words- Ballynahinch History #2
Ros Davies' Co. Down, Ireland Genealogy Research Site
© Rosalind Davies 2001
Permission granted to reprint research for non-profit use only

A History of Ballynahinch

Click on a Name

John Armstrong Samuel Armstrong George Burrows James Burrows Joseph Burrows Richard Burrows
Thomas Burrows Sir Edward Carson Hugh Cearns Dr. Chambers Brian Davey William Davidson
Thomas Davis Rev. William Steel Dickson James Dinwoody Samuel Edgar Rev. James Forde Matthew Forde
James Foreman John Gill John Graham Betsy Gray John Hanna William Holmes
Francis Johnston J.M. Johnston Samuel McDowell Johnston David Ker Hugh Kirkpatrick James Little
Acolie MacArtan John McCalla Thomas McCance McCartan Patrick McCartan Rev. John McClelland
Alexander McCoy Tool McPhelim McIvor Andrew McRoberts Magennis Sir Nicholas Malby James Martin x2
Daniel Mullan Hugh Munro Robert Munro Thomas Nelson William Pulline Sir John Rawdon
Rev. E.F. Vesey Ross Robert Sturgeon     Alexander Brown Meredith McDowell





MAY, 1968

Published by the Ballynahinch Chamber of Commerce

Extract based on OCR of a partial copy by R E Murphy on June 26, 2000


Ballynahinch stands at the crossing point of routes from North to South and East to West as they skirt Slieve Croob on its northern face. If you glance at a "Route Map" showing main routes and you will see that Ballynahinch commands most of the routes which traverse County Down. Lisburn to Downpatrick; Dromore to Downpatrick;Belfast to Newcastle, Castlewellan, Kilkeel;Bangor to Banbridge and Newry, etc.

Ballynahinch has always been a CROSSROADS TOWN, but this function has been a minor one in the past. The town to-day is a NODAL POINT AND COULD BE THE MEETING POINT OF DOWN.


The flowing lines of the nestling drumlins contrast with the bold outline of Slieve Croob to the Southwest of the town, and on a fine day the green grass blends idyllically with countless shades of watery blue. Slieve Croob (1,756 ft. high) is the highest of a group of upland summits sometimes referred to as the Dromara Mountains. They cover a very small area, and as mountains go they could be classed as insignificant.School children may find some satisfaction in the fact that two of the notable rivers (if not the only two notable rivers) of Northern Ireland have sources in the back gardens of Ballynahinch. This may be considered a claim to fame. Even the people of Belfast sometimes wonder where the Lagan begins.

Vegetation, Fauna, etc

As the ice melted to uncover a barren surface nature set to work to clothe the land once more. First appeared the arctic willow, and then the birch scattered here and there among open vegetation. Following the birch came the hazel and then the pine in early post-glacial times, succeeded in turn by the alder and oak in the Full Glacial period. Then came a period of disturbance, the land sank, the drainage increasingly deteriorated and the climate degenerated into wet storms sweeping in from the west. To this period of time which lasted approximately 2,500 years ending 2,500 B.C., is given the title Atlantic since the wet winds from the Atlantic Ocean were the dominant dynamic in a changing world. At this time the oldest turf was formed. A warm and comparatively dry period by present standards followed, the Sub-Boreal, and the forests flourished as never before and never since, climbing higher and higher up the mountain slopes. All good things come to an end, and they did— about 500 B.C., and for the next 600 years it was back to Irish weather. Layer after layer of turf was laid down in hollows, storing up heat and energy for future generations of Irishmen. During the period man was forced to move downhill and concentrate on pastoralism. Since 100 A.D. there have been minor fluctuations in forest cover, triggered off by climate, but the saga is one of general decline on deteriorating soils aided and abetted by the despoliations of man and beast. Nevertheless the tree cover predominated until the Plantation period, after which Ireland came to claim the title "least-wooded Country in W. Europe." Numerous references quoted elsewhere show that, when the Rawdons took over, the Ballynahinch area was a hunting-shooting-forest paradise.

