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Joe Simpson tells us some history of the plantation town where his father was a presbyterian minister.

Ballykelly - Map - circa 1622

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Ballykelly, Co. Derry - A Model Plantation Village

Article & pictures by Joe Simpson - Vancouver - Oct '05

Below is a photo of the Presbyterian church in the historic Plantation village of Ballykelly, Co. Derry, Northern Ireland where my father Rev. Tom Simpson was the incumbent minister from 1949 to 1965. Built in the 1830s, it was described in these words by the famous English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, who passed through the village during his Irish tour in 1842:

"....In Ballikelly, besides numerous simple, stout, brick-built dwellings for the peasantry, with their shining windows and trim garden-plots, is a Presbyterian meeting-house, so well-built, substantial, and handsome, so different from the lean, pretentious, sham-Gothic ecclesiastical edifices which have been erected in late years in Ireland, that it can't fail to strike the tourist who has made architecture his study or his pleasure. The gentleman's seats in the district are numerous and handsome; and the whole movement along the road betokened cheerfulness and prosperous activity..."

The famous American novelist John Steinbeck once wrote about visiting this same Ballykelly churchyard in the later 1950s to search for his Northern Irish maternal ancestors. Unfortunately we were away at the time, so missed meeting the great man when he called at the Manse.


Ballykelly Presbyterian Church, built 1827
Ballykelly Presbyterian Church, built 1827 (Richard Suter, architect)

Below is pictured "Church Hill", one of the so-called "gentleman's seats" to which William Makepeace Thackeray must have been referring, for it stands across the road directly opposite Ballykelly Presbyterian Church. Today it is a long-term care facility. My Canadian wife, Penny, will forever remember our visit as a newly-engaged couple to my mother's much-older first cousin Marcus Fulton, who lived there back in the later 1970s. We had called to see "Uncle" Marcus, whom we had never met before, during our "family tour". Penny had just arrived from Canada. The front door opened wide, and a stocky, bald man peered out with a benign grin on his face: "Ach! So this would be the wee girl from 'Merikay!" he exclaimed. Marcus (a lifelong merry bachelor) was well known for hurtling along at breakneck speed in his open-topped sports car over the then-empty mountain roads between Derry and Belfast, so much so that eventually the police often didn't even bother to go chasing after him. At the time he was almost 80 years old! A true character in the grand old style.

Note incidentally the lovely, tapering spire of the Church of Ireland church in the background of this picture below...doubtless one of those "lean, pretentious, sham-Gothic ecclesiastical edifices" so severely criticized by W. M. Thackeray! During World War 2, a low-flying RAF bomber on a practice run clipped one of the telephone lines behind the C. of I. Church, and crashed with the loss of all crew. The wartime (Coastal Command) RAF base was just a half mile or so behind the church, and the "Boys in Blue" remained in Ballykelly until the early 1970s. I remember well the Shackelton 'planes that used to fly low over the village on their take-off and landing approach in the 1950s and early 1960s, for that was the height of the Cold War. Today it is an Army air base.


Ballykelly - Church Hill
The Model Farm (known as "Church Hill"), Ballykelly
designed by Richard Suter, architect of Ballykelly Presbuterian Church
It is now an extended care facility

Below is a 1950s photo of the 1830s-built Ballykelly Presbyterian Manse where I grew up between 1952 and 1965. A place of abundant memories. The ivy disappeared some time after this picture was taken, and today the once-grey stonework is painted a light cream colour. Currently the old house is unoccupied, sadly, as there is presently no minister's family in residence. I remember when the old place was refurbished in the early 1960s, and I came across old Belfast News-Letters from the early 1860s that lined the ceiling in the flagstone-floored undeground basement below the main staircase - they vividly reported recent American Civil War battles in the Shenandoah Valley. I was about eleven years old at the time, and the reading those old reports pasted to the low basement ceiling by some long-dead occupant of the manse as primitive insulation, first got me hooked on historical studies, which much later I took as my Cambridge undergraduate degree, in 1973.

Ballykelly Presbyterian  Manse
Ballykelly Presbyterian Manse, Co. Derry - built 1848-9
probably with Richard Suter involvement

Ballykelly was a "Plantation Village", built up by the Fishmongers Guild in the early-mid 1600s. King James I cannily insisted that the London Merchant Guilds each "sponsor" settlers in Ireland, as a (for the Crown) cheap means of pacifying the "troublous" Irish. Here (below) is one of the original village house plans from that era, showing the "bawn" or defensive wall around the "big house". Ballykelly was affected by a bloody rebellion by the "native Irish" that broke out briefly against the English and Scottish settlers in the early 1640s. These walls were not just for fancy decoration!

Ballykelly - Map - circa 1622
part of a 17th century map of Ballykelly village built by the London Fishmonger's Company

Footnote: For more information, see: "The History, Architecture, and Planning of the Estates of the Fishmongers' Company in Ulster" by James Stevens Curl (Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1981)

Article & Pictures contributed by Joe Simpson - Vancouver Island

see also:
Bellaghy - a Plantation village

Limavady - a Plantation town

external links: - Ballykelly
Wikipedia article about RAF Ballykelly

Your Responses..

Dona M. St. Clair - Aug '08
As I have read and re-read this information, it has left me with another question. Ballymore ( James baird is listed in the tite Applotment books, andalso a william Irwin. In the 1831 census James Baird is listed as living in ballymore. In the ballykelly Presbyterian Register on Sept 4 1805-1806 a marriage to Elizabeth Irwin both of Ballymony. Can someone explain to me the locations of Bellykelly, Ballymore, and Ballymony? I made a mistake and in an earlier post listed my GGG grandfather James baird as born in 1755,WRONG, it is 1775. I watch the website everyday, and would love to hear froom anyone regarding this information.

Dona St. Clair - Aug '08
Christine Eileen brownfeild I would be most interested in seeing if you could help me, with Irwin, and baird names.

