Michael Costello with a Gordon Violin, at the entrance to Hugh Gordon's old homestead at Lower Ballymacward, Stoneyford. The inset shows a label found inside a Hugh Gordon violin bearing the date 1835.
THE Killultagh Historical Society commenced their 2008/2009 programme of lectures with a most interesting talk given by the well-known Lurgan historian Dr. Frank McCorry on Thursday September 25.
Frank's latest book, launched earlier this year entitled "Sacred Landscapes and Human Endeavour in South-West County Antrim" provided the back-drop for the evening's talk. The presentation, titled "Glimpses of Historic South-West Antrim" however, proved to be more than just a glimpse, as Frank delved into various aspects of the past in his own inimitable style. He provided the society members and visitors with an alternative look into the social history of the area, and in particular, his research into several local parish registers.
"I think you cannot understand the nature of a parish or a district, if you haven't gone through the registers, " Frank explained.
His theory was well-supported throughout his presentation, which included an analysis of the 1851 census and several baptism and marriage records, culminating in some alternative methodology and exploration into the local history in a very thought provoking manner. His use of demographic tables for life study patterns presented a much clearer understanding and insight into the lives of our ancestors in this part of the district.
Frank covered other topics that included his theories and reasoning as to why so many Belfast people were buried in the old Portmore graveyard between 1894 and 1928. He also spoke about the Slighe Mhidhluchra, which is said by historians to be one of the ancient routes that ran from North to South passing through towns including Antrim, Glenavy and Newry. The number of church sites that have Lann (Clan) in their place-names close to this route, was also explored.
Members of the society certainly look forward to any future talks by their esteemed member Dr. Frank McCorry.
On conclusion of the lecture, members and visitors renewed old acquaintances and new friendships were struck over a cup of tea. A large number of members and visitors gathered at the Crumlin venue on Thursday October 30 to listen to guest speaker, Belfast man, Michael Costello. He presented a lecture with a difference titled "Gordon of Stoneyford - violin maker." This was Michael's first ever talk in public on his passion - Hugh Gordon the violin maker who died in the mid 19th century. The lecture included an eclectic mix of both music, violin playing and local history based on the life and times of this relatively unknown talented blacksmith and violin maker.
Original violin templates, once used by Hugh Gordon, moulds, copies of his handwriting in the form of sheet music and words were all on display. Five of the original violins made by Hugh Gordon and his son were not only on display, but three of them were played by musicians Frank Doherty and Davy Rice. Michael also demonstrated a reconditioned Gordon violin and played three tunes that he found in the actual manuscript of Hugh Gordon, recreating sounds that once resonated in the Stoneyford area over 150 years ago.
To complete the evening, Michael read an extract from his latest venture, a historical fiction novel based on the life of Hugh Gordon and set in the townland of Ballymacward, Stoneyford area in the early 19th century.
Michael concluded his lecture suggesting that perhaps those with the appropriate authority and influence should have some sort of plaque erected in the Stoneyford area to commemorate the life of Hugh Gordon.
Amongst those present in the audience were several descendants of the Gordon family, who were delighted to glean previously unknown details about their ancestry.
Michael was congratulated by committee member, John Larkin, complimented Michael on the way he had brought local history to life.
The society look forward to their next meeting on Thursday November 27, at 8pm when Cormac McSparron, an archaeologist based at Queen's University, Belfast will present a talk on "Excavations of an Early Medieval Fort at Dromadoon, County Antrim."
New members and visitors are always welcome.
Copies of Dr. Frank McCorry's book can still be obtained locally. Michael Costello's informative website on the Gordon violins can be found at
Visit the Digger at www.glenavyhistory.com