Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ballymena (1858)

This is an article from the Irish Miscellany out of Boston, the same publication that talked about the charms of  Finglas. Again no author for the piece is listed. 

The subject of the above illustration, is a flourishing market town, situated in the centre of the county of Antrim. Within the last ten years it has been rapidly progressing in size and respectability. At present it contains about one thousand houses, with between four thousand and five thousand inhabitants. There are in Ballymena two Presbyterian houses of worship, one meeting house in connection with the Seceders, a Roman Catholic chapel, an Episcopal church and a Methodist chapel. There are two academies and a free school for the children of the town and neighborhood, whose circumstances prevent their attendance on the schools. The country around Ballymena presents a very beautiful appearance, being well cultivated, and much ornamented by planting in various directions. A little hill, standing to the westward of the town, commands towards the south, a pleasant view of a rich and cultivated valley, as well planted and as amply ornamented with houses, orchards and hedgerows, as any vale in England. The cottages and farm houses present that appearance of neatness and comfort which distinguishes the province of Ulster from many other parts of Ireland; the squalid misery, and extreme wretchedness apparent elsewhere, and so irksome to the feelings of every benevolent mind, not being apparent here.

The peasantry are rather well informed, and have in general that idea of independence which gives to the lower orders of this portion of the country such a decided advantage over those of the other districts of Ireland. They are, however, very superstitious, and attached to many old customs and pastimes. A short distance from the town is a rath or mound of earth, connected with another mound, in the form of an ampitheatre. It is fifty feet high, and being planted with trees, forms a very pretty object, and it is very well worthy of the inspection of the curious. About seven miles irom Ballymena, and in the background of our illustration, is the celebrated hill, Sleive Mish, where St. Patrick is said to have tended the swine of Milco.

Rather more than two miles from Ballymena, on the Ahogill road, in the handsome village of Gracehill, a Moravian settlement, which consists of about forty houses and four hundred inhabitants, and forms three sides of a quadrangle—in front of which is a very beautiful hedge-rowed pleasure-ground. Midway to this place is Galgorme cattle, at present the property of Lord Mountcashel, and partially fitted up and inhabited by one of the agents to the estate. There is a legend here relative to a former proprietor, who is Said to have sold himself to the devil for a certain remuneration in gold. The box which contained the treasure being still to be seen in one of the rooms of the castle.

This settlement was commenced about seventy-five years since, on a townland containing about two hundred and twenty acres, taken from Lord O'Neill, the entire of which is in a high state of cultivation, numbers of comfortable cottages, and thriving gardens, surrounded with luxuriant hedges, appearing in every direction. Midway from Ballymena to Ballymoney, somewhat to the left, are seen the Craigs rocks, or Fort of Craigs, which form a square of nine thousand feet in area, with a very deep trench, close to which are three pillars erect and tapering, supposed to have been placed there in honour of some valiant chieftain slain in battle; and but a short distance from them, in the hollow of a high and craggy ridge, there is a cromlech, or druidical altar—a slab of black heavy stone, one foot in thickness, ten feet long, and eight broad, originally placed upon five supporters. Beneath this is a chamber which communicates with two others, about seven feet square, and arched over—the whole standing within a circle of hundred and thirty-five feet in circumference, the ground underneath having formerly been hollowed into a kind of cavern.

A writer in Mason's Statistical Survey, speaking of this place, observes—that it must have been the theatre of great events in former times; that it possesses more remains of antiquity than he has any where seen in the same space of ground. The place where the altar is erected is lonely and awful—it induces thought, and brings back the memory to former days, over which the mind broods with pleasure. Here Fingal and his clans of Mourne and Boiskene may have displayed their valor—Torgis and his Scandinavians committed their ravages—Sourleboy ( i. e. Yellow Charley) and his Scotch played off their stratagems— or De Courcey and his English showed forth their heroism. All are now gone; a total change of laws, manners, religion, and war, has taken place and a rational religion and mild government have blessed us with peace and knowledge.

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