The townland of Derryhale has an area of approximately 830 acres and is about two miles in length and just over one mile across at its widest point. It belongs to the ancient parish of Kilmore, in the Barony of O'Neilland West.
It is the largest of the townlands within the parish. It is bordered by Drumnasoo and Ballinteggart to the north; Artabracka and Lisavague to the east; Laurelvale and Ballybreagh to the south and south west and Mulladry to the west.
The landscape is in the form of a shallow valley, bordered through part of its length by the low hills of Artabracka and Lisavague on the east and the low hills or cliff of Derryhale to the west. On this hill, known locally as Rountree's Hill, was the site of Sacheverell's Bawn destroyed in or around 1641 during the Rebellion. (see below), The Derryhale Bog, or marsh, lies in the town-lands of Derryhale and Lisavague. The approximate size of the wetland area is 60 acres. The bog lies to the east of the Derryhale road and is crossed by a small river, the Glenoran which acts as a natural boundary between the townlands. The bog, from which turf was cut for winter fuel, is still the property of over twenty individual land owners, each having a small area with access by cart tracks.
The bog is now largely overgrown and is subject to major flooding due to blockage of natural waterways. Mr. Stanley Alexander, now in his eighties, remembers the Moss, as it is called locally, being a low lying meadow which was cut in mid summer for meadow hay. The local fox population has increased at the expense of other wildlife including the Irish hare, which used to be common a few decades ago. It is reported that, when the bog was used for cutting turf stumps of Oak and Fir were frequently found, supporting the view that the area was densely wooded in the past,
A Bronze Age hoard, consisting of a number of bronze artefacts including sunflower pins1, was reported to have been found in a bog in Derryhale in or about 1830. It is probable that the find was within this wetland area. The artefacts are currently housed in the Natural History Museum in Dublin.
Although some of the artefacts have been identified as Bronze Age, the antiquity of others is less sure and has been linked with the Early Christian period.
Local folklore asserts that two local feuding families in Derryhale, fearful of being robbed, buried gold coins and other valuables in an unknown location in the bog. Knowledge of the exact location has however died with the families concerned.
In the 1841 census it has been recorded that Derryhale had a total population of 628 inhabitants, adults and children, who lived in 105 dwellings. Some few years later the ravages of the Irish Potato Famine, especially between the years of 1845 and 1847, had reduced the population by death and emigration.
In 1851 the number of inhabitants had fallen to 367; twenty years later this figure had been reduced still further to just over 300.
Current spelling of the name has been a transition in several stages, from the Gaelic Doire h aill commencing with the earliest form Derrichele in 1610, when it was granted by James 1 during the plantation period to Francis Sacheverell. In the mid 17th Century the spelling was Derryhiell and in 1660 documents relating to taxation used the spelling Derryhill; the penultimate version was Derryhaile. Derry is an oak wood or cluster of oak trees and Doire h aill can be translated as (Oak) wood on the cliff or hill. Derryhale still has isolated small groups of oak trees bordering roads and fields but not of significant density of planting. The more wooded landscape remembered by some of the oldest inhabitants has long since disappeared due to natural wastage or the activities of man. There is a small housing development adjoining the Armagh to Portadown road which has been named the Oaks and indeed is adjacent to probably the most densely wooded area in Derryhale.
During the Irish Plantation, in 1610 James 1 granted lands which included Derryhale and Mulladry to Francis Sacheverell. He fulfilled his obligation to the monarch by building a bawn at a site on the steep wooded hill that later became known as Rountree's Hill. Sacheverell died shortly before the Civil War broke out. He was the father of six children; four sons and two daughters. His eldest son, also called Francis, inherited much of the property and was living in Mulladry Castle.
When war commenced, the young Francis together with his wife and only daughter Anne were held prisoners in the castle. Some months later the castle was burned by the local Irish. The family escaped and fled to Monaghan where apparently they were recaptured. Later they were freed when the rebellion was put down. Francis Sacheverell died soon after in 1649. Anne Sacheverell, his only child, married into another Plantation family about five years after the death of her father. Her husband, Major Edward Richardson, built a large house in Leggacorry; later to become Richhill.
