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Glenravel Historical Society 1st minibus tour 23-06-2012

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Posted by: grego37, on 10/01/2014, in category "Other Historical Events"
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Abstract: A group of twenty four members of The Society visited about a dozen local sites of historical interest on the above date.

GLENRAVEL HISTORICAL SOCIETY’S FIRST FIELD TRIP  (SAT.23rd JUNE 2012).


A group of twenty four members of The Society visited about a dozen local sites of historical interest on the above date. The route from the Sports and Community Complex took us firstly, via Gortnageeragh Road, to the ancient graveyard at Deisceart.

Situated just off the road, on the west bank of the Ravel River and on the boundary of the Parishes of Dunaghy and Skerry, it derives it’s name from Irish, meaning “ south” or “south of”. It includes a number of inscribed headstones dating from the early nineteenth century and it is quite possible that it was used as a burial place prior to this period. Family names on the inscribed headstones include O’Raw, Campbell, Dowds, Gillan and Scullion. The last burials from these  families took place at the beginning of the twentieth century. The remains of two priests, those of a Fr. Cornelius Gribbon and a Fr. Fallon, are also said to res here.

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Our next stopping place was further along Gortnageeragh Road. where we were able to view, from a distance, the remains of Mountcashel iron ore /bauxite Mines. On the lower slopes of Cairncormick Mountain, these mines formed part of quite a number of iron ore / bauxite mines which were worked, in the past, in the hills above Glenravel. The deposits of the mines are still visible, as are, in this case, the remains of part of the mine buildings. The ore would have been transported from this mine in bogeys on tracks to Knockanully / Martinstown Station and then to Ballymena on The Ballymena to Parkmore Railway, whence it would continue it’s journey, also by train, to Larne or Belfast Harbours.

 

 

 

 

Further  along,  from Glensbrae Road, we were next able to see the site known locally as Cnoc An Aifreann , which translates from Irish as “The Mass Hill”. This is only one of several sites within the Glenravel  area  where Mass was said to have been offered during The Penal Days. In this case it is possible that the site was used as a lookout point, because of it’s elevated position, as Mass was being offered somewhere in the vicinity.

 

Our tour next took us down the Knockanully Road to Martinstown and the site of Mc Keever’s Mill or “The Wee Mill”, again on the banks of the Ravel River and now a modern dwelling. The mill was a flaxmill and cornmill in it’s time and part of it’s machinery, a large cogged wheel, is still to be seen on the site. The mill’s last proprietor was one Jimmy Carey and the mill ceased to operate as such in the early 1950’s. A song associated  with the mill entitled “ The Flower of Mc Keever’s Mill” has survived it’ s demise and can be found in Sam Henry’s Collection as “Flower of the Corby Mill”. It is said to have been penned by two brothers , John and William Brownlee, from the village of Clough. However  residents from the Martinstown, and in particular Lignamonagh areas,  would point to it’s many references to  that locality to argue that the former  title is it’s true one.

 

 

 

Leaving  Martinstown behind the minibus ascended Lignamonagh Brae,on the Lisnamanny Road, to a spot, about halfway up the road, where can be seen, in an old Mass path, what remains of three Standing Stones. Historians, archaeologists and the like, have debated for a very long time as to why these stones were placed in so many locations on these islands. They suppose that some were markers for graves, where important people of the time were buried, others were sites where ancient religious  rituals were performed , others territorial markers. Indeed it is said that the earliest walled-in fields on our islands were firstly marked up to 5,000 years ago. Speaking, or is it writing, personally, I always find it fascinating to realise what early man was capable of doing with what he had at his disposal. From 50 to 60 years ago for the last usage of Mc Keever’s Mill, to 5,000 years ago for the Standing Stones and all within a ten minute drive !!!!!!!

Our trip proceeded to the top of Lisnamanny Road and turned right onto Skerry East Road, at which point can be clearly seen another Standing Stone in a field on the right hand side.

The next destination was down through Newtowncrommelin / Skerry Village to a point just off the Craigdunloof Road where we stopped to view the remains of Crommelin Furnace and a cornmill, situated on the banks of the Skerry Water River. The furnace was constructed, at considerable expense, by one of the Crommelin Family, founders of the village. There they intended to smelt the iron ore which was being mined in the area. This plan however proved unsuccessful as the ore available was of such poor quality that it was impossible for the smelting process to take place.

For those of us in need of a little “comfort”, the next stop found us at The Skerry Inn pub where proprietor, Barney Mc Keown, endeavoured to keep our already raised spirits alive with tea, coffee or a pint, or measure, of whatever took our fancies.

The road before us saw us make our way back down through the village to the Skerry East Road junction with Rushy Island Road whereon we proceeded to our next  place of call, the entrance to Salmon’s  Drift Mine. As part of the proposed development of the Newtowncrommelin area, a lease was originally granted on 8th. September 1888 by Frederick Crommelin to The Crommelin Mining Company Ltd. , for a period of 30 years. This lease was to cover mining for iron ore / bauxite in the Skerry East and Skerry West townlands and was renewed in February 1919 for a smaller area and the Salmon’s Drift Mine was included in this particular area. The Crommelin Mining Company ceased mining in 1925, although bauxite was still mined in the Skerry West area until 1933. The mines were resurveyed in 1941 upon the outbreak of the Second World War, but mining was deemed impractical because the bauxite proved to be of such inferior quality.


The poet, author and playwright Patrick Mc Quillan refers to this era of Glenravel’ s history in his poem “The Tenth Glen” :

                           “Deep under her mountains the miner has burrowed,

                             By pit-head and pit-mouth her face often furrowed,

                             Her brow and her breast carry wounds deep and sore,

                             Where strong men have tunnelled her iron-rich ore”.


