The following are extracts from the “Statistical Account or Parochial Survey of Ireland – Parishes of Glenavy, Camlin & Tullyrusk” by the Rev. Edward Cupples.
The union is washed, for the space of five miles, by Lough neagh. This vast body of fresh water is about twenty English miles in length, and nearly fifteen miles in breadth; covering a space of 97,775 English acres of land. Irish historians inform us that it burst out in the reign of Lugaidh Rhiabderg, and was called Lion-Mhuine. This name would appear to have the same import with the present, and both to have originated in a supposed healing quality possessed by the lake; for Lion, signifies a lough, and Mhuine and Neasg, a sore or ulcer. The names of Lough Sydney and Lough Chichester, in honor of the lords Deputies Sir Henry Sydney, and Sir Arthur Chichester, were successively given to it; but they have been unable to supplant the more ancient, though less refined appellation.
Two remarkable properties have been ascribed to Lough Neagh; a power of healing diseases, already mentioned; and a power of petrifying wood and other substances. As to the first; – an analysis of this water discovers nothing to warrant such a property; and no difference has been found to exist between it and the waters of other lakes in the kingdom. The influx probably of some moneral waters from the neighbouring land, may have imparted a medicinal quality to particular parts, and hence a general quality ascribed to the whole. With regard to the property of converting wood, and other substances, into stone; this seems not to rest on better grounds. The absence of any peculiarity is the water is irreconcilable with its existence; and the circumstance of similar petrifactions being found in the land, and at considerable distances from the lake, renders the supposition altogether untenable.
(The situation of a bed of petrifaction, at Aghaness, near the mouth of Glenavy river, will shew by its depth, that the water could not have been the agent in this operation. A bed of blue clay, four feet deep, is next the wood; above that a bed of red clay three feet deep. These two strata have evidently been covered by a bank of twelve feet, that has been washed away by the encroachments of the lake. So that in the whole this collection of petrifaction had been covered to a depth of nineteen feet. Another fact will shew that the water, when the substance was within its reach, did not cause petrifaction. In the year 1796, a canoe, composed of an entire block of oak, about 25 feet long, by 4 wide, was discovered immediately under the surface on the shore of Lough Neagh, at Crumlin Water-foot. This vessel was of a rude construction, the bottom not being formed in a keel, and must have existed from a remote period. It was decayed in may places, but no where exhibited the smallest appearance of petrifaction.)
Lough Neagh abounds in fresh water fish of different kinds, as, salmon, trout, eel, roach, bream, pike, pollen or fresh water herring, called in England shad, and a fish perhaps peculiar to this lake, called the fresh water whiting. There are two species of trout, distinguished by their size; the dolochan, being in length from fourteen inches to eighteen inches, said to be peculiar to Lough Neagh; and the buddagh, a large trout, weighing in many instances, thirty pounds. But the most singular fish to be net with in this lake, is that caught in Sandy bay, on the shores of Glenavy, known by the name of the Gillaroo trout, which possesses the curious property of having a stomach like the gizzard of a fowl. It is called by the fishers the shell-trout, from its subsisting on shell-fish of a very minute size. The writer has examined the stomach, and found in it every appearance of a gizzard. The flesh, when boiled, is of a pale yellow colour. Mr. Barrington has given an account of this strange fish in the philosophical Transactions of 1774, page 116; for which he and the Royal Society, have fallen under the severe lash of the author of the Pursuits of Literature, by whom the account is improperly ridiculed and discredited.
In May 1604, Sir Arthur Chichester received a grant of the fisheries of Lough Neagh, and was appointed admiral and commander-in-chief thereof, with full power and authority to dispose of all shipping, boats and vessels thereon; which grants were confirmed by letters patent, dated he 19th of James 1. These grants were afterwards surrendered by Edward Viscount Chichester, to Charles 1, to comply with the King’s occasions, in consideration of a pension of £40 per annum, and liberty for himself to fish. Many arrears being due on this pension in the reign of Charles 11, the fisheries of Lough Neagh, with the soil thereof, and islands therein, were again granted in the 13th of that king, to the family of Chichester, by a patent purporting to bear date the 3d. of July.
Of the mineral belonging to the union, the most remarkable are those beautiful stones found on the shore of the lake, and in the land, at a distance of to miles from the shore, called Lough Neagh pebbles. These stones are of different colours; some of them being white, some yellow, some red, and others variegated. Those of a reddish cast are the most beautiful, and most rare; they are to be met with in the land; where also the largest, as well as the most valuable pebbles, are generally found. One of these in the writer’s possession, of a rich yellow colour, and weighing one pound, two ounces and an half, was found at the distance of a mile from the shore. There is another kind of pebble, called from its great lustre, the brilliant; but it is so extremely rare, that the writer has never had the good fortune to meet with a specimen.
The Lough Neagh pebble is of an extreme hardness, and next to the diamond, most difficult to be cut and polished. Hence it possesses this advantage over other stones. That when it is engraved, the impressions produced by it never lose their sharpness. Mineralogists consider it a chalcedony; (There is so great a resemblance between these pebbles, and certain kinds of opal, cornelian, cats-eye, and mocho stones, that it is not easy to be certain on the subject. What adds to the difficulty is, that they are found loose upon the beach, and none of them attached to any rock or stone. It is supposed that the rocks around the lake, from Lurgan to Coagh, (going northward) being all basaltic, and some of them being washed by the lake, the chalcedony (which is found in other rocks of that kind, along the sea-coast, and the quarries of the interior of the country often containing chalcedony in nodules and veins) was detached from them, mixed with sand and gravel, and rolled into their present form upon the beach) as such, its specific gravity is two-sevenths heavier than water; and its component parts are 84 of pure silicious earth, and 16 of the earth of alum or clay. The great labour and art requisite to cut and polish it, make it of equal value with the cornelian, when applied to the purposes of use, or ornament.
Singular petrifactions of wood, called Hone stone, are found in Lough Neagh, and in the land: they are composed, for the most part, of the roots of the trees, and generally have the appearance of oak. A remarkable specimen, being an entire root, a cube of five feet, is to be seen in the river of Crumlin, near Cider Court. Although these differ radically from the Lough Neagh pebbles, they are both composed of silicious earth; but the former, notwithstanding they strike fire with steel, are yet inflammable. They are always black at the heart, which is owing to the matter of the wood not being quite wasted, while its interstices have been filled, and most of its substance replaced, by the flinty matter being filtered into it. Dr. Hutton thinks that the flint has been melted, and infected through the wood with violence: but the beautiful, loosely adhering, and shining crystals, that are often spread through the cracks, and among the fibres of the wood, have greatly the appearance of the infiltration of some liquid, from which the crystals have been gradually deposited. ( Mr. William Molyneux quotes the physician Anselm Boetius, as asserting in his Historia Lapidum et Gemmarum, that “the part of the wood that is buried in Lough Neagh will become iron; that part touched by the water becomes stone, and that above the water remains wood.” This opinion is destitute of foundation; no authenticated instance of it having been produced. Molyneux found, that when the stone was sufficiently calcined, it applies briskly, and in great quantities, to the magnet; but that it will not do so when crude. Francis Nevil, Esq engineer, who drew a plan for making the Glen Bog navigable from the Lough, through part of the Upper Bann, to Newry, denies that the water of the lake has a petrifying quality, but that the soil has it for miles round the lake. See Boate‘s Nat. Hist. From page 116 to 122.) Petrifactions of hazel nuts, and masses of corallites, called petrified rushes and honeycombs, have been thrown up at different times.
The other minerals belonging to the union, are white stones, called quartz or felts; grey stones, containing that shining matter like silver, called mica; a good quantity of silex; common land stones; black stone quarried, in which are steatites, or soap-stones, of different colours, vulgarly called rock marrow; and a rude kind of basalt, near the mouth of Glenavy river.
Some years ago, it having been suggested to the Marquis of Hertford, that there was a strong probability of coal being in his estate, his Lordship sent over two skilful miners from Lady Irwine’s collieries, who made several trials by boring, but without effect. At Sandy Bay, in Lough Neagh, they penetrated through a stratum of black wood in a state of decay, and perhaps in progress towards coal, if some theories of its formation may be depended on.
The following is a note of the commencement of their experiment, in the lands of William Farr, dated the 29th of October, 1801.
