Ravarnette School





Part 1


Another intriguing legend is that of the Rath Varna Celtic Gold Mystery.
On the way to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 King William's men encamped at Garanbane (now Carnbane). One morning a couple of soldiers wandered through the woods and heard cries coming from the Ravarnette River. Investigating further they saw a damsel in distress in the water. She cried out for help and the soldiers rescued her from the angry torrent. On the river bank she thanked them profoundly. She told them her name was Maeve the blue eyed, the tinker's wife and if they would return to the same spot later in the evening she would reward them. She told them she would make them rich beyond all imagination but they were to tell no-one.

At eventide she kept her promise and presented them with a collection of Gold Wristlets, Bracelets, Armlets and fine jewellery. It was a treasure fit for a King. She explained that some of the items originally belonged to Rory MacDonlevy O'Heachaidh the last King of Uladh or Ulster. The treasure was reputed to have been hidden from John De Courcy in the early 13th Century. Before they had time to realize and in the twinkling of an eye Maeve had disappeared.

The two soldiers were left standing in utter amazement holding a King's ransom. They decided as they could not bring the treasure with them they would hide it nearby and return later.
The story goes that they buried it between two tall trees, at a river bend in a nearby glen, very probably Currie's Glen.

No-one knows if the soldiers returned. Some say they both perished in the Boyne Water. Rumour has it that the owner of Rory's ill gotten treasure would perish in water. Perhaps that's why Maeve gave hers away so lightly.

It is said that "In the summer heat and at a certain time of the day Rory MacDonlevy's sword can be seen moving slowly in the water near the bend in the Glen by the Fort in the Gap, as a warning to the fate of all robbers."

(Glanna Curadh)

Undiscovered by tourists it remains without doubt one of the most magnificent spots of natural and breath taking scenery around Ravarnette. Its great secret is its past history and undisturbed serenity. On any chosen sunny day in Summer its natural charm and beauty excels even Killarney itself.

Many strange legends are told about Currie's Glen. Perhaps none are so bizarre than the tale originating from the many battles between the Kinel Owen and the Ulidians. Currie's Glen was defended by the notorious Knights of the Red Branch-The Curadh. Enemies attempting to cross the Glen by night met a terrible fate from the hands of the Curadh. The Knights disposed of their victims by binding them to a stout branch dipped in blood. A stone was tied to their feet and were floated down stream as a warning to any other would be invaders.

One may deduct the origin of the ancient name from Glanna Curadh -The Glen of the Champions.The Spirits, as the legend goes, are supposed to still haunt the woods near the river in the Glen after midnight seeking revenge on any poor unfortunate who may pass inadvertantly that way. Even on the annivers aries of some of the great battles they may even venture out of the Glen to the neighbouring districts to seek recompense for the evil and wickedness apportioned to them by the Knights of the Red Branch.

However, Pagans as they were, no-one who ever believed in the living God came to any harm from them.


The ancient fort at Duneight was known as Dun-Eathach. A great battle in 1003 and 1010 took place between the Ulidians and the Kinel Owen. The Four Masters relate, "An army was led by Flathbheartach O'Neill to Dun-Eathach, and he burned the fortress, and demolished the town, and carried off pledges from Niall, son of Dubhthunine". Duneight was the residence of Eochaidh or Eoghy one of the many kings of Ulidia.
In the year 941 Muircheartach, King of the Kinel Owen stopped for the night at the great rath of Duneight to collect hostages, en route to Magh-Rath (Moira). His poet wrote:

"We were a night at Dun-Eachdach,
With the white-handed warlike band;
We carried the King of Uladh with us
In the great circuit we made of all Ireland."


This consists of two mounds of earth with a deep gulley separating them from yet another mound which was used for grazing animals, when this was used as a settlement in the 14th and 15th Centuries. The lower level was used as living quarters while the higher level was used as a fortress in case of attack. The lower mound was completely surrounded by trees until 1948 and these trees also served as protection for the settlement. At one time there was a moat which ran right round these two mounds; this also was for protection. This moat was formed by part of the river which runs past the village of Ravarnette.
In 1958 and 1959 the lower mound was excavated and some pottery and ancient weapons were found. These are now in the Ulster Museum. This Monument is fenced off now and there is a path which runs from the road to the Monument.