Dona St. Clair - Aug '08
Thanks so very much too all of you who have shared your memories. I believe that my GGG Grandfather James Baird born in 1755. and his wife (married) Elizabeth Erwin,(Irwin) Sept 1805-06. Children william(1807),James (1814)Robert Erwin(Irwin),Eleanor (1810),Mary Ann (1820),John (1824),Martha (1826). All came from here. Supposedly in 1833 Mom had died, and dad brought the children to america, 8 Jun 1833 ship Benjamin Morgan. but I have lost them in america. I loved hearing about neighbors and freinds, and memories that they too may have shared. I too hope with all my heart that if anyone can help me, they will. photo_lady at

David Smyth - July '08
To Peter Smyth from David Smyth now living in South Africa Hi Cus nice to hear from you you can E mail me on SmythDGateskomdotcodotza

Peter Smyth - July '08
If David Smyth (Now living in S. Africa) is still visiting this site it would be nice to hear from you.
Your cousin Peter, one of your Uncle David's sons.

Bill Osborne, Numurkah, Victoria, Australia - June '08
I was delighted to see David Osborne's comment and no doubt he would be interested the photo of John and Margaret's headstone.
It was just the sort of response I was hoping for. My father's name was William White Osborne and he was born in 1886. I wonder if any other descendants have the White name. One of my úncles was James and he had a son David so the names carry on through the generations.

MOIRA LEDDY - June '08
Moira leddy,nee Oneill. What a great mental picture of memory lane! I lived in the Fishmogers schoolhouse at Dunbrock where my Father was Principal from 1947/1972. Ballykelly was our nearest village and as a child , the centre of my universe. A weekly shopping trip to Lexie Hearne's grocery was like an excursion and as if yesterday I marvel at the method he used to pack the cardboard box with precision. Then there was Maurice Marshall the Blacksmith who was always good for a foot-warming chat while some broken handle or latch was repaired. Around the corner was Dr.kehone and his gentle wife Dr Ursla and between them they did every medical proceedure that today would require Specialist opinions. What happened to lumbago, Sloans linament and the red flannel? Anyhow,across the road to the newsagents where. Trevor Douglas, who kept the"IrishTimes" for us and his able assistant Betty always had a hearty story. Up the road a bit for a social chat with Nurse Shannon who was a midwife with my mother in the "Roe Valley" hospital and stories were swopped of forcepts, Cesarean and awkward deliveries of every possible method. I remember the REV.Simpson well as we joked about his likeness to our new curate FR.Francis Murry. The faithful Ford ten was cr!
anked up for the uphill journey to Dubrock and home. I remember the Bryson family too and would remember Paddy,John and Kathleen who have all gone to their rest as has Dympna lately, RIP. I would love to hear from David Smyth as I believe his Father Harry had his first book launch at 88 . Well done Harry, may there be many more. I think your daughter Marie was in boarding school with me in Coleraine but I was older ,she may not remember me. I am 61 now. Saint Finloughs church was where I last signed my maiden name ; That was 40 years ago next Easter. I rarely go back as I have no family connections there; My brother Brian is long established in Kent. Like all of you ,there is nowhere like your first home.
Moira Leddy


Linda Sweeten (nee Campbell)- May '08
Good to read about the old days in Ballykelly. Can anybody remember the Campbell twins? My Father Thomas Capbell was sexton of Ballykelly church. Can remember playing in the graveyard while he cut the grass on a summers night.

Can't wait to see my sistor in a few weeks time as I live in England but always class Ballykelly as home.

Brian Robinson- May '08
If "Christine Eileen Brownfield - Nov '06" is still looking at this site would she get in touch with me via e-mail brianrobatgmxdotcodotuk
I would like to talk more about the Robinson & Tullyhoe connection. I believe we may have a connection, as my family grave is "back behind the church" with no names...

Thank you

David Smyth - Mar '08
Reading the emails here have evoked some memories I have of Ballykelly and the primary school.

I attended from 1962 to 1969 and remember some of my teachers names Mrs Reevie (Primary 3 ) Mrs Smyton (primary 4 & 5)(primary 1 ,2 ,3 & 4 at the old primary school - primary 4 in the dining hall) Mrs Friel (primary 6) Mr Graham (primary 7 - primary 6 & 7 at the new school).
Some of the pupils in the class with me were Robert Thompson, Robert Magee, Mervyn Connor, Sean Mackay, Maria Morgan, Bernadette Mcgonigle, Martha McIvor (all locals) RAF Heather Fletcher, George Davis, Robert Collington, Colin McCabe.
I also remember Douglas's grocery shop and the big bacon slicer on the counter, a local girl called Patrica McGlinchy worked there.
Mickey Harkins pub and the All Cash Store on the cornor before you went down to the RAF base.
A man call Jack McCorkile ran the petrol pumps in the village and on the outskirts of the village, John Farren had a petrol station and the petrol brand was Mex.
I remember Farrens also had a saw mill beside the river were Bobby Farren now lives and the old Post Office opposite Bridge House ran by William Mitchel, and his mother I think beside the Post Office another teacher who taught at the primary school lived her name was Mrs Hunter.
The headmaster was Mr Jim Ferguson, he built a house close to the new primary school on the opposite side of the road .
His wife also taught at the school, she was a very nice woman.
I also remember that there were 2 cafe's in the village , one was where Tommy's fish and chip shop is now and I remember going in and playing a song on the juke box about 1970 (Black night by Deep Purple) The other cafe was where the bookmaker shop is now.
I left the area in 1983 and went to South Africa and I'm still here but I go back every now and then to see my parents who live near Ballykelly, they are Harry & Nellie Smyth.