The building of this house or castle, as it was later to be described, was apparently completed in 1664 or 65. Major Richardson died in or about 1688. He left two sons. William, the elder, inherited the estate but never married. Title to the estate passed to his younger brother John when William died in 1727. John Richardson did marry and when he died in 1744 was survived by two sons and two daughters. Only one son William and one daughter Mary have significant relevance to the history of Derryhale, William Richardson (1709 -1758) left three daughters and one son, also named William after his father.
William the son married twice. On the death of his first wife who bore him no children, William remarried. That union produced three daughters; Elizabeth, Isabella and Louisa. William Richardson died in 1822; his three daughters inherited their father's estate in equal parts. Of these three daughters, only Louisa married. Her husband was Edmond Bacon. The three sisters were apparently renowned for their interest in the community, their tenants and were generous in many ways. This generosity has been recorded in the form of an illuminated address from the tenants to Mrs. Louisa Bacon. The date of this address is 14th April 1879.
The Richardson estate was subdivided on the death of the sisters. In 1859 Elizabeth died and bequeathed her share to the Acheson family of Clancairney, now Markethill, who became the Earls of Gosford. By deduction, the recipient would have been the 3rd Earl (1806-1864). The Richardson and the Acheson families had connections by marriage; Mary who was the youngest daughter of John Richardson (see above) had married Arthur Acheson, later to become 1st Viscount Gosford, in 1740. Isabella died in 1860. During her lifetime she had been active in caring for her tenants.
According to Mrs. Bacon, she had contributed with her sisters to building local school houses and in addition had been principally responsible for financing the building of St. Saviours, known also as the Dobbin church. The foundation stone was laid on 7th June 1856 and the church consecrated on 9th April 1858, Louisa, the only married sister died childless in 1881, Of the three sisters, she is known to have been the most active in relation to Derryhale. On her death, her portion of the Richardson estate was divided between the 4th Earl of Gosford (1841-1922), who already had title to the share which had belonged to her sister Elizabeth Richardson, and which had been inherited from his father. The other legatee was her cousin Henry Richardson of Rossfad in Fermanagh. Lord Gosford inherited the minor share but this included the Richardson house and surrounding grounds, Richhill castle, and the village.
Henry Richardson's legacy was two thirds of the estate; approximately 5,500 acres2.
Mary Richardson, William's younger sister, married Sir Archibald Atkinson3 (1717-1790) of Clancaimey in 1740. Sir Archibald was created Baron Gosford in 1776 and in 1785 became Viscount. Their son, who was the 2nd Viscount and 1st Earl of Gosford (1742-1807) died a year after his ennoblement. His son, the 2nd Earl (1776-1849) had an estate comprising approximately 8,000 acres. This, he sought to enlarge in the1820's by purchasing additional land from the Richardson family of Richardson's Hill; later shortened to Richhill. The Richardson's estate included the townland of Derryhale.
Prior to 1831, schooling in Ireland had varied greatly both in the curricula taught and the teaching ability and quality of the teachers. Schools varied greatly. There were Royal Schools created by Royal Charter, Diocesan schools, Parish and Charter schools and schools established by Education Societies, many of which were church based. Following a Royal Commission in 1828 the National School Primary Education System was inaugurated in 1831. Responsibility for administering this system fell to the National Board of Education. The Board allocated grants to build, furnish and maintain such schools. The size of the grant was not intended to, and did not fully finance the education process. Local external support had been anticipated in the planning provision and was indeed a necessity. The original intent of the National School System had been to provide primary education for all children, and to do this on a non-denominational basis.
