What's in a name?
The name Bellaghy (Baelleaghe)
means "mouth of the marsh" or "wet place"
the Marshland towards Church Island (Inis
Bellaghy has been inhabited for at least 9000
Like many localities around Ireland, Bellaghy's
history stretches much further back than written
record. Church Island in Lough Beg reveals some
hint of the Vikings and the Early Christian period
around beginnings of Irish History. Early man
fed well on salmon, eels and even wild boar. Woodland
provided birch, pine and hazel for tools and shelter.
Sandy soils were easy to cultivate. The very early
settlers brought flint from the coast 9000 years
ago, stone for axes were brought from Tievebulliagh
(North Antrim) 5000 years ago, gold from the Sperrins
3000 years ago and iron from Bannion around 2000
The quantity and quality of archaeological finds
from this area is astonishing. Hundreds of thousands
of fine Mesolithic flints, dozens of Neolithic
flints and axes, many fine Late Bronze Age and
Iron Age weapons, such as swords and shields,
tools, cauldrons and horse bits showing superb,
sophisticated ornament, have been found in and
around the Lough Neagh, Newferry and Lower Bann
|Map of Bellaghy
of the early 1600s
Firmer and more documented connections relate
to the Plantation era (17th C) when it was settled
by the British. Bellaghy was one of the first
planned towns in Ireland. The village itself dates
back to the 17th C. It was one of many towns setlled
and built under the authority of an English company
as part of the Plantation of Londonderry, in this
case the Vintners Company of London. The company
hoped to rename the town from Bellaghy "Vintnerstown"
but the name didn't catch on and its original
name endured. Other towns were succesfully renamed
by colonising owners such as Salterstown and Draperstown.
The work on making a new town here was started
by John Rowley around 1614 but he died soon after
in 1617. The Vintners company then took the opportunity
to relocate Baptist Jones to complete the project.
Jones had been working on the production of Salterstown
and was apparently noted by the company for his
lack of productivity there. More details in History
of the Bawn.
The natural qualities of the area, its timber
and its waterways with fish, especially salmon
attracted the Plantation settlers and also a series
of wealthy landlords in the 18th Century. Fishing
and the eel catch remain a resource both for sport
and for export today. Many people would argue
that "Planters" is a misnomer because of the huge
timber clearances they made, thus depriving the
country of so much woodland - a state of affairs
from which the province has never recovered, still
having only a fifth of its land area covered in
|This model of
Bellaghy village in the 17thC.
can be seen in the
From an account of Bellaghy in the year 1622, taken
from a manuscript of a Captain Thomas Ash, it seems
that Bellaghy consisted of a church, a castle, a
Corn Mill and 12 houses. This can be confirmed by
a village map drawn at that time. The houses were
timber built with roofs tiled with wooden shingles
and strongly resembled those still to be seen today
around Stratford upon Avon. It is widely reported
that the houses were actually pre-fabricated in
England and then shipped over. It is hard to see
why this might be in view of the fact that the surrounding
area was at that time very richly wooded with oak.
However these houses were "nailed" into the ground
with wooden pegs rather like tents and had no foundation.
(A "pegged down" house of this period still stands
today in Castlerock on the north coast). The present
day exhibition in the Bawn features a superb model
of the how the village would have looked in 1622
and shows the relationship of the Bawn to the village
Idle or drunk?
There was a set of stocks in the centre of the
town standing beside the market cross. Rumour
has it that they were put to use most often as
a punishment for drunkenness. It is known that
Baptist Jones, the local landlord, also used stocks
in Salterstown nearby to punish idleness. A newly
built replica of the stocks now sits in the grounds
of Bellaghy Bawn.
Incidentally, the market cross was used in towns
thoughout Northern Ireland to signify that a bonafide
licence existed to have a market there. The license
fee of course went to the landowners. In the case
of Bellaghy the recipient was the Vinters Company
First known names:
The first certain known names of the area are those
of Saints. St. Taoide was the patron of Church Island.
St. Lurach at Maghera and St. Colman at Ardboe.
Other earliest names appear to be mostly of clergymen.
Clergy names of the 14th and 15th century are known
to be: MacCawell, O'Neill, O'Hagan, O'Doyle, O'Henry,
O'Hegarty, O'Corr, O'Dugan, O'Gormley, McBeagh, O'Mulligan,
MacDonnell. Most of these names are still to be found
in the area today.
Family names from early times include Scullion, O'Heaney,
The present day population of about 1000 has a mainly
rural identity. There are no main industries in the
immediate village area and therefore apart from farmers
or shopworkers most people travel to their places of
employment. The central location of the village means
that most areas of N. Ireland can be reached within
Do you know a story or facts about Bellaghy that
you would like to add to this site?
Edel - Mar '07
Well ive lived in bellaghy for about 14 years now and
i love it itrs a lovely place to come and visit the
people arer pleasant and very understaning there is
the bellaghy bawm u camn cmome and visit it because
its wunderfull and very interesting!!!
Donna Henderson - Feb '07
I am trying to contact Sr Susan Marie O'Connor with
regard to her grandmother Susan Fullerton, as I believe
they are the same branch of Fullertons as ourselves,
would it be possible to obtain an email address for
her. Many thanks
"Re: The name Bellaghy (Baelleaghe) means "mouth of
the marsh" or "wet place"...... (see top of page)
According to A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names by Patrick
McKay (1999) the name Bellaghy comes from the Ir. Baile
Eachaidh Eochaidh's townland!!"