Yards Feet Inch Gravel and clay 3 1 6 Dark Clay 14 1 0 Black Wood 0 0 6 Blue Clay 2 0 0 Black Wood 0 0 7 Blue Clay 2 1 5
No 6. A list of birds which frequent Lough Neagh
Green plover lapwing – Ranellus
Rail – Balluscrex
Water-hen – Fulica chlorophus
Coot – Fulica atra
Sand piper – Fraxineus
Swan – Cygnus
Heron – Ardea cinerea
Wild – goose – Anser
Wild-duck – Boscas
Widgeib – Penelops
Teal – Crecca
Bittern – Ardea stellar is
Screech-cock – Turdus viscivorus
Curlew – Scolopax arquata
Snipe – Scolopax gallinago
Jack snipe – Scolopax gallinula
Woodcock – Scolopax reticular
Jay – Cervus Glandarius
Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland
The following are extracts from “Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland – Parishes of County Antrim VII 1832 – 1838”. Thanks to The Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen’s University of Belfast for permission to use this extract.
Statistical Survey by Lieutenant Thomas Graves, copied by C.W. Ligar, 1834
Received from Mr Ligar, 22 October 1834:
The following information has been given by Lieutenant Thomas Graves R.N., and is contained in a small manuscript, the materials of which he collected during the prosecution of a survey of Lough Neagh under the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in 1831 to 1832, and which he is about to publish.
Situation and Name
This lake, with the exception of Ladoga and Onega in Russia and Geneva in Switzerland, is the largest in Europe. It is surrounded by the counties of Antrim to the north and east, Armagh to the south, between which and Antrim a small portion of Down reaches its margin; Tyrone to the west and Londonderry to the north west. By means of the Newry and Belfast Canals it offers a great facility for introducing foreign importations and distributing them at a moderate expense throughout the province, as well as a ready issue for the exportation of the native produce of this improving part of the country. Its consequent utility therefore renders it an object not only of much local importance, but also of great national interest.
The ancient name of the lake was Echach or Eacha, which in the Erse language signified “divine” and loch “a lake”, or “the divine lake.” In the same language neasg or naasgh “a sore” might have alluded to its virtues in curing certain cutaneous disorders and have from thence been easily converted into Neagh or Neach. 1
HISTORY AND SOCIAL ECONOMY
Healing Properties of the Lough
A curious notice respecting its supposed healing qualities is in Boate’s Natural history of Ireland, in a letter from Francis Nevil Esquire to the Lord Bishop of Clogher: “That there is some healing quality in the water of the lough is certain; but whether diffused through all parts thereof is not known nor pretended. There is a certain bay in it called the Fishing bay; which is about half a mile broad. It is bounded by the school lands of Dungannon, hath a fine sandy bottom, not a pebble in it, so that one may walk with safety and ease from the depths of his ankle [ancle] to his chin upon an easy declivity, at least 300 yards before a man shall come to that depth: I have been in it several times when multitudes have been there and at other times, and I have always observed that as I have walked the bottom has changed,from cold to warm and from warm to cold, and this in different spots throughout the bay.” 2
“The first occasion of taking notice of this bay for cure happened to be no longer ago than in the reign of Charles II and was thus: there was one Mr Cunningham that lived within a few miles of the place, who had an only son grown to man’s estate. This young man had the evil to that degree, that it ran upon him in 8 or 10 places. He had been touched by the king and all means imaginable used for his recovery, but all did no good and his body was so wasted that he could not walk: When all hopes of his recovery were passed, he was carried to the lough where he was washed and bathed, and in 8 day’s time, bathing each day, all the sores were dried up and he became cured and grew very healthy, married, begot children and lived 9 or 10 years after. The natives thought it would not do well, but upon some particular time appropriated for that service, and now great crowds come there on Midsummer Eve, of all sorts of sick, and sick cattle are brought there likewise and driven into the water for their cures, and people do believe they receive benefit.”
The bay above mentioned is now termed Washing bay. The warm springs, if ever there were any, are no longer to be found, and the only remains of its former celebrity are 2 fairs held on the Sunday before and after Midsummer, called Big Sunday, at which dancing, drinking and broken heads are much more prevalent than experiments on the virtues of the waters. Small groups, however, are to be seen bending their steps to take advantage of the healing properties of the small rivulet that falls into the bay, which they fancy has some good effect, and many are the cures ascribed to these ablutions, which would most probably be as efficacious if made at any other part of the shores of the lough: The rivulet has obtained the name of the Holy river and is much venerated.
Traditions of the Lough
Tradition has not been idle in assigning several causes for the formation of this lake, many of which are curious and seem to have been handed down from father to son from time immemorial and no doubt improved as they passed through each generation. That great favourite among the lower orders, and the hero of so many of their legendary tales, Fin McCool, the giant (Fingal of the Scotch), being exasperated at some act of indiscretion, or to show his great power; is said to have seized a handful of such size that the hollow caused by its removal formed the basin of the present lough. The earth being thrown into the Irish Channel formed the Isle of Man, which is gravely stated to be of exactly the same shape and size as the outline of the lake. It is also a prevalent belief that if a fire is not continually kept burning on the island, it would return to its former situation.
Another account is as follows: a well that stood in the centre of the space now occupied by the lough, the waters of which were supposed to possess some wonderful charm and to be under the influence of the fairies or, as they term them, “gentle spirits”, was left under the direction of an old woman, probably a witch, with the injunction that she should close the wicket of the enclosure that surrounded it after any visitors to the well. The aged damsel, it appears, made too free with the “crathur” and neglected the command, upon which the water overflowed and followed the terrified witch so far as Toome, where she was thrown into it by the inhabitants and paid the forfeit of her life for her indiscretion. The overflowing then ceased and thus the lough was formed!
Some of the early writers affirm that Lough Neagh suddenly burst out in the reign of Lugaidh Raibderg in the 56th year of the Christian era and was then called Lion Mhuine. Lendrick mentions a singular circumstance, that the soundings were sometimes interrupted by trunks of trees standing in an upright position and these were most numerous near the mouth of the Blackwater. The idea of a town being buried under the waters of the lough is also prevalent and is noticed by Moore in his Irish melodies.
“On Lough Neagh’s banks as the fisherman strays;
‘ when the clear cold eve’s declining;
he sees the round towers of other days,
in the waves beneath him shining.”
In, the course of the survey under the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in 1831 to 1832, the soundings in the neighbourhood of the Blaekwater were found regular and no circumstance occurred that in any degree favour either of the above remarks. Lieutenant Graves, to show that the idea existed while he was prosecuting the survey, mentions that one of the seamen, when heaving the lead and finding a sudden alteration in the depth of the water; exclaimed facetiously: “By my soul; it’s down a chimley, your honour!”
Rivers, Water Level and Drainage
Although 8 considerable rivers, viz. the Moyola; Ballinderry, Blackwater, Upper Bann; Glenavy, Crumlin, Six Mile Water and Main Water discharge themselves into the lake, yet there is only one visible discharge at Toome Bridge over an extensive and shoal bar, having only 2 feet of water in it in the summer season, through a narrow channel which intervenes between it and Lough Beg; and joining the Lower Bann at New ferry, eventually issues into the sea at Coleraine and separates the counties of Antrim and Londonderry. “Before the autumnal season of the year, when the rains begin to soften the earth and swell the rivers, the water discharged at Toome is very inconsiderable, so as not to afford a depth greater than that which may reach to the knee of a person wading; and once it happened that :a person taking advantage of an inblowing wind walked over dry shod; but at the same season the influx of water is inconsiderable.” 3
The Upper Bann, which may be supposed the greatest of the 8 rivers, for it gives a name to all the rest where they flow in one channel to the sea, being called the Lower Bann; has been frequently observed to have scarce any current [of] water in it, immediately before the falling of the great rains. At the conclusion therefore of the summer, supposing it a dry season; there is very little water flowing into the lough since the other rivers are singly inferior to the Bann in quantity of water: When the rains fall in abundance and the rivers swell above their banks and continue so during 5 months and sometimes more, there is a prodigious quantity of water, in so much that the discharge at Toome being vastly less, the water of the lough usually rises from 6 to 9 feet perpendicularly and spreads over about 10,000 acres [insert marginal note: see Ordnance Survey] of land more than it does when it is at the lowest, when it covers [blank].