The Centenary Year Book of St. Saviour's Church refers to an Educational Report of 1826 in which mention is made of a school in Derryhale established in 1823 prior to the National School system. The records state that the school was held in a single roomed thatched cottage and that the teacher was John Girvan, a Presbyterian. Apparently emphasis was placed on the denomination of the pupils and the school roll has been recorded as '23 Established Church scholars; 28 Presbyterians, 8 Roman Catholics and 2 other pupils described as other denominations'. In 1834, Mrs. Louisa Bacon (nee Richardson) sponsored construction of a two storey stone school house in Derryhale on a site adjacent to the present Primary school, which would be built in 1958 to replace the old school. The original school appears on an ordinance survey map dated 1834. Several of the older inhabitants of Derryhale were educated in Mrs. Bacon's school which had two classrooms, one on each floor. The one on the upper floor was subdivided into a classroom and a smaller room, in which apparently the head teacher lived as there was no separate accommodation.
When the new Primary school was built, stone from the old building was used in the construction of the new single storey building. The photograph (shown below) dated 1946, is of a group of pupils which includes some of the older local residents, standing in front of the old school building. In addition to building the old school, Louisa Bacon left an annual stipend of £4 to the teacher of the school. Subsequently, it appears that after amalgamation of other schools in the area to which Mrs. Bacon and her sisters had donated a stipend, the Education authorities had consolidated the monies to give a total annual income of £6.2s.3d. Five elevenths of this gift was distributed, two elevenths to the Principal teacher and three elevenths to the school Governors for upkeep and maintenance.
Mrs. Bacon had a reputation for great consideration of her tenants and was a generous benefactor. Toward the end of her life, following a serious illness, her Tenants had prepared an illuminated address which they had delivered to her. The address, of which I have seen a copy, is headed by two views of the Richhill Castle and interposed between them is a Coat of Arms. It is not clear if the Coat of Arms is that of the Richardson or the Bacon family The content of the address fully confirms Louisa Bacon's reputation for kindness and generosity During the Famine years she provided the amenity of a soup kitchen for her tenants. The scroll text commences Address to Mrs. Bacon from her Tenantry upon the Richhill Estate. It is signed in classical format We are, Madam, Your obedient servants, and in brackets Signed on behalf of the Tenantry. The signatures which followed are: John Walker Redmond (Chairman); James Best and John Jackson* (Treasurers) and F. J. Best (Secretary).
* This name is difficult to read due to the style of the script.
The content of the letter is in summary: an expression of relief and pleasure, by the Tenants, for Mrs. Bacon's recovery from a serious illness.
The text refers in glowing terms to her benevolence and support to her Tenantry in various ways. The address concludes with acknowledegment of - the good deeds of your family - and an expression of hope that - you may long be spared to be our considerate and indulgent landlady. Mrs. Bacon's reply, also contained on the same scroll, is warm and shows appreciation of the content of her Tenants address. In her reply she attributes the building of various schools on the estate to her two sisters, Elizabeth and Isabella, who, at the time of writing of the reply, had died. She was self deprecating of her own contributions saying that The Schools on the Estate were built by my two sisters and I have only had to look after them - She concluded her reply by signing Your obliged and attached Landlady Louisa Bacon.
Louisa Bacon, as landlady, was responsible for visiting her tenants and collecting rents. When visiting Derryhale she remained overnight and stayed in the Dower house which had been built for the widow (dowager) possibly Louisa Bacon's mother, on the death of her husband. The date on which the Dower house was built is unknown.
The Dower house was constructed from stone similar to the school building. It is a two storey building in the front of which are two bay windows. The roof is slate with ornate carved gable ends. The two chimneys have tall chimney pots in the Victorian style. Behind the Dower house is a farm dwelling which is connected to the former by a passage way. The property now belongs to the Stanley family who have lived there since the present owner's father purchased the property, on 26th October 1927, from the Wright family. They had purchased the house and land from Thomas Morrison. It is of interest to note that this farm was part of the original Estate belonging to Col. J. M. Richardson.
