Vol. 2 No. 2 - 1973

Magheralin - an historical notebook

by T.N. Hamilton

The old village of Maralin, three miles N.E. of Lurgan, perhaps does not have the appeal for the passer-by that it once had. Much of it is in ruins, particularly the area to the north of the main Belfast road. This short article seeks only to whet the reader's appetite for the study of his own immediate locality by drawing out some of the more interesting aspects of the history of Magheralin.

Saint Colman

One of the earliest mentions of the village concerns a demon called HUACHUILLE or DUACHAILL which Dean Reeves claimed to haunt the area. Apparently this demon laid waste the neighbourhood for some time but eventually St. Colman, who died in AD 752, defeated this rather unusual enemy and founded a Church at Maralin. The church subsequently became a settlement for saints and scholars having a number of abbots - Sirdal in 752; Aufadanus in 758; Sorley in 770.

In AD 840 a fortress was erected in Strangford by the Danes, and from this base the invaders ventured out to lay waste the country round about. In 841 another band of Northmen arrived and settled nearby, but in 849 they were plundered and massacred by the Danes at Maralin. At Easter 850 these Danes plundered Armagh and held the land round about for some time, but by 925 had left Ireland altogether.

After this Maralin soon recovered its former prosperity and was honoured by a visit from the King of Ireland, Murtagh McNeill, who wrote a poem called "The Circuit of Ireland". In this poem he traces the progress of the king of AILECK through Ulster in the 10th century and says that his party stayed the night at Clough in Co. Antrim, a night at Moira and a night at Newry.

But other historians are far from satisfied that this account of the village's early history is correct. The Rev. J. B. Leslie claims that St. Colman founded his church in the townland of LINNS in Co. Louth. He claims that Magheralin is identical to the "LANN RONAN" referred to in the calendars of Aengus and the O'Clerys at May 22 in the words "RONAN FINN of LANN RONAN" (Church of Ronan) in Iveagh of Ulster.

That the Church of Ronan was situated in the Parish of Magheralin seems certain from an entry in the book of Lecan : "LANN RONAIN IN CORED RUISHEN IN MAGH RATH". Magh Rath is the old name for Moira and since the whole district of Moira was included in the Parish of Magheralin until 1725 it follows that LANN RONAN was in that parish.

Charitable giving

The people appear to have had an interest in charity, for we read that at a vestry meeting in 1796 it was agreed:

"At same time that the two children of Charles Martin of Maralin who is sent to the county gaol having no friends to keep them, and being helpless, we agree that the sum of two shillings and 8½ pence be given to some woman or other weekly to help to support said children so long as the parishioners shall find convenient".

Their charity, however, was not boundless for the vestry agreed on 11th June 1810 that:

"All persons who have imposed on the said parish by having children as a burden to said parish, that they will prosecute for the future according to law."

But nevertheless the accounts for the churchwardens' expenditure in 1824 show a very considerable care for the needy in the parish.

Paid to widow Brush (a cripple) £3 9 0
Paid to parish clerk for salary £1 2 9
Paid to sexton in part salary £0 18 0
Paid to Rea, blacksmith £0 5 0
Paid to Hugh Hanlon for Mr. Dolling's account £1 0 0
Paid to widow Gamble for washing surplices £1 0 0
Paid to widow Gamble for maintenance of foundling child £1 17 6
Paid to clothes for child £0 8 9
Paid to maintenance of a foundling child left at Mathers' fort £1 9 4
Paid to Cash paid Mr. Dolling £0 6 3½
TOTAL £11 8 8½

Paid sundries as under for years 1823-24

To James Nevin (carpenter for work) £1 17 1
To Farmer Brown for sacramental wine £0 14 2½
To John Murphy (Moira) for sacramental wine £0 10 10
To Timber £0 13 0
To Church Warden (S. McGowan) for burying a foundling and for visitation £0 16 4
To Church Warden (S. Lilburn) for visitation £0 10 0
TOTAL £5 1 5½

Maralin has had quite a number of church buildings in its history - none finer than the present parish church built just before the turn of this [20th] century. Originally there had been a monastery, but no trace of it remains. The oldest ruins are on the N. side of the Maralin/ Donacloney road and date from the fifteenth century. The church was in ruins by the middle of the seventeenth century and rebuilt again. By 1839 this building too was in bad repair and in May of that year the vestry decided

  1. "That our Parish Church being in a very dilapidated state and totally insufficient for the accommodation of the parishioners and aid being promised by the ecclesiastical commissioners for the building of one containing six or seven hundredprovided the parishioners contribute a certain sum we pledge ourselves to use our exertions in collecting subscriptions.
  2. That the non-resident landlords be applied to assist us.
  3. That communication be opened with the ecclesiastical commissioners as soon as subscriptions are collected.
  4. That all money received be paid forthwith into the Belfast Bank.
  5. That the rector and curate be appointed as secretaries.
  6. The communication having been had with the ecclesiastical commission then passed be laid before the parish".