The discharge of water thus accumulated during the winter months from the rivers before mentioned; not having sufficient space to escape at Toome, causes a considerable rise on the shores of the lake and covers much land annually, and thereby renders it unfit for anything but grass.
Charles Brownlow Esquire, M.P., who has a large property near Lurgan and in the neighbourhood of the Upper Bann, has at an immense expense made embankments and has erected wind pumps and steam engines to endeavour to prevent the encroachments of the water, but as yet to no purpose. A very considerable tract of land lying between Toome and Castledawson, called the Creagh, is also annually inundated, besides many other places adjoining the lough, which, although separately not of so great extent as the 2 instances above mentioned, yet suffer from the same causes. A prospectus is now in circulation and commissioners are now investigating the best means of lowering the lough to its summer level. Should this be effected, additional value would certainly be given to some of the land annually covered and an inconsiderable slip of coast on the borders of the lough would become exposed, that is, the difference between the now summer and winter levels; but this would probably be of little value as the shore is either large stones or sand. A circumstance, however, which seems to have been insufficiently considered is the navigation of the lough, which if drained too much will be destroyed. Even now during the summer there is only 2 and a half feet of the water at the entrance of the Upper Bann where the Newry Navigation commences, and the canal into the Blaekwater has not more than 3 feet at its entrance. It should therefore be ascertained if the land reclaimed or improved would compensate for the injury done to the inland navigation. A great objection to the draining of the lake would be the injury expected to be done to the fisheries. As a proof of the value attached to them, it may be mentioned that Earl O’Neill purchased within a few years the right of the eel fisheries at Toome from the Marquis of DonegaIl for 8,000 pounds, besides a yearly rent of 400 pounds.
Persons residing along the shore of the lough all agree in stating that pieces of petrified wood of no very considerable size are often thrown up on those parts of the shore most exposed to the prevailing winds, which will comprehend the Antrim bay and all the eastern side of the lough open to the south west. The petrifying power of the lough is mentioned by Nennius, a writer of the 9th century, who says: “Est aliud stagnam quod facit ligna durescere in lapides. Hmines autem fingunt ligna et postquam formavernit proficient in stagnum et manent in eo usque ad caput anni et in capite anni lapis invenitur et vocatur stagnum Loch Echach.” English: “There is another lake which makes wood harden into stone. People cleave the wood into pieces and, when they have formed them, cast them into the lake and there they remain until the beginning of the year; and at the commencement of the new year a stone is found and the lake is called Lach Echach.”
A general idea is that the change takes place in 7 years and holly is the favourite wood, but no experiments have been made that are now known to sanction such a belief; and as an argument against it, it may be mentioned that at Toome a large bed of timber, consisting of roots and branches partially imbedded in the sand and lying in the fairway of the only channel through which the lough discharges itself, although remembered to have been there as long as the oldest inhabitant can recollect, shoes no signs of alteration or petrifaction, either above the soil in which it rests or below it. Neither have any of the posts which appear in so many parts of the lough, used by the fishermen to secure their boats to and dry their nets between, although many are half immersed, undergone any visible change. It appears, however, that a petrifying property exists in the vicinity and is rather to be ascribed to the soil than the water.
Dr. Barton, in describing a series of specimens to illustrate the subject, mentions that the largest and most perfect petrifactions were found at some distance up the Crumlin river and Six Mile Water, when, on the contrary, those specimens found on the shores had evidently become rounded by the action of the water.
A large mass of petrifaction that required 8 horses to draw it, which appears to have been the root of a tree, is at present in the Honourable Colonel Pakenham’s garden at Langford Lodge and was removed by him in 1824 from its position below Glendarrah in the Crumlin river, a distance of 2 miles from the lake.
Islands in Lough Neagh
Of these, there are very few and none of any considerable extent. The largest is Ram’s Island, situated in nearly the centre of Crumlin bay, and contains about 7 acres of ground capable of cultivation, but in a dry summer upwards of 20 acres are exposed. It formerly belonged to David McArevery; a fisherman, who disposed of it to Conway McNene Esquire for 100 guineas. It then passed into the hands of Mr Whittle, from whom Lord O’Neill, who is the present proprietor, purchased it for 1,000 pounds: His lordship has built a neat and handsome cottage on it. The grounds are tastefully laid out and the planting by which it is surrounded renders it one of the most picturesque spots on the lake: A round tower in tolerable preservation forms the most remarkable object on the island and confers an it a high degree of historical interest and antiquarian association. In some old maps it is called Enis or Innis Garden; when the change was made is not known.
The Three Islands, a name applied to the 3 islets lying off the parish of Duneane in the vicinity of Seawdy, are also the property of Earl O’Neill; who has planted them with trees of various descriptions and on the western one has erected, another neat and retired cottage. From the centre island to the shore a spit of sand extends which in dry summers is wholly exposed.
Coney Island lies off the entrance into Maghera; is destitute of frees and on it are the ruins of some houses of modern date: The island produces a small crop every season and at a trifling expense might be made as picturesque and ornamental as Ram’s Island.
Fisheries: History of Ownership
In May 1604, in the reign of James I, the Lord – Deputy Sir Arthur Chichester received a grant of the fisheries of Lough Neagh and was appointed admiral and commander-in-chief thereof, with full powers and authority to dispose of all the shipping boats and vessels thereon. These grants were afterwards repurchased by government in favour of the London Society for a pension of 40 pounds sterling per annum, to Sir A. Chichester with liberty for him to fish.
When Charles 1 set aside the Corporation of London, the title of those persons became void. In the time of the Commonwealth, Cramwell granted to one of the Skeffington family the right of the eel fisheries on the River Bann in lieu of a certain pension which that family claimed for services rendered to the government. After the Restoration, the Corporation of London agreed to take out a new charter; but Sir A. Chichester, on whose pension great arrears were due; had the precaution 3 months before this event to obtain a patent dated 3rd July in the 13th year of Charles II, not only all his former possessions but also the right of the fishery from Lough Neagh to the rock or cuts about a mile above Coleraine.
The lease granted by Cromwell was given to Sir A. Chichester, but from the previous charter of King Charles the chief of the Skeffington family retains to this day the title of Baron of Lough Neagh.
In these charters the lake is termed Lachus Neachus alias Lough Sidney, alias Lough Chichester,- in honour of the Lord Deputies, Sir Henry Sydney and Sir Chichester, The 2 latter have, however, been unable to supplant the more ancient appellation by which it continues to be known:
The most considerable and most important fishery is that at Toome, for eels; as may be readily inferred from the immense rent paid for it.
Salmon and Eel Fisheries
As the salmon ascends to spawn in the lake, so the eel descends to bring forth its progeny in the sea. The latter; during the months of April and May, not thicker than a straw, may be seen making their way up the Bann in immense numbers: To assist them in passing the falls at the salmon leap near Coleraine and at Portna, ropes of straw are pur-posely placed; over which they – may be seen climbing with great dexterity. Such is their anxiety to reach the lough that a log of wood or obstruction; from the shallowness of the river, will not impede their progress and at times persons are employed to assist them up with buckets.
The salmon fry are supposed to have left the fresh water by the beginning of June, at which time the eel fishery commences and continues until the end of February. August; September and October are considered the best months, both as to numbers taken and in respect to preserving them, for, as the season advances, the eels become strongly flavoured and tough.
There are 4 weirs close to Toome Bridge on its southern side, at the mouth of which nets in shape similar to a trawl are fixed every evening to intercept the eels in their descent to the sea: For it is remarkable and found from repeated trials to be the case that not an eel can be taken in the daytime except the weather be very dull and the river flooded, and even in a moonlight night scarcely any are caught. The wind blowing strong from south east at the beginning of the day and shifting towards the evening to the south west, with a dark night, is the time in which they are taken in the greatest quantities. Indeed so numerous are they when a concurrence of these circumstances take place, that it frequently happens nets are carried away, although well watched and emptied every 10 minutes. As many as 50,000 it is said have been taken in a night, but this a circumstance of rare occurrence.
The fishermen consider the decline of the moon after Michaelmas or, as they term it, “the Michaelmas dark” the most propitious part of the season.
