Umgall, An Ancient Irish Place
It is sad today to think that every day thousands of people drive along the Crumlin Road without realising they are driving through the ancient Irish Catholic Parish of Umgall, indeed one would be tasked if they were to be asked "Show me a physical sign that such a place ever existed ", so successful have the deceivers and re-writers of history been .
There is little doubt that these stones (above), part of a very old derelict house, just off the Umgall Road, could truthfully be said to have once been the same stones that were part of an earlier family home, an Irish Catholic family, massacred or send fleeing and their home destroyed by the marauding army of the invading Englishman Arthur Chichester in the early 1600's.
Perhaps the only witness still around today to the savagery of the invader is the River Clady, at Umgall, if rivers could speak what harrowing tales this pleasant little stream could tell, more often than not would her waters been swelled with the tears and the blood of anguished Irish fathers, mothers and children. More shame on the historians who conceal history by omission.
A James Boyle writing in 1837 states, “ there is not the slightest trace of the former ( Catholic Priests ) , he goes on to say that there is no trace of their culture, language or religion, and “ there is not a single Irish Catholic land owner in the vicinity.... and the few Catholics living in the vicinity are either servants or cottiers” , as been said elsewhere, "Although the penal laws of Ireland were passed by a Protestant Parliament and aimed at depriving Catholics of their faith, such laws were not the outcome of religious motives only. They often came from a desire to possess the lands of the Irish, from impatience at their long resistance, from the contempt of a ruling for a subject race."
Gone was any trace of their ancient Church, their cemetery desecrated , by having huge trenches excavated through it in the 1600’s, although he states that in the mid 1800’s there were still traces of an ancient Irish Fort in the vicinity of the old burial place. The Irish had became mere servants or outlaws in their own land. And to think that a road once ran through here called “The Priest’s Causeway”, hinting to far off days when a priest would trod to the area from the Stone Chapel of Templepatrick to say Mass at the 60 feet by 28 feet Chapel in Umgall. Of course the Chapel at Templepatrick had also been desecrated and destroyed by the invader, even leaving no trace of the Holy Well there of St. Patrick.
Umgall 1838 By James Boyle.
There is neither town, village public building. gentleman’s seat nor manufactory of any kind in the grange of Umgall.
The grange is traversed by 2 cross or by-roads which intersect each other at right angles near its centre. Their united lengths amount to 2 miles and 1 furlong. One of these roads leads from the old Belfast and Antrim road in the parish of Killead at the western side of the grange to the new roads between those towns which traverse the districts east of it. The average breadth of this road is 19 feet. It is not judiciously laid out as it runs in an almost straight line from the base to the summit of the ridge, It is therefore hilly and in but middling repair.
The second road, which traverses the centre of the grange from north to south, leads from the village of Templepatrick to the Crumlin and Belfast road which crosses the mountain ridge a little to the south of the grange. This road is badly laid out. it is almost rectilinear and, as it passes over an undulating and hilly district, it is of course very uneven. Its average breadth is 20 feet. Some parts of it are in tolerably good repair but speaking generally ir is kept in but middling order.
These roads are kept in repair at the expense of the barony of Upper Belfast.
The means of communication with Belfast and the adjacent eastern districts are not sufficiently ample and the cultivation and reclamation of the land in this retired district is now proceeding rather rapidly. The want of sufficient facility of intercourse will daily be more felt and will tend to retard the progress of improvements.
There is not a bridge in the grange but there is one (across the Clady water) immediately adjoin ing its south western corner and which is sufficiently commodious in every respect.
The surface of the grange presents considerable diversity, in the numerous undulations by which the ground descends towards the Clady water at it’ western side, its appearance in this respect. coupled with the fine expanse of the mountain side, its retired and peaceful situation and the great extent of prospect embracing the eastern sides of Decry and Tyrone. Armagh. the western and southern districts of Antrim. including some of its richest portions and Lough Neagh from its northern to its southern extremity, continue to render the district rather interesting in situation and scenery.
The little patches of bog which were formerly thinly scattered over the grange are now all cut out and their subsoil cultivated. The land under cultivation indicates an advanced style of farming. while the remainder, including but a small portion of its extent. is under pasture. The cottages and farmhouses are neat and substantial, and the little clusters of trees about them almost make amend for the absence of planting. hedgerows traverse the more improved portions of the grange and. with those which are daily being planted, will contribute not a little to its appearance.
The different social and political events which since the middle of the 7th century may have affected the condition of the various races by which this grange is said to have been inhabited are so precisely similar to and identified with those which have occurred in the adjoining parish of Templepatrick (of which the grange of Mallusk forms an integral portion and to which it is episcopally united ) that to state them here would be merely to repeat what has already been de tailed in the Memoir of that parish. A brief recapitulation of them may therefore suffice.
The grange of Umgall occupies a very retired situation at the western base of the Divis range of mountains and near the centre of the parish of Templepatrick. The earliest notice which is locally known of its having been the place of refuge of the Culdees and their English disciples in Northumberland. who. to avoid the persecution which they, at the instigation of the Benedictines. suffered from Egfrid. King of Northumberland. fled from England in 661 and, having landed near Carrickfergus, pursued their way by the old paths which led from that town across the mountains in which this grange is situated to Lough Neagh. It is said that having been ‘hospitably received and treated by the people of this district ’, they settled in it and hence its name Uimgaill, “the land of strangers.”
