Sullivan's
account. "On the night appointed, without
"failure or miscarriage at any point save one
"—Dublin Castle— out of 'all, at which
"simultaneousness of action was designed,
"the Confederate rising was accomplished.
"In one night the people had swept out of
"sight, if not from existence, almost every
"vestige of English Rule throughout tho
"three provinces."

So far as is generally known, there is no
published account of the outbreak, which
deals principally with local details- Tho
following, however, has been obtained from a
very reliable source. It appears that on
Saturday evening, 2nd October, 1641, a
message was received in Magherafelt that
the Irish had takert Moneymore that morn-
ing, and were on their way to attack
Magherafelt. The people of the town were
then called to arms to the Castle, provided
with about 15 guns, and preparations were
made to withstand the attack. A Mr.
Waring took command of the defenders.
Two hours after the receipt of tho news a
party of 200 Irish, under the command of
Cormack O'Hagan, attacked Magherafelt
which, at that period, was of mengro
dimension. On being summoned to
surrender, the defenders refused to comply,
whereupon O'Hagm's Brigade made a
desperate assault, but the inhabitants replied


with such good effect that O'Hagan was
forced to retire in the direction of Desert-
martin, and took that place. Mr. Waring,
anticipating that O'Hagan would return,
took eleven of the best armed of the defenders
that night under cover of darkness to
Bellaghy Castle, which was held by a small
garrison, under the Command of Henry
Conway, M.P., and who had plenty of arms
and ammunition. Mr. "Waring informed Mr.
Conway of the attack on Magherafelt,
requested assistance and a supply of arms.
Mr. Conway refused to comply. Mr. Waring
then decided to return to Magherafelt, but
only six of his followers would oecompany
him, and early on the morning of the 25th
October, they set out on their return
journey. When they reached Aghagaskin
they were informed that the Irish had
returned in force the previous day, captured
Magherafelt, and burned the Church, Castle,
and houses. Mr. Waring and his comrades
then took refuge in Edward Brerc's house, in
Aghagaskin, and having fortified it, awaited
developments- O'Hagan, with his force,
arrived in the evening, attacked the house,
but were repulsed with a loss of several killed
and wounded- He then abandoned the attack
and took his departure. Mr. Waring re-
turned to Magherafelt, which he found in a
terrible plight. About 50 men, women and
children were wandering about in great
misery from cold and hunger, O'Ha-gan's
army having stripped them of the greater
part of their clothing. Not having the
means to assist them, Waring instantly set
out again for Bellaghy Castle, taking all the

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