Quantities of eels are daily sent to all the principal towns in the north of Ireland. Those not disposed of in that manner are salted and a ready sale for them is found during the winter; and they keep well until Lammas. The price varies from a ha’penny to 6d each, or about 2d per lb.
In answer to an inquiry as to whether the eel reached its full size, 4 or 5 lbs, in one season, a person who was formerly concerned in this fishery stated that such was the case: that he had made an experiment by tying a piece of silk through them as they ascended and that he caught the same fish full grown on their descent in the same season: This appeared proof positive, but another experiment made in a well near Toome was not so fortunate, for the fry, after remaining there upwards of 6 months, though apparently healthy, had scarcely increased in size. Probably the confined situation in the latter case might have been the cause of this difference. The specific name of the eel above mentioned is Anguilla vulgaris, common eel.
Varieties of Salmon and Other Fish
The following notices respecting the fish found in Lough Neagh are extracted from a manuscript of the late Mr Templeton of Belfast, who devoted many years of his life to the study of the natural history of Belfast.
Salmo salar, salmon: these fish make their way to the lough to spawn. They vary much in shape, those in some rivers being much robust, in others more slender and apparently calculated for greater activity. Thus those in the Bann, a slow running river nearly throughout its whole course, are remarkably thick and strong made. The salmon of the Bush, a rapid running stream, are more slender in their form. The same variation of colour takes place in these 2 rivers. The Bann, with transparent waters, produces a bright clear-coloured salmon, while the Bush river, whose waters are tinged by the bogs in which it rises, produces salmon whose white parts are tinged more or less with brown. This change of colour produced by the water is very conspicuous in the common trout and eel. I have often seen trout and eels that lived in lakes and bogs that had their originally white belly tinged with a brownish yellow.
Salmo fario, gillaroo trout, Salmo Lacustris, the buddagh: I have ventured to consider the above as constitution but one species, having had many opportunities of examining and comparing trouts of various sizes, from the smallest specimens found in our rivulets to those very large ones found in Lough Neagh. And I have every reason to say that if any careful observer will notice all the intermediate sizes, he will often find as strong marks of distinction between 2 specimens of the same size as he can possibly find between one of 1lb and one of 20lbs.
By a careful perusal of authors who have described the Salmo ancestries, I find the chief characters dwelt upon are size and colour. Size I think scarcely worth attending to, and as to the tinges of colour, everyone who has caught fish in the Irish lakes and rivers knows how variable it is, fish inhabiting transparent waters having their bellies whitish and their colours clear and well defined. All the fish in Lough Neagh have their white parts tinged in some degree with reddish tawny. Mr. Cox, in his Tour in Switzerland, describes the Salmo ancestries as having a conical head, larger in proportion than the salmon. The under-jaw in a full-grown fish ends in a blunt hook; the colour, so low as the lateral line, of a deep blue brightening as it approaches the line; beneath, that of a silvery white; and all the upper part spotted irregularly with black; dorsal fin 12-rayed, pectoral 14, ventral 12, anal 12.
The small trout or our rivers vary in shape and also in the proportional size of the head, in clear streams a dusky blue, sides with a slight bluish tinge and white belly. In bog water lakes these colours of the back and sides acquire a brownish tinge and the white of the belly is often ferruginous orange; the spots on the back, sides and fins vary also in number and size. The bright red spots usually seen, are in some, become brown or nearly obliterated. Our large trouts of Lough Neagh also vary in form and the upper jaw is often seen to project beyond the lower. The back is dusky blue; about the lateral line a little reddish tinge is observable. The belly has the same tinge with a shade of tawny. The spots are very irregularly shaped, black surrounded with brown on the sides. They appear as if several had imperfectly formed a junction. They are seen on the whole upper part of the body and even on the skin surrounding the iris. The tail is not more forked than in a small fish. The irregularity in the number of the rays in the fins does not enable us to fix on this as forming any precise character. The dorsal fin seems to be the one least variable in the number of the rays. It is generally 12-rayed, but varying from 11 to 12, pectoral 12;13,14, ventral 9, 10, 11, anal 9, 10, 11, canelal 24, 27. It was long supposed that the gillaroo trout found in many of our lakes was distinct from the common one, but the late accurate examination of several individually of this kind proved beyond a doubt that the apparent distinction arises solely from their living more than is usually the case on the Helix tentaculata, Tellina cornea, by which their membraneous stomachs are increased in thickness so as to assume the appearance of the gizzard of a fowl, whence the name of “gizzard trout.”
In Ireland every running stream may be said to abound with this fish, no stream too rapid, nor indeed does any cataract of moderate height retard their progress in ascending the rivers before their spawning time. At this period, the month of October and November, the large trout of Lough Neagh, in attempting to ascend the Main Water and the Six Mile Water, are caught in large quantities. On the 12th September 1811 there was taken in the pound at Mr Ledlie’s mills near Antrim 7 cwt of Lough Neagh trout.
Salmo alpinus [alpinous] or charr of Lough Neagh, whiting: “reddish white with a dusky back, ferruginous spots, very minute scales and the pectoral and ventral fins red ferruginous.”
While endeavouring to trace the history of Lough Neagh whiting, I have found considerable difficulty in determining its identity with any hitherto described species of the genus. That which seems most to approach is certainly the lean charr of the Westmoreland lakes and indeed, there is scarcely more disagreement than what might arise from the tingeing property of the water. Those of Lough Neagh are generally from 12 to 14 inches long, though some are met with 15 inches in length.
Salmo wartmanii: Lough Neagh pullan; Esox lucius: pike; Petromyzon fluviatilis: lesser lamprey; Petromyzon branchialis: pride.
I have often observed it about Belfast and other parts of the county Antrim (about May), on the gravelly fords where 5 or 6 appeared to unite their efforts to excavate a place wherein to deposit their spawn. They are said never to conceal themselves under the stones but lodge in the mud, and that they are never observed to adhere to anything as the other species do.
Gasterosteus aculeatus: stickleback, found in the rivulets running into Lough Neagh. Cyprinus erythropthalmus [erythrophalinus]: rudd or red eye, a native of Lough Erne and many other lakes and most probably of Lough Neagh, being found in the Lagan river.
Cyprinus brama: bream, common throughout the lough.
Perca fluviatilis: perch.
List of Shells found in Lough Neagh
Named according to Turton’s last work: Cyclas cornea, Anodon cygneus, Unio margaritiferus, Vitrina pellucida, land shell; Helix niteus, land shell, Helix radiata, land shell, Clausilia rugosa, land shell, Bulimus [Bulinus] lubricus, land shell, Tuccinea amphibia, Planorbis cannatus, Planorbis vortex, Planorbis contortus, Limneus pereger?, Limneus glutinosus; Limneus fossarius or palustris, Physia fontenalis (found by Messrs Hyndman and R. Patterson, members of Natural History Society, Belfast), Valvata obtusa, Paludina impura, Aneylus fluviatilis.
Birds of Lough Neagh
Birds noticed on or near Lough Neagh: Sparrow hawk, kestrel; barn or white owl, long-eared owl, hood crow, rook, jackdaw, magpie, common starling, cuckoo; woodpecker, common creeper,kingfisher, swallow, martin, swift, thrush, fieldfare, blackbird, redbreast, water ousel, wren, red wagtail, grey wagtail, yellow wagtail, whinchat, meadow pipit, titlark, woodlark (mistaken by many for nightingale), great titmouse, blue titmouse, long-tailed titmouse, common bunting, yellow bunting, reed bunting, snow bunting, bullfinch, house sparrow, chaffinch, goldfinch, ring dove; partridge, quail, plover, pewit, coot, corncrake, sandpiper, jack snipe, common snipe, curlew, bittern, grebe, golden plover, teal, wild goose; gull, widgeon, golden eye, shag, woodcock, water hen, gannet, grey goose, duck.
The Frost of 1855
The following extract is from the Belfast Newsletter dated 21st February 1855 and appears with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
The Present Frost – The frost of 1855, though not yet so lengthened in duration, is likely to become no less memorable than that which was experienced forty-one years ago. From Crumlin Waterfoot to Ram’s Island, a distance of nearly two miles, Lough Neagh is one broad sheet of ice, and hundreds of people have crossed from the shore to the ancient isle of the O’Neill…..
