The Montiaghs in 1830

1996/97 - 1997

The Montiaghs in 1830

by Kieran Clendinning

Montiaghs map
Old map of the Montiaghs with apologies for poor quality

The principal occupation in the Montiaghs at the time the Ordnance Survey Memoirs were compiled in 1830s was the cutting of turf from the extensive bog land. Average depth of the bog was 20 feet and the amount of fuel there available for removal was estimated at 86 million cubic yards.

The people of the area supplied fuel to the surrounding parishes both in County Down and Armagh and "vast number of barge loads were sent by the River Bann to Portadown." From there it was dispatched by way of the Newry Canal to Madden Bridge, Scarvagh and Poyntzpass, and subsequently distributed to Gilford, Banbridge, Loughbrickland and the parishes of Aghaderg, Seapatrick and Tullylish. Magheralin and Moira also draw their fuel from this area and limestone from these parts of County Down, used as fertiliser, was given in exchange

The surveyor added: "The timber found embedded in these (Montiaghs) bogs is principally oak with roots in their natural position. There are also fir trees in the eastern end of the parish. The greater part of the hog has yet been untouched and is covered with heath. "


Flooding of the River Bann was a common occurrence and its normal width of between 200-250 feet swelled into the meadows and lowlands on each side. The depth of the River Bann was estimated at about 30 feet and there were no fords. Of the three river ferries at that time, the Bannfoot ferry was the most important. Situated at the mouth of the river, it was the main line of communication with the parish of Tartaraghan and could accommodate horses and carts. The cost of the crossing was three halfpence, and for a horse and cart, four pence. A road from Lough Gullion and nearly south of the river communicated with the Parish of Drumcree by means of Robb's Ferry while a little more than a mile lower down was Rushe's Ferry. This ferry was not connected with the road and was used only for foot passengers.

The surveyors found few springs in the area and noted that its inhabitants had "to sink from 20 to 30 feet before meeting with water.” Mention is also made of the embankment erected along the river at Derrytrasna to prevent flooding, and of it being breached by a storm in 1833.

The Memoirs inform us that in the 1800's there was scarcely a tree to he found in the area to "vary the appearance of this immense bog trait. There were a few trees around the Glebe House at Ardmore, and some young fir trees round Mr. Fforde's of Raughlin. St. Mary's Church had not been built when the surveyor passed through: "the inhabitants, the majority of whom are Catholic, resort to Derrymacash Chapel.”

The only resident gentlemen in the parish was Mr. Fford whose house was situated on a point on the Lough between Derryadd and Raughlin Bays. On his property was the only mill in the parish and the only manufacture was linen carried on in the houses of the individuals. "The people almost universally occupy thatched mud cottages where few of them carry on weaving."

Corn was sold in the market in Portadown and linen in Lurgan.

Tenants or Charles Brownlow had farms from 5-20 acres and the average rents were from 24 to 28 shillings per acre, bog for pasture was 10 shillings, and bog for cutting 30 shillings per year.