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A spruce up for the Wishing Chair of Glenavy


The strange stone that is shaped like a chair, located at Crew Road outside Glenavy
The strange stone that is shaped like a chair, located at Crew Road outside Glenavy
IF you had been driving along the Crew Road, outside Glenavy, during the latter stage of last summer then you may just have seen something reminiscent of a bygone era.

At that time the roadmen, who worked for the urban councils, armed themselves with scythes, billhooks, forked stick and honing stone to clean the verges and hedges along the roadsides. The man working at the side of the road, in the townland of Lurganteneil, on this occasion, attracting curious looks from passers-by, was my old friend Billy Abbot from Ballymacash.

Billy related to me how he had spent the best part of a day working at the side of the road, clearing the grass on the verge around an unusual stone and cleaning off the moss. It had probably been some time since the stone attracted this attention. It had been considered a nuisance as it had received the odd 'clipping' from modern-day cutting machinery.

Billy recalled his first encounter with this strange stone. He had been taking part in a local treasure hunt associated with Magheragall Presbyterian Church in the early 1960's. One of the locations featured in the treasure hunt at that time was the "beggar's stone", that same stone Billy had now turned his attention to once again.

Don't be mistaken though, this is not the infamous Crew Stone, but a stone shaped in the form of a chair within the same locality. I had known of the location of this "chair" since my childhood, having listened to stories of schoolchildren passing it on their way to the schoolhouse at Killultagh.

Sometimes the schoolchildren would use the stone chair as the final marker in a road race that they would hold on their return from school - the winner being the first to arrive at the stone, sit on it and rest their laurels

Nearby they could refresh themselves by drinking the fresh spring-water at McCallum's well. In fact, until recently, one of those former schoolchildren believed the chair had long since disappeared. There are, however, only memories remaining of the schoolhouse at Killultagh. It has since been replaced by housing development but the stone chair remains.

The children in those days had been told by their peers that the stone chair had something to do with the crowning of kings, and may have once been situated at the top of the Crew Hill, on top of the Crew Stone, believed to have been the site for the inauguration of Ulster kings.

Those memories are supported by the reports we read from yesteryear - of visits in the area by Belfast Naturalist Field Club in August 1932 under the joint conductorship of Mr. W.G. Burns and Mr. Joseph Skillen. As part of their outing in the Glenavy and Ballinderry areas they stopped to examine the roadside object, referred to as a "wishing stone". We read in the Lisburn Standard from that era that a number of the party sat and wished. "This seat looked more suitable for the coronation chair on Crew Hill."

An earlier newspaper report in 1929 states that "on the roadside close to Mr. James McMurray's farm at Lurganteniel, Ballinderry, above Lisburn there is a large stone shaped like a rude armchair.


This is locally known as the "Beggar's Seat" and it is supposed to have been brought down there from the summit of the famous Crew Hill which is close at hand." There is certainly still in 1929 a large stone on Crew Hill, but it does not look as much like an inauguration stone as "The Beggars' Seat" on the roadside."

Many years ago I visited local historian, the late Jean Totten, at her quaint cottage complete with the "half door," located close to the shores of Lough Neagh. Jean related to me many local stories of the area, and gave me a copy of her 1980 publication titled "Gleanings from Glenavy Parish."

In that publication Jean records the story related to her by an elderly lady who lived in a cottage close by the Crew Hill about the stone chair. The lady told her that in the last battle fought at the Crew Hill, the victors, who were taking the chair away, were surprised by another force and dropped it in the place where it remains today.

In the 1929 report readers were informed that "we have in Crew Hill a nice site for an afternoon's picnic motor-run to one of the most historical sites in Irish history."

Before you take this early advice please do check first with the Lisburn City Council for access. The Crew Stone is on private land. I did hear a story last year about two gentlemen who took a stroll across a field to visit the inauguration site at the Crew Stone, armed only with cameras. No need for swords and other battlements now as the Kinel Owen, the Ulidia and Boru had long since left the hill.

Our two friends had forgotten about the frisky bullocks though. When one cow spotted a camera and a potential photo-shoot, they all followed-on to investigate and quickly surrounded our part-time kings.

After a series of "whoa's" and "shoo's" they realised their feeble attempts at scaring off the bovine beasts were failing miserably and had to wait until the animals became bored. If only the stones could talk!

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