Big thank you from

Lisburn Historical Society, Volume 1

Volume 1 • December 1978



I HAD the pleasure of reading some old church magazines recently which had been bound together in yearly volumes. Miss Smyth, Ballynahinch Road, lent them to me, and in one was the story of the first trip of the Sunday School scholars of Christ Church, Lisburn. The year of the trip was 1892 when the horse and trap was still the mode of transport and Lisburn was as it had been for the past half century. Life moved at a leisurely pace, was less complicated than at present and pleasures were simple, but non-the-less enjoyable.

Reading the magazine brought to mind the fact that this trip was in this period, the only holiday the children had. Holidays at the seaside were very few. If you had relations who lived in the country or at the sea to whom you could go, you were lucky. Therefore the excursion to Bangor, Newcastle, Larne Harbour etc., by the Belfast Sunday Schools was looked forward to from one year to the next. It was the day of the year for the majority of children.

In Belfast, I had the great pleasure of being one of the Sunday School scholars who enjoyed the march behind the band from the Church Hall to the Railway Station (at a later date than the one described below) but it was much the same except for the horse. trams which got a cheer as the horses and trams hurried past the children. We marched through the centre of Belfast with the band playing and flags flying full of happiness and expectation. Writing this brings back memories, as did this description of the trip which look place in Lisburn more than eighty-five years ago.

Here it is as it was written in the Church Magazine.

Sunday School Trip, 1892 Christ Church Lisburn, Dublin Road.

On Saturday afternoon, July 30th, the first trip of those attending the afternoon Sunday Schools in connection with Christ Church, Lisburn, took place.

Assembly was at the Nicholson Memorial Schoolhouse at 2 p.m. Refreshment tickets were distributed to those entitled and the procession of school children was lined up in the following order:- Infants Sunday School, Senior School, Blaris School and Deneight School. There were 450 Sunday School scholars, 40 teachers and other friends, and the Lisburn Conservative Flute Band led the procession through the town.

At 2.30 p.m. the band playing marching music could be heard as they all set off for 'Ingram' on Harmony Hill. In front of the scholars a handsome banner was borne, which had an open bible as the centrepiece and 'Christ Church Sunday School' across the top and 'The Bible Our Guide' at the bottom. (I wonder where it is now?). Flags and Bannerettes with religious texts were distributed at intervals along the ranks, and to be chosen to carry one of these was a delight and an honour. With the music playing and the flags flying, the sun shining down on the happy children, it was a day to remember. All the friends and relatives lined the route from Market Place to Harmony Hill and weren't the children glad to see them smiling and waving as they passed along.

On their arrival at 'Ingram' (Johnston-Smyth's House, Harmony Hill) where Miss Corken had placed her large fields at the disposal of the schools, the children were soon disposing of the refreshments, and then away helter-skelter to enjoy the swings put up the previous evening, the football, cricket, the races for the prizes, a most popular item. A Mr. T. H. Cronne had a number of balloons which he released at intervals to the shrieks of delight and cheers of the children as the balloons sailed off over the fields.

At six o'clock tea was served and thoroughly relished by the young people after all the exercise they had been having. Parents of the children were now to be seen taking part in the enjoyment and having a special eye on the infants, some of whom were tired out running around.

Miss Corken, Mrs. and the Misses Johnston-Smyth's were present all afternoon, and hospitably entertained many of the visitors at 'Ingram House'. For her generosity and kindness, thanks was returned by the Rev. A. J. Moore and it was carried by enthusiastic cheers.

At 7.30 p.m. the procession was reformed and marched back through the town to the Nicholson Memorial School, where after some votes of thanks, the Doxology was sung, and all dispersed to their homes after having spent a very happy and enjoyable afternoon.

On the same afternoon the Sunday Schools in connection with the Cathedral had their annual trip, the place chosen being Laurel Hill, Ballymacash.

Alas and alack times have changed, the fields mentioned on Harmony Hill are covered with dwellings, the Johnston-Smyth's are but a memory, their big house gone. The name `Harmony Hill' remains. Someone asked me `Where did the name come from?' I don't know. Just a lovely name someone thought of.



