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Rediscovering the rich history of a forgotten townland

By The Digger
The Parish Church of St. Matthew, Broomhedge situated close to the townland of Ballynalargy.

TAKE a drive in a westerly direction from Lisburn along the Moira Road. You will pass through an area which has changed over time, in fact dramatically within living memory.

We have been left with memoirs from earlier generations which relate to us stories of finds of bones, urns, arrowheads, brass battleaxes, spurs, coins, gold gorgets, metal balls, ancient springs and raths which conjure up images in the imagination of the people who once roamed and occupied this stretch of the countryside. Many of the raths and forts scattered throughout the town lands you will pass through have been ploughed out and lie under meadows or built upon.

It wasn't that long ago I was passing a household in that district seeking directions to the townland of Ballynalargy. The residents were unable to assist, even though I knew from the map I had that Ballynalargy wasn't too far away. In fact after several enquires in the area I discovered the town land I was seeking was situated only a few fields away from my first "port-of-call". The modern road signage in the area gave us a clue to Ballynalargy's adjacent townlands - "Moyrusk Road", "Carnlougherin Road".

Ballynalargy is close to the halfway point on your journey between Lisburn and Moira and bounded by the town lands of Moyrusk and Carnlougherin. Surviving records relating to the town land are to be found in the Parishes of Magheragall and Magheramesk.

We will never know the identity of the person or persons who gave the town land its name but when we look towards the general location from the main road the sloping hill gives us some clue to the formation of the name. "Ballynalargy" - place of the sloping hill. That is one feature that has remained through the centuries.

The 1830s Ordnance Survey memoirs inform us that a fort once located in the Moyrusk townland was no longer in existence but had been in holding of John Wardle who resided at Moyrusk House. The name Wardle, or Wardell, is no longer to be found in the area, however, a native of Ballynalargy can still recall her father mentioning the name to her over 70 years ago.

The Lisburn Herald in July 1886 carried an advertisement for the "sale of valuable farms of land in the town lands of Ballynalargy and Moyrusk" after the death of George Wardell on August 19 1886.

It provides a valuable insight into the past and describes the "well fenced, watered and heavily manured land". Ten acres planted with potatoes and turnips and the house grounds were tastefully laid out and included orchard, fruit and flower garden. One of the important factors of that era was the close proximity of Brookmount Station on the Great Northern Railway.


The possibility of a proposed railway station at Rankin's Bridge in 1891 caused quite a stir in the locality. A meeting was held in Broomhedge on Saturday May 23 1891. a report revealed the names of the locals who attended that evening - Ritchie, Richey, Megarry, Dickey, Tate, Welsh, Carlisle, Spence, Green and Law amongst others. Henderson Ritchie informed those attending that evening that "he was afraid, however, from what he heard that they would have a hard fight to get it anywhere except at the Maze."

The debate continued into the new century. In 1901 Broomhedge National School hosted a similar meeting on Thursday April 4. It was attended by locals emphasising the need for passenger accommodation for the people of Broomhedge, an addition to the operative goods siding. That meeting had been attended by locals including The Rev. Leslie, Rev. Gillis, Joseph Hill, Jonathan Ritchie and Samuel Downey.

Life in the community appeared to be somewhat simpler then. The nearby parish churches of Magheragall and St.Matthew's at Broomhedge ministered to those who followed in the Church of Ireland tradition and provided a place of rest for the departed within the community. No doubt there had been an air of excitement in the district when St Matthew's Church reopened in July 1899 and the new transept and vestry were dedicated.

This would probably have been as much a topic of local conversation as chat then as the summonsing 13 years earlier to Lisburn Petty Sessions of a young male from nearby Broughmore. Nathaniel Dickey, a Sunday school teacher at Broomhedge Methodist, from Moyrusk had alleged the defendant with others had been involved in assaulting persons attending an evening soiree at the schoolroom. The case against the defendant was dismissed as it could not be proved that he had knocked the hats off several people on that evening!

The local Orange hall at Broomhedge provided a place for signing the Ulster Covenant in 1913 for almost 300 females from the immediate town lands under the watchful eye of the Rev Leslie.

A number of men folk from the Magheragall and Broomhedge areas lost their lives in World War 1. Some of the inscriptions on the headstones bear witness to that fact. Life would go on though.

Henderson Ritchie appears as the successor to the Wardell property at Moyrusk in 1887. As a landowner he would receive rent from other families who were inhabiting several of his properties in Moyrusk and Ballynalargy. One of those was the Willis family who were residing there in the 1880's. This property later changes hands to John Downey. He had married Jane, a daughter of Robert Willis.

At the turn of the twentieth century the family names of Robinson, Dickey, Hill, Ritchie and Downey were all to be found within close proximity of each other. The Hill, Dickey, Ritchie and Robinson families all hired help to assist with the farming and domestic chores.

Thanks to Deputy Keeper of the Records, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland for the granting of permission to use extracts from Valuation Records (VAL 12B/8/14A-D).

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