Sir Robert Hart, B.T., for many years Inspector-General of Chinese Customs in Shanghai was educated at Hillsborough, Taunton, Wesley College (Dublin), and Queens College Belfast, where he took the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1853. In the following year he left for China to take up an appointment in the British Consular service, from which he resigned five years latter to join the Chinese Maratime Customs Service. His promotion was very rapid and when only 28 years of age he became InspectorGeneral of Chinese Customs, a position which he filled until 1908. A panel erected to his memory in the Bund at Shanghai indicates that he was, "Grand Guardian of the Heir-Apparent. of China, founder of the Chinese Maratime Service and organiser and administrator of the National Post Office."

Among his honours are "Ancestral Rank" of First Class of First Order for three generations. He was also a Red Button of the First Class, a Double Dragon of the Second Division, and a First Class Peacocks Feather.

These and many more followed by a list of European honours are on the memorial panel. Nearer home a less exotic memorial was erected to him by his nephew Sir Frederick Maze in Blaris Old Cemetery.

T. NEILL (Lisburn Historical Society)


In the second half of the 18th Century Ravarnette House belonged to one James Henderson, who worked as a linen draper and was probably a bleacher. James Henderson was also known locally as a poet.


In the latter part of the 19th Century Duneight Mill was in full use as a Scutch Mill and provided a lot of employment to the local people. As did the other local mills known as Thompson's Mill at Lisnoe and Ravar nette Mill. As the flax dndustry in the province decreased and the work fell away it was decided to sell Duneight Mill to a Mr. Thompson who was no relation to the owner of Lisnoe Mill. It was turned into a mushroom growing factory but when the war years came it was run down and put to use as a store for Harland & Wolff. After the war years the mill lay idle until Mr. Thompson who had previously grown mushrooms returned and started a File and Coalbrick business. Then it was sold again and is at present used for Broiler Chick Rearing.


In 1834 there was a corn and flax mill at Ravarnette, owned by John Henderson.