I hope this bring back some memories to some people

Roy Duncan - Mar '08
I was sent out to retain the pew two rows from the front with its red cushions. I had the exclusive full benefit of the Fire and Brimstone: he grasped the rails as he reached the climax of his sermon and they shook, scaring the daylights out of me.
The headmaster at Ballykelly Public Elementary to give it the correct title was Stanley Stewart Who could raise welts on the hand with his bamboo cane but lovingly tutored me for the first grammar school entrance exams in 1948.A great teacher and a great man.He wouldnt like that last sentence: no verb!
During the war the village was an exciting place to live.There was the RAF station on the doorstep and one could count the planes out and fewer coming back. My uncle a Warrant Officer went on a bender with my family and his Liberator was shot down. He was incoconsolable and took to his bed for days. Exciting for a boy but so many tragedies I can now recall with sadness. The Americans had a camp at the Calmon (?) Wood and there was the Naval Air Station At Eglinton. Typing thos e names immediately gives rise to more memories so I had better stop rambling.

Lester Robert Moore - Dec '07
Just discovered your site. Being born in Ballykelly, my father is James Moore, son of Johnny Moore "the baker" farmer that owned land around all the fishmonger company's land in and around Ballykelly.
I was educated in Ballykelly Primary School, where I was presented the gold watch for being P7 head-boy and top sportsman of the year. Both presented by the fishmongers company to me. Iwas 11yrs old, unfortunately I lost my watch - the year was 1974..June..If possible could you forward any correspondence to my email address: lester6733athotmaildotcodotuk

Judith McCarter(nee Lockhead) - Feb '07
Ballykelly - my home village from circa 1960! We lived on Plantation Road. My mother, Ida Lockhead taught at both schools - the old Ballykelly Primary School, and the new. I attended both, and also received the gold watch inscribed by the Fishmongers Society, which I still have. Mine was a fob watch, as those were reserved for girls. I remember a visit from a highly inebriated representative of the Worshipful Company!!


G McGill - February '08

My Grandparents James and Rebecca spent the last years of their lives in a house belonging to Harry Irwin just off the Old King's Lane. Before the present housing estate of that name was built, they lived in a two room house adjoining a family called Cruise. My late Aunt Annie worked as a cook in Ballykelly Primamry school (now Glasvey) she later worked as a housekeeper to the Late Major Patton and rented in a house down a lane opposite the now Kings Lane Housing Estate. I have fond memories of this wonderful villiage and it's people who are warm and friendly. Gerald.

Kathleen - Feb '08
We lived in Dukes Lane from 1952/1953 until 1958. We had our own little field with one caravan on it outside the guard room. My mother was Doreen Milne and my father, Jock Milne was in the RAF. Names such as the Roddins, the McBreens , Irene and ruby Douglas and Hutchinsons garage spring to mind. I went to the primary school, and the Sundat School for a while and then on to limavady kindergarten and prep. I loved Ballykelly and still consider it as home. I visited there this weekend and although much has changed there were certain landmarks that remained the same. Can anyone remeber us.

David Osborne - Jan '08
Was very interested in Bill Osbornes submission since it seems to tie in with my own interests. My great grandfather was James Osborne son of John Osborne and Margaret White. James married Mary Adams who was also born in Ballykelly. In 1880 they married and moved to Glasgow where many more Osbornes were spawned. My father was named James White Osborne. Would love to get in touch and exchange data.

Raymond Warke - Jan '08
Joe, I have just been reading through this web page after my sister Sandra Connor (Sandra Warke) told me about it.
I remember some of the things that we got up to in the 50s and early 60s. I have really enjoyed the artical and reading the comments and seeing some of the names which bring back fond memories of Ballykelly and the people. I remember your father well and wish him and your family the very best.

Osborne grave BallykellyBill Osborne, Numurkah, Victoria, Australia - Dec '07
In my comments in December 2006 I mentioned that the headstone which we had erected in Ballykelly Presbyterian Churchyard in memory of our great grandparents was in disrepair and we would arrange to have it cleaned.

Since then we decided to replace it and this has now been done by Limavady Memorials.

I am sending a photo which we received today. .


Daryl Heaney - May '07
Cracking good page

A. Curnick - May '07
We are so sad to be leaving Ballykelly after 2 1/2 very happy years here. The army base is due to close which is why we have been here and our 4 children have loved Ballykelly Primary - a model school. We are sad to move on but will cherish all our memories of life here.

Ashley Lewis - Apr '07
That is stupid

William Young - Mar 07
My mother sarah young was in service at Ballykelly rectoryas a maidfor rev crocure she often told me stories of her lifeworking there she had a friend called lena hasson i think her family ahad a tearoom in the village.

Tee - Mar '07
I am hoping to contact Pam Chetland and Adeline Vertue . I have read their post and see that they are researching Dennison families of Ireland . I really could use some help on finding my Dennison relations The last dennison I have is a Hugh Dennison that married Ann Galbraith in 1804 in Strabane Tyrone Ireland . I was hoping to make some find of connection .

Meg Willis - Mar '07
My great grandfather was called Robert Simpson and he was the station master at Broighter in the second half of the 1800s into early 1900s. His father William was also a station master but I dont know where. Robert and family lived in Station House and his 3rd wife, who was my grandmothers mother was postmistress in Myroe I think. She was called Agnes Torrens. I have just found out his first wife was called Nancy Miller and they were married in Myroe Presbyterian Church in 1865. Her father was James Miller of Carryclare. I dont know if they had any family. She must have died as he remarried in 1871 in Ballykelly Presbyterian Church to Ann Jane Hutchison whose father was a James Hutchison whose occupation was millwright. They had three daughters I know of who all moved to Scotland. His 3rd wife was daughter of James Torrens, a farmer of Back or Carryclare. They had 7 children but only my Granny and one of her sisters survived as all the others died of TB within a per!
iod of 11 months or so. I wonder if there is anyone in Ballykelly or Myroe who is from the Miller ,Hutchison, Simpson or Torrens family. My mother was born in the lodge house of Ardnargle where my grandfather William Fallace was working. I was there last year on a flying visit and found the lodge house had been demolished which was sad. Also visited Broighter Stop where the old railway tracks are still visible. The Roe Valley looked lovely. Maybe Ill hear back from someone on these family names. From Meg Willis

Raymond Logue - Feb '07
I believe the window of St Finlough's chapel to have been donated by the duaghter of Arthur Sampson to whose memory the the substantial Sampson' tower was erected at Farlow near Limavady.To Judith Nesbitt your grandparents used to live in the end house in the same row where i was raised in Kingslane was i that wavey haired boy?