It is generally believed that the frost of 1814 was equal in point of severity to any previously experienced in those realms. Tat year tents were erected on the Thames, and the fetes and parties of 1716 re-enacted with increased éclat – some enterprising tradesmen making a pretty good thing of it. In Ireland the winter was exceedingly severe; mail coaches could not run for several days ; the rivers were completely frozen and on the ice-bound waters of Lough Neagh the dogs had a capital run after a hare, which was started on the lands of Mr. Stafford Whittle, and taking the ice, dashed off towards Ram’s Island, followed by some hundreds of sporting pedestrians….
The following extract is from a book titled “Irish Melodies” by Thomas Moore published by Longman, Brown, Green, Lonmans and Roberts, London in 1858.
Let Erin Remember The Days of Old
Let Erin remember the days of old,
Ere her faithless sons betray’d her;
When Malachi wore the collar of gold, 1
Which he won from her proud invader;
When her kings, with standard of green unfurl’d,
Led the Red-Branch Knights to danger; – 2
Ere the emerald gem of the western world,
Was set in the crown of a stranger.
On Lough Neagh’s bank as the fisherman strays,
When the clear cold eve’s declining,
He sees the wound towers of other days
In the wave beneath him shining;
Thus shall memory often, in dreams sublime,
Catch a glimpse of the days that are over;
Thus, sighing, look through the waves of time
For the long-faded glories they cover. 3
The following extract is from the Belfast Newsletter dated 27th December 1860 and appears with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
Severe Winters – … In 1814 the temperature was, for several weeks consecutively, below zero, and Lough Neagh was frozen over from shore to shore. So thick was the ice, that Colonel Heyland, of Langford Lodge, rode from Crumlin Water-foot to Ram’s Island, a distance of nearly a mile and three-fourths. The same adventurous sportsman had previously made the entire circuit of Lough Neagh on horseback, in an almost incredibly short time, thereby winning a large wager… (1826) In the hollow between the Black Mountain and Devis (Divis) snow wreaths remained till the beginning of the following June.
Lough Neagh Fishing
The following is an extract from the Belfast Newsletter dated Thursday 16th May 1861 and is reproduced with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
Lough Neagh Fishing – The fishing in Lough Neagh at this season of the year has hitherto been more than ordinarily successful. The fish most plentiful is the fresh-water herring, or pollan, of which the boats on Tuesday night had a draft almost miraculous. These finny denizens of the lake do not attain their full size until about the end of June; nor, although then very plump and handsome in appearance, is their flavor much approved by epicures. The pollan was long supposed to be indigenous to Lough Neagh; but it has also been found in at least two other Irish Lakes (Loughs Mask and Oughter) as well as in the meres of Cumberland, where it is known by the name of char.
Fishermen of Lough Neagh
The following is an extract from the Belfast Newsletter dated 30th March 1878 and is used with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
Lough Neagh Fishery Case.
A meeting of the Fishermen of Lough Neagh will be held on Monday next, on Ram’s Island at one o’clock, for the purpose of hearing a statement on the decision of the House of Lords in favour of the free fishery of Lough Neagh.
Joseph E. Fitzgerald, secretary of the Fisherman’s League. Derrachrin House, Glenavy, 28th March, 1878.
Skating on Lough Neagh
The following extract is from the Belfast Newsletter dated 1st February 1879 and appears with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
Skating on Lough Neagh – The skating public will be glad to know that the Great Northern Railway company has agreed to run a special train to Glenavy for Lough Neagh today (Saturday), leaving the terminus in Belfast at twelve o’clock noon, calling at Dunmurry and Lisburn stations, and returning from Glenavy at 6.15pm. The ice is in perfect order, and bears so well that many persons have visited Ram’s Island during the past few days.
Boating Accident on Lough Neagh
The following is an extract from the Belfast Newsletter dated 27th May 1879 and is used with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
Melancholy Boating Accident on Lough Neagh.
An accident of a most melancholy character occurred on Lough neagh on Sunday. It appears that three young men named Thomas McGarrell, Patrick Crossey and Thomas Henry nelson, belonging to Feumore, near Ballinderry, went out in an open boat about one o’clock for the purpose of pleasuring. The day was squally, heavy showers of rain and hail falling at intervals. When the boat reached Ram’s Island and was about to return, owing to the amount of canvas she was carrying, and to her being caught in a squall, she suddenly capsized, throwing the occupants into the water. The accident was observed from the shore, but in consequence of the strong wind and the heavy sea a boat which put off to the rescue was unable to reach them. In the meantime, the boat righted, and in the act brought with her one of the parties named Nelson, who was saved. The other two, who failed to regain the boat, and being unable to swim, immediately sank, and were drowned before assistance reached them. When the news of the sad event spread around the shore, a number of boats were procured and a search for the bodies initiated. During the evening the body of McGarrell was discovered, and that of Crossey at six o’clock yesterday morning, both being conveyed to their respective homes to await an inquest. Much sympathy has been expressed for the families of the deceased, who subsist chiefly by fishing, and are well known in the locality. The two young men who have thus met an untimely end were about 21 years of age, were unmarried, and were skilled seamen, having been brought up to that line of life from their boyhood. Lough Neagh, although it gives employment to large numbers of fishermen, and is daily covered with boats, has, unfortunately, but few accidents, which probably may be attributed to the superior skill exercised by these men in the management of their little crafts, and that upon waters which are easily irritated, and at times are most dangerous. It may be mentioned that the young man Nelson, who had so narrow an escape, was one of the defendants in the fishery cases tried at Crumlin petty sessions yesterday. An inquest was held on the bodies last evening by the county coroner, and a verdict in accordance with the facts returned.
Skating on Lough Neagh, 1881
The following extract is from the Belfast Newsletter dated 25th January 1881 and appears with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
Skating on Lough Neagh.
To the Editor of the Belfast Newsletter
Sir – We have just returned from a day’s skating on Lough Neagh, and we consider it a pity that the lovers of the art of skating do not know that Lough Neagh is frozen over as far as the human eye can see, and if a party of skaters were to leave Belfast by the 9.45 train they would find within a mile of Antrim Castle the finest sheet of ice in the British Isles, with no snow whatever upon it.
My friend, Captain ——, and I went three miles into the lough, and the ice was perfect, and we believe the lough to be frozen over.
Hoping to see a large party on the ice on Wednesday, we remain, faithfully yours, TOURISTS
Antrim, January 24.
Supposed Drowning at Lough Neagh
The following is an extract from The Belfast Newsletter dated 18th January 1886 and is used with permission of The Belfast Newsletter.
Supposed Drowning Fatality near Antrim.
Samuel McKeen, fisherman on Lough Neagh, left his house at Ballyginniff, at five o’clock on Thursday morning for the purpose of shooting wild fowl on and near the shore, stating he would be back again at seven. He took his gun and went off in a small flat-bottomed boat. The morning was rather squally. As he did not return, doubts were entertained for his safety, and a fruitless search was made. Yesterday the fishermen joined in a thorough search of the locality, and found opposite Lord Massereene’s deer-park the boat McKeen went out in, an oar, his topcoat and hat, so that there is little probability of his being found alive. He was about 35 years of age, and leaves a wife and three young children unprovided for.
Glenavy Past and Present
The following extract is from Charles Watson’s 1892 book titled “Glenavy Past and Present”.
This lake, the largest in Great Britain, washes for the space of six miles the united parishes. It is twenty English miles in length, and nearly fifteen miles in breadth, covering a space of 97,775 acres. Irish historians always tell the story that it burst out in the reign of Lugaidh Rhiaberg, and was called Lion-Mhuine. This name appears to have the same meaning as that by which it is now known, and both to have originated in a supposed healing quality possessed by the lake; for Lion signifies a lough, and Mhuine, an ulcer. Attempts were made to call it by other names, such as Lough Sydney and Lough Chichester; but the old, though less refined name, defeated every effort to supplant it. It used to be thought that the Lough had two marvellous properties : a power of healing diseases, and also of petrifying wood. Long ago at fairs the cry was common–
“Lough Neagh Hones, Lough Neagh Hones,
Put in sticks, and brought out stones.”
