Exhibition in Tartaraghan

Vol. 2 No. 2 - 1973

Exhibition in Tartaraghan

by W.E.C. Fleming

Today many people find themselves with more and more leisure time as the number of working hours in the week is gradually reduced. Consequently, an opportunity is afforded for the pursuit of new interests and hobbies. It would therefore appear to be an opportune time to lay greater emphasis on the study of local history, and as a result to be able to piece together the intriguing picture of everyday life as it was in one's own locality in the days of our ancestors. Moreover, we are aware that there is a growing appreciation of almost anything that can be classified as antique.

It was for these reasons that we decided to hold a small Exhibition of Items of Local Interest in Tartaraghan Parish Hall early last September; it ran for two evenings and we were greatly encouraged by the amount of interest the exhibition stirred up, particularly at the local level.

The Tartaraghan area is rich in this kind of material chiefly because of the length of time many of the farming families have been resident in the locality. Things which were no longer of any use were allowed to accumulate, and remained little thought of, until it was appreciated by their owner that they are now rather rare and perhaps of value, or of interest in depicting a way of life now extinct. In these circumstances I have invariably found the people concerned most co-operative in loaning items for display.

It is obvious that a great deal of time would be required to make a thorough assessment of the historical riches of the area and this I was not in a position to give to the task; but I am convinced that there is still a considerable quantity of interesting material which could find a place in a more comprehensive exhibition at some time in the future. We hope that as a result of having visited the Tartaraghan Exhibition, people will have been helped in some small way towards a greater appreciation of this aspect of our common heritage, and that other people in other areas may be stimulated to embark on something of a similar nature. Our Exhibition comprised about 200 items and it was found convenient to group them into the following categories:


Many of these relate to the nearby Crowhill estate which was sold out about twenty years ago. On display we had a number of Leases, the earliest of which were drawn up between Thomas Hoope and various tenants towards the close of the 18th century. Also there were a number of Decrees for Non-payment of Rent, various accounts, receipts and wills including that of Thomas Hoope dated 1st February 1791. These documents are of interest as many of the names found in them still exist in the same townlands today. Some old school roll books of the mid-19th century also proved to be of interest to local people.

Estate Maps

The maps exhibited were mostly of portions of the Crowhill estate, and were, with a few exceptions, drawn in the early 19th century. In some instances they were accompanied by a contemporary list of the tenants' names and the acreage of each holding. Parts of the following townlands were covered: Broughas, Clonacle, Clonmacash, Derrylileagh, Dressigey, Drumannon, Drumanphy, Monie, Teaguy, and Summerisland. Other maps prepared about 1850 showed the proposed route of the Portadown and Dungannon Railway through the Crowhill lands.

Parish Records

On display were extracts from the oldest surviving Parish Records dated 1824 and the earliest Vestry Minute Book commenced on 7th April 1828. The Burial Register is of interest in that it contains records of burials in two other old graveyards, Maghery, and the "Tobyhole" in the townland of Eglish. The Deeds relative to two of the old Parish Schools were included, Teaguy School (1826) and Tartaraghan (1827). The old Communion Silver (Chalice and Paten) was also displayed and is inscribed "The gift of Rt. Hon. William Ld. Viscount Charlemont to the parish of Tartaraghan, his Lp. being Patron himself, and at the request of his Lp's third son, the Rev. Hon. C. Caulfeild, Rector of the same, presented on Easter Day, April 20, 1712".

The Linen Industry

This home industry was carried on in the vast majority of the houses, and because it provided a very welcome source of income in addition to farming, the rural population was particularly dense in this area in the 19th century. One has only to look down the column headed "Quality, Trade or Profession" in the Baptismal Register as late as the year 1885 to find "Weaver" or "Lapper" in eighteen out of thirty-eight entries for that year. Indeed some of the oldest people in the area remember this industry in full swing in some of the homes. We were therefore pleased to be able to exhibit practically all these items which were so much a part of that old way of life, they included candle-holders, weavers' shears, a low Irish spinning-wheel, thread-counter, a linen stamp inscribed "Jas. Sullivan T.taraghan, Armagh", and one of the very few cambric hand-looms now remaining in this area, complete with shuttles, heddles etc.


In the Exhibition we endeavoured to bring home to people the magnitude of the revolution which has taken place in methods of farming since the early part of the [20th] century.