Our adventure next took us back to near Cargan village and to the townlands of Binvore and Evishacrow, firstly to the remains of Binvore House and then Evishacrow Distillery.

The minibuses proceeded  roughly northward on a lane off Legagrane Road to what is left of Binvore House / Cottage. The lane itself was part of an old coach road in it’s day, which provided access to the House and Distillery. Built by The Benn Family in 1836, it was the first seat of that family in Glenravel, until Glenravel House was constructed in 1842. The latter was more accessible by the new Ballymena to Cushendall Road , completed in 1842 / 1843.

The construction of Binvore House was attributed to one Edward Benn, whose grandfather, John Benn, had come to Ireland from Cumberland, England in 1750 to work as an engineer on The Newry Canal. His son, also called John, married Elizabeth Craig from Tandragee in County Armagh and it was in that place that they initially made their home. Altogether they had nine of a family, four boys and five girls. The family moved to Belfast c. 1810, where John junior set up in business as a distiller. This proved to be a very successful venture and his two youngest sons, Edward (born 1798) and George (born 1801), were educated firstly in Belfast Academy and then in Belfast Academical Institution. They proved to be good scholars and George wrote, both in college and in later years, several books on the history of Belfast. Edward was also the founder and George the benefactor of several new Belfast hospitals.

It has been said before and probably will be again that they didn’t show the same sense of humanity towards their tenant farmers, as landlords in the Glenravel area,  but then this has to be looked at in the context of the social structure at that time. They came from a very wealthy and successful business background in Belfast and would have had little knowledge of, or empathy with, the lot of tenant farmers of that era.

At the back of the remains of the house, in what would have  been  gardens, is to be found Saint Brigid’s Well. These “ holy wells” are to be found in many areas throughout  Ireland and indeed further afield. They have their origins in the Pre-Christian era and signify the importance of water in our forefathers’ (and indeed mothers’) lives and also in our lives today. They  have been,  and in many cases  still are, visited as places of pilgrimage and their contents regarded as having healing and spiritual properties. Their names in the present day are usually attributed to saints of the Christian Era.

Next stop on our journey was the site of Evishacrow Distillery . Also built by the Benn Family, the cost of it’s construction and being put into operation was £20,000 and local farmers were employed to plant and harvest potatoes for use in the distillation process. For their labours, they were paid between 10 old pence (10d) and 1 shilling (1/-) per day. The process used in the distillation of the whiskey, however, was not in keeping with legal regulations and the distillery was shut down by the Excise Authorities about a year after going into production,  it’s owners fined £1,000 and the buildings allowed to go to ruin. Consequently, little remains of them today.

Onwards and upwards, back up Legagrane Road that is, then right onto Tuftarney Road to it’ s junction with Skerry East Road. Another right turn here onto the area  known locally as Beul na Haille in Irish or Gap of Beauty in English.

We passed The Drum Wood, so called because the area contains what  remains of The Drum, a large, round, wooden pulley wheel  supported by two walls, which was used to lower  iron ore mined in the area, down a steep hill (The Drum Brae) in wagons. This was done using a cable and the weight of a filled wagon going down brought an empty one back up again. The Drum Walls are still to be seen to this day, as can a metal sculpture to The Drum.

The road over Buel Na Haille took us past what remains today of a dwelling called The Hungry House, supposedly so named because a traveller,  who called there to seek rest  overnight , died of hunger before morning. The owner of the property subsequently ruled that any future callers were to be given a meal, as well as a bed for the night, if required. The dwelling itself has since been  demolished and is now used as sheep pens.

As our adventure neared it’ s conclusion, we passed, on our right-hand side,  the entrance to a mine which was only recently discovered during work being undertaken to fell trees in that area.

Our last place of call was what remains of Parkmore Railway Station, destination of The Ballymena to Parkmore Railway where  the passengers would have disembarked  before continuing  their journey by jaunting car to the rest of The Nine Glens. The actual station is now derelict, as is the nearby Retreat,  where the train would have turned,  but one can’ t help imagining what a hub of activity it must have been, particularly during summer, in the past.

However  those  adventurers  would not have been able to sample, as our hungry group did, Colm Scullion’s culinary skills on the barbecue,  ably assisted by his wife Margaret and grandson Caolan Hodgson.

It is said that all good things have to come to an end, but this was not the case as regards our first minibus tour of these places of historical interest in the Glenravel area. The information received and photographs taken will hopefully survive long into the future, in the same way as we refer  today to old photographs, artefacts, information etc, from the past.

Our journey homeward to the new Sports and Community Complex  seemed to pass very quickly and I am certain that all present and future members of Glenravel Historical Society share my hopes that activities like these will survive long into the future.

Gregory F O’ Reilly.  (October 2012.)

For a recent and very comprehensive history of the general Glenravel area, including that of the Cargan, Martinstown, Newtowncrommelin, Clough and Rathkenny villages, see publication :

“ALONG THE RAVEL and CLOUGH WATER”

A local History

BY FELIX Mc KILLOP.

(First published Nov. 2012).

Copies can be obtained by contacting the author at:

fmckillop@lineone.net

or/ Telephone (028)28841407

or/ www.mckillop.info


Or/ COLM SCULLION at:

Colm377@btinternet.com

  Or/ Telephone (028)21758208.

 

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Comment posted by waterfarm on 26 January 2014 13:37
A very comprehensive report Gregory. These are just some of the places of historical interest in the Glenravel area,hopefully there will be another historical tour of some more sites this summer.
Comment posted by shaun on 05 February 2014 07:47
A fine report Gregory which never mentioned the poor weather!However it did whet our appetite and there certainly will be another trip in 2014 visiting other sites.
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