The Civil Parish of Loughgiel, approximately ten miles South – South East of Ballymoney, near the storied Glens of Antrim, is situated in the Baronies of Upper Dunluce and Kilconway and is a completely rural Parish. It is bounded on the North by Armoy, on the West by Kilraughts, on the South-West by Killagan, on the South by Dunaghy and Newtowncrommelin, on the East by Culfeightrin, Layde and Grange of Layde. The Parish has fifty-eight townlands, rising in some parts to lofty heights of which Slieveanorra Mountain (1676 ft) is one of the main summits in the Antrim range.
Loughgiel is a fairly extensive Parish, taking its name from a lake in the townland of Castlequarter, (Castletown) within the wooded demesne of Lissanoure. One must realise that place names and townland names are often the oldest fragments of the Irish Language remaining alive in a district and while they are now modernised, the present forms are often derived from the ancient Irish. Alterations in the spelling and pronunciation have taken place down through the years, thus the spelling and meaning of “Loughgiel” may be different from that used by our ancestors centuries ago.
In reference to the Ordnance Survey Memoirs, Vol 13, The Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University of Belfast in association with the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin tradition affirms that a small, now ornamental Islet, near the centre of the lake, had a dungeon, which has long since fallen into ruin. Tradition also affirms that prisoners were held here before being executed on trees which still stand on a hill to the South of the lake and still known to this day as “Tulach-na-Croch” or “Gallows Hill”. The name “Loughgiel” may have assumed many names down through the years, thus we have “Loughgule”, Loughgeel” or “Loughgeil” to name but a few. The present day spelling of “Loughgiel” meaning “Narrow Lake” or Lake of the Narrows”, or the spelling “Loughguile” meaning “Lake of Brightness” or “Bright Lake” are most commonly used. As in most things, nothing last forever, but as long as the name “Loughgiel” is used, the quiet beauty of its situation will ensure the history of the area will never be forgotten.
The views from the Summit of Slieveanaura Mountain are perhaps unequalled for extent by any other in the County. The western side of Co Derry, including Magilligan Strand and even the Tower at the mouth of Lough Foyle may be seen as also the Inishowen Mountains and Scottish Islands. From other points within the Parish, the view extends from the Causeway Headlands in the North to the Mourne Mountains including all of the Western side of Co. Antrim.
There are innumerable small ancient cemeteries throughout the Parish and can be found in the following townlands – Monehneagh, Culbane, Kilwee, Ballyknock Little, Carrivcashel, Corkey, North Knockavrinnan, Pharis, Ballytaggart, Ballybraddan and Castlequarter. During 1986, ancient burial urns were discovered by Mr Maurice Connolly on his farm at Kilcroagh. Inspection of the site showed that it was a Bronze Age Burial site.
The local Tavern, known near and far as the “Pound” is near the centre of the Parish and it was here that fairs were held on the nineteenth day of the months of February, June, August and November. Transactions, which would have taken place at the fairs would have included horses, cattle, pigs and linen yarn. The name “Pound” dates back many generations being derived from the fact that this was a place for impounding stray livestock. A keeper was duly appointed by the Court or Council and his duty was to break a stick, known as the “Tally Stick”, retaining one part of the stick, giving the other part to the person who had impounded the straying livestock. It then took an agreed sum to retrieve the livestock. The keeper matched the two sticks.
The man who inaugurated the bringing together of the Linen Weavers of North Antrim, in the late 18th Century, was Ballyweaney Linen Draper and Farmer, Mr. John Adams. John Adams erected a weaving shed on his farm, where he employed weavers to produce a type of linen called “Chequer”, woven with blue and white thread in the pattern of a chequer board, this gave the name to the premises which are still known to this day as “Chequer Hall”. The thread was spun and dyed as well as woven on the premises. The linen was stamped with a brass stamp bearing an illustration of a spinning wheel, with the words “Jn Adams, Loughgeel, Antrim” round the outside. When Mr Adams died, the manufacture of linen gradually ceased and the weaving shed was converted into a farm building.
This project, for Ballymoney Rural District Council, was the biggest and most important to be constructed in the Route country at the time. Expanding over a vast acreage, the project is situated on the upper headwater of the river Bush in the townland of Altnahinch, within sight of potato rigs made during Penal times by the people forced to live in mountain areas. Completed during 1967, the Dam was opened in July of that year. It was designed to meet the needs of local industry and the requirements of the progressive farming community and other residents in the foreseeable future. The distribution mains system has been arranged so as to ensure a water supply to every part of the district as far as possible.
Knockahollett Motte and Bailey, standing beside the Drones Road, in the townland of Knockahollet, is in a very good state of preservation, it was almost certainly of some importance. Confirmation of the Antiquity of this site was the discovery of two Urns during the summer of 1933 by the landowner, Mr Hanna. He was clearing away bramble growth from around the Motte. After this work was finished, a heifer, annoyed by flies, struck the bank with a hoof, leaving a hole in it. On examination by Mr Hanna, he extracted an urn broken in several pieces. On further examination, Mr Hanna discovered a second urn in perfect condition. Both were carbonated inside suggesting that they were used as cooking pots. Remains of earthen Mottes can be found in the following townlands – Ballytaggart, Knockahollet, Ballyweaney, Carnamenagh, Lisnisk, Magherhoney and Ballyveeley.