JOHN McCanceJOHN McCance born 1772, son of John McCance (1744-1811) of Farmhill, Dunmurry, and Jane Charley (1744-1818), was educated at the Belfast Academy, and subsequently entered the linen business of his uncle, William McCance, who had been in the linen trade since about 1780, and had a bleach green in the townland of Ballycullo. In 1797, the business was extended, and a lease taken of land at Suffolk, Dunmurry and at Ballycullo, and the water rights, including lead, from the 'Mill in the Upper Falls by the Rumbling G lens', i.e., Glenville, at this time occupied by the Stoupe family, who were related to the McCances, and were John McCance Stoupe, first cousin of John McCance, carried on his own linen business. In 1799 John McCance married Maria Finlay; at this time he was living at Roselands, on the Falls Road, and had formed a partnership with John Stoupe (McCance and Stroupe). Their linen was bleached at Glenville, and possibly their uncle William bleached some for them at his Suffolk green; both cousins were frequent attenders at the Lisburn market from this time. In 1801, William McCance, John's eldest child, was born, and his mother, Maria, died; John, meanwhile continued to live at Roselands, and married Lane Russell; this second marriage was childless. William McCance, John's uncle, died at Suffolk in 1810, and left his bleach green, silver and furniture to John's son, William, but before he received it, to John McCance and John Stoupe for I5 years, and subsequently to John McCan  ce for life. On John Stoupe's death in 1819, Suffolk House became the seat of John McCance, who had been living there since 1811. An illustration in Proctor's 'Belfast Scenery' (1832) shows Suffolk House, which John McCance rebuilt in 1824, to be a large imposing residence, beautifully situated on the Glenside. Philip Dixon Hardy, in his `Northern Tourist' (1830), describing his second pleasure tour which visited the Falls Road and Colin Glen, reported: 'In ascending the hill to the left appears the magnificent mansion of John McCance, Esq. of Suffolk - the most splendid, perhaps, belonging to any man of business in the kingdom'. After Suffolk House was rebuilt, it seems that the bleaching was carried out entirely at Glenville. John's second wife, Jane, died on 16 March, 1812, and in the following year, on 27 April, he married Sarah Law, and by this marriage, had ten children. In 1821, he joined the private bank of Orr, Sloan and Montgomery; the bank, which The McCance Hunt Cupwas thereafter known as Orr, Sloan, McCance and Montgomery, became the Northern Bank1 in 1824, with McCance as Chairman of the Management Committee, a position he held until his death. Later members of the McCance family have had connections with, not only the Northern Bank, but also the Ulster and Belfast Banks. John McCance had many interests apart from his linen and banking careers; he was very interested in horses and hounds, and two of his horses, Mayboy and Navarino, were winners at the Maze Races. He kept a pack of hounds and hunted the Kilultagh country. The McCance Hunt Cup, in the Ulster Museum, is dated 1829 and inscribed: 'Presented by Win. Coats, John Charles, George Suffern, J. Johnson, Alexander Arthur, Isaac Hardy, Murray Suffern to John McCance Esq., as a slight but sincere tribute to express their high sense of the kind attention which they have experienced whilst bunting with his hounds'. In 1801, he was made a Magistrate, and, in 1825, became High Sheriff of County Down; in 1827, he became High Sheriff of Co. Antrim. On 17 January, 1835, he was elected M.P. for Belfast, after an arduous contest of five days, in opposition to Lord Arthur Chichester, son of the Marquis of Donegal. He died in London of a bilious fever, whilst attending to his parliamentary duties, on 11 August, 18352, and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery; a memorial is erected to him in Drumbeg Parish Churchyard.

An amusing ballad concerning John McCance, `Young McCance', was copied down by John Hume of Kilmartin, Hillsborough, for his brother, Canon Hume of Liverpool, in 1845, at the sale of whose literary effects the manuscript came into the possession of Dr. J. S. Crone, London. Dr. Crone also heard another version, with slight variations, sung by Mill girls at Killead, Co. Antrim, and at Castlereagh, Co. Down, in 1860 (From a manuscript of Down ballads)3.

1. At the foot of Divis Mountain
My dwelling's to be seen
Where purling streams do gently glide
Beside my father's Green
All covered o' er with linen cloth
That was wrought near Tandragee
And purchased by young McCance
From a man named James Magee

2.As I walked out one morning
To view my father's men
The Armagh coach came driving in
Well laden to the ground
I put my spyglass to my eye
And viewed her all around
And in the front seat of the coach
Sat a damsel of renown

3. I hastily followed after
To help her off the coach
I took her by the milk white hand
And lead her round the beach
I showed her all my father's ships
That were bound for Chester fair
And only for your beauty bright
This nigh! I'd have been there.