Neither of these powers can be claimed by the lough. Analysis of the water has shown it possesses no medicinal property; and the fact that petrifactions of a similar nature are found in the neighbourhood, far from the lake, shows that it cannot claim the other property. Lough Neagh has been frozen over several times, and on one occasion, in 1814, such was the intensity of the frost, that Colonel Heyland performed the hazardous expedition of riding his horse from Crumlin Water-foot to Ram’s Island; and the singular novelty was seen of a drag chase on the ice, round the island, with Mr. Stafford Whittle’s pack of harriers. Colonel Heyland also rode round Lough Neagh in the year 1804, for a wager ; a ride which he performed in less than five hours, the distance covered being 8o miles, 6½ furlongs. In May, 1604, Sir Arthur Chichester received a grant of the fisheries of Lough Neagh, and was appointed Admiral, with full power to dispose of all shipping thereon. From this we at once infer that the waters of the Lough were often the scene of naval encounters. In 838 A.D., the Danes had a fleet upon it, who were expelled by Donell O’Neill. In 1030 a naval fight took place between the men of Tyrone and of Antrim. In 1345 the lords of Tyrone and Clandeboye had a fierce encounter, the latter being victorious. In the rebellion of 1641, the rebels made it the scene of many battles, and to put them down, Sir John Clotworthy, first Lord Massereene, had a fleet at command capable of transporting 1,000 soldiers. At Femore, on the east, separated by a narrow isthmus, is Lough Beg, or Portmore, covering 625 acres. In 1740, Mr. Dobbs, agent to Lord Conway, tried to drain it into Lough Neagh. For this purpose he erected a wind-mill at the narrowest part of the isthmus, where the Tunny Bridge now stands. The wind mill, acting upon buckets, did indeed empty the lake, but the water by some inlet flowed back again. About this attempt, according to J. Moore Johnston’s Medley, 1803, the people sang
“Squire Dobbs was ingenious,
He framed a windmill,
To drain the crystal fountain,
where water runs still.”
This Lough Beg, or Portmore, is specially interesting, because on Sally Island in it, Bishop Jeremy Taylor composed some of his best works. A beautiful copy of Jeremy Taylor’s sermons, dated and printed 1673, is in the possession of S. Walkington, Esq , Oakland, Ballinderry. Jeremy Taylor’s Ductor Dubitantium was probably written here, for the preface is dated from his study in Portmore, in Killultagh, on the banks of Lough Beg. The one half of Portmore, containing Sally Island, is in the parish of Ballinderry, of which the Rev. Canon Sayers is Rector ; and Ballinderry contains the church, now a mortuary chapel, in which Jeremy Taylor preached.
Skating on Lough Neagh – Railway Tickets
The following extract is from the Belfast Newsletter dated 13th December 1892 and appears with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
Great Northern Railway (Ireland).
Skating on Lough Neagh
Until further notice, return tickets, 1st and 2nd class, will be issued from Belfast, Dunmurry, and Lisburn Stations from Belfast, Dunmurry, and Lisburn Stations to Glenavy, Crumlin and Antrim by the train leaving Belfast at 1230pm at single journey fares. The tickets will be available for return on date of issue only.
Manager’s Office, Belfast 12th Dec. 1882.
Belfast and Northern Counties Railway.
Skating on Lough Neagh
Until further notice 1st, 2nd and 3rd class Return tickets will be issued from Belfast to Antrim at Single fares by trains leaving York Road at 950am and 12 noon.
Edward J Cotton, General manager.
Belfast 12th December 1882.
Lough Neagh Drainage Tax
The following is from the Belfast Newsletter dated Saturday 19th May 1894 and appears with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
The business of these sessions was resumed yesterday morning, before Mr. W.H. Kisbey, Q.C., County Court Judge for Armagh and Louth. During the sitting a case processing more than ordinary importance was heard, in which some 120 processes were issued against that number of persons who had been tenants of Lord Lurgan, holding lands in the vicinity of Lough Neagh, on which valuation an assessment is fixed annually by the trustees of Lough Neagh Drainage. The tenants having refused to contribute the imposed tax alleging that, on the purchase of their holdings some time ago from Lord Lurgan, this responsibility was not placed before them, and, consequently, they denied liability. The following test case was heard:-
Trustees of Lough Neagh drainage v John Henderson
The defendant was sued for £1 8s 8d, his proportion of the drainage tax for the years 1893 and 1894, the rate being fixed out of his holding in Derryloiste at 14s 3d per year. Mr. W.H. Atkinson, solicitor, Portadown, appeared for the plaintiffs, and Mr. John F. Mulligan, Barrister-a-law (instructed by Mr. John C. O’Reilly, solicitor, appeared for the defendant. After a lengthened discussion, his Honour, reviewing the case, said the drainage works for the maintenance of which this charge was accessed, was absolutely essential to keep the lands in an efficient state, and it was for the interest of the present proprietors that they should be maintained. It was utterly impossible that any other than the present proprietor could be made liable for the charge. The lands were vested in him in perpetuity, and the charge must be made as long as Lough Neagh remained. He must give a decree for £1 18s 6d, and it would remain to be seen in a higher court whether or not his decision was right. The other cases would stand adjourned until the October sessions.
Skating on Lough Neagh, 1895
The following extract is from the Belfast Newsletter dated 11th February 1895 and appears with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
Skating on Lough Neagh
To the Editor of the Belfast Newsletter
Sir – Will you kindly let Belfast people know, through your paper, that there is good ice on Lough Neagh. Skaters crossed to the island today. It would be worth the Great Northern Railway company’s while to run a special to Glenavy. Yours truly, Chas F. Newell. The Cottage, Glenavy, February 9th.
The following extract is from the Belfast Newsletter dated 19th February 1895 and appears with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
Skating on Lough Neagh
It is now many years since lovers of skating have had such splendid opportunities as the present frost affords them for enjoying their healthy and exhilarating pastime. One can have some idea of the intensity of the frost when it is stated that Lough Neagh, the largest inland lake in the kingdom, and one one of the largest in Europe, is covered for many miles with ice in prime condition, either for long spins or for figure and fancy skating. During the past week the shores at Glenavy, Antrim, and Toome have presented a lively spectacle, which reached a climax on Saturday, when the special skaters’ trains run from Belfast by the Northern Counties Railway and the Great Northern railway brought numerous visitors to the scene. Thousands enjoyed the exhilarating exercise on the County Antrim side of the lake on Saturday, and not only this but games of various descriptions were participated in. Several exciting hockey contests were witnessed as well as feats of strength in the skating line. From the Glenavy side many visited Ram’s Island and the provision made here for supplying the cup that cheers was appreciated to the fullest strength, and the invigorating beverage supplied that spirit which was necessary to face the strong breeze that blew from the shore, and made progress homewards hardly so expeditious as on the way out. The ice on the lough was very little affected by the slight thaw on Sunday, while its appearance yesterday, when great numbers of skaters were merrily spinning across it, indicated that it would likely continue in good condition for some time yet, unless a sudden and extensive rise in temperature should occur. Besides issues cheap tickets by ordinary trains, the Northern County Railway Company have, with commendable enterprise, illuminated the lough with a number of Wells’ patent lights, so that skaters were able to continue on the ice for several hours after dark had set in. Tonight there will be added a new feature to the enjoyment in the shape of a torchlight procession. So long as the frost lasts we understand this company intends to issue tickets at reduced fares to Antrim and Toome, and to illuminate Antrim Bay. Skaters will be able to get cheap tickets to Toome by the 10.15am, and to Antrim by the 8.15am, 1015am, and 3pm trains. The last train from Toome to Belfast leaves at 5.10pm and from Antrim at 812pm. Arrangements also have been made by the Great Northern Railway for the convenience of those who wish to enjoy the pleasure, and a pleasure which may be descrbed as phenomenal in its character, as it is but rarely one in this fickle climate enjoys such a long period of frost. Excursion tickets are issued every day by the 9.0 and 12.30 trains to Glenavy, Crumlin and Antrim, and we have no doubt many will avail themselves of the privilege if the frost continues. During the pas week Lough Neagh has presented a spectacle rarely witnessed in these climes. With very little stretch of imagination one could fancy himself enjoying all the pleasures of a Canadian winter, and the carnivals of which this vast sheet of water in the clutches of King Frost have been the scene will long be remembered by those who had the opportunity of participating in them.