Tom Brownlee became a chemist and emigrated to a small village in Canada called Rocky Mountain House. Later he became famous when oil was discovered there.
Master Todd, born in what is now George Long's house, became the Rev. Todd of Ballynahinch Congregational Church and later emigrated to Canada.
Mr. Ivor Thompson  became a director of J. D. Martin the estate agents in Lisburn.
Cecil Woods became the Chief Inspector in the Ministy of Agriculture and also wrote some one act plays as a hobby.
Ernest Woods his brother became a Doctor and moved to England.
Albert Allen became a Baptist Minister of a church near Limerick.
Francis Dougherty son of the proprietor of the Perserverance Bar became a doctor at the age of 22. He used to walk every morning to the Railway Station in Lisburn and married one of the Wills Tobacco people. He emigrated to England and one evening whilst in evening dress he was called down a coal mine where he performed a difficult and dangerous operation. He was awarded the D.S.O.
Ashley Gardner became the Chief Flying Instructor of the Ulster Flying Club at Newtownards Airport.
Owen North became a Director of Phillips Ltd., the sole agents in Northern Ireland for Datsun Cars.
Noel North became .the sales representative for Short Bros. & Harland in Canada and North America and played a major role in selling the "Skyvan" freight aircraft to airlines in North America.
Quotes from the past by pupils from the past
The two Miss Reids who taught in the school were fetched regularly from the Dublin Road near Sprucefield by Mr. McLorn of the Green Road, Ravarnette and arrived at school in a pony and trap.
The pupils of Ravarnette Primary School got a treat one day in 1915 when they saw for the first time in the district a motor plough on its way past the school to Curries Glen.
Those were the days when the school was lit by oil lamps, and a packet of Five Woodbine Cigarettes cost 1d
During the First World War (1914-1918) the pupils of Ravarnette Primary School brought eggs to school and wrote their name on the shells. These eggs were sent by Miss Reid, the Principal, to the soldiers in Europe to help the war effort. Many of the soldiers in the trenches wrote to the children from the front lines thanking them for their efforts.
Mrs. Sinton, the Factory Owner's wife, made an annual presentation to the school pupils of silver medals with a gold heart in the centre. She examined the pupils herself and awarded one each for the best reading, needlework and conduct.
Pupils worked 3 days in the factory from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and then attended school for the other 3 days. It was a 6 day week then.
The school formerly met in Mr. Sinton's farm loft with Miss Seaton as the teacher. Since then it has been converted into a dwelling house and is now occupied by Mr. & Mrs. Fyffe-McFadden and family.
Great concerts in the past have been held in Ravarnette Primary School. It was at one of these that Mr. Andy Rooney a former pupil of the school, recalls the first cinematograph ever seen in Ravarnette, at the school in 1903. 4d was the admission price and one can just imagine the excitement and amazement at the new invention as over 200 people sitting on the desks watched the moving picture showing what a horse can do after it eats a bag of oats.
At the turn of the century there was a wee boy called John McKibben who went into the shop beside the school and sez he, to the shopkeeper, "Abun, abig 'un, gimme two" but he did not notice Miss Reid coming in behind him. Well, as the story goes, he spent the next day in school writing those famous words out a hundred times.
Many of those who went to the school in the late 19th or early 20th Century will remember the Three term Readers by Blackie & Co. price 6d. The reader was very comprehensive and was compiled to suit the Senior Group in one - or two - teacher schools.
Miss Minnie Reid, assistant teacher, married Mr. John Turkington who worked in the factory at Ravarnette as a yarn dresser.
Although one could trace the beginnings of the Hedge Schools back to the 17th Century it was in the 18th Century when these proliferated the South Lisburn area. Strict laws forbade teachers to teach and pupils to be taught. Even householders harbouring a schoolmaster could receive strict punishments.

So in some sunny spot near the hedge sheltered from the wind the schoolmaster taught his little class. He would sit on a stone with his class on the grass. One or two of the class took it in turns to keep a look out from a piece of high ground and warn the master and class of any law officer approaching.

It was a kind of guerilla warfare in education.

Many of the first schools in the rural area south of Lisburn were like the Hedge School in the Ballymagarrick district of Carryduff. The school was built about 140 years ago. It was built of grass sods and roofed with thatch. The children sat on forms and wrote on slates. They each brought a turf each day for the fire and a penny a week for the master to buy his food. One of the first masters was believed to be an unfrocked priest. There was no compulsory attendance. The pupils came of they wanted to and their ages were from 6 to 12 or .13 years. Mr. William Cumming of that district can remember his great-grandfather talking about the school in the field which is still called by the older people `Schoolhouse Field'.

There was formerly an old schoolhouse near Palmer's Service Station on the Hillsborough Road off the Sprucefield Roundabout. Owing to its dilapidated condition, the committee of the school and other friends held
a meeting, at which the Marquis of Downshire took the chair. This was in February 1828. It was resolved at this meeting to build a new and more commodious schoolhouse, not on the old site, that being considered too low and damp, but on a portion of a field offered by Lieutenant Clarke for the purpose. The funds for the building were to be raised by public subscription. The old building was to be pulled down, and any part of the materials which could not be used for the new school was to be sold, and the money added to the school funds. This plan was carried out, and the school was placed under the Church Education Society, and remained so until it was transferred to the National Board by the Rev. A. J. Moore, in the year 1887. For a short time after there was a male principal, who was succeeded by Miss McBride and later Mrs. Maginnis.

About 100 years ago the rural area of South Lisburn had three local newspapers. `The "Lisburn Standard" began in 1875 and was published every Friday, costing one penny. It consisted of 8 pages with 56 columns. It was advertised as "circulating among the Leading Gentry and Farmers in the North of Ireland, executed in an up-to-date style, with the latests designs of type, equal to the best houses in the trade in the Kingdom, at prices which compare most favourably with any".