"Originally this parish, as was the country in general, almost entirely over-run with wood—here formerly roamed the wolf (Ednavaddy?) and the wild boar (Dunturk), long since totally extirpated. The few inhabitants, then lived together in small villages or forts; by degrees the woods were destroyed in order to make way for cultivation as the inhabitants increased."

He did not mention "tories" but the woods of Kinelarty are known to have had their full share. The last of the old oaks. I am informed by Mr. Robb were cleared in Magheratimpany only 100 years ago. As far as animals are concerned the earliest domesticated types were the ox, pig sheep and goat. The white hare is indigenous, the horse was introduced in the bronze age, the domestic fowl snaffled from the Romans, and the rabbit perpetrated by the Anglo-Normans as gamestock in the 12th century.


The drumlins are such a special feature around Ballynahinch that they serve a section of their own. They have always caught the eye of those with time to appreciate beauty. One old description was "a rolling tumbling sea of verdue." To-day they afford pleasure to the eye as settings for a whitewashed farmhouse or a crowning rath, their streamlined shape emphasised by the hedges. It is their shape which has created the classic description "a basket of eggs". The drumlin is a relic from the Ice-Age. The Ballynahinch region lay in the path of the Scottish Ice. When the ice retreated (it really just melted away) it left our district covered with glacial drift (moraine) moulded into egg-shaped hills, the long axis of which tells us the direction of the Dow of the ice. The hollows in between contain lakes and peat flats most of which are now exhausted. Heavy forest covered the drumlins, some down to historic times and some areas would have been almost inaccessible to primitive man surrounded as the drumlins were by water and marsh. As is dealt with later little evidence of settlement has been discovered before the age of raths, and where previous neolithic and bronze evidence occurs, it does so where the glacial drift is thin. However, once the technical know-how was developed, as well as the necessary social structure, the drumlin slopes, especially those facing south, proved attractive to man. The soils were reasonable, the subsoil was deep, the slopes provided natural drainage, and the forest firing. When the English and later Scotch settlers began to clear the drumlins completely they planted hedges, although as late as 1802 they were being advised to use quicks. The hedge pattern on the drumlins is fairly standard. A long spinal hedge, two very steep fields on the blunt end, and ribs of hedges descending from the spine.


By far the greatest proportion of the land is pasture. Arable (i.e. the growing of crops) land is more prominent in the lowland areas (river basins), on the well-drained slopes of the drumlins and on the foothills of Croob to the S.W. of Ballynahinch.Another belt of arable farming stretches across the area about 2-3 miles north of Ballynahinch. Nowhere, however, is ploughing really popular. The land above 800 feet is largely given over to heaths though some areas have been reafforested.


In common with the rest of Northern Ireland the Ballynahinch area has a maritime climate. The main characteristics are generally summarised as mild, wet winters; cool, fairly dry springs; cool, wet late summers; damp, mild autumns. There is less difference between average summer and winter temperatures than elsewhere in the British Isles. This small annual range of temperature allows us to claim our climate as EQUABLE. The driest months are April to June. July and August are on average wet. It would have been ideal to have included a documented section on the micro-climate (we know that everyone now understands the meaning of "mini' and was often a souterrain—probably a larder or "a refuge in the time of storm." Others show no settlement and may only have been cattle pounds, while yet others appear to have been completely roofed over with everything under one roof in supposedly true Irish fashion. From the excavations we can build a brief sketch of the inmates' activities. They grew wheat, but were mixed farmers, with a slight emphasis on stock-rearing. Expert woodworkers, they were mostly also capable of smithing for themselves. Raths are erroneously called forts or "forties". Crannogs are artificial island lake-dwellings, some dating from 2,000 B.C. but mostly contemporary with raths. The Crannog on Lough Henny was still occupied at the beginning of the 17th century by Tool McPhelim McIvor. (For further information see Appendix).