The following extract is from the Belfast Newsletter dated Wednesday 20th February 1895 and appears with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
Crossing the ice to Ram’s Island with a horse and Sleigh. Those who were skating on Lough Neagh on the 18th inst had the pleasure of witnessing Mr.Robert Mulholland, merchant, of Crumlin, crossing the lough to Ram’s Island with his grey horse and sleigh. This, as everyone is aware, is a very rare occurrence, and afforded the numerous skaters and spectators considerable amusement, while some expressed their doubt of Mr. Mulholland successfully accomplishing his purpose. But as the ice is about eight inches thick, there was little to be feared, but the gentleman returned in safety.
A Day on Lough Neagh
The following is an extract from the Belfast Newsletter dated 25th June 1895 and is used with permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
To the Editor of the Belfast News-Letter
Sir – A few days ago I had a trip in the May Queen on Lough Neagh, and scarcely, if ever, did I enjoy a day so much. A capital seaboat, a delightful day, a magnificent reach of water, a pretty coast line, and a courteous captain all united in making the day a most enjoyable one. It is a matter of great surprise to me, considering the proximity of the lough to Belfast and the facilities given by the railway to get to and from it, that these trips are not more availed of by the Belfast people. I am familiar with the English and Swiss lakes, but none of them compare with Lough Neagh, and I felt if it were as near an English town of half the size of Belfast one steam yacht would not meet the demands of the tourist traffic, and I feel confident many people in Belfast would enjoy these pleasant trips, say from Antrim to Lurgan, or the reverse, did they but know that the railway company gives a circular ticket, which includes this sail, or that they can join the May Queen at Kinnigo, near Lurgan, for a cruise to Toome, Charlemont, Ram’s Island, or other places of interest on the lough, which can easily and cheaply accomplished. Therefore, I take the liberty of bringing the fact under the notice of your readers, and remain yours very truly,
R.S. O’Loughlin, D.D., Rectory, Lurgan, June 24th.
Fishers at Work
The following is an extract from “Glenavy The Church of the Dwarf 1868 – 1968” by Rev. Patrick J. Kavanagh
The four centuries following St. Patrick’s mission had been times of comparative peace and prosperity. About 800 this golden age came to an end when first Norwegian and then Danish raiders appeared off the Irish coasts. They came, eel-like, up the rivers and their attack was directed chiefly against the monasteries where they were attracted by the treasures and sacred vessels. The king of Dal Araidhe defeated them in 827 but they kept on coming. The monasteries of Muckamore and Antrim were destroyed and Turgesius, their sovereign, maintained a fleet on Lough Neagh.
Their power was finally broken by the great king Brian Boru whom we have already met and who became high-king of Ireland early in the eleventh century. His great victory, at Clontarf ended the raids and devastation while the cities of Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, etc., survived as their constructive work in what had been a pastoral and agricultural island. A period of reconstruction followed but two centuries of rapine and disorder had a lasting effect on the people and the golden age became a memory.
The following is an extract from this book. It is titled “Lough Neagh”.
This great expanse of water, which may well be styled an inland, is situated in the province of Ulster, and is the largest fresh-water lake in Europe, with the exception of Ladoga and Oneda in Russia, Wenner in Sweden, and the Lake of Geneva in Switzerland. It was anciently called Lough Eagh, that is, “the wonderful lake,” and about the beginning of the sixteenth century it was generally styled Lough Sidney. Its surface varies very considerably in extent, according to the season of the year, the waters overflowing considerable tracts of low ground in winter, which are perfectly dry in summer. The actual site of the basin of this great lake has varied in the course of centuries, the waters appearing to have inundated one region, while they have retreated from another; of this a sufficient proof is afforded by the discovery of a boat twenty-three feet and a half long, and six feet broad, under four feet of bog, and lying beside a quay or pier, near which a canal was also distinctly traced. The boat was hollowed out of a solid trunk of oak, which must have been upwards of seven feet in diameter. This curiosity was discovered at the foot of Knockloughrain, about four miles west of Lough Beg.
The waters of Lough Neagh abound in fish, principally salmon and eel. The pollan, or fresh-water herring, called in England the shad, is also taken in great quantities; it is scaled and shaped like a herring, but the back is of a lighter blue, and the head smaller and more pointed. There are, besides, pike, trout, roach, and bream in great abundance, and the alpine trout, or char, which was supposed peculiarly to inhabit the English lakes, frequents this great lake also. The petrifying quality attributed to the water of this lake, has continued to puzzle our most sagacious naturalists from the time of Nennius, who wrote of it in the ninth century, to the present day. Tradition states that pieces of holly have been completely transmuted into stone in the space of seven years, while the experiments of the philosopher prove that a lapse of twenty-years was insufficient to cause the slightest tendency to petrifaction in pieces of the same timber similarly disposed. The states of the argument at present is that such a property actually exists in the vicinity of Lough Neagh, but where the virtue resides, whether in the soil, the water, or the exhalations which arise from the lake, is still a matter of controversy. Of the fact of petrified wood being found in large quantities, however, in the vicinity of the lake, there is no doubt. Specimens of large size may be seen, chiefly upon its northern shores, and some are preserved that weigh several hundred weight.
The strand abounds in very beautiful pebbles, called Lough Neagh pebbles, chiefly chalcedony, cornelian, and opal; they are susceptible of a fine polish, and are highly valued for seals and necklaces.
In consequence of the flatness of its shores, and the fewness of its islands, the scenery of Lough Neagh had not that picturesque character for which most of the lakes of Ireland are so celebrated; but from the vast extent of its unbroken surface it possesses a grandeur particularly its own. It contains but three small islands, the largest, Ram’s Island, being not more than six acres in extent, and distant about two miles from the nearest point of land. “Bonny Ram’s Island,” as it is called, is covered with wood, from the midst of which rises the lofty ruin of an ancient round tower, about forty feet in height. Along the northern shore of the lake stretches the beautiful of Shane’s Castle, the ancient residence of the O’Neill’s.
As in the case of other Irish lakes, a fabulous origin is ascribed to Lough Neagh. The legend is related in the following passage from Caxton’s History of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, printed at Westminister, by Wynkene de Worde, in the year 1497:- “There is a lake in Ulster, and much fish therein, which is thirty miles in length, and fifteen in breadth. The River Bann runneth out of the lake into the North Ocean, and men say that this lake began in this manner – there was a well in the land in great reverence of old time, and always covered, and if it were left uncovered the well would rise and drown all the land, and so it happened that a woman went to the well for to fetch water, and hied her fast to her child that wept in the cradle, and left the well uncovered – then the well sprung so fast it drowned the woman and her child, and made all the country a lake and a fish-pond. For to prove this, it is a great argument that when the weather is clear, fishers of that water see in the ground under the water round towers, and high steeples and churches.” Moore alludes to this ancient legend in the following lines from the Irish melodies:-
“On Lough Neagh’s bank as the fisherman strays, When the clear cold eve’s declining, He sees the wound towers of other days In the wave beneath him shining.”
The following is an extract from the Belfast Newsletter dated 15th September 1902. It appears here with the permission of the Belfast Newsletter.
Lough Neagh Club.
Lough Neagh one-design class yachts sailed a ladies’ race at Antrim on Saturday last, in squally weather. Much local interest was excited by the event, and all who witnessed the race admired greatly the pluck shown by the ladies in venturing out and sailing so good a race on the roughest day these yachts have sailed this season. Four yachts started at 2.30 o’clock, in a strong breeze from the west and a fairly heavy sea, both wind and sea increasing during the race, the wind backing to almost south-west. Kingfisher crossed the line almost at gunfire, and rounded the first mark well ahead, but was cut out by Sealark during the beat to the second mark. Sealark, rounding with a good lead, got well away, and won a race that must have been exciting for the ladies who had the difficult task of steering in the strong wind and rough water. Kingfisher was second, Curlew being a good third. The prizes were presented by the crew of Windhover. The starters were – Sealark (Viscount Massereene and Ferrard), steered by Miss Alice Henry; Kingfisher (Lord O’Neill), steered by the Honourable Miss O’Neill; Curlew (Major Arthur Pakenham), steered by Mrs. Arthur Pakenham; Yellow Wagtail (Mr. Bartion), steered by Miss Weir. Details:-
Start at 2.30 – Once round course, eight miles.