Lissanoure Cottage, built 1829, is beautifully situated in a fertile valley, interspersed with woods and lakes, in the townland of Castlequarter.
The Old School House situated within Loughgiel Village was opened during 1841. With hipped roof and outer staircase, it is now a listed building of special architectural interest.
Old Church of St. Mary’s, situated in the townland of Castlequarter, within the wooded demesne, was rebuilt during 1733. The walls and tower are still standing, surrounded by the ancient graveyard of Loughgiel. Inscriptions on tombstones have faded with time, some are still legible, many are simple markers.
The Castle, situated in Love’s Corkey, is said to have been built to the third storey when the owner died. When the Love Family bought the property, early 19th century, they built a dwelling and farm buildings on the site.
Northern Ireland’s first wind powered electric generator was switched on by Mr Richard Needham, Minister of the Environment, assisted by Miss Claire McAuley, P7 pupil at St. Anne’s Primary School. Corkey, on Wednesday the 6th of February 1991. The turbine is situated on Slievenahanghan Mountain, in the townland of Corkey South. This turbine has now been replaced by a larger turbine on the same site.
OUR LOVELY SWEET LOUGHGIEL by Thomas Kinney, Carrowlaverty, Armoy
With pen and pad, it makes me glad
As I write this verse or two,
About our native district,
That’s one place in a few,
It is a real life fairyland,
And has so much appeal,
No wonder that they call it,
Our lovely Sweet Loughgiel.
You name it, we have got it,
And there is so much more,
Hills and dales, with magic vales,
Those lakes at Lissanoure,
A castle from the distant past,
So much I could reveal
When going into detail
Of our lovely Sweet Loughgiel.
Those graceful mountains stretch afar,
Like some great giant fan,
And they are much the same today,
As when the world began,
A little bit of paradise,
And happy I do feel,
With my humble little cottage
In our lovely Sweet Loughgiel.
“THE PAGAN MAN”
The “Pagan Man” as it is known locally has probably lain in the same field, in the townland of Tully, for about 2000 years. A stone figure, carved roughly in the form of a man’s head and shoulders, it is believed to be one of the pagan idols struck down by St. Patrick when he came from nearby Slemish Mountain. Only one similar figure is believed to exist in the nine counties, this is at Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh.
One of the ancient church sites and graveyards of Loughgiel is situated at Kilwee, on the high ground to the North of the Reservoir Road. The tombstones are indistinguishable having been destroyed by time. It is said that a McQuillan Chieftian, who died in the battle of Aura (1559) is buried here.
ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH
St. Patrick’s Church, dedicated under the invocation of St. Patrick on the 26th May 1839, is central for the greater part of the parish. The Church was built in a simple style, which was common in the first generation of post-penal day Catholic Churches. A “Barn Style” Church, constructed for maximum seating capacity with economy of space and minimum structural and engineering complication, situated beside the former National School, opened during 1841.
BALLYWEANEY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
In 1928, arrangements were made by the Route Presbytery to comply with a request by the Presbyterians in Drumadoon, Killagan and Loughgiel for a preaching station at or near Cloughmills, in the area between Clough and Kilraughts. During 1835, the Presbyterians of Ballyweaney were erected into a separate congregation, though it was not until 1840 that the first Minister was appointed. The Church was dedicated by the Rev. Dr. Henry Cooke on 30th September 1842.
ST. MACNISSI’S CHURCH
The Church, originally a six-bay Gothic Hall with porch, was dedicated on the 31st May 1851. The Church was renovated during 1967 – 1968 with a large southern transept added. Rev. Michael Hayes, Parish Priest of Loughgiel, 1928 – 1949, who died on the 16th of May 1949, is interred within this new transept.
ALL SAINTS CHURCH
(Church of Ireland)
A Gothic Church of squared basalt and red sandstone, Cruciform with Eastern porch and bellicote. The interior, with its ribbed wood and plaster ceiling has a stained glass window by Mayor of Munich. Situated in the townland of Castlequarter, the Church was dedicated in 1848.
CHURCH OF ST. MARY’S
Situated within Lissanoure Estate, this Church is now in ruins. The Church was renovated during 1733, chiefly at the expense of the MacCartney family. It was replaced by All Saints Church during 1848. The graveyard which surrounds this Church was extensively used, the inscriptions on tombstones have faded with time, some are still legible, many are simply markers.
It was with deep regret that I learned during the late afternoon of the 9th January 2002, that the death had taken place of my good friend and neighbour, Laurence Watt. A shoe marker by trade, he was also a local historian of note. With his extraordinary knowledge of his native Loughgiel it meant he was often sought after, especially when overseas visitors came in search of their ancestral links and when possible, introduce them to distant cousins. Laurence’s house was one of the best-known “Ceili Houses” in the Loughgiel area and had been for many years. The small black “Newcomer” stove, with the kettle boiling and the smell of the turf fire made it very enjoyable. Many’s an evening’s “Criac” was spent when a good ghost story or fairy tale was told as well as all the local gossip or local history being discussed. Laurence featured on radio on many occasions, as also on the videos “Co Antrim Crack” and “Mid-Antrim Iscellany” as well as the “Watts About” page of the Coleraine Chronicle. Laurence was one of natures gentlemen and it certainly was a privilege to have known him. With Laurence’s passing, the end of an era has come in the life of Loughgiel Parish. May the bright light of Heave be his reward and may he rest in Eternal peace.