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16 October 2014
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Bellaghy - Curios

The great portico of Ballyscullion House was transported to Belfast in 1813, where it now forms the front of St. George's Church in High Street.

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Bellaghy Bannerhead

Ballyscullion House

Frederick Augustus Hervey , Bishop of Derry and Earl of Bristol was apparently notorious for starting a project and never finishing it. His grandiose mansion at Ballyscullion is typical. Started around 1787, it was never completed. The building had a huge picture gallery, and parts of the interior were decorated with marble especially imported by the Bishop from Italy. The "palace" is described in Lever's book "The Bramleys of Bishop's Folly."

The house was modelled on the Hervey home of Icksworth near Ipswich in England and had 365 windows - a window for each day ot the year. It is generally believed that the house was not finished since its completion would have coincided with the British Government's introduction of the Window Levy during the Napoleonic Wars to pay for the war with France. Hervey's ambitious mansion was therefore not economically viable.

Grand Portico of  St. George's Church, Belfast  taken from Ballyscullion
Grand Portico of St. George's Church, Belfast.

The Portico

After his death in 1803, both Ballyscullion and the grand house at Downhill fell to his cousins the Bruces. They made the decision not to try to keep two huge houses and thus the unfinished Ballyscullion House was gradually dismantled and various parts of it were sold off and made their way all over the country. The great portico (designed either by Frances Shandys or Michael Shanahan of Cork) was transported to Belfast in 1813, where it now forms the front of St. George's Church in High Street. Rumour has it that the transportation was done in a unique way - by barge using the Bann or the (now defunct) Lagan Navigation.

Do you know how the Portico was transported? Do you happen to know where any other parts of Ballyscullion house went? Do you perhaps know a story about Bellaghy that you would like to add to this site? Fill in the form at the foot of the page to let us know....

The Bawn Fireplace

Moving assets...

Only a few odds and ends of stonework remain at the original site. Much of the stonework of the original house was re-used in the building of the new Ballyscullion house on a site nearby in the same lands. One of the Marble fireplaces from the old mansion now stands in the library in Bellaghy Bawn.

Spire on Church Island
Spire (but no Church) on Church Island

Spire without a Church

The 'church spire' on Church Island (Inis Taoide) was also built for Bishop Hervey in the late 1700s. He wanted to be able to look out and see a spire from the house he was building at Ballyscullion.

The island is only accessible on foot over marshy land during the dryer months of the year but anyone who takes the trouble to go will discover that there is no church under the spire.. it is purely for show! It is known locally as Hervey's Folly. It is believed that the Folly Hill (or Folly Brae as it is known locally) gets its name from the view of the spire from its summit.

The spire was bent by a colliding aircraft during the second world war. There was an American air base nearby at Creagh. It has been straightened up quite recently by the Department of the Environment much to the dismay of some locals who feel that some of its history has been taken away. Photos taken of the spire in the early 1900's can be seen in the RJ Welch collection at the Ulster Museum.



If you walk across to Church Island you will find a ruin of an old church, dating back to the time of Saint Patrick. It is thought that Patrick used the Bann to navigate to the Island on Lough Beg where he met with Taoide to found an early Christian settlement in the 5th Century. That settlement is recorded as Inis Taoide (Taoides Island) in the Annals of Ulster of 11th century.

The current church dates from 12th Century but there is a stone known as the Bullaun Stone featuring a hole which holds water. The Bullaun Stone is most likely associated with the first monastic settlement. Local anecdote has it that the hole in the stone was made by St Patrick as he knelt to pray.



There is a graveyard on Church Island with at least 53 people buried there. Here is an extract of a poem written by a sailor, J McC who was born in the nearest house on the Co. Derry mainland adjoining Church Island. He died in San Francisco in 1916 and his widowed mother was buried in the Island graveyard a few months later. The poem was printed in a local newspaper on 2nd Sept. 1917

When the pale autumn moon lit up the Church Island Or lay mirror'd deep in the Lough's crystal tide, Where clear in it's depths shone the face of my fathers, Where the dust of my kindred repose side by side.