A few years later Mr. Robert McMullan began publishing the "Lisburn Herald". Then the third paper began some years later and was originally called the "Weekly Mail", later changing its name to the "Ulster Guardian and Weekly Mail".

One cannot but be filled with a sense of awe and wonder when, as I did the other day talking to Mr. Brownlee, discover that the very first Veal Farm in Northern Ireland started in the quiet, unassuming and unpretentious surroundings of Mr. Brownlee's Farm at Ravarnette, at the top of the hill, on past Mr. Bittle's Shop. It started around 1960 on the Dutch System. Good management, cleanliness and the right contacts played a major role in the success of the Glenallen Veal Company as it later became known as. Agents in Enniskillen who were Cooneyites and wore strange hats like the Pilgrim Fathers procured 7 to 10-day old calves mainly Friesians from all over Ireland, even as far afield as Limerick, and arranged for them to be sent to the Veal Farm at Ravarnette. There they were started off with a special diet of glucose and water with milk powder added later, After 16 weeks they were killed at the Abbatoir on a Friday morning, collected on Friday night, sent across to England in a special refrigerated container lorry and arrived in London on Sunday morning. The very first batch were sent to Holland where they were examined by experts and classed as 'excellent' and sent on to Milan ,in Italy for retail sale. The average weight of the calves was 250 lbs.

Mr. Rooney who used to work in the Ravarnette Weaving Factory and received his education in Ravarnette Primary School put Mr. Brownlee in contact with their best agents in London, namely G. & A. Webb. These agents arranged for the bulk of the veal to be sold to London's most famous store Harrods.

Sad to say, The Ravarnette Veal Farm had to close in 1970 due to what has become a worldwide disease, affecting us all, inflation. However, not far away Mr. Roy Allen carries on a similar Veal Farm in the Maze.
Mrs. M. BELL

"When time who stole our years away
Shall steal our pleasures too,
The memory of the past shall stay
And help our joys renew."

(from one of Moore's lesser known poems)

The school was opened under the auspices of the Church Education Society on the 1st January 1833. The Rev. M. Cordner, agent for the Hunter Estate on which the school was built and the Rev. Mr. Scott, Drumbeg, both took an active part in raising the necessary funds, ably assisted by the farmers of the district. Mr. Scott became the first manager. William Dales, who for some time before this had been conducting a school in a neighbouring barn, became the first teacher. He slept for a considerable time in a "settlebed" in a corner of the school, and got the principal part of his food by going around the homes of the pupils in :turn. Fuel for the winter's fire was obtained by the pupil's each bringing a quota of turf. The school was taken into connection with the National Board on the 1st January 1845.

A very large number of teachers have taught for varying periods in the school. William Dales was followed by James Donald (who became a Methodist Minister); R. Foreman, J. Young, W. Peel, S. McCullough T. Dodds, R. Arnott, M. Fowler (emigrated to Canada); T. Entwhistle (went to Muckamore School); P. Diamond (went into business in Belfast); S. Spence (drowned at Belfast); R. Shaw (went to Mealough School); T. Allen (went to Drumbo School). In 1883 while the late Rev. Adam Montgomery was manager, Mr. T. McGowan took charge. Since then many improvements were carried out. A new school was erected in 1892, and supplied with modern furniture and appliances. The late Rev. W. J. Warnock, B.D., Drumbo, who was at that time manager, took a very lively interest in the work and helped very considerably in getting the debt paid off. In 1910 Mr. Magowan was the Principal and continued so for forty years. During that time the school residence was built by voluntary labour. The preliminary arrangements were carried out by the Manager who was the late Rev. James Irwin, M.A., Drumbo. Mr. Magowan, the Principal, held concerts to raise money and wheeled sand, bricks and stones to the site himself. Mr. George Wilson of Rowantree House, Lisnastrean remembers his father carting stones and sand to build the residence.