The subscription list for the new church was soon opened with the following contributions:

Lord Dungannon   £50
Rev. Dolling   £50
Charles Douglass   £25
Mrs. Douglass   £25
Coslett Waddell   £30
Mrs. Richardson (Springfield)   £20
Richard Dolling   £10
Rev. Hughes    £5
Lieut. Bateson, Bart   £60
Lord Clanwilliam   £10
Thomas Waring, Esq.   £15
The Lord Bishop   £30

Two years later in 1841 it was decided to build the new church "on a portion of ground containing half an acre in front of the Parsonage" where the present church now stands.

Building of new church begins

The building of the new church began in November 1842 and was completed in October 1844 at a cost of about £2,400. By November 1870, however, repairs were obviously needed.

"The meeting having been opened with prayer, the proceedings of last day were read. Mr. Brooke reports that in pursuance of the resolution proposed by Mr. Waddell and seconded by Mr. Castles, that he preached a sermon on the 6th inst. and received from the congregation collected at the time in the church after the sermon the sum of £20.

Resolved that Mr. James Berry and Mr. Jos. Lynas, select vestrymen, be requested to enter into contract with some competent tradesmen for the purpose of putting the roof of the church, together with gutters, down pipes into thorough repair".

The church was again substantially improved in the early 1890's - the financial burden was greatly eased and the church building greatly enhanced by a gift of over £4,000 from the Christie Millers who resided in the area.

From the commercial viewpoint, Maralin has always been fairly prosperous-even today it boasts several factories as well as the famous Ormeau dairy herd. The village had a lot of passing trade since it was on the main route to Dublin. In the mid-1770's we read of a levy being applied to "the repair of bye roads in the parish". Even before 1800 the house still known as "The Black Lion" was an Inn where the coaches stopped to let the horses and riders have some refreshment. The famous men from Connaught walked from the west with their hooks over their shoulders via Maralin to get the boat to Fleetwood for the harvest. People apparently commented on their good manners compared with those of the locals!

School enlarged

Not that the locals had neglected their education, for in August 1845 the school had a roll of 68 pupils. By 1890 the school had been enlarged not only to accommodate more children but also to permit services to be held in it during the re-construction of the parish church.

The commercial and industrial life has left us a rich variety of local nicknames -"Flinty row" the row of white houses opposite the petrol station was given that name since the houses were built with flint stones dug out of the quarry behind. The site of the petrol station is in fact over a well which was known as the KILN EYE well.

"The Temple"

"The Temple" is the row of houses just outside the village boundary on the right hand side of the road to Belfast. These houses were built by a Mr. Solomon Wells who owned a grocer's shop in the village. The row became known as Solomon's Temple and eventually `Solomon' was dropped from the name.

Opposite the Catholic church there is a narrow entrance which was known as "CRUSHGUT" before it was sealed up some years ago. There were several houses in the entry, which was so narrow that one had to walk up it sideways - hence its name.

But no article would be complete without a reference to the "Ducks of Magheralin". One can still identify "STIRABOUT ROW" leading onto DUCK STREET, i.e. the main Maralin/Donacloney road past the parish church. The houses were tall and inhabited by weavers who used duck grease on their looms. They made up a mixture of flour, water and meal, then "stirred it about" and applied it as a dressing on the yarn to prevent the threads from breaking.

Today the village has changed. Its main centre of population has moved to Clarendon Park (named after the much-loved Dean Clarendon who was in charge of the parish at the turn of the [20th] century) and to the recently constructed Malcomson Park. Maralin is a satellite village for Craigavon and in due course many of its features will disappear either under the bulldozer or through the ravages of time.

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society has identified a number of fine buildings worth preserving, but as Mr. D. R. M. Weatherup commented in his article on Craigavon in last year's "Review", "No one returning ... after ten years' absence will find it any more recognisable than an eighteenth century traveller would have done after an absence of fifty years - such is progress".

But to end on a personal note - for me

Sure it is a fine auld city in the real auld fashioned style,
A credit to sweet County Down and the pride of the emerald isle;
It has the finest harbour where the bread carts do sail in,
And if ever you come to Ireland, boys, do come to Magheralin.


  • Public Record Office, Dublin : State Papers 620/24.
  • Lurgan Mail : Extracts reprinted as a Booklet in 1929. "Old Times in Lurgan".
  • An Ulster Parish". E. D. Atkinson.
  • "Dromore - An Ulster Diocese". E. D. Atkinson.