Marion Peel (nee McFall) - Dec '06
Delightful to find such personal reminiscences along with good factual information. It really helps to bring the place alive. Does anyone remember the McFall family who were there certainly in the early 1900's and up to post World War 2? My parents honeymooned there with my father's relatives but I was led to believe most of them either moved away or died. I would be so grateful for any scrap of information.

Bill Osborne- Numurkah, Victoria, Australia - Dec '06

I have recently found this site and found the article and comments most interesting. It has encouraged me to submit details of my family.

My great grandparents John and Margaret (nee White) Osborne lived in the area for most of the nineteenth century. John was a farm labourer who was hired out to different landowners each year and apparently provided with a house. Addresses included Broglasgow, Ballyspallen, Finlagen and Tartnakelly.
My grandfather,also John, migrated to Australia in 1865 and never returned to Ireland. When I visited Ballykelly in 1967 I was the first of his descendants to do so. I spent an afternoon in the Manse with the minister looking through the registers and came up with details of their family as follows:- 1. Robert - Born 1841 I (No further Information or contact) 2. Martha - Born 1844 ( Married William Preston and moved to the Newry area and finally to Belfast.Their grandson, Henry Preston, migrated to Canada in 1954 and now lives in Newcastle, Ontario, and his sister, Helen Cully, lives in Buffalo, New York. Several members of our family have visited them.
3. John - My grandfather ( Could not find him in Ballykelly records but his Australian marriagecertificate shows hís birthplace as Church Hill) 4. Jane - Born 1847 ( Married Matthew Crawford and migrated to Philadelphia USA. Last contact from her family was in 1923) 5. James - Born 1848 ( No further contact) 6. Eliza - Born ? ( Married William Kennedy 1875 and moved to Glasgow. We have a letter saying she had 11 children. No further contact) 7. Joseph - Born ? (Married Margaret Duddy 1886 and migrated to USA. Following the death ofMargaret at the birth of their second child he took the children back to ireland to be brought up by his and Margaret’s parents. We have had contact with his granddaughter Lily McAlister and her family and they live in Portrush) 8. William - Born: ? ( No details other than the birth of a son Samuel in 1881)

In 1981 my sister Jean , cousin Gwen Shanks, with her husband Reg., and I visited Rev. David Brown atthe Manse and arranged the erection of a headstone on the grave of John and Margaret. John had written to our grandfather in 1892 after Margaret’s death and indicated that he hoped to erect a headstone butwas unable to do so. Some family members have seen it and we find that it is now covered in moss so have recently asked the minister to arrange cleaning.

In submitting this comment I hope that any of the descendants of John and Margaret who happen to see it find it interesting and informative.

Christine Eileen Brownfield - Nov '06
Delighted to find this site. Like most Americans, I am tracing ancestry and I know at least a little bit about my grandfather who came from this area. If anyone can shed additional light on my data or can put me in contact with possible distant relatives, I would be grateful. Here is what I know.
Grandfather's name was William Andrew Robinson, (born late 1890's) came from a large family whose farm was near a place called "Carrickcue-tullimaine" I am now thinking it might be Carrickhugh-tullymaine or tullyhoe. I do know that the church the family attended was the Bally kelly Presbyterian Church and have visited there and seen grave markers for "Robinson" back behind the church (have photo) but no names. Nearest big town was Limavady and have pictures of grandfather as little boy taken by a Limavady photographer. You could see Lough Foyle from their farm.
His mother's name was Anne Jane Baird and the Baird's and the Robinson's may have been related somehow. Most of the brothers and sisters all immigrated to America (Philadelphia, PA Camden NJ area prior to the WWI outbreak, my Mother was born in 1917, uncle in 1914 in Philly. I believe that Great Grandmother Anne Jane Baird (who was much younger than her husband (Possibly named Andrew) lived at least up to WWII because supposedly she served tea to American soldiers who wee stationed around the area in honor of her sons and daughters who had immigrated to US. My grandfather died when I was only 7 so most of these stories I know through my Mom and Uncle (both now deceased) and neither of them were really all that interested in history so didn't question as thoroughly as I probably would have. Please, anyone with information or insight respond. I have some lovely old photos of farm, Ann Jane Baird, some of the family etc. I would be happy to scan and put on CD. Thank you! Christine in Raleigh, NC

Christine casey (nee Grant) - Aug '06
Hello there, I really enjoyed reading these posts. I grew up in Ballykelly (from 1971), my dad Denis was the local pharmacist. We lived in Glasvey House, the old primary school. It is now being developed and houses have been built to the back and the side but I understand the front has been retained much as many will remember it.

Great place and the finest people. I hope anyone who is looking for an ancestor & perhaps family has great success.

Marcus Fulton - Aug '06
Message for Judith Nesbitt
I do remember you! I was in Ballykelly at the beginning of August with my dad for the first time in 28yrs, a lot has changed but it brought back alot of happy memorries and I took the walk we use to do past the church. Please get in touch marcus dot fulton at ntlworld dot com.

Pam Chetland -
Aug '06
Message for Adeline Virtue
Thank you for getting in touch, I have been researching my family tree and I have discovered a forebear William Denniston, and a possible forebear Joseph Denniston one gave his birthplace as Dublin Ireland and the other was born in Ballyscullion. It is possible that they were brothers William was born 1786 and Joseph 1789. I know that Joseph's parents were Thomas Denniston and Sarah McNeil now you will have noticed that there is a t in Dennison but whether this was down to the way it was heard and written down I am not sure. I know that it became Dennison in the next generation in fact my maiden name was Dennison too. I would be delighted with any information you could find for me about Dennisons in Ireland I tend to think, from what I have read that the Dennisons originated in the Dennistoun area of Scotland and probably moved to Ireland during the plantations but I would love to find somebody who knows a lot more about it than I do, perhaps your cousin is just that person. If you think he can help please let me know Best, Wishes Pam Chetland.