Mr. Magowan was followed after his death by his daughter, Miss Magowan, who came from Belfast and stayed thirty years. Miss Dornan followed and stayed for two years. Mr. William McIlhinney came next staying for six years before going on to Whitehead. During his time many further improvements were made. A new wing was added to the back of the existing school, incorporating inside toilets, a bookstore and caretaker's store. The existing cloakroom was made into a servery with a hatch door into the cloakroom. For many years water for the school was obtained from a pump and it was not until 1968 that mains water was piped in. A large playground was added, partly gravel and the remainder grass. Intermediate schools came into being and one third of the pupils who were over eleven were transferred to school in Lisburn. Miss Black came to Clougher fourteen years ago with Mrs. Woods as her assistant. The school had twenty,three pupils then and this was gradually built up to forty. Seven years ago the school was scheduled for closure because the classrooms were considered too small by modern standards but the Down County Education Committee allowed the school to remain open until the Principal retired in June 1974. The pupils were transferred to the neighbouring primary schools of Largymore and Hillhall.

The children came to Clogher from a wide area because their mothers preferred the family atmosphere and the fact that it was a country school that most of them in their time had gone to. Few schools command such
a panoramic view as Clogher P.S. being built on a hill and overlooking Hillsborough and Lisburn with the Antrim Hills in the background. The disposal of the school rests with the trustees. There are the possibilities of it being used as a hall, community centre or perhaps being converted into a bungalow.

Whatever happens to it, many people owe their success today to the dedicated teaching that went on within its walls during the 141 years of its history.

about a selection of churches in our area compiled by the P7 Project Group of Ravarnette Primary School with the help of local ministers whose encouragement was greatly appreciated.

 Originally named St. Thomas' Church. The foundation stone was laid in 1622. The church was burnt in 1641 and 1707. The burning of church and town caused the name to be changed from Lisnagarvey to Lisburn. It became the church of the founders of the Ulster Linen Industry.

This church had its origin as a result of the 1859 Revival. "A carpenter's shop has played its part in the history of the Christian Gospel and nothing has caught the imagination of men more than the fact that Jesus Christ was a Carpenter's Son"-1955 Reopening Souvenir Book.

This is one of the oldest Presbyterian Congregations in Ireland. It existed in 1687. It is said that King William of Orange worshipped in it while his troops were encamped at Blaris, on their way to the Boyne.

This church was formed in 1860 and built in 1863.

Owes its origin to the Moorehead family who moved to Lisburn in 1870 from Donegall Street, Belfast.

John Wesley visited Lisburn in 1756 and in 1774 the first Methodist Church in Lisburn was built in Market Street.

This congregation was formed in 1926 and the church was built in 1930.

There has been a Catholic community in Lisburn since A.D. 500 and the present church was built in 1794.

This is a very new, modern and beautiful church, only 11 years old. It is very well attended. The Sunday before we visited it there were nearly 600 people at one service.

This congregation began in 1841 when the Rev. Phineas Whiteside was ordained as the first minister. The service was held in a field near the present church and a farm cart was used as a pulpit and platform. The Rev. Henry Cooke the famous Ulster preacher and leader preached at that service. The church was built in 1843.

The foundation stone was laid on the 27th June 1874 and was consecrated on the 15th July 1875. This church will be celebrating its hundredth year or Centenary this year. It was originally built by Miss Mulholland who lived in Eglantine House.

This is the most historical of all the churches our group visited. There is a stone near the main door which dates back to the 7th Century, a beautiful Bible printed in 1685 and a famous travelling clock which has travelled for over a hundred years all over Ireland.

The church was opened for worship on the 29th December 1833 and a National School was built beside it in 1856. In 1974 a new church hall costing 32,000, a memorial to Mr. Orr, was opened by Miss Annie Johnston who is 93, and is the oldest member.

All these churches have a great and exciting history but neither time nor space permits us to give them a full historical appreciation which they deserve, we will leave that to the professionals.

by Effie Kinkead, Lorraine Fowler, Mandy Wilson,
Vanessa Penney, Howard Walker, Mervyn McVeigh,
George Long and Jonathan Hall.