Ballynahinch is the old townland name and has survived from the mists of antiquity. The popular interpretation is "the town of the island" or "island-town". Many theories have been formulated to justify this description. Some have held that there was a crannog in Ballynahinch Lough similar to the historically provable one in Lough Henny. The Lough has since been filled with sewage and is now being laid out as playing fields. Others have pointed out the town site was almost an island, lying between Ballynahinch River, Ballynahinch Lough, and a stream which drained the Lough into the river at Robinson's Corner end of the town. This stream has been sewered. The compilers of "The Survey of Earl Moira's Estate" were firmly of this opinion. (1782). "N.B. that the Town has its name from said Lough or the Island and Ballynahinch in English is . . . Islandtown". Looking at the town site over a more extensive area it can be shown, (as in fig. 4) that before drainage Ballynahinch was a pocket of dry land surrounded by hills (which means forest), river and bogland. But there is another less known possible translation. 'Bally" is often an anglicised corruption of booley which refers to "a dairy farm or milking parlour". "Inch' often means "a river meadow." Ballynahinch, therefore, becomes "the dairy farm of the river-meadow", and this explanation needs nothing more than a glance at the geography to prove its feasibility. Or what about "The Town in the river-meadow". At the end of this section you will find a list of interpretations of "old" names. The writer is no Irish scholar and those which are guesses are starred *; the remainder are the interpretations of Joyce. Many of the names refer to townlands. The townland is still a visible land unit, and the carefully delineated boundaries point to a well-organised and settled population in the past.

Townlands were probably based on a village nucleus. Most remains of these old-type villages suggest they were very small, but ancient travellers did record villages of 50-60 houses. The houses, or cabins as the English called them, were in clusters or clachans and were in some sheltered place. There was no plan or order. The tradition persists in "closes", "quarters" and "towns". A probable survival of the tradition (in name only) is Dobbinstown (near the Spa). Those who want to see what a clachan looked like can visit Tievendarragh Town opposite the County Council Quarry on the road to Newcastle.

The earliest description of the Ballynahinch area (Petty about 1658-59) runs as follows:— "There are no buildings in this parish to be seen besides the walls of the church at Magheradroll, a thatched house at Ballymaglave and some cabins." Baronies were a later addition, based on the older kingdoms, to the pattern of ownership and organisation. Each barony was very distinctive in nature even to having its own colour for clothing. Magheradroll is translated by Joyce as "the plain between two forks." Harris on the other hand, in 1744, writing nearer to the native period of occupation and before the demise of the Irish language in the area, had the following to say:— "From this terrible condition of the roads it has obtained the name of Magheradroll, which it truly deserves. Knox in his history of County Down, 1875, backs this interpretation up. "The name of Magheradroll is properly deduced from Machaire-drochaib, signifying gravelly plain."

As for the Barony appellation of Kinelarty, Knox derives it as follows:—

"The Barony of Kinelarty, anciently Kinelfagarty, derives its name from Cenel Fagartaig, Fagartach having been an ancient chief, whose tribe peopled the district, or from Cenel Artane. an ancient proprietor of the district of the tribe of Ires, and the common ancestor of the Magennises and Macartanes, in the district of Dufferin, formerly included in Kinelarty, with a part of Lower Iveagh for, as we are told by an old writer in 1598. "Kinalewrtie is woodland and boggy, and lieth between Kilwaren and Lecahull."