4. We did not go much further
Until I asked her in
All for to take a glass of wine
Our courtship to begin
Said 1, "I lost a diamond
More precious far than gold
And you're the one that found it
Fair lady I've been told".

5.She said, "I am no lady, Sir,
Although I wear fine clothes
To keep company with a gentleman
I never will propose
I am but a farmer's daughter
That comes from Hamilton's Bawn
For your further information, Sir
I come from Drummond's Land".

6. Said I, "My handsome fair one
If you and I agree
We bath shall take the Armagh coach
And Drummond's Land we'll see
Five hundred pounds, in ready gold
On your father I'll bestow
And I'll crown you Queen of Drummond's Land
This night before I go".

7. She says, "Kind Sir, I'm sorry
Your suit must be denied
I have a true love of my own
And He'll make me his bride
I have a true love of my own
Has love for me in store
He's but a linen weaver
He's the boy that I adore".

8. As I walked out that evening
Down through my father's land
Was I not a clever fellow
With my fusse
5 in my hand
I might have had sweetheartsplentyplenty
Had I but known my fate
I'm young McCance, I'm from the Falls
You know my fortune's great.

1. Edwin Darley Hill, 'The Northern Banking Company Limited. An Historical Sketch Commemorating A Century of Banking in Ireland by the First Joint-Stock Bank Established in That Country 1874-1924' (Belfast 1925).
2. His funeral .service, delivered in in, Meeting-House of Dunmurry on 23 August 1835, was published in Belfast by John Hodgson and Samuel Archer (1835).
3. Information on the McCance family was compiled from the McCance family book, kindly lent to me by H. B. McCance of Holywood, Co. Down in January 1977.
4. The 'green' referred to here is more likely to he the bleach green of John's Uncle William McCance.
5. 'Fusee' was the popular name given to a type of pocket watch. More correctly it was the spindle in this type of watch on which the chain is wound.



As VERY LITTLE has been written about Aghalee as a community, except occasional essays in the `legend had, it' vein, it is very difficult to write an actual history of the village. At first glance everything one can say that seems interesting is pure conjecture, and after several attempts at a story that would possibly be more interesting to read, one is forced to face facts.

One reliable source of information seems to be old maps. These were presumably made by experts and printed plainly. There are old records and newspaper reports and of course country people have long memories. However many of their stories, though fascinating, cannot be verified elsewhere.

The earliest facts are to be obtained from the study of geology. At the end of the ice age, as the ice retreated to the north, it still blocked the valley of the Lower Bann and Belfast Lough. There was what was referred to by the geologists as 'Lough Belfast' which overflowed in a great river through Aghalee Valley into Lough Neagh, which then extended to Aghalee. The Lagan Valley was one vast lake.

The action of the ice cap and the associated rivers contributed much to the fertility of the district, leaving deposits of fertile soil. On this rich land, as the climate became warmer, great forests grew, and as there was very little slope in the valley bottom, large bogs developed, producing an almost impenetrable barrier of forest and bog from Lough Neagh to Belfast Lough.

The earliest reference to habitation is an old graveyard near Lough Neagh called Tamlaght, which means plague grave, the name occurring frequently in various parts of Ireland, it is of pagan origin. In the 'History of the Early Irish Church' Miss Kathleen Hughes mentions a great plague in this region in 549-550. This probably took the form of smallpox. Leprosy was also rife, though this did not seem to occur in epidemic form. Later cholera became a constant hazard.

There is evidence that the Vikings penetrated to the western borders of the Parish. They reached Oxford Island, following the same route as that taken by earlier settlers from the Baltic. They sailed up the River Bann into Lough Neagh. In 839 the Vikings placed a fleet on Lough Neagh and ravaged the surrounding countryside. In 840-841 they wintered here for the first time. In 866 Aed Finnliath, King of the Northern O'Neills, rooted out all the nests of pirates on the north coast from Donegal to Antrim, but in 900 a Viking fleet again appeared on Lough Neagh. By 850 there was much intermarriage between Irish and Norse and Christianization of the invaders. One example is Olaf, King of Dublin, who was married to a daughter of Aed Finnliath.