The selection of implements used manually included the following: an old spade of the one-eared type (the ear being simply a large wooden wedge); a root extractor originally from the Birches area and used in the peat bog for extracting and breaking up root fibres; a drag for cleaning out drains; a thistle puller used on wooden shafts, a rather curious implement thought to have been designed for cutting the runners off strawberry plants, and an old graip. Some of these things had obviously been hand-made, probably by one of the numerous blacksmiths in the district.

There were memories of the days when the horse was still of importance on the farm, in the form of a large bit for a Clydesdale and a horse-whip with a loaded butt. An illegal occupation was also recalled in the form of a poacher's gaff with five prongs and used locally for catching eels.

Household Articles

This category covered a wide range of things that bore witness to the old way of life in the rural homes and we were fortunate in being able to borrow articles from a few houses where they had been allowed to accumulate for two centuries or more. I simply refer to a few of them here: a 17th century wooden cradle; a wicker wheel-shield for a dog-cart; a brash churn, butter dish and ladle with a selection of butter prints; a 17th century oak chair; an old Aeolian harp ; cruse and teapot lamps ; a candle-making mould; goffering irons and a variety of old smoothing irons.

Barrel Organ

In some of the sparsely populated areas of the country it is now common practice to have the singing in churches led by some kind of recorded music, usually in the form of a record player; but there is nothing really new in this approach to church music, for as long ago as 1849 recorded music was in vogue in Tartaraghan Parish Church, being provided by a sacred barrel organ placed on the gallery. The use of barrel organs goes back much farther than 1849, and to find their origin we have got to appreciate the situation as it was in the years after the Reformation when singing in churches was almost entirely confined to the rendering of the Psalms in metrical form. In fact from the middle of the 16th century for close on 300 years, this was the only kind of music in our Parish Churches, and we associate with these metrical versions of the Psalms the names of Sternhold and Hopkins, while more than a century later came the more popular renderings of Tate and Brady (1696).

During this period the singing in country churches was usually accompanied by a musical instrument such as a clarinet, brought along by some musical member of the congregation.

In some places there gradually evolved a small band which functioned on the gallery, if there was one. In other places the singing was unaccompanied, the opening note being given by means of a "pitch-pipe", this was a tiny wooden organ pipe whose note could be varied by the pulling out or pushing in of a stopper (several of these old pitch-pipes still exist in the county Armagh).

It would appear that in course of time the gallery players became a little too independent as regards their part in the services; as a result of this rift between the singers and the clergy, the choir was brought down to the chancel, the players were made redundant, and a harmonium or organ was installed.

But in many country places such as Tartaraghan, there was no one available to play such an instrument, hence the demand for recorded organ music which came in the form of the sacred barrel organ. A century ago these instruments were quite common throughout this country, but today they are practically non-existent, so it is not surprising that this one should have attracted a considerable amount of interest at the exhibition. One must hasten to add that this organ has its limitations. It does not have a chromatic compass, and so tunes would have to be transposed into a suitable key before being "pinned" on the barrel.

The Tartaraghan instrument has two barrels each with ten tunes, and variety can be introduced into the playing by selective use of the five stops (fifteenth, principal, stopped diapason, open diapason and bourdon). It is of interest to note that of the original Tartaraghan "top twenty" about half of the tunes are still in use today, these include the "Old Hundredth", "Irish" and "Sicilian Mariners".

The history of the organ is perhaps worthy of mention. It was presented to the parish in 1849 by the Rector, the Rev. Hon. F. N. Clements (brother of the 3rd Earl of Leitrim) who was then leaving Tartaraghan to take up an appointment in the Diocese of Durham; he purchased it from the builder, T. C. Bates, 6 Ludgate Hill, London. It remained in use on the gallery until about the year 1880 when a harmonium was procured for the church. The barrel organ became neglected and was ultimately dumped in an old stable close to the church, where it disintegrated to a great extent and was occupied by rats. About three years ago the remaining pieces were collected and the instrument carefully rebuilt and restored to its original form. Metal pipes which had been severely damaged were sent to England and repaired by the firm of Bishop & Son, Ipswich. The organ has good tone quality and turned out to be the chief attraction in our exhibition.

Finally, I should like to thank the Deputy Keeper of Records, P.R.O. Belfast, for copies of relevant sheets of the Tithe Applotment Books (1824-1840), and the Curator of Armagh Museum for copies of papers relative to the Crowhill Yeomanry, and for his help and encouragement in this venture.