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Bellaghy Historical Society
Meeting Reports 2001-2002
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Click on the photographs for a larger image.


October 2001

Following the enforced cancellation of some of their meetings last year due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak, Bellaghy Historical Society have just started our new season The October Meeting was a talk given by Dr Bob Curran, Lecturer on History at the N.U.U. on Myths and Legends.

The speaker explained how in simpler times strange happenings were attributed to the Fairies or Witchcraft as a way of explaining their occurrence. He drew on ancient Celtic beliefs in the power of the Little people and how it was forbidden to talk to them at the risk of dire consequences. Local stories were included in his talk which the audience found at all times interesting and very amusing.

Before the meeting started a brief Annual General Meeting was held at which the existing Committee was re-elected since its tenure of office had been greatly curtailed by the Foot and Mouth epidemic which caused the cancellation of the last three meetings.

When thanking the Speaker the Chairperson, Mrs Mary Breslin also thanked those who attended for their interest and reminded them that the next meeting would be on Tuesday 13th November when the speaker would be Ms Yvonne Hirst, Head of the Local Studies Department at Ballymena Library on the topic of Researching Bellaghys Past.


November 2001

For the second meeting of the season Bellaghy Historical Society had as speaker Ms Yvonne Hirst, Local Studies Development Officer at Ballymena Library.

Ms Hirst gave a very comprehensive outline of the aims and resources of her Local Studies Department, which heldan Open Day in April to allow those involved with Local History Groups to see the extra resources now available in Ballymena

She illustrated these by showing how a visitor from another country, trying to trace ancestors, could do a successful search by providing name, townland or any small piece of information. She demonstrated this by choosing a common Bellaghy name and indicating how much could be learnt from the resources held in the Local Studies department. Further documents relating to Bellaghy citizens in the early 1800s proved an extremely interesting topic for her appreciative audience. Ms Hirst also brought with her old maps and many old records relating to Bellaghy

Thanking her for her most interesting talk, the Chairperson Mrs Mary Breslin expressed the appreciation of the members for the trouble she had taken to bring such a wealth of information relating to Bellaghy and district. She also reminded those present of the Christmas meeting on Tuesday 11th December when Ms Fionnuala Carragher will speak on Christmas Past in the home.


December 2001

For the Christmas meeting of the Bellaghy Historical Society, the Speaker was Ms.Fionnuala Carragher from the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. She is Head Of the Department on Domestic Life and Irish furniture and her topic was Christmas Past in the Home.

She started by telling her audience that Christmas only started to be celebrated in its current form, in Victorian days, when the influence of Holland and other countries in Western Europe brought us Santa Claus, the tree and Christmas cards. Before that it was mainly a religious festival and the comniercial aspect of things only started to escalate after the second World War.

The Speaker then showed a series of slides of furnishings and kitchen and Dairy equipment in the houses of bygone days and followed this by quoting the times of arrival in this country of the different traditions we now enjoy.

After tea and mincepies, the Chairperson Mrs Mary Breslin thanked the audience for attending and reminded them of the January meeting when the well known writer and sailor Mr Wallace Clark will speak on the History of the Linen Industry.


Ms.Fionnuala Carragher
from the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
was the speaker at the December meeting.


January 2002

At the first meeting of the New year of the Bellaghy Historical Society the Speaker was Mr Wallace Clark, well known writer and sailor, who spoke on the History of Upperlands Linen.

Mr Clark traced the story of his own familys involvement with the linen trade, spanning over two hundred and fifty years, and occupying nine generations of the family, while at the same time explaining the development of the trade in general. Ireland had at one stage three hundred linen
factories most of which were in the North. The American Civil War, when virtually no cotton was grown, saw the Americans turn to linen and this provided a boom for the Industry here. Irish linen gained and has retained a world wide prestige as the best.

With many anecdotes of past experiences the Speaker kept his audience well entertained. He also attributed the survival of his family firm, amongst a very small number now operating in Northern Ireland, to their decision to diversify, using synthetics to keep up with world wide competition.

Thanking Mr Clark for a most interesting and lively talk, the Chairperson, Mrs Mary Breslin, also reminded members of the February meeting, at which Mr George McIntyre will present a brief history of Drumlamph families, followed by presentations by several other members on employment in Bellaghy in the last century, the idea being to draw a picture of the life and activity of the village in past times.


 Mr Wallace Clark
well known writer and sailor,
who spoke on
the History of Upperlands Linen


February 2002

There was a large attendance at the February meeting of the Bellaghy Historical Society to hear several subjects discussed.

The main speaker was Mr George McIntyre on the History of his native Drumlamph. This was followed by Mr Sam Overend on the History of the Construction Industry in Bellaghy, Mrs Mary Breslin on the History or the Diatomite Industry and Dr C.G.Lowry on the Medical History of Bellaghy.

The Society aims to paint a picture of what life was like for inhabitants of the village in days gone by and how people earned their living.

Mr McIntyre has compiled a data base of 5,000 to 6,000 names of people associated with Drumlamph families during the past 200 years and has gone to great lengths to discover who married whom, where people moved on to and noted where houses which no longer exist, used to stand. With the help of his computer he is able to trace the ancestors of most of Drumlamphs past or present residents.

He is keen for any one with interesting information or questions to visit his web site at

Mr Sam Overend told that about 300 men left Bellaghy every morning in the post war boom of building, to work in the Construction Industry mainly with the three Evans building firms. An apprentice to the trade in the early forties worked a fifty four hour week for a pittance. He ended
his very interesting resume with an amusing anecdote about the mother who said that her son made very comfortable coffins!