Sealark 1st 3h 33m 30s
Kingfisher 2nd 3h 35m 0s
Curlew 3rd 3h 35m 45 s
Yellow Wagtail –
Lough Neagh Picnic
The following extract is from the Lisburn Herald 20th August 1910
Picnic to Lough Neagh
On Saturday last a very successful picnic was held from Brookmount to Lough Neagh. Starting from the station at 2 o’clock in well-appointed vehicles, supplied by Messrs Melville & Co., and accompanied by Scottish pipers in costume, the young men and their lady friends thoroughly enjoyed the drive through the country, now looking its best. Lough Neagh being reached in good time, the party sat down on the green sward to a very substantial repast, kindly arranged for and provided by the ladies. Needless to say ample justice was done to the variety of good things. After a stroll along the shore, a few games were indulged in, and then a sail on the silvery waters, which were in their calmest mood, was an item of interest and pleasure to all. Having again returned to terra- firma, a very enjoyable musical programme was contributed by a few of the gentlemen, at the conclusion of which a hearty vote of thanks to the ladies was ably proposed by Mr. Duncan and seconded by Mr. Campbell. Miss McClelland, in acknowledging the compliment on behalf of the ladies, suitably replied, and said that any little they had done towards the success of the outing was a real pleasure, and they hoped that in the near future their services would again be called upon in a like manner. Games were again resumed for a short time, and then the homeward journey was commenced, Brookmount being reached at 10 o’clock. Before separating the entire party joined in the singing of Auld Lang Syne. A special mead of praise is due to Messrs. S. Larmor, T. Flynn, J.Watson and J. Blythe, who were untiring in their efforts to please everyone.
Lough Neagh’s Banks at Cranfield Point, Toomebridge
Ice Skating on Lough Neagh
The following is an extract from the Ulster Star on 9th February 1963 and is used with permission of the paper.
The recent severe frost recalls memories amongst the older generation of the town as to the year of the great frost, when Lough Neagh was frozen over. This occurred in February 1895 – exactly 68 years ago – and for several weeks there was continual frost with the ice surface on the Lough being as smooth as glass.
Skating took place on a grand scale, with special trains bringing contingents of skaters, while the whole surrounding district assembled to swell the multitude. So great was the attendance at Antrim that two tents were erected for the sale of refreshments. As an adventure, a horse and sleigh were driven from the shore at Sandy Bay to Ram’s Island in twenty minutes. When darkness set in, lamps were provided by the Railway Company for the benefit of the skaters.
Naturalist’ Field Club Visits Old Graveyard
The following is an extract from the Ulster Star on 18th May 1963 and is used with permission of the paper.
Old Graveyard has visitors.
Places of general interest between Lisburn and Lough Neagh were visited by the Archaeological Section of the Belfast Naturalist’ Field Club on Saturday.
At Blaris old graveyard they inspected the tombstone of Sir Robert Hart, a native of Portadown who became Inspector General of the Chinese Customs and Excise in the latter part of the last century. Mr. Adams, who led the party, had with him a recording of a Chinese resident in Belfast reading the Chinese inscription on the tombstone.
Later the party visted Magheragall old church, Derrymore Basket Factory and Tunny Cut where the “Ballad of Tunny Cut” was recalled. Brief visits were paid to Crew Hill and Ballinderry middle Church.
During the next week the Club will visit the Giant’s Ring, meet at the American War Memorial, Belfast, for a study of the building stones of Belfast, and will probe into Hillsborough’s past.
Tragedy – Lough Neagh
The following is an extract from The Ulster Star dated 27th September 1974 and appears with permission of The Ulster Star.
That Lough Neagh Tragedy.
Brave Jim died trying to save his friend by Michael Beattie
While three of his closest friends looked on 20 year old Jim Thompson from Victory Street, Lisburn, lost his life in a vain attempt to save another friend from drowning. The double tragedy happened on Lough Neagh last Thursday morning, when the dinghy the men were using developed engine failure and finally sank. They had set off duck shooting at 6.30 a.m. and had been at a hide near Ram Island , roughly a mile from the Sandy Bay shore. The weather turned bad so they decided to head for home, but when they had pushed off they couldn’t get the engine started. Listing water over the stern it wasn’t long before the boat sank, about 150 yards away from the hide in water about 10 feet deep.
Non-swimmer, John McVeigh, a 19 year old man from the Roseville area, was wearing a life jacket, as was 21 year old Joseph Quigley, also a non-swimmer. In a few minutes all but Quigley had managed to get into shallower water and comparative safety. Then Jim Thompson took off his waders and donned the life jacket McVeigh had been wearing. He swam out to rescue Quigley and together the pair tried to reach a nearby buoy. But they couldn’t make it and the tide carried them towards the shore and out of sight of the others. the drama was related this week by one of the two survivers – McVeigh and Alan Coates of Hillhall estate. The other survivor was Richard Orr, a neighbour of Mr. Coates. Both he and Mr. Coates are married.
“We saw them drifting towards the shore and thought they would be alright. All this time we were trying to attract the attention of sand barges and some small boats passing, but it was some time before we managed it.”
“A sand barge tried to reach us but the water was too shallow. Eventually word has got to fishermen at Sandy bay. They reached us at 1.45, and the three of us were taken across to the shore.”
“Then we learnt that a rescue launch which had some out had found the bodies of Jim and Joe, and they were lifted by helicopter out of the water. We had to go to the Massareene Hospital later to identify the bodies.”
Mr. Thompson lived with his parents and two sisters at Victory Street. Mr. Quigley – who had two brothers and a sister – also lived with his parents.
Mr. Coates explained that the shooting trip was a weekly event, and that they always went out together. “It was a terrible tragedy,” he said.
The following is an extract from the Ulster Star dated 11 July 1975 and appears with permission of the Ulster Star.
Brothers drown in Lough Tragedy.
An appeal to the public to be extremely careful in their choice of bathing areas comes this week after two young brothers were drowned in Lady Bay in the Aghalee – Ballinderry area on Monday afternoon.
The boys were Christopher (11) and Brendan (8) sons of Mr. John Devereux, 49 Chapel Road, Glenavy.
A neighbour accompanied by his two young children had called to take Christopher and Brendan out for the afternoon and they went to Lady Bay a popular spot for local people.
The children were enjoying themselves in the water and suddenly one of them and suddenly one of them disappeared and then the other.
The alarm was raised and local fishermen and farmers, army divers and police went to the area.
The brothers’ bodies were recovered by local fishermen about 30 yards from the shore several hours afterwards and taken to Craigavon Hospital for post-mortem examinations. An inquest will be held.
Police have paid tribute to the work of the local fishermen and farmers in recovering the bodies and thank everyone who helped at the scene of the double tragedy.
They also appeal to everyone going bathing over the next few weeks to be extremely careful where they bathe and ask parents to keep a close watch on their children.
“John and Jack Frost”, ice and skates
The city of Lisburn has an added attraction this festive season and invites the public to the first ever outdoor ice skating rink as part of the 400th anniversary celebrations. Many families are trying out the temporary rink situated in the Castle Gardens area of the city.
Two of the Belfast Junior Giants Ice Hockey members who have family links to Lisburn, prior to their mascot duties for the LBM Belfast Giants game held at the Odyssey in mid November. They are looking forward to some extra ice time on Lisburn’s outdoor ice rink over the Christmas period
There are some younger residents of the city who are particularly interested in this new venture. They are involved with a relatively new sport in our country – ice hockey. They are members of the Junior Belfast Giant’s Ice Hockey Team who hold regular practice sessions in Dundonald Ice bowl. Many of the Junior Giant’s members also have regular cross border training sessions and matches with the Junior Dundalk Bulls. The North-South Ice Hockey Partnership and the Cross-Border Ice Hockey Initiative 2009/2010 are the projects behind this collaboration. They in turn are supported by the European Union’s PEACE III Programme as awarded by County Louth Peace and Reconciliation Partnership. Extra ice time at Lisburn’s skating rink will assist in honing the skills of these enthusiastic young local players. Presently there are four members of the Junior Belfast Giants residing in the Lisburn area and other members with family connections in the city. An eleven year old member of the team recently discovered that his great grandfather had once been a champion ice skater at the King’s Hall, Balmoral in the late 1930’s.