Annacott; The Ford by the Oak, or of the little boat- Annaghmore;Big Marsh -Ardtanagh;High mound or rampart - Ballykine ;O'Kine or Mackine's Town (or Town of the head ) -Ballylone ;Owen's Town or Dairy in the Meadow (or town of the lamb) -Ballymacarn; Macarn's Town (Macartan?), or Town of the cairn ) -Ballymacaramery; O'Ramery's Town -BalIymaglave; Maglave's Town -Ballymurphy;Murphy's Town -Burren;Rocky Place -Cahard;The High Bog -Cargycreevy ;The rock of the branchy place -Carragnacreevy ;The rock of the branchy place -Cargycroy(gray) ;Grey rocks -Cluntagh;Meadowland -Clintnagooland ;Meadowland of the river fork -Creevytennant(tannel) ; Bonfire Rock (or of Lime Kilns) -Crossgar ;The Short CrossThe Short Cross -Cumber;The confluence of two waters -Derry;Wood - Drumaghlis; Church hill or fort-hill -Drumaness; The hill of the weasel -Drummarragh; Boat-shaped hill -Drumroad;Ridge of the road -Dumboy;Yellow Hill-Drumgavelin ;Hill of the little river fork -Dunbeg ;Small fort -Dunmore;Large fort -DunturkThe fort of the boar -Edendarrif; High brow of the bulls- Ednavaddy ;High brow of the dog -Glassdrummond;Green ridge- Killygoney ; Wood of the Conies or Church of the Conies- Kilmore ; The great church - Legacurry; The Cauldron Hollow - Lisowen ; Owen's Fort (Fort in the grassland) - Listooder; Fort of the tanner - Magherahamlet ; Plain of the plague-cemetry- Maghernaknock ; Plain of the hill - Magheralone; Owen's plain/the grass plain/plain of the lamb - bPlain of the standing stone or peak hill - Montalto ; High Hill - Mullaghdrin ; Battle of the summit - Pollramer(lake) ; Fat or thick hole - Rademon; Rath of the demons - Raleagh; Rath of the grey people - Skerries ; Rocky place - Slieve Croob; Claw, Foot, Hoof Mountain - Slievenamoney ; Mountain of Shrubs -Teconet ; Home of a Connaught settler - Tievenadarragh; Hillside of the bulls - Tonnaghmore; The big field - Tullybeg ; Little hill - Tullywasnecunagh(Tullywest); Hill of rabbit holes


The proprietors of Kinelarty were the MacArtains and sometimes Kinelarty was referred to as Macartan's Country. The name in Irish is MacArtain but this has been anglicised variously as MacCartan, McArtan, MacArtan, Macartane. Mac means 'son of' and Artain is the diminutive of the common Irish name of Art. The MacArtains were decended from a king of Ireland (Knox quotes Conall, son of Coabhaig). The alternative name for the clan was Clannarury. indicating they were a sub-group of the Red Branch tribe. In earlier times the clan had the reputation of being a warlike people. Mostly they were subordinate to the neighbouring Magennises, with whom they shared a common ancestry, but about 1350 the chief of Kinelarty was also Lord of Iveagh. The MacArtains were tributary to the O'Neills. The Arms of the MacArtains are set out by MacLysaght as "Vert a lion rampant or on a chief argent a crescent between two dexter hands couped at the wrist glues". The crest was—"a lance erect or headed argent entwined with a snake descending vert.' The motto—"buailimise e'." In 1553 MacArtain's Country was attracting the envious eyes of the settlers being "full of woods, water and good land meet for Englishmen to inhabit." At this time the Macartains were militarily and probably economically insecure. A 1552 record states "next to that countrie (Iveagh) is McCartan's Countrye, a man of small power wherein are no horsemen but Kearne, which countrie is full of bogges, woodes… " A record reveals that in 1586 "in Kinelarty or McCartan's Country some interest was given to Sir Nicholas Malby but never by him quietly enjoyed." Complete forfeiture had been avoided by Acolie MacArtain submitting to Queen Elizabeth. Acolie does not appear to have been very powerful as he could raise only 60 foot soldiers and no horsemen at all. The Malby interest reverted to Phelim (Phelomy) son of Acolie. Down was excluded from the Plantation of James I, but before and after the plantation period undertakers and adventurers were making considerable inroads on confiscated lands. Knox makes reference to Johnston, giving him different Christian names. "The late Samuel MacDowell Johnston, who resided near Ballynahinch, bequeathed one third of the profits of a literary work, entitled "The Medley", amounting to something more than £4 per annum, to be annually distributed at Christmas, amongst the poor.


