Ros Davies' Co. Down, Northern Ireland Family History Research Site
© Rosalind Davies 2001
Permission granted to reprint research for non-profit use only
Articles from Mourne Observer newspaper 'Meet
the Old Folks'- published 1959
& Newtownards Chronicle article
|Story by John McCarthy of Drumena||Story by Sarah Mussen about Old Dromore||Aughanskeagh Band, Dromara story|
|Death of Thomas Watson, Comber 1906|
Mr McCarthy first related the story of a man named Paddy Rodgers of Dromena, whose one and only encounter with the fairies was anything but a pleasant one. Mr Rodgers, it appears, was on Tullyree Hill when night fell and a lot of the wee folk gathered round him and led him around and around the hill about ten times. They danced round him and kept laughing at his plight, as he was unable to find his way off the hill. Then in the early hours a cock crew, the fairies scattered and Mr Rodgers was able to fins his way home.
"I have often heard it said," added Mr McCarthy, "that if you take off your coat and turn it inside out, the fairies will leave you, but Paddy mustnít have known about that." A married man, with a family, Mr Rodgers died about 24 years ago. (i.e. 1935)
Weíve all heard the old saying "Never cut a fairy thorn," and Mr McCarthy gave me two instances which go to prove that this advice should never be treated as a joke.
There was the unfortunate case of Mick McCabe, of Tullyree, who went to uproot a fairy bush. Out jumped a hare, which ran round to the side of the hill. Mick turned his head sideways to look after it- and his head remained in that position until he died, about 40 years ago. (i.e. 1940)
Then Mr McCarthy told the story of Micky McCartan, who lived on a neighbouring farm. Of the devil-me-care type, Micky insisted on cutting away a fairy thorn despite pleadings by his mother not to touch it. Even as he started to saw the bush his mother kept pulling him back by the coat-tail. On he went, but suddenly blood appeared on the saw blade and Micky, despite his insistent boldness was petrified. He stopped sawing- and just in time, before doing irreparable damage to the thorn and consequently no ill befell him.
Owen Kelly, who lived on the Dublin Road, outside Castlewellan, was another who suffered for his foolishness in cutting down fairy bushes, despite warnings by neighbours. That night and also the next day, none of the cows in the byre was able to get up. He was advised to repair the bushes as best he could and with scutching tow he tied the branches back on the bushes after which all his cows returned to normal.
"I remember seeing the bushes being tied up myself, " said Mr McCarthy. " That was about 60 years ago." ( i.e. 1920)
The Story of the "Wee Woman"
Next, Mr McCarthy told the tale of a mysterious wee woman, who appeared to a neighbouring farmerís wife, Mrs Kelly, and asked her for some milk. Mrs Kelly fulfilled the request but in return the wee woman gave her bad news, telling her there would be a four-footed animal dead about the house before night. The wee woman then left and Mrs Kelly looked up the yard to see what way she went- "but devil the bit of a woman could she see." However, the wee womanís words came true, for next morning Mrs Kelly found a sow dead in the pigsty.
Mr McCarthy was able to verify a story concerning a man who was employed in the construction of a tunnel through the mountains from the Silent Valley for the Belfast Water Commissionerís conduit. This man , it appears, was warned by a little stranger that he was not required at work on a particular day and he turned and went home. That same day some of his fellow workers were killed during a blasting accident in the tunnel. Those in charge of the job said at the time that they gave no instructions for anyone not to be at work and the identity of the little man was never known.
Mr McCarthy was able to go into the story in still greater detail. The manís name was John McEvoy, of Tullyree. "I knew him well and he went to work through Rodenís demesne," went on Mr McCarthy. "At a place in the wall, which is now built up, there was a small gateway and as he was going through it a man of very small stature appeared and told him not to go to work that day. No one could tell him who the little man was and he as never seen afterwards. But it was generally believed that he must have been a leprechaun. That happened about 60 years ago. ( i.e. 1900)
Mr McCarthy proceeded to tell about highlights of former days around Kilcoo.
He was a member of the Kilcoo Emmet Flute Band in 1901. The band was started by a James Hagan of Moyad and the tutor was Mr. George McKee of Annsborough. The members wore band caps and jackets. As far as he knew, only four others who were members of that band were still alive, namely, Mark Maginn of Dunturk, John McManus of Dromena, and Arthur Morgan of Ballymoney, Kilcoo and Charles Woods of Drumbroniff.
The possessor of a retentive memory, Mr. McCarthy was able to recall the names of practically every member in the band. They were:- James Fegan of Slievenalargy (big drummer) ,James Hagan of Moyadd (poleman or drum-major), Stephen Rodgers of Tullyree, John Johnston of Dromena, Richard Prey of Tullyree, James Sawey of Slievenalargy (all drummers) , Stephen McClean, Jim McGeown, Paddy McCartan, John McCarthy, John McManus, Owen Mallon, Frank Fitzpatrick, Paddy King, Daniel Fegan Arthur Morgan, Mark Maginn, James Fitzpatrick, Barney King, James McClean, Tom Cunningham, John McClean, Jos McLoughlin, Paddy McConville, and other James McClean, Mark Darby, James McAlinden, Charles Woods and John Rodgers.