Judith Nesbitt - Aug '06
I remember a wavy haired young boy of about five years old who walked from school with me down the back lane past the big tree with the high exposed roots, on the opposite side to the Presbyterian Church Hall. Marcus Fulton you probably don't remember me but I also grew to know your Uncle Marcus. I was obsessed by horses in particular and your Uncles house was paradise for me even though I was badly bitten on the back by a palomino stallion he had. I never blamed the pony. His dogs seemed like giants when I was growing up and for me it was a travesty when the hospital took over Churchill House. Little did I know years ago as I stood in the barn of this model farm, which should have been preserved on site, that as an adult I would lie on a hospital bed in that very spot. I no longer live in Ballykelly but have many memories. I often wondered what on earth happened to the first person I had called friend as you had left school by the second year as I recall.

Nick & Jan Eary - Aug '06
Message for Joe Simpson, we have stummbled across this article and hoped that you and Penny remembered us, Nick & Jan from Tiptree, Essex, its been over 10 years since we last saw you.

Good memory's of dog sitting your labradors. Be good to hear from you.

Adeline Virtue - Aug '06
Message for Pam Chetland
My maiden name was Dennison from Co Fermanagh. My father came from Co Leitrim and I have, within the past 3 years, made contact with a distant cousin via the internet who lives in Cork and he has a substantial amount of information on our side of the Dennison family dating back to the 1700s. Should you need any of this information I could pass it on to you.

Ann Parker nee Hunter
Hi, I came across your article when looking for information on my Grandfather, Joseph Hunter. It is the most friendly and informative site I have come across.
I was realy interested in the picture that was painted of Ballykelly and although I doubt whether my family have any connections there, I hope to visit on my trip in August.

Pam Chetland
Hi Joe, thank you very much for your reply. I am researching my family tree ( Dennison ) and am desperately trying to find out about Dennisons in Ireland. One connection that we found gave birthplace as Dublin and the other as Ballyskillen which I mistakenly thought was Ballykelly so thank you for pointing me in the right direction. I will now go searching in that area, Pam

Joe Simpson - July '06
Message for Pam Chetland - it could be, more likely, that your ancestor hailed from Ballyscullion. Co. Londonderry ("Bellyskillen"?) and NOT Ballykelly - for info about B'scullion see website The only other references to "Ballyskillen" that Google brings up, are a motor repair business in Belfast under that name, and a (UK) TV comedy sitcom from the 1980s featurung a) fictional) village of that name!

Pam Chetland - July '06
I enjoyed this article very much, I found the site quite by chance as I have discovered that I may have a forebear who came from there, his name was Joseph Denniston, and he was born around 1789 he served in the Royal Horse Artillery from 1808-1816 and was at Waterloo, on his army service record his birthplace was Bellyskillen Derry which I am translating as Ballykelly Having said all that what I am interested to know is, does the name Denniston or Dennison still exist in Ballykelly, I thought somebody visiting this site might know and be able to help me, Kind Regards Pam Chetland.

John Good - June '06
I was in the USA Navy, and in 1960 was stationed for a few weeks at RAF Ballykelly. The folks were sure nice. I had to adjust to the food :). There was a Warrent Officer, I do not recall his name, however, he was in charge of our accommodations and he was not a very nice fellow as were the other RAF guys.

Joe Simpson - June '06
Message for John Meek - John, we must have attended Ballykelly Primary School at the same time, I was born in 1952. Can you remember Mr. Ferguson, the Headmaster, and his wife who taught at the school? It's now empty, sadly, as the "new" school on the other side of the village near the Manse has been going for about 30 years. I still treasure my Certina gold wrist watch presented by the Fishmongers Society (which founded the Ballykelly Primary School as a "Lancasterian" school with pupil-teachers, back in the 1800s) for being head boy at the Primary School in 1963! John, can you recall the Fishmongers' Chief Warden, Sir Gervase Tennyson D'Eyncourt, coming from London to talk to us all in school assembly that same year, and presenting gold watches to the head boy & head girl? Marianne Patton, who was head girl that year (1963), sadly died in a road accident in 1988, I heard about it just before my wife and I emigrated to Canada that year.

John Meek - June '06
Hi, I lived in RAF Ballykelly 1960 to 63 fond memorys - dad was in air force. I attented Ballykelly primary school met the love of my life there only 10 at time. Hi to all.

John Mongrieff George Simpson (Spain) - June '06
Well researched and a pleasure to read
What a surprise to pop up from a google search for a photograph of Dad!
L'll Bro in Vigo, Spain

William Young - June '06
I found this site very interesting and would like to hear from any who might have known my mother Sarah Young born in Myroe in 1914 my grandfather Charlie was a well known orange man. Mum died in January 2006 she often told me about her young days growing up in myroe and surrounding area many thanks, W T Young.

Joe Simpson - June 06
Message for Ian Hunter - I was delighted to see your message, Ian, which I read out to my father in Newtownards, Co. Down when I phoned him from Vancouver Island, B.C. today. He sends you his very best wishes in return, and we talked for quite a while about your family and other old Ballykelly connections. Dad said you're welcome to call him (he's in the phone book) as he'd love to hear from you. He says to let you know how much he appreciates all the support your parents gave him and my mother in those Ballykelly days. If you look at my photo-essay about Tom Nicholl and Broighter Gold elsewhere on this website, Ian, you'll see a 1965 group photo with your late father, Bobby (R.G.) Hunter, in it. I'm sure that I remember my father giving you a lift up to Belfast one day, probably back to QUB for your medical studies, and dropping me off at the Limavady GS on the way. That must have been about 1964, when I was 12. Anyway, I'm back in NI for 3 weeks in Oct, maybe we can connect up then? My email address here is Best wishes, very good to hear from you.