"In the year 1783, a Lease of about sixty Acres of Land. in the townland of Ballykine. near Ballynahinch expired the Land before had been let for about three shillings and sixpence the Irish Acre on a Lease of 41 years, some of the occupying tenants proposed 6 and the others 8 shillings an Acre for a Lease of three lives or 31 years from November 1783: his Lordship agreed to grant them leases at twelve Shillings an Acre which they refused to take. his Lordship then ejected. but before the Sheriff came, they burned some of the houses on the premises, and fled: his Lordship then let the lands to Mr. Daniel Mullan, Land-surveyor, and two others, at the same rent, the occupying tenants rejected: for three lives or 31 years. The consequence is that by the obstinacy or mulishness of the original tenants not accepting so good a bargain. they are now paying one Pound ten Shillings an Acre without a Lease, for not better land: and was Mr. Mullan, and the tenants of the rejected land. at 12 Shillings, now let, they would not take less than a Guinea and an Half an acre.""Medley". (Written sometime after 1793).

An interesting point is the method of leasing—"for three lives or 31 years." In confirmation of this I quote leases shown to me by George Burrowes of Drumhill.

"George Burrows, now Thos. Davis and James Foreman. 4th October, 1716, of 46 Irish Acres of Ballylone for the lives of said George, and of James and Thomas Burrows, his sons, paying the yearly rent of £8 1s. (ie. 3/6 an Irish Acre). George Burrows, his Lease dated the 12th of May, 1720 of a Tenement and 50 Irish Acres of Ballynahinch for the lives of said George and of Richard and Joseph Burrows composed of a representative from each townland and the incumbent clergymen.

A register of the resident poor and the travelling poor (homeless) was to be drawn up Quarterly meetings were arranged for the 1st Friday in January, April, July and October to be held at noon in the Parish Church. At these meetings the register would be reviewed and contributions received. The registered poor would be read out by name in the churches the following Sunday. This was to guard against professional beggars or strollers. An appeal went forth for contributions, and it was agreed to keep a careful record of disbursements, take precautions against lead-swingers, and as soon as possible provide a home for the homeless. It was to help provide funds for this work of charity that "Medley" was written.

The first Committee was as follows:—Lay- Mr. James Martin (Magheradroll), Francis Johnston (Cumber), William Davidson (Drumaness), John Hanna (Magheratimpany), Brien Davy (Drumsnade), Robert Sturgeon (N. Ballymacarn), Alexander Brown (S. Ballymacarn), John Graham (Ballymaglave), Meredith McDowell (Ballymaglave), J. M. Johnston (U. Ballykine), John McCalla (L. Ballykine), John Armstrong (Ballynahinch), Dr. Chambers (Ballynahinch), Thomas McCance (Ballycrune), Hugh Kirkpatrick (Magheraknock), Hugh Cearns (Creevytenant), James Dinwoody (Glassdrummond), William Pulline (Ballylone), Andrew McRoberts (Ballylone).Clergy— Rev. James Forde, Rev. John McClelland, ~ Alexander McCoy, Samuel Edgar. Honorary— David Ker (Sen.), David Ker (Jun.), and Matthew Forde of Seaforde.


