In this visit Helen
Mark spoke to William Roulston of the Ulster Historical
local historian, Willie McLaughlin, Sacrastan and
his assistant Sheila Crawford, and also to Maud
Allison, who's family is now in its 10th generation here.
The site at St. Aidan's, near Magilligan, goes
back to prehistoric times and thus has great
historic importance. The Druids worshipped
here. When the early Christian missionaries such
as St. Patrick and St. Columbkille came along
the 5th and 6th Centuries, they did not totally
dismiss the ways of the Druids. In fact they
and adapted some of their customs and traditions.
St. Columbkille built his church on the sacred
grove of the Druids. The holy well of the Druids
later became St. Aidan's holy well.
The original Gale wall where St. Aidan
here was used by the Church of Ireland community
from 1608 until 1772 when the C.o.I. Earl Bishop
Frederick Gustus Hervey decided that
it should be moved to a new location a couple
miles to the north.
It is said that his reason
for this was that he could keep a closer
eye on the parishioners there as it was
of his great castle at Downhill!
This led to an interesting court case
some 100 years later when the Irish Churches
Act came along in
1869. This effect of this act was to disestablish
the Church of Ireland, putting it on an equal footing
with the Roman Catholic Church and the Presbyterian
Church. As part of this process, all of the lands
owned by the Church of Ireland were confiscated by
the state. A claim was thus made upon the church
here at Magilligan and some of its surrounding churchyard.
The case eventually went before the courts in 1886.
At that hearing
the Church or Ireland Rector, Rev Gauge,
represented the Roman Caholic's point of view, saying
Earl Bishop had in fact bequeathed the properties
to the Roman Catholic community during the 1780s.
Subsequent to this, the Roman Catholic
community used the church until a new one was built
Willie McLaughlin, Sacrastan
at the Chapel, tells us of a quite remarkable woman
buried here. Sarah Sweeney died in 1963
at the age of 110
(yes one hundred and ten!). She lived a considerable
part of her life in a sod-house... a house built
of soil. She also lived for a time in an upturned
boat near Magilligan Point. Among her other talents,
she was a midwife to many children born in the locality
and in addition was renowned to be a great singer!
Another quite famous singer from this
area was Eddie Butcher (1900-1980) Eddie
was born in Aughill, Co Londonderry. As a folk singer
had a rich repertoire, running to around
300 songs including some from his
family. It is said that he wrote songs about local
occurrences and adopted and adapted old traditional
airs to fit into the modern day situation. Eddie
Butcher became widely known through broadcasts in
the 1960s. He was
Brady, Andy Irvine, Frank Harte and Len Graham. His songs include
'The Tractor' and others traditional songs such as 'The Marriage', 'The Mountain
where the Moorcock Crows' and 'David's Flowery Vale'.