Jackie Bryson - May '06
hi sheila,

Jackie here, just got your message re brysons. I do know quite a bit about the family tree in sistrakeel, and have seen the graves but would love to know what they were like and where they came from! Any information would be great thanks. My email is jackie dot paddy's brother was my grandfather John who went to donegal and bought a farm there. he married Elizabeth McKeag from Termaquin.

Ian Hunter - May '06
Joe, Congratulations on your article on Ballykelly. You will remember my elder sister Margaret Hunter (now Irwin) who taught you at school. I too was sorry to learn of your mother's passing- much respected lady about Ballykelly. One of my earliest memories is of your father's first visit to my childhood home 'Rascahan'- it was my birthday - I think that it was 1952. In any case, he had a profound influence on my life- please send him my regards. I have been interested in Genealogy for many years-- the Hunters settled initially at Clagan in 1700 (I have a copy of the original deeds) and my branch moved to Tartnakelly two. generations later. Six more generations saw me into the world in 1944. The farm was sold out of the family about 1940. My parents, R.G. and Laura Hunter also have passed on some years ago but I still visit Ballykelly which has a special place in my heart, despite the traffic! The Hunters spread all over the world - to Colonial America, one was a General in the Civil War, and to the goldfields of New Zealand. Those who remained earned a living off the land through good times and bad-- they worshiped, as Presbyterians, at Ballykelly and lie buried there. There is a marked grave at the 'Garrison' or old Walworth Church of my ancestors going back to 1720. Enough, again. I was delighted with your article it was Edward Gibbon the 18th Century philosopher who said "Fifty or an hundred years may be allotted to an individual, but we step forward beyond death with such hopes as religion and philosophy will suggest; and we fill up the silent vacancy that proceeds our birth by associating ourselves with the authors of our existence." Genealogy in a nutshell! Maybe I will hear from a few 'Hunters' Kind regards, Ian Hunter.

Joe Simpson - May '06
Responding to Sheila Cooper: yes, indeed, I can remember from over 40 years ago the lovely RC Church of St. Finlough's on the hill overlooking Ballykelly village and distant Mount Binevenagh, for many a time as wains we used to go merrily bicycling up past there, in the days when parents could let their older children roam freely about the country roads for the day without much reason to fear for their safety! There are some lovely snapshots of the view from the church at . From Dr. James Stevens Curl's 1981 book on the Fishmongers' Company at Ballykelly (at pg. 59) I read that Father McGlade, Parish Priest at Ballykelly, asked the Company for a lease of the RC Chapel and burial ground - with ecumenical munificence rare at that time, says Dr. Curl, the Company went one step further, and decided to financially help the local Roman Catholic community build a church there, after a Fishmonger's Company deputation of inspectors from !
London had extensively toured the area in 1820. If I understand Dr. Curl's text correctly, it appears that the Fishmongers later built the "substantial" St. Finlough's RC Church at Oghill, Ballykelly. Perhaps, Sheila, you could add some further history of St. Finlough's to this webpage?

Joe Simpson - May '06
Reply for Debby from Joe Simpson - according to Dr. James Stevens Curl's history the Londonderry Plantation (pub. 1986 - see my earlier posting below), the Fishmongers’ Company Proportion in Co. Londonderry was remarkably long and thin, extending southwards from Lough Foyle for some 12 miles into the higher lands and lush valley of Drumcovit, near Banagher. A Fishmongers' Company Deputation from London stayed for two nights in 1820 at Drumcovit House, then occupied by a Mr. Hunter, his wife and their ten musical children. They recorded having an excellent dinner at Drumcovit, with the Hunters and their close neighbours, the Stevensons, and being entertained by the “very agreeable” young Misses Hunter on pianoforte, accompanied by their brother on the flute. The Deputation admired Drumcovit’s fine garden-front of stone with brick dressings. Company re-roofed the house in the early 1870s. Professor Curl (1986) – a most discerning architectural critic - comments on “the graceful" front of Drumcovit House that looks out across incomparably lovely country to Banagher Parish Church”. Dr. Curl's book states that adjacent Feeny itself was part of the Skinners’ Company's fragmented estates in the area. Debby, have you looked yet at Drumcovit Houses's "B & B" website at ? It looks lovely!

Sheila Cooper
Regarding Jackie's query about the Bryson family.
They had a farm in Sistrakeel, a few hunderd yards from where I lived.
But the name was Paddy(Patrick) Bryson, maybe his father was John.
Paddy's wife was Dympna with sons Charlie, Noel, Patrick and Seamus. They had one daughter Angela. I'm sure they must be related to you in some way.
There is a large tombstone in St. Finlough's church with generations of Brysons buried there. So if I can help with your queries please respond back to this thread.

To Joe Simpson - loved the Ballykelly history. Funny how you can see something everyday but really know very little about it. Do you recall St. Finlough's - the little RC church on a hill a little up country from Ballykelly.

Debby - May '06
Thanks to you for this article. I'm new to this genealogy research. I stumbled upon this site while trying to research an area called Drumcovitt, Feeny, Banagher (now called Drumcovitt house). That 300 year old farm, I've traced my ancestors back to. Actually several families, all related. i.e. Reillys/Rileys, Marshalls, Jervis. The information said it was "created by the" Fishmongers Co." Would you be able to give me a little history. Was Feeny built by the FM, much like Ballykelly? Did these early settlers move between settlements? This would explain some of my family's early movement and maybe why I can not locate some birth records. Debby, Love the site.

Roberta Morley (nee Moore) - April '06
I have just returned from a week's holiday with my mother, Greta Moore, in Ballykelly. So sorry to hear about your Mum, Joe. I always put flowers on Dad's grave when I am home & I also visited your Mother's grave while I was there. Mum & my sister, Maudie also send their condolences.