The current owner has the original land survey, carried out by Samuel Greer Esq., which is dated 8th March 1890. This document is entitled Map of Farm in the Townland of Derryhale: the property of Mr. Thomas Morrison. The land was subject to the Irish Land Act 1903. This legislation required the owner of the land to make twice yearly payments to Credit the Land Purchase Account of the Government of Northern Ireland. The amount of these payments or Ground Rents, due by the owners of the property, has been recorded in the Title Deeds. The twice yearly payment of £17.6s.6d. is required until the total payment of £533.0s.0d. has been made, after which the land becomes freehold. The final payment credited to Mr. Stanley's father, under the Irish Land Act, is dated 30th December 1941.
It is of further interest to record that the Title Deeds of the property record that the house which includes Louisa Bacon's Dower house, is named Derryhale House. Another historic building is known as Boyd's cottage. This cottage is on the Mullalelish road about one third of a mile from the Dower house. It is said to have been built in the early 1830's and is a listed building. Traditional building techniques are evident from the mud and straw walls encased by stone and roofed with thatch. In the original cottage there is a single living room heated in the past by an open turf fire over which a traditional Irish crook would have supported cooking utensils and the obligatory smoke blackened kettle. This open fire and crook have been replaced at some stage, in the relatively recent past, by an open fire surrounded by a grate. At this time, cooking would have been moved into a new kitchen, which is not part of the original thatched cottage.
Access to the new kitchen, which has been fitted with an electric stove, is from the original scullery. Off the old cottage living room there are two bedrooms, the larger master bedroom facing to the East, and a very small second bedroom facing West, with access from the old scullery. This smaller bed-room would presumably have been for the older children. When the old cottage was built, there was no piped water. Rain provided water for washing and was collected from roof drainage into barrels. Drinking water had to be carried from a well, the site of which is unknown. The toilet would have been outside the house, probably in the form of a simple dry collection pit although the precise location is again not obvious. The original cottage still stands but has been extended at both ends.
To the North there is an additional bedroom while to the South, there is what appears to be an outhouse for storage or housing stock. The newer part of the dwelling is roofed with slate. The cottage was inhabited by Thomas Boyd and his wife and only became vacant on the death of Mrs. Boyd in the 1990s. The Derryhale Post Office is shown in a farm map, dated 8th March 1890, drawn by Samuel Greer Esq. Surveyor of Tandragee vide supra. This map shows the farm, the property of Mr. Thomas Morrison which is now owned by Mr. & Mrs. Herbert Stanley and the lands adjacent to Morrison's farm. These were owned by a Mrs. Rountree; James Wright Esq. (not related to the Wright Family mentioned above); Mrs. Cox; Thomas Black and Thomas Preston.
It is recorded that the business of the post office was conducted by one Charles Rountree. Subsequently the Rountrees sold their property to the Henderson family, descendents of which are the current owners.
The Post Office was part of the Henderson's house with direct access between house and post office. The post box has been built into the wall where the post office stood and remains in use to this day. I am told that the post office, which was in fact a sub-post office, had title to franking stamp embossed with the words Derryhale Post Office Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the stamp is unknown. In the more recent past the Armagh Council was responsible for introducing council cottages. These are known as Taylor Cottages after George Taylor who was the design architect. Lord Kilclooney who, as John Taylor Esq. MP was Member for Strangford, is George Taylor's son. There are two groups of Taylor cottages, one close to the Dower house built in the early 1950's and the second group, which stands approximately halfway between the first group and the main Armagh road. The cottages were built as semi-detached bungalows with a living room, kitchen, bathroom and two bed-rooms. When planning commenced prior to building, I have been told that the number of prospective buyers far exceeded the number of houses.
I have also been told that the waiting list was not restricted to the number of houses which had been planned! What's new in planning?
The potato is of course one of the staple crops of Ireland and the history of the Famine is part of the junior school curriculum. Traditionally the Irish were reared on spuds and buttermilk. This suggests that cows would have been kept to supply the household with milk, butter and buttermilk. Chickens for meat and eggs would again have been a common sight as they picked and scratched about the yard and midden. Most farms would also have kept the gentleman who pays the rent; the free-ranging pig which was fed with scraps from the house and any other edible material which it could dig up with its snout.