In the village itself stands an old church in a ruined condition. It was probably the first stone building and is probably of great antiquity. In the twelfth century O'Donnel built a Monastery at Lambeg and it is thought monks from here attended the string of small churches in the surrounding countryside. In 1274 the first tax was paid in Ireland towards the Crusades, called the `Tenths', and it was so reluctantly paid that the Bishops of Meath and Kildare were ordered to gather the tax by 'all means in their power'. It was through this tax that an early mention of Aghalee occurs. It appears that the smallest income derived was 40d. a year, as in the case of the Chapels of Eracha (Aghagallon), Thanelagh (Tamlaght) and Acheli (Aghalee) in the Diocese of Down.

Within living memory pottery has been found which dated from the fifteenth century. Here conjecture takes over, but it is reasonable to infer that a village of wooden or mud huts, and perhaps some stone houses with thatched roofs had grown up round the church, probably with a palisade for protection. There were several hazards to be faced in the early days of the village; wolves roamed the forest which surrounded it, and the bag which lay to the west and south-west made access difficult in wet weather.

According to G. H. Orpen, the weather in those days was more humid and the water level higher. The early inhabitants cultivated very little land except for the use of animals. They kept cattle and pigs and chickens for their own use. The summers were neither long nor dry enough to encourage cultivation. There was also the hazard of robbers if one travelled, and of pestilence. Living in insanitary conditions brought epidemics from time to time.

The next development was the coming of the Normans who advanced from the South led by De Courcy, who had been told by Henry II that he could have Ulster if he could conquer it. Having followed the coast he then penetrated a great deal of County Down and the river valleys, then turned North. The Normans established a foothold no nearer than Castle Robin, building castles at Antrim, Muckamore, Ballyharvey, Camlin, Greenmount and Bullocks Fort.

In 1170 Thomas a Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral, and in due course a Norman called William Tracey arrived in this area. He is reputed to be one of the knights who perpetrated the murder of the Archbishop and who had come to the edge of the then known world to escape from any who knew him.

At the dissolution of the monasteries there is a note in Primate Dowdall's Registry in 1546 that the Rector and Vicar of Achelead (Aghalee) was among the benefices of the Diocese (Dromore). At this time the village was also known as Anahely and on some documents as Adralead. It later graduated from Aughalee to Aghalee.

In 1611 the Manor of Killultagh of which Aghalee formed a part, was granted to Sir Folk Conway, and it could be seen that Aghalee was beginning to prosper. Sir Fulk and his brother-in-law Sir George Rawdon brought over many natives of England and Wales to tenant the estate and some of their descendants are here today. It is interesting in passing to note how this family developed. In 1598 Captain Falls Conway served here with the Earl of Essex (sent here by Queen Elizabeth I). In 1600 he was knighted, and he died in 1624, to be succeeded by his brother Sir Edward Conway, who was a Secretary of State. Sir Edward subsequently became Ist Viscount Killultagh and Conway. The 3rd Viscount Conway was created Earl of Conway in 1679 and died in 1683 having no issue. The estate then passed to his cousin Francis Seymour who took the name Conway and in 1750 Lord Conway was created Earl of Hertford and Viscount Beauchamp. This is the family that had an influence on a large part of the destinies of people of this region for many years to come.

No history of the village would be complete without some reference to the Quaker influence. Although no meeting house was built in the village, Quakers did settle in Megaberry. They first used a house for their gatherings, then in time built a Meeting House which still stands in a graveyard that is still in use.

On looking up old family records in the parish, it is astonishing how many families can trace a Quaker ancestor. The first Quaker to come to this part of the world was the brother of a soldier who was stationed in Antrim. He was encouraged to come to Ulster with merchandise and found that trading here was profitable. In due course more Quakers followed and the first Quaker colony developed in Lurgan. At this time Quakers were denied a University education. They had stern principles which they observed. They refused to pay tithes and would raise their hats to no man. Consequently, if they were taken to Court for non-payment of tithes, they refused to bare their heads to the magistrate and would not swear an oath. This meant they were constantly at odds with the law.

They were, however, industrious, pious and dependable and trade was their forte. Even though they have not vast followers, they have been constant and are still to be found in groups in England, Ireland, America and most remarkably in East Africa.

Lord Hertford's records supply us with many facts, and from 1611 onwards these may be more easily ascertained. Tenants rolls are available and many old maps are clearly marked, the smallest cottage being shown.

