Vol. 9 No. 1 - 2007


an unpretentious location

by Jack and Violet Gilpin

15th August 2002

Glimpses, in words and music, of life at Lowmills
1610 - 2002

This is the first in a series of five Presentations at the Master McGra' Festival in Lurgan [2002-06] Lowmills, on the River Closet, half-way between Lurgan and Portadown, had a Plantation Mill from as early as 1620. The words in bold type were unaccompanied. The tunes are in brackets. The Map backgrounds the series

Map of Lowmills
Map of Lowmills

[ My Lagan Love ]

Lowmills is an unpretentious location set in the Closet Valley
The meeting point of two Estates and three Townlands
Manchester and Seagoe Glebe
Balteagh Glassan and Kilvergan
Some say it was a Holy Place
That on Kilvergan Hill a Church once stood
Its name is what it is - an early Planter’s Grinding Place
Fed by the Closet stream from high Shane Hill
The Miller is long dead his people gone
Only the Stone remains against a wall
But the Mill grinds on in words
Mill Bridge   Mill Well   Mill Hill

Soon others came Gilpins from Westmoreland
Our kith and kin
Their way of life simple slow monotonous
Digging and sowing reaping and mowing spinning and weaving
Spuds and stirabout day in day out.

[ She moved through the Fair ]

Poor they were counting their riches in coppers
Their houses mud and thatch
Stone hearths and earthen floors
Humble they were
Looking up to those they thought their betters
Neither Readers nor Writers
They passed on their traditions
By word of mouth and memory
Married by making an X puffed white clay pipes
Drowned their sorrows in porter
At Weddings Wakes and Fairs

To these Religion came in word and deed

[ Drumcondra ]

Two hundred years ago
The Parish Church at Seagoe being small
And hemmed by graves and mounds
Blacker the Rector thought to build anew
Back at Kilvergan where once a Church had stood
When all the preparations had been made
He changed his mind
And built the present Church near Portadown
Anticipating growth
Saurin his successor by quarrying local limestone
Brought work and wage to feed the poorest people
Who couldn’t make ends meet
Stricken by cyclic hunger oppressed by poverty
The Quarry failed and lost four thousand pounds
Flooded by the water which had fed the Planter’s Mill

Mr Wesley’s Preachers brought them the Word
And consolation when times were hard.

[ Psalm 121 ( Dundee ) ]

The Lord is thy keeper
The Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand
The sun shall not smite thee by day
Nor the moon by night
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil
He shall preserve thy soul
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in
From this time forth and even for evermore

The Preachers lodged in people’s homes
Prayed preached and sang for forty years
And then a Chapel built at Ballinacorr

The First Commandment Love of God
Was constantly expressed in Word and Psalm

The Second Love of Neighbour was rather overlooked
Religion Politics Land and Trespass intertwining
Nourished disputes and festered unforgiving
The beasts of the field went where they willed
Ignoring rights of way provoking litigation
Solicitors grew fat

The Famine brought no evictions no Workhouse deaths
The people shared their little and so survived.

[ The Famine Song ]

Oh, the praties they grow small,
Over here, over here,
Oh, the praties they grow small
And we dig them in the Fall,
And we eat them coats and all,
Over here, over here.
Oh, I wish that we were geese,
Night and morn, night and morn,
Oh, I wish that we were geese,
For they fly and take their ease,
And they live and die in peace,
Eatin’ corn, eatin’ corn.

[ Oft in the Stilly Night ]

Sub-division had made the farms untenable
And far-off fields looked green
George Gilpin left a thrice-divided farm
To major in the Army and win eleven medals in distant lands
Of his four soldier sons
The eldest grew not old
The second and third won two MCs apiece
The fourth fluent in foreign tongues
Spoke Arabic Russian Turkish and French
From seven acres three roods twenty-five perches
Or thereabouts thrice shared
The Second War and Troubles brought their tears
When five men died
Cousins Henry and Jim Brothers George and Willie
Harry born next door

|[ The Old House ]

Four hundred years have passed
The Wheel has turned full circle
What Poverty and Hunger could not do Craigavon did
A mindless dispossession -
An over-vesting of un-needed land
A miteless recompense
A new Plantation Exodus and Separation
Two closed Schools a struggling Chapel
A changed and lonely place its vibrance gone

[ Down by the Sally Gardens ]

The Closet trickles now balanced by Lake and Lough
The Quarry still remains its workings visible -
Quarry Mouth Pump Wall Kiln Head
The fish are almost gone few eel or pike
No meals for otters any more
No swan no teel no mallard no whistling kingfisher
Only the skimming moorhen the flapping heron
The tunnelling badger
Lilies reeds and rushes carpet the Swamp
Where saplings flourish
And lamenting salleys lean leafy and rootless
Toppled by Autumn winds
Yeats had his Sally Gardens and we have ours -
Lowmills : an unpretentious location
Only the stone remains against a wall.' millstone

Only the stone remains against a wall