Pigs were kept for sale but also for home killing and bacon preservation by dry salt curing. In the past a common sight in any farmhouse would have been the cured bacon hanging from the kitchen rafters or lying in salt in a wooden vat. Heavy horses were bred for farm work and broken to harness in their second year, much farm work was undertaken using a pair of horses; usually a steady old horse paired with a younger one. On heavy or hilly land three horses may have been used for operations such as ploughing and in later days cutting grain with a binder, when the heavier binder replaced reapers. Single horses were harnessed to farm carts and used as farm transport, although the heavier drays used for road transport would have required additional power of two or more horses. Neighbouring, loaning of a horse to make up a pair or a three, would have been common practice. In addition to potatoes, turnips for winter animal (and human) feeding would have been one of the earliest root crops.
Other root crops for animal feeding such as marrow stem kale were probably introduced in or around the 1930's. The crop rotation practised is most likely to have included potatoes, root crops, corn (oats) and then a return to grassland. It is again interesting to note that in addition to oats, wheat was also grown. Wheat straw was in demand to thatch houses and for roof repairs. Armagh has been one of the centres for apple production and in Derryhale there are some orchards of upwards of 100 years old. The climate seems to suit the production of cooking apples in which the variety Bramley reigns supreme.
Land fertility would have been maintained by the use of farmyard manure carted out to the land by horse and cart. The manure would have been placed in small piles about 6 to 8 yards apart from which it would have been spread by hand scaling using a dung fork. The sweetness of the soil would have been preserved by spreading quick lime which was produced in kilns by slow burning a mixture of turf with an equal quantity of limestone. There is no indigenous limestone in Derryhale. In a cutting from the Portadown Times dated Friday 9th May 1930, the correspondent "Asmodeus" has referred to the lime kiln at Henderson's corner and said that, when in use, it had been kept going "full blast" with limestone carted from Annaghugh and other places. The quick lime was usually carried to the field, on which it was to be spread, and left in large piles to slake with the rain. Many of the kilns have been destroyed and the stone, from which they were built, used for other building purposes. Some of the older maps show sites of these kilns. There is one such site marked on the Morrison Farm map referred to above, lying between the Primary School and the Dower house. The actual kiln no longer exists.
There are several families currently living or recently having lived in Derryhale, whose names are associated with the history of Derryhale. These included in alphabetical order: Alexander: Cox: Graham: Henderson: Loughead: Rountree: Stanley and Wright. There are very few, if any families, who came from England or Scotland as Planters, who have remained in Derryhale. The possible exception to this statement is the family of Charles Stanley.
According to Richard Burnis4, Charles Stanley and his brother William were both officers in the English army. At the end of hostilities, Charles is said to have settled in Derryhale and purchased 100 acres of Iand. His brother returned to England. Charles is said to have lived on in Derryhale to the very great age of 104 years. Although the first name Charles is common in the lineage of several modern Stanley families, there appears to be no direct genealogical connection with the English officer. It is of course possible that family connections have been lost with the passage of 200 years.
Not the Flight of the Earls, but an early aviation event of which a record was printed in the Portadown Times of 8th February 1991. Apparently the aircraft, said to have been a Tiger Moth, flown by a member of the Royal Flying Corps, attempted a forced landing in one of the low lying meadows near Henderson's corner in the summer of 1918. The Service pilot is said to have been on a flight to a military base near Omagh, but had lost his way. His aircraft had become low in fuel.
According to the report, he had attempted the landing in what appeared to be a large level field. Unfortunately, the long summer grass had hidden a land drain which crossed the field in the path of the landing aircraft causing damage to the aeroplane. There is no record of the fate of the pilot who presumably was not seriously injured. The grounded aircraft was guarded for several days by the military. It was the focus of attention of local people for miles around and would probably' have been the first opportunity for many people to see an aeroplane at close quarters.
© John E Galway 12 February 2003.
I am indebted to the following friends and colleagues who provided miscellaneous sources of historical information including newspaper cuttings, old maps and photographs and folklore from previous years. Without this guidance and constructive criticism, life would have been intolerable.