Carrying pikes at the side of the band were Dennis Rodgers, Peter Murnin, Owen McEvoy, and Henry Hughes.
"On Our Ladyís Day every year- the 15th of August- we went for a dayís outing," said Mr. McCarthy, "to either Warrenpoint, Rostrevor or Newcastle. We set off on horse- brakes and always had a jolly good day. We were generally accompanied by two policemen."
They also had outings on the 29th June and on St. Patrickís Day, generally to Kilkeel or Newry. He well remembers at parade of about 30 bands marching one 15th August from Newcastle to Castlewellan and back again. That was about 55 years ago. "Newcastle wasnít as big then as it is now," he said, "but it was a very popular place."
Turning to sport, Mr McCarthy recalled some outstanding feats of two famous Kilcoo tug-o-war teams. There was a first team and a second team, he explained. The first team travelled to Newry, Kilkeel, Ballyroney, Castlewellan and Newcastle- and never was beaten. "Both teams practised together and when the first team gave the second team an extra man, Iím telling you," says he, " it was some pull." Master Breen was captain of the first team and John McClean, Tullyree, captain of the second team.
"One day I was coming out of Newry with a load of goods and a woman asked me for a lift. I stopped and she out her basket into the cart. Then I reached out my hand to giver her a lift, but I thought her hand too big and rough to be a womanís so I gave the horse a whip and left "her" behind. When I got home I found a revolver in the basket. "
Mr McCarthy remembers Fr. OíConnor as parish priest of Kilcoo. He was succeeded by Fr. Magee, then Fr. McKenna and Fr. Eardley.
Fr. McKenna later went to Castlewellan, where he subsequently became Dean and is still reverently remembered by the people of both parishes. Next came Fr. McGrath, followed by Fr. OíNeill (now P.P. of Newcastle) and then Fr. Walls, the present P.P. of Kilcoo.
The existing chapel at Kilcoo was built in 1901, during the pastorate of Fr. Magee, replacing one which had been built in 1802 in what is now the graveyard. The old chapel contained to galleries and seated approximately 300 people.
Mr McCarthy, who is aged 86 years, was one of a family of six, having two brothers and three sisters. The only other surviving members of the family are his two sisters- Mrs Hugh McClean, Tullyree and Mrs Peter McCormick, Slievenalargy.
Email me if youíd like a photo of Mr John McCarthy beside a fairy bush.
This article is about Mrs. Sarah Mussen of Ballymaghery near Hilltown who was known around Dromore as Miss Sarah Clarke of Lurganbane.
Mrs. Mussen was married around 1890 when she was 25 years old. She and Mr. George Mussen, a member of a well known and respected Dromore family, were united in St. Colman's Catholic church, Dromore, by the late Very Rev. Monsignor McCartan, a beloved priest whose name is still a household word in that parish.
Soon after their marriage, Mr. Mussen bought a farm from Mr. Thomas Pantridge at Mount Hill, Dromore. Here they laboured for 30 years, until about 1920, when Mr. Mussen purchased the farm of Martin's of Bannvale, Hilltown which comprised a flax mill and corn mill.
Hand Loom Weaving
A Relic of Famine Days
The Linen Boom
Changes Around Dromore
Over to Hilltown.
The Crock of Gold
1959-"When Aughnaskeagh Band parades this Twelfth to Banbridge
it will be its 71st year on the road and a few weeks ago we had the
pleasure of chatting to one of its foundation members- Mr. Joseph Graham,
a native of Aughnaskeagh but now residing at Tullynisky (Garvaghy
Mr. Graham mentioned that Mr. Joseph McClune, who resided at
Dundrum (Kilmegan parish),was one of the early members of the
Band. So we called on Mr. McClune, who is head of a local firm of building
On Sunday morning the police at Comber were informed by Mr David McDonald
of Castle Hill that he had found the dead body of a man lying in the
stream near the old castle grounds in the vicinity of the racecourse.
Constable Walsh went at once to view the body with several civilians.
The body was found lying on the back in a deep shough about
nine feet in depth, and amongst the very long grass of over three feet
in growth, and behind a big whin bush, so that it was difficult to see.
Constable Walsh obtained a large canvas sheet, and with the aid of Messrs
Hugh Skillen, Samuel McGreegan, John Allen, Robert Patton, James
Dugan and Joseph McIlveen wrapped the body in it, then placing the
remains on a door and carrying them to the old mill. The face and skull
were completely without flesh, also the hands and part of the chest,
the rats having left the lower part of the body untouched. It is surmised
that the body may have lain from last Comber steeplechases. There was
nothing in the pockets to lead to identification, the only contents
being an empty tobacco box, 1½d, and a lead pencil. The deceased
was wearing two striped cotton shirts, dark coat and vest, and pair
of shabby trousers, thick knit woollen drawers, and pair of half-worn
Newtownards Chronicle 20 October 1906 The
by Ros Davies