It's lovely to see such interest in your web page, Joe.

Joe Simpson - April '06
Message from Joe Simpson for Cousin Marcus Fulton:

Marcus, if you would like to email me at EITHER otesaga at shaw dot ca OR tjslaw at telus dot net I would be delighted to make direct contact - my maternal grandfather Joseph Fulton (d. 1949 aged in his 60s) of Thornhill Farm, Ballykelly - a brother of Reverend Marcus Fulton, after whom I guess the younger Marcus (his nephew) was named - is your paternal great-grandfather. Our branch of the Fulton family all hailed from Dungiven, Co. Derry. My mother's oldest brother George Fulton (d. 1974, in his 60s) was your grandfather - my Uncle George - and I last saw your Grandmother, my Auntie Margie, in 1978, the same day we met Marcus. I remember your great-grandmother Ogilvie ("M'Ogie") very well, lovely lady. I also remember your father George when he was a wee lad of about 12 or 13. I last met your Uncle David Fulton in Essex, UK about 20 years ago, and I know your father George was at my mother's funeral last March. Your Uncle John and his wife visited us in BC, Canada about 15 years ago. So we have many connections - hope you will see this and email me!

Louise Mc Farland (nee robinson) - April '06
My mum and dad, Joyce and William Robinson, from Tullyhoe (between Limavady and Ballykelly) often talk about your parents - they were sad to hear about your mother passing away. The Robinson family lived across the road from Lynch's farm. It is nice to read a bit of local history - we tend to live so much in the present now and forget about our roots!

William Cumming - April '06
My thanks to Roberta, Hilary & Joe for your remarks concerning Sam Lyons! I wonder if you have any particular memories of him and what he was like - any other memories of the family you may have too.

My email address is cummingwj at if you wish to get in touch with me directly.

Kind regards,

Marcus Fulton - April '06
I stumbled upon this web page purely by accident, and great joy it has given me. i am named after uncle Marcus!!! My father is George Ogilvie Fulton and his father was George Fulton who I believe to be uncle marcus's brother but i maybe mistaken, my grandpa past away in 1974. I have very fond memories of visiting uncle Marcus after school in 1975 and he taking me out riding around the courtyard on one of his ponies and there was always a wolf hound with us.

Suzanne Alder - March '06
I am very interested in genealogy and was thrilled to hear about this web site. I am looking for infomration about my ancestors. Especially James Turnbull who married Margaret Dunn (she also may have been known as Jean) , and had children Maria (who married Joseph Laughlin Gibson of Broighter), John, James, Robert (who travelled to Australia) and William (who married Elilzabeth Carter.)

Margaret Dunn was the daughter of Robert Dunn of Tartnakelly (1764-1837).

If anyone could help me, I would greatly appreciate it.

Norman Thorpe ballykelly - March '06
very interesting and informitive writing history of raf ballykelly

Gari - March '06
Luck of the Irish! Eirjet takes Ryanair to Ballykelly

Nice to see that Ryanair now serving Ballykelly and the interest in this lovely place is immense

Thanks for this webpage and info

Gari, Isle of Man

Suzanne Alder - March '06
It has been wonderful reading all this information about my ancestors home town. I am looking for any information about the Turnbull family who lived in Tartnakelly. I am also looking for information about Robert Dunn (1764-1837). He married Ann Strawbridge of Ballyspaleen (1771-1843). They had children by the names of James, Thomas, Mary, Robert Margaret, Martha, John, Jean and Catherine.

James Turnbull married Jean Dunn (or Margaret). If anyone has any information about this family I would greatly appreciate it.

Jackie Bryson - March '06
my ancestors come from sistrakeel in ballykelly, they were brysons, my grandfather being john bryson they owned a farm in either sistrakeel or tartnakilly. does anyone know anything of the brysons there.

Joe Simpson - March '06
A bibliographical footnote - in addition to the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) 1981 book on 'Ballykelly and the Fishmongers' by Dr. James Stevens Curl that I mentioned at the end of my above Ballykelly photo-essay, currently priced at £8 plus postage/shipping - of which only about 15 - 20 copies remain for sale at the UAHS - Dr. Curl is also the author of a 1986 hefty tome on all of the various London Companies once active in 'planting' Co. Derry, with a detailed chapter on Ballykelly & the Fishmongers Company that updates and in places corrects his earlier 1981 book. The 1981 Ballykelly volume can still be obtained, subject of course to future availability, by contacting UAHS, 66 Donegall Pass Belfast , BT7 1BU, N. Ireland, UK or email / website / tel. 028 9055 0214 (ask for Joan). The more-expensive (about £60!!) 1986 volume titled 'The Londonderry Plantation 1609-1914' is published by Phillimore & Co., Shopwyke Hall, Chichester, Sussex (ISBN 0 85033 577 9) although it may be possible to buy a copy from the Co. Down-based author, Dr. Curl, by contacting him initially via UAHS. Cheers!

Joe Simpson - March '06
Thank you, Ivan Thompson, for sending your mother Tessie's kind condolences for my mother's death last March 3, which I have passed on to my father, who expresses his deep appreciation. I visited Mum's grave at Ballykelly Presbyterian Church's beautifully-kept village churchyard last week soon after I flew over here from my Vancouver Island home. I am returning to Canada in a few days (March 25) but right now I am still in Co. Down, NI and I have just been reading out all these Ballykelly online postings to my father, Rev. Tom Simpson (82) whose eyesight no longer permits him to read for himself. My father remembers your mother, and indeed I attended the old Ballykelly Primary School (1956 - 1963) with a very nice wee lad called Reggie Donaghy, who may be your uncle? Yes, I was the 2nd-ever Head Boy there in 1962-3, and I still have the gold watch awarded by the Fishmonger's Society, and my head boy badge! My father is fascinated to hear all the familiar Ballykelly names mentioned below by Ivan, Roberta, Hilary, William and Teena. He clearly remembers Sammy Lyons, Tessie Donaghy, "Foyleview Farm" (later owned by Mr. Barr?), Maudie Moore and others from those days half a century ago. In the past week we have been talking a lot about those days. My father is comforted by the knowledge that he, too, when the time comes will join Mum for eternity at Ballykelly and be surrounded there by many dear old friends from their younger days. He sends blessings to you all.