Oh calm is yon lake and thrice calm is yon river, I've gazed on the Tiber and roamed by the Clyde, I've seen the Ohio roll forth in its splendour, But my heart longs to stray where the Bann's waters glide.

But the friends of my childhood are scattered and silent, Like leaves of the forest when autumn winds blow, Some sleep the last sleep in the shade of yon island, Where the shamrocks grow green and the Bann waters flow.


Pilgrimage to Church Island (Inis Taoide)

There are at least four different spellings of Toide, Toit, Thaddeus, Taoide. This annual pilgrimage was re-inaugurated in 1910 and takes place on the first Sunday in September, being the nearest Sunday to the feast day of St Taoide. In the early years thousands of people used to attend with bands and even stalls of fruit and sweets. The numbers have dwindled but even now over a hundred people make the annual trek across the water meadows to the island for a service. The pilgrims are often accompanied by music, sometimes a piper or fiddler and for the less hardy amongst the gathering, transport is often tractors and trailers with hay bales to sit on.

A speaker at a recent pilgrimage ended with these words:

"We don't know the names of the monks of Inis Toide, and little of their deeds, but they were part of the history and prayer life of those centuries. They rest amongst us in Church Island and have bequeathed to us a sanctuary. In joining in the pilgrimage we are keeping faith with them. We ourselves are part of that faith and tradition, and what we do today, however trivial or commonplace it may seem, becomes the history and tradition of tomorrow."

Knockcloghrim Windmill

The Knockcloghrim Windmill
Knockcloghrim Windmill

The Windmill is now owned by the Magherafelt and Knockcloghrim Methodist Church and stands in the church grounds. Not surprisingly, it is the only windmill owned by the Methodist Church.

The windmill was built some time between 1860 and 1875 by William Palmer (1823-1898). Apparently it used to be called Palmer's Folly because it never worked properly. The windmill was built beside a Steam Mill, also owned by Palmer, making this one of very the few sites in all of Ireland that had originally both steam and wind powered machinery in the same location, described as a corn and flax mill.

The windmill is said to have had six sails as opposed to the more common configuration of four, although there is some argument about this. The original roof was blown off by the "Big Wind" in 1869 and the strange onion shaped top that is there today is a replacement. After it was disabled by the big wind it had many uses, one of which was as a meeting place for the local Orange Order. Restored in 1993, the windmill was open to the public for a time and had a teashop inside.

It also housed an exhibition devoted to the huge storm (Big Wind) which did so much structural damage to Northern Ireland. It is presently closed due to some recently discovered structural problems.



A greyish soft earth brick also known as Kieselguhr or "Bann Clay." In the 1940s it was dug out as an ingredient for dynamite, polishing powders, abrasive soaps, gramophone records, heat conductors for covering steam pipes and even water-glass for preserving eggs. Latterly, certainly within the last ten years, it was still being used in insulators. The diatomite works finally closed about 5 years ago on the assumption that the seam was exhausted. However, additional diatomite was found but this is now designated as an area of Special Scientific Interest and is protected under law.


Operating Theatre

surgery in Bellaghy
Bellaghy Bawn was bought by a Doctor Thompson around 1880 who conducted his surgery on the premises. The doctor owned one of the first cars north of Lough Neagh, a Benz, which he bought for £400 in 1918. In those days, when there was a sufficient patient waiting list for operations, a surgeon would be called from Belfast. A downstairs room in the Bawn (now the coffee shop) would be scrubbed down and the operations would be carried out on the 'kitchen' table. Dr Thompson used to take the acetylene lamps off the Benz car and hang them up to illuminate the operating table after the hours of darkness.

Dr Thompson had nine children, most of whom became doctors too.


The Scullion Tree

There are a huge number of people living around the Northwest corner of Lough Neagh all with the surname of Scullion. Many are inter-related and a fair number even share the same Christian name. In order therefore to differentiate between the various branches of this enormous family tree, each branch has taken on, or has been given, a nickname.