Mrs Mary Breslin gave a very scientific account of the discovery and development of Diatomite at the New Ferry which at one time employed 150 men. She traced its formation from minute crustaceans over millions of years and went on to state its uses for insulation, abrasives and even face powder. She noted the methods employed for extracting and drying it at the New Ferry before exporting it to England. She also gave the names and dates of Managers and workers connected with the industry at New Ferry and Toomebridge.

Dr Charles Lowry in his talk, recorded that the Bellaghy Dispensary was established in 1832, funded by the Vintners Company, the Grand Jury and some private subscriptions. He recorded the names of doctors who held the position of Dispensary doctor, and traced the development of medicines which enabled doctors to combat previously incurable diseases. The Health Service starting in 1948 made treatment available to everyone and laid the foundation for modern practice

Closing the meeting and thanking all the speakers Mrs Mary Breslin, Chairperson reminded members that the next meeting on 12th March would have as subject Emigration with reference to this area the talk being given by Dr Patrick Fitzgerald from the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh


Speakers at the February meeting, (L-R) Main speaker Mr George McIntyre (The History Drumlamph. his native townland);  Mr Sam Overend (The History of the Construction Industry in Bellaghy); Mrs Mary Breslin History (The Diatomite Industry at New Ferry) and Dr C.G.Lowry (The Medical History of Bellaghy).


March 2002

The speaker at the March meeting of the Bellaghy Historical Society was Dr. Patrick Fitzgerald, Head of Migration Studies at the Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh.

His subject was Emigration, with special reference to the local area. Dr Fitzgerald spoke of the continual stream of people who emigrated from Ireland since the sixteen hundreds at first to the mainland of Great Britain, and later across the Atlantic to America and Canada.

There was a huge haemorrhage of emigrants from all over Ireland after the famine when people bravely faced a three week journey by sail and rarefy returned. With the advent of steam in 1860, more people were prepared to go with a view to improving their prospects, possibly returning, but most importantly, sending money home which in many cases, was to find a ticket for a sibling to emigrate also.

Dr Fitzgerald put up slides showing lists of names from the Bellaghy, Castledawson and Maghera areas, many of which were familiar to his audience.

Thanking Dr. Fitzgerald for his most excellent talk, the Chairperson, Mrs Mary Breslin reminded the large audience that next months meeting on Tuesday 9th April would be presentations by several members on life in Bellaghy in times past, when opportunities for employment were limited.


Dr. Patrick Fitzgerald,
Head of Migration Studies at the
Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh.


April 2002

The members of the Bellaghy Historical Society enjoyed a very pleasant and informative evening at their April meeting, when several members spoke on various aspects of Life and Employment in Bellaghy in times past.

Dermot Keenan spoke about the Road Construction Industry, Pat Henry gave the history of St.Marys Church and Patricia Lowry that of the Bellaghy Church of Ireland. Ena Hammond gave the history of the Presbyterian Church in Bellaghy and also that of the Spade Mill at Edenreagh which had belonged to her ancestors.

This was followed by an account of Education in Bellaghy and the Schools in the past given by Margaret Evans. The final paper was given by Patricia Lowry on Employment for Women in Bellaghy in the last century.

At the opening of the meeting, the Chairperson, Mrs Mary Breslin expressed the sorrow felt by members on the death of Miss Ann Heaney who had been a very faithful member from the start of the Society.

She pointed out that Mr Matt Bruces book "Eighty Years Young" has just been launched was available for sale at the meeting. (see "Eighty Years Young")

The speaker at the next meeting, on the 14th May, will be Mr S.Toner and the subject will be "Bellaghy, Ancient and Modern". This will also be the A.G.M. A trip to the Ulster American Folk Park in June was also proposed if enough interest was shown.

Eighty Years Young

Eighty years young Bellaghy man Matt Bruce has just launched a book which details his recollections , from his childhood memories until the present day. Entitled "Eighty Years Young" this 90 page book is packed with snippets of information about life in and around the Bellaghy area over the past 80 or so years.

At his home in Drumlamph Matt said "I have always been a history enthusiast, and in this book I have tried to show how I saw life in the 20th century. He added "I have kept every subject to a minimum because modern readers do not like excessive detail."

Matt has touched on a wide range of items such as Bellaghy Fair, Edenreagh Spade Mill, Local personalities, Social activities, Places of local interest and much more, including a brief history of the 20th Century. Also included is a list of businesses and trades in Bellaghy in the 1930s and a number of photographs of Bellaghy, Castledawson.

As local writer John Hughes says in the Foreword, "Matt is due a vote of thanks, for his efforts in recording and thus preserving another instalment of our local folklore".

"Eighty Years Young" is currently on sale in Grahams Bellaghy; Crawfords, Maghera; Crossroads, knockloughrim; Diamonds Shop, Drumard; Angelas Shop, Maghera and Ewings Castledawson. Price 4 and proceeds are in aid of Cancer Care.


May 2002

The final meeting of the season of the Bellaghy Historical Society was the A.G.M. and attracted the usual good attendance.

Office Bearers elected for the following year were Chairperson Mrs Mary Breslin, Hon Sec. Mrs Patricia Lowry, Hon Treas. Mrs Pat Henry, Committee members Mr.Colm Scullion, Mr Dermot Keenan, Mrs Margaret Evans, Mrs Ena Hammond and Mr Sam Overend.

The Speaker for the evening was Mr. Sean Toner who gave a very interesting and amusing talk on the origins of many of our local sayings, tracing their roots back many centuries. A lot of research and time had gone into preparing his lecture which was very well received by his audience.

Thanking him, the Chairperson, Mrs Mary Breslin also invited members to return again in the Autumn for the first meeting in October. Plans were also drawn up for the outing to Omagh Folk Park to take place in June.