An interesting event happened at Lord Hertford's hunting lodge. AI the western corner of the Parish is a fertile coastal strip dividing Lough Neagh from the bogland. On this stands the Deerpark, which was once surrounded by a high wall l2-I5 feet high, and where Lord Hertford kept a herd of deer. One calm day a huge oak tree fell, the girth of which was so vast that two men on horseback holding long sticks could not make them meet across it. The trunk was taken away by boat and used for the keel of the famous battleship, the Royal Oak - the branches were used for building at Portmore.

The surrounding land, being low-lying, in periods of flood, the raised ground became an island and many of these so-called islands retain the name 'island', such as Branken's Island and the Island Hill. Branken's Island was used by Lord Hertford for duck shooting. It is thought by some authorities that Bracken was a Dutch engineer, spelt Vranken, who was employed by Lord Hertford to improve his estate and to drain the land.

In 'Heterogenea or Medley' by J. M. Johnston, written in 1803, is an interesting account of Aghalee district.

`Some of the tenants farming here at this time were called:- Gresham, Higginson, Waring, Close, Bullmer, Bunting, Charlton, Aprichard, Gwilliams, Haddock, Wheeler, Garrett, Bennet, Gregory, Willis, Shillington, Hammond, Moore, Richardson, Clark, Smyth, Peel, Bickett, Lamb and Carter etc.'

'The estate is in an oval form from Clogher in the County of Down to Hogpark Point in the County of Antrim and about ten miles in breadth from near Moira to Crumlin. It is one of the most populous, best improved, and occupied by the most wealthy and substantial yeomanry of any perhaps in Ireland. The farms are in general 20-100 and 200 acres. The houses are neat and in general white, surrounded by fields well cultivated and well planted, much after the English fashion, the tenantry being descended from Englishmen in general, and follow the customs, manners, industry and religion of their ancestors.'

`The different yeomanry corps in this estate amount to about 1,000 men, two troops of cavalry and nine companies of infantry'.

'Soldierstown Infantry was commanded by Stafford Gorman, Mr. Smyth, Mr. Fulton and 100 men made up the Aghalee Company'. Here is a copy of part of the pay list of this Company. Many familiar names can be seen:-


With the coming of the Lagan Navigation Canal and the age of mechanisation, the village sprang to life. Belfast was now a thriving port and Aghalee had access to it. Roads passed through the village from Crumlin, Lisburn and Lurgan.

In the Ordnance Survey of 1838 many of the activities of Aghalee are shown. Apart from the thriving farming community there were two grain merchants, two dressmakers, a smith, a wheelwright, and turner, carter, tailor, shoemaker, flaxjobber, thatchers, stonemasons, carpenters, saddlers and a coffin maker. From this same establishment one could hire a carriage to go to one's wedding, and a hearse complete with black horses wearing black plumes in their harness.

The population had grown, many more houses being marked on the old maps than on the present ones. Several Belfast merchants built elegant country houses and came to live here. Mr. John Usher owned a Corn Mill in the centre of the village. After the Canal was extended to Lough Neagh the Mill had to be changed to a Flax Mill because the supply of water was reduced to assist the Canal. However, about 1826 the flax mill was relinquished for want of water.

From 1850 onwards Aghalee and Soldierstown region became famous for its production of Italian Ryegrass produced for seed. This was made possible by the adequate supply of lime in the soil, and the pride and integrity of its farmers.

There are many people in the Parish who can remember Aghalee through this Century, and old photographs show the changes that have taken place. A story is told of Mr. Sleator's coachman. He used to wear a shilling on his watch-chain, and on being asked by his grandson why he wore a shilling, said it was a wedding present. His grandson thought this was a poor sort of present, but the old coachman said, `Would you mind being given a day's pay?!'

There are many such stories that can be collected and recorded before they are forgotten, and this is being done. It is hard to visualise what a great amount of work must have been accomplished by our forebearers in making the countryside around our Village appear so well cultivated and prosperous. Forests have been cleared, low land drained, banks made to create fields, and hedges planted. Much of the land is underdrained with shores usually every seven yards.

History is still being made. Only sad things seem to be recorded, but the industrial and agricultural life unobtrusively continue. Two wars have taken their toll and recent troubles have robbed us of men that could ill be spared. Aghalee has been here a long time. We look to the future with hope.