The Rambler 21/02/2003
IN the opening verse of his poem entitled 'The Hills of Home', the County Tyrone balladeer, Rev W F Marshall waxed lyrical about "level lan'.
It is a pity he didn't visit this side of Lough Neagh. He would have found 'a power of level lan' between the Lagan canal and Bartins Bay, on the South East corner of the Lough.
According to Marshall--
The Lord bate back the rollin' sea
An' made the worl' for you an' me,
He made a power of level lan'
At Portydown an' at Strabane.
An' then with heather, peat an' stone
He built the mountains of Tyrone.
The CD entitled Shorelands, which I mentioned last week, concludes with a song about 'lovely Aghagallon' which the balladeer alludes to as the Shorelands of Lough Neagh.
If an area is worth singing about it, it is worth exploring.
The low-lying areas of the lough shore around Gawley's Gate and Ardmore are known as The Montiaghs ('Munchies'), ('a boggy area' according to Macfee's Ulster dictionary).
Much of it flooded in winter until the Upper Bann drainage scheme was completed, between the wars. In bygone years, many occupiers of tiny mud-walled thatched cabins had to use boats to reach higher ground. So! Keep on yer bike. No uphill toil needed.
Modern road-namers and house numbers have done their best to wipe the centuries-old townland names off the map.
For example 'Feather Bed' is now 'Montiagh's Road' and historic 'Lough Mona', once the site of a famous lake dwelling, is now a wide expanse of moorland.
Once, it was a hive of activity during the annual turf-making seasons, but now it is a barren conservation area.
The townland of Montiaghs is surrounded by some nine townlands all pre-fixed by Derry, a relic of the area when a vast oak forest stretched from Derriaghy to Derryclone. 'Gawley Gate' was the gate to a well-stocked deer park in plantation days.
Happily 'The Gate' has not been wiped off the map, but if the 'London' versus 'Derry' tussle should ever spread to the Montiaghs, there could be fun!
The now disused Lagan canal followed the line of the ancient stagecoach route - now the Lurgan to Crumlin B12. Needless to say, it had no hills.
Last week, I stopped at Turtle Dove lock - will some scholar please tell me the origin of that?
Between that point and Gawley's Gate,'there is a network of byroads and loanens all of which had names 'which strangers did not know', eg Dick's Hill, Upper Town, Low Town, Moytown, Island Hill, Grant's Lane, Joe's Shore, Gooseberry Corner, Jane's Turn, Nugent's Shore, Clay Hill, Sandy-Row, George's Island, Kearney's Town and many more.
The area between the Lagan canal and uplands, half-a-mile or so to the north, was a flood area and in winter resembled an island-dotted lake. Very appropriately, it was alluded to as 'The Islands' and so it remains.
Drumaleet townland was the principal one affected. It is 350 acres in area and, when the Ordnance Survey was carried out in the 1830's, it had nearly 300 inhabitants.
Some incredible census figures have survived, but those must wait. (To be continued).