Ivan Thompson - Mar 06
My mother was a member of the congregation when your father was minister[Tessie Thompson nee Donaghy]and remembers and talks about him admirally.We were talking the other day and was thinking that maybe you were a Headboy at Ballykelly Primary School and this is what my mother remembers of yourself.Your father was the minister who married my parents and christened thier first child. P.S. My mother was saddened to hear of the recent death of your mother.

Joe Simpson - March '06
Yes, indeed, Hilary - my mother's much older first cousin Marcus Fulton of Church Hill owned Irish wolfhounds, as my wife and I recall from our visit there in 1978. I remember one, which had just produced a litter of pups, growling ferociously at us when we went into the old stables with Marcus to look at them. We backed out very, very carefully!

Hilary Sussum - Feb '06
What fun to read about Ballykelly! I was there last weekend. I remember the Rev. Simpson though I was not a member of his congregation. I grew up in the 'Bawn' though it was very different from the map with a new house (approx 1750) where one of the flankers used to be. I also knew Sam Lyons from Crindle and I remember Mr Fulton of Church Hill - did he own Irish wolfhouds?

Joe Simpson - Jan '06
Message for Roberta Morley (nee Moore) - thanks Roberta for your good wishes to my parents, Tom & Pat Simpson, which i will pass on to them by phone this weekend. The extra info that you gave below about the family smallholding in Tartnakelly may help to trigger their memory, which at around 80 years is not as clear as it once was. My mother's family, the Fultons, farmed just up the road from the Ballykelly Manse, until about 1950.

For many years the hawthorn tree in the middle of a big field alongside the farm lane was left intact by the ploughman, so as not to disturb the resident fairies, my mother used to tell us as children. Old country superstitions die hard, but last time I looked a few years ago the 'fairy hawthorn" was finally gone.

My mother remembers from her childhood in the 1930s that her father would occasionally doze off while driving his horse and trap of an evening home from the Limavady cattle market (perhaps having lunched too well with his farmer chums?!! ) but the canny old horse would find its own way back, stopping here and there along the farm lane to select choice morsels of grass. A lot safer than falling asleep at the wheel of a modern 4-wheeled vehicle! Best regards, Joe S. (Vancouver Island, BC).

Roberta Morley (nee Moore) - Jan '06
Regarding William Cumming's query about his wife's ancestor's farm in Ballykelly. I was brought up on a small holding in Tartnakelly and a Samuel Lyons had a farm in the next townland, Loughermore. This same Samuel (Sammy) Lyons had a farm also in Crindle, Myroe. The farm in Crindle overlooked the local Crindle Cricket Club were Sammy Lyons and my father used to play cricket for the local team. Perhaps Sammy was a son of William Lyons. Unfortunately my father died over 8 years ago as he would have known much more of the Lyons family history. There is no-one living on the farm in Loughermore any longer - it is now derelict, but I believe the farm in Crindle is still in existence.

Message for Joe Simpson - glad to hear both your parents are alive and well. Please send them my best wishes, also those of my mother, Greta Moore and my sister, Maudie. Kind regards, Roberta Morley, Stafford, England.

William Cumming - Jan '06
My wife's ancestors had a farm in Ballykelly. He was William Lyons (born c1880). If I've understood correctly then the farm was called something like 'Tarakelly'. After a while he moved and bought a farm called Crindle at Myroe near Limavady.
I wonder if anyone can help me identify the farm in Ballykelly??
Kind regards, William

Teena - Dec '05
'Tis fabulous to find more on-line about Ballykelly. My ancestor, Andrew DUNN inherited "Foyleview Farm" from his Aunt- Margaret Robinson, upon the death of her husband William. William Robinson took over the farm after the death of his father, John Robinson (John Robinson burial 27 Apr 1830 of near the Canal, Ballykelly). Margaret ROBINSON died 15th Aug 1888 aged 90, and she is buried with her nephew Andrew DUNN, in the Ballykelly New Church Burying Ground. I have pictures of the farm dated c1880, along with a picture of the railway station.
Thank you for providing just a wee bit more to whet the appetite.

Joe Simpson - Dec '05
Thanks so much for these comments, Roberta - I was 13 when we left Ballykelly, and it has always felt like "home" in my memory, even far away in Canada. When I was about 6 years old, around the year of 1958, I panicked one day in class at the old Ballykelly Primary School because I thought that a temporary teacher wouldn't let us go home at the normal time. Apparently - and I have no clear memory of what happened next - I suddenly stood up and announced to everyone in the room that I had to go home to the Manse right away, as my parents were taking my younger brother, sister & me away to live in Canada, the very next day! Where I got that crazy idea from I have no idea, but certainly not from our Mum & Dad. You can imagine the speed with which that story went around the Ballykelly village that same afternoon!! Anyway, I will phone my parents (now in their late 70s/early 80s and still chugging along in N'Ards) this wekend and let them know about your kind message. I'm sure they will remember your Mum, Greta Moore. Sincerely, Joe Simpson (BC, Canada).

Roberta Morley (nee Moore) - Dec '05
Delighted to read this article about Ballykelly. Rev. Tom Simpson was our much-loved minister from 1949 - 1965 & was sadly missed by all the congregation when he moved on to pastures new.
I left Ballykelly in 1971 when I married an RAF man (surprise! surprise!) but return 2 or 3 times per year to visit my mother, Greta Moore, who still lives in the village.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip "down memory lane" when reading Joe's excellent article.


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