In the year 674 a dreadful fever ravaged the North of England and many, to avoid it, fled to Ireland where “they received all the necessaries of life without price”. Many of these are said to have settled in this and the adjoining mountain districts. From this circumstance the mountain Divis is said to have derived its name Dubhais “the mountain of sorrow.’ Egfrid. at the instance of the monks, pursued the Culdees to this country. The latter for some time retreated before him but they at last rallied and routed his army ‘.with great havoc’. The adjoining town of Ballyutoag is said to have been the scene of the engagement and that from it, it derived its name:
Balls-utag “the town of strife or contention” or Balls -tuag “the town of the bow.” The orthography of the names of almost all the adjacent townlands and districts is strongly corroborative of the events which have just been related.
According to an extract from the old terrier quoted in Dr Stephenson’s History of the parish of Templepatrick. Umgall formed one of the 4 ecclesiastical divisions of the parish of Templepatrick and was an endowed parsonage. A church. of which the foundations are said to he traced in its old burial ground, formerly stood here. The prior of Templepatrick is said to have also been pastor or rector of this parsonage and an old paved road, termed in the dialect of the country, “the Priest’s Causeway’, is still shown as the route of that priest from his residence in the parish Templepatrick to the church here.
There is not the slightest trace of the former inhabitants in either the habits, manners, language, religion or in the names of those who now possess the district. The latter are exclusively of Scottish extraction. There is not a Roman Catholic landholder among them and there are few, if any who are not Presbyterians.
Their ancestors came over in the latter part of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries, under the auspices of the Chichester’s to whom the parish was granted by James1. It afterwards came into the processions of the Norton’s and subsequently, by the middle of the 17th Century , into that of the Upton family the ancestors of the present proprietor, Viscount Templeton.
In 1622 the first Presbyterian congregation the village of Templepatrick (4 miles distant) was established and in 1742 the first Seceding congregation in Ireland was established in the same parish at Lyle’s Hill, 1 and a quarter miles distant from this grange. To the establishment of these congregations and the subsequent establishment of schools in the neighbourhood many of the most important causes of improvement are attributable, The construction of even the fen roads in the grange is considered to have been next in importance among the improvements which took place in it. as tending to promote the peopling of the district and its cultivation.
In 1820 Lord Templeton’s estate became out of lease. Since that time he has adopted, and intends adhering to, the system of not granting leases. This, for a long time, created much dissatisfaction and bad feeling among his tenantry and of which they are only now divesting themselves. As the system was to them a novel one they were greatly alarmed, but they now find that so long as they merit it, their farms are secure to them.
In 1829 he commenced squaring the farms, acting on the principle that a farm of less than 30 acres was inadequate to support a family and secure his rent. This he effected without being obliged to dispossess a single tenant. He, at the same time, commenced at his own expense making the bound any fences of the farms, employing the farmer and remitting him the expense in his rent. By this he, at the same time. conferred a most important benefit on the soil and climate of the grange by its drainage. Sub-letting is not permitted. Cottiers are not al loss ed to hold land. They, as labourers, live on the land of their employer, to whom they pay their rent in labour and the produce of whose farm they assist in consuming Their number is but small and very sufficient for the cultivation of the land.
Sums of from 5 to 70 pounds are granted to such tenants as will enlarge, raise or improve their houses or to such as will erect new ones. Thorn and almost every description of quicks are liberally granted to the tenantry. In the year 1836 alone, 18,000 timber trees were either planted by him or given to the tenantry on his estate.
The cultivation of the grange, which has until within the last 4 or 5 years proceeded but slowly, is now being carried on with more energy. its proximity to Belfast, which is but 6 and a half miles distant. and to the lime-kilns (in the neighbouring parish of Carnmoney), which are 4 and a half miles distant, are no inconsiderable advantage to an agricultural district.
Burial Ground and Church
The only ecclesiastical remains in the grange is its ancient burial ground, in which the foundations of the church can still be traced. The burial ground is situated on an eminence near the centre of the grange and includes a quadrangular area of 43 by 52 yards. It is well enclosed by a quickset fence with an iron gate and is kept in pretty neat order. There are not so many graves as might be expected in a place of such antiquity. nor are there any old tombs or headstones. The oldest inscription is 1789. No particular family nor one of an note bury here.
Near the centre of the ground are the foundations of a church which stood east and west. They measure 60 by 28 feet and are about 2 feet 9 inches thick. They are now even lower than the surface of the adjacent ground. It is therefore impossible to ascertain with accuracy any idea of the style of masonry, further than the stones are not large and that mortar has been used. There are not any carved or sculptured stones in the burial ground but there are 3 squared pieces of basalt which may have been the jambs of a doorway. They are now set up as headstones. The situation of the burial ground is rather conspicuous and tastefully chosen.
There are not any military remains in the grange nor is there either record or tradition of there having been any. It is said that within memory extensive foundations have been dug up about the burial ground, but no discos cries which could have led towards ascertaining anything concern ing them were made.
The only relic of pagan antiquity in the grange is an earthen rath which occupies a low situation about one-fourth of a mile north of the burial ground. A plan of it will be found in appendix. It has been much mutilated and is now in a very imperfect state.
OLD UMGALL SURNAMES.... Alexander, Barron, Boyd, Gault, Little, Rea, Ritchie, Robinson, McIlrath, McGladdery, Barber.
UMGALL GRAVEYARD HEADSTONES...........
Erected by John Barber of Umgall in memory of his son James Barber who departed this life 3rd April 1857 aged 40 years, also his beloved wife Ann who departed this life 19th March 1858 aged 74 years, also his son John who died in infancy, the above named John Barber who departed this life 6th September 1859 aged 83 years
In loving memory of James G Barron, Aughnabrack, who died 6th March 1896 aged 51 years, also seven of his children who died in infancy, also his beloved wife Frances who died 8th January 1914 at Gordon Te-Aroha, New Zealand, aged 62 years, and was interred in Te-Aroha cemetery, Found in 1896 James G Barron died 6th March 1896