It was no accident that Ballynahinch was chosen as the Battlefield. The rebel forces took up their stance on the border with their back to the friendly "rebel" country. For Ballynahinch has been a border town since Patrick Macartan sold out to Rawdon, and allowed Protestant settlers to penetrate to the foothills of the undesirable mountain lands. To the south of the town the population has remained largely Roman Catholic and Irish minded: to the north, including the town itself, are the predominantly Protestant settlers with roots and links across the water. In recognition of this the forces of law and order have been strengthened at times of stress. Troops were stationed at Ballynahinch in "1690' and a list of the drinking debts they left can be examined in the Public Record Office Belfast. One hundred years later the Battle of Ballynahinch was fought. Half-a-century after that in the Dolly s Brae era the 13th Light Dragoons camped in Magheratimpany, and a quarter-century still later in 1878 (Parnell era) the Scots Grays camped there too. Because of the constant threat of "trouble Ballynahinch used to be a constabulary headquarters, with a sub-inspector, and in 1898 a posse of 500 police was drafted into the area for the Centenary celebrations at Edendariff. In this century (1913) at Montalto the call went out to the "Men of Down to go on preparing themselves for every emergency. "On that occasion Sir Edward Carson inspired the Saturday Westminster Gazette to publish a cartoon by F.C.G. showing Carson as the mad-hatter (Ulster style) shackled to a pillar; in front of him a bottle of Boyne Water; underneath a quotation from his speech "let us suppose they arrest your leaders and send them to gaol. For my own part it would be the proudest moment of my life." In this century also, as the sewerage scheme was being effected, violence broke out in the Church Street area and police were forced to cordon it off, (the sewerage works provided the ammunition) and the windows of a shop at the junction of Dromore Street and High Street were often a safety valve for political tension. Some of the tension which the fear of Home rule engendered in the breasts of Protestants at the beginning of the present century is reflected in a 16 verse poem which the Rev. E. F. Vesey Ross gave as an address at Ballylone. The Rev. Ross was Rector of Magherahamlet and the poem purposed to show that with the blessing of God, the night-mare of Home Rule would soon disappear.


Betsy Gray, the "Joan of Arc" of the Battle of Ballynahinch is popularly regarded as having followed her brother and lover from Gransha to Ednavaddy. There is alternative evidence to suggest she may have been a camp follower from Waringsford but local tradition strongly favours the first explanation.Together with brother and lover she was slain at the farm of Samuel Armstrong in Ballycreen by two members of a party of Yeomanry said to be Thomas Nelson and James Little (or John Gill) from Annahilt. A stone erected as a centenary celebration in 1898 at the reputed spot, was soon overturned. Historians regard it as most unlikely that she fought in the battle.

Rev. William Steel Dickson, D.D.,was born 1744 at Ballycraigy, and later became minister of Ballyhalbert Presbyterian (1771) Politically he was of liberal views and joined the United Irishmen in 1791. advocating Catholic Emancipation. On a lighter note he also advocated the introduction of Music into Presbyterian Churches. Suspected as one of the rebel leaders, and possibly the intended rebel commander in the area he was arrested at Ballynahinch by Lord Annsley on 5th June, 1798. He survived the Battle because of his arrest and lived to 1824. He was interred in Old Clifton Street Cemetery.

Henry Munro was a descendant of Robert Munro, 15th Baron of Foulis. Born in 1758 he became engaged in the linen trade and was eventually a seller of cloth. He is described in one of the records as "a little hot-headed fellow, who kept a shop in Lisburn and bought Brown linen." He was a Volunteer, Episcopalian. Freemason and liberal in his political views. He was betrayed at a farm in Clintnagooland by the farmer William Holmes. He was hanged on 16th June.


Population of Ballynahinch Town

Pre 1800 about 700 by 1831 there were 970 — Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland 1844-5.

1841= 911; 1861 =1066 Knox's History of Co. Down. ;1871 =1225 ;1881= 1470 — Basset's Directory of Down. ;1901= 1512 ; 1891 =1542 Census Returns ;1904 =1500 "At last census the population was some 1,500, but during the past few years the town has grown considerably."

It will be seen that Ballynahinch steadily increased from 1841-1881 and this despite a general decrease in population in Co. Down. This increase probably reflects the growing importance of the town as a service centre for the surrounding area. The increase in the latter part of that period would be explained by the stimulus received from the advent of the railway. From 1881 to 1901 there seems to have been comparatively little increase in population. In fact at this time the population of Co. Down as a whole was decreasing due to the pull of Belfast. The total population of Ballynahinch Rural and Urban Areas for the period shows a considerable decrease— 1881= 3,248 ; 1891= 3,099; 1901= 2,834. Things have come a long way since about 1670 when Petty recorded figures like—

Ballynahinch—population 5 (all Irish); Comber—population 12 (all Irish ) ; Magheradroll—population 4 (all Irish) ;Kinelarty and Duffrane—pop. 693 (English and Scots) population 763 (Irish) ;Total 1,456