Nicknames for the various Scullions include. Buttermen, Worish, Fad, Mooney, Badger, Scullions of the wood, Scullions of the hill, Blues, Revlin, Peters, Jacks, Bears, Shepherds, and Premiers. There are more. . Several of these names are anglicized from the Gaelic. The Premier's name came from when a member of that particular branch of Scullions became Prime Minister of Australia he was James Scullion who lived 1876 to 1953

This custom is widespread throughout Ireland as many rural areas are dominated by a relatively small number of family names and some form of additional differentiation is often needed. While most regard this as an inoffensive and colourful feature of rural life in Ireland, some families on occasions do take exception to the nicknames.

During the great famine, many Scullions emigrated to America, where a lot of them congregated in Philadelphia. There is now a huge number of Scullions in that city with roots in Bellaghy.

One 'your place and mine' contributor has written to say that Scullions also settled in Jordan, New York .


C Holmes - July '08
I am one of the many Scullions from Kirkintilloch, near Glasgow. My grandfather was Hugh Scullion and had 3 sons, James William and Hugh, and 2 daughters Isobel and Catherine. We have very little info on the Scullions and are just starting to find out about our ancestory. I will definitely be visiting Bally Scullion having read this article.

Ian Pitt - July '08
Ballyscullion could not have been based on the Hervey home at Ickworth, (no 's'), as the Ickworth housewas not conceived until the 1890s. Frances Sandys,( no 'H'), was involved with the design of Ickworth Rotunda.

Neville Scullion - July '08
My father, John, has been tracing our family tree. His father, Hugh, arrived from Glascow Scotland during the 1920's I think. Our family has grown significantly since then, we are in our 4th generation, and won't be long before the 5th generation starts. Most of us now live on the east coast of Austalia.

Mark Byrnes - Apr '07
I am a descendant from a Scullion that went to Western Australia in the 1940's. Tom (my grandfather),his brother Jack and his sister Suzie all originally settled in W.A. Tom's daughter Maureen (my mother) also moved to W.A around 1955. All were legends in their lifetime and in their passing.
I hope to have my first visit to Ireland June this year to pay homage to my roots.

John - Feb '07
The Scullions of Ballyscullion/Bellaghy are an old preplantation clann, one of the many gaelic families under the umbrella of the O'Neill.They were the ancient erganachs (custodians) of inistaoide Some of them were buried at the east gable of inistaoide a spot usually preserved for the clergy.

Donal Edward Kane - May '06
I have had the pleasure of living on the Ballynafie Rd Portglenone for the past 5 years. I have woke each fine day and seen the church spire on Church Island from my bedroom and lounge some 3/4 miles away. I even visited it in 2004 and it made me curious. I have sold my house today (i think - hope ?) and thought it would be nice to know its background before I move on. Good for the bishop.

Eloise Roberts - May '06
I guess I am a descendant of one of those "huge number of Scullions" who settled in Philadelphia. I am a great great granddaughter of Daniel Scullion who married Ann Dreenan. It is fascinating learning a little more about where that family came from.

Peter Coupe - November '05
A bit unfair to Hervey ( Frederick Augustus, above ) I think to say he was notorious for not finishing projects. Ballyscullion was sufficiently completed so as to be habitable and Hervey did live there for a while before setting off on another of his long European tours in search of more paintings and sculptures.

It is true that Ickworth was also unfinished at the time of Hervey's death but only because it was a very large project which was still underway in 1803. Hervey certainly hadnt given up on it!

The Bruces probably couldnt afford to keep up both houses after Hervey's death and in any case they preferred Downhill.

The statement that Ballyscullion is modelled on Ickworth is just plain wrong! Ballyscullion was designed and built BEFORE the new house at Ickworth. In fact, it would be true to say that Ickworth was modelled on Ballyscullion, Ickworth being a very similar design to Ballyscullion but on a far grander scale.

I Live beside ballyscullion (ballynease). Church Island is class, been there manys a time!


See the other sections in this article:

Overview | History | the Bawn | Plantation | Vintners Co. | Local Interest | Curios | Seamus Heaney


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