The Heritage of Loughnaheilla
There is a small farm in the low Slieve Aughty hills at the western
end of Derrainy townland. The townland itself is located in the parish
of Clonrush. It is shown on the original Ordnance Survey Map of 1840
as Loughnaheilla and described a sub-division of Derrainy. The adjoining
districts of Reynvromy in the north and Lough Hill towards the centre
of the townland were also classified as sub-divisions. The Ordnance
Survey Notes written around 1838, described Loughnaheilla as “A
small portion of the townland under cultivation with a farm house on
it, also a small Lough from which it most probably derived this name.”
Elements of Heritage
There are number of elements to the heritage of Loughnaheilla. These
include the extent of the holding, continuity of ownership and of occupation.
The current owner and at least four previous generations of Egans, his
mother’s people, were born and reared in the small farm house
marked on the ordnance Survey Map of 1840. An earlier ancestor, Thomas
Egan, was the occupier of the land in1830 according to the Tithe Applotment
Books of Clonrush Parish. The old house is still there but has been
empty since 1964 when the family built a new bungalow on the holding.
In 1810, Thomas Burke of Meelick House
leased the House and Demesne of Meelick to Matthew Yelverton. The lease
included “the bog and Mountain Farms” of Derrainy and Ballyhinch.
It is very likely that Loughnaheilla was one of these farms. At the
time of the Ordnance Survey, in1838, it was described Loughnaheilla
as “A small portion of the townland under cultivation with
a farm house on it, also a small Lough from which it most probably derived
A survey known as Griffith’s Valuation
established the valuation of each holding of land in the country and
provided a reference number on the accompanying Ordnance Survey Map.
Loughnaheilla is shown on the Griffith’s1855 map as Number 14
in Derrainy. The area was given as just over 32 acres (13 hectares).
Both the area under production and the mountain land have remained unchanged
since then. The landscape, too, has remained largely unchanged except
for the fact that the peat has been cut away from the hill tops. Only
a few examples of cutaway banks remain.
Links to Past Centuries
The farm house dating from before
The original dwelling-house was a low, thatched, structure comprising
a room and a kitchen. The site was cut into a hill with a trench around
the foundation to take the water. Notable features include thickness
of the walls and the large size of the stones that were used to build
them. At some stage, a second, smaller, bedroom was grafted on to the
west gable. The roof was lower than that of the existing building. The
house was re-roofed with galvanize in 1964 but, by then, the roof of
the annex had collapsed and was not replaced. Other features of the
house are the small size of the two windows to the front and the low
height of the door. The traditional half-door is still there.
At the time of Griffith’s valuation, in 1854, John Egan was the
occupant of “house, offices and land”. The older ‘offices’
or farm buildings arew still attached to the east end of the dwelling
house. They were covered with a galvanized roof in 1939 when an extension
was added. Other out-houses were built separately. These include a cow-house,
pig-house, hen-house, and turf-shed. The age of these buildings is not
known but they reflect the activities that took place in the farmyard
throughout the nineteenth century and into the late 20th century.
The small Lough mentioned in the Ordnance Survey Notes was drained by
James Egan in late 1890s. The drain runs underground through a ridge
that reaches a height of 3.5 metres above the bottom of the lough. There
is a stone at the mouth to the channel where it leaves the lough. This
is used to regulate the volume of water in the hollow by closing or
opening the outlet. For this reason it is known as ‘The Canal’.
How a drain of this depth was made and backfilled, with the implements
available to him, remains something of a mystery.
A “Topographical Dictionary
of Ireland”, by Samuel Lewis, was published in 1837. He described
the soil of the Slieve Aughties as; “generally composed of moor
or bog of different depths, from two inches to many feet, over a ferruginous
or aluminous clay or sandstone rock.” This would have been true
of the holding on Loughnaheilla. Consequently, fertilisers were required
to improve fertility of the land. Burned lime was commonly used for
this purpose. The lime was made by burning limestone rocks in a kiln
until they were reduced to a powdery material which was then spread
on the land. Burned lime was also mixed with sand to make mortar (for
plastering) and whitewash for painting houses. The ordnance survey map
shows that there was a lime kiln on the holding and it is still there
today. It is located on the side of the road and is set into a steep
hill side. The front cavity has been filled with stones for safety reasons
but otherwise it is intact.
Corn Drying Kiln.
There is a site across the hill from the Lime Kiln at 52* 58’49”N;
8* 23’40”W. The symbol on the Ordnance Survey map is unclear.
Inspection reveals the chamber and flue of a Key-hole type of Corn Drying
Kiln. There is no trace of the covering structure. The chamber is 2.92
metres in diameter at the top, 81.3cm at the bottom and 1.52 metres
deep. The flue is 40.6 cm high and 43 cm wide. The length of the covered
flue still extant is approx. 1.4 metres. The site of the external fire
is not discernible. When the corn was dry corn was dry it was ground
for household use or saved for seed.
There was a history of poteen-making in
the vicinity of Loughnaheilla in the late 19th century. A man from the
neighbouring townland was fined and given 3 months in Galway jail in
1892 for this activity. Tradition has it that the corn drying kiln may
have been used for part of the process.
The top stone of a hand mill is to be seen in the farmyard and it shows
that corn was once ground by hand on the farm.
Links to Pre-History
A Recent Find
A small stone artefact was recently found near the corn drying kiln.
It is 12 cm long by 10cm across. It is 6.35cm thick at one end, tapering
to 2.54 cm at the other. From its shape and the smoothness of the surface,
it looks as if it was a bronze-age tool for burnishing the ornaments
of that period.
There is a small Bullaun T 52* 58’48”N; 8*23’48”W.
This is a stone with a bowl-like depression made into it. The stone
is 33 cm high. The ‘bowl’ is 22.9 cm x 20.3cm and 3.8cm
deep. Bullauns are said to have originated in the Bronze Age which lasted
from 2500 BC to 500 BC. They are most frequently found at early monastic
sites but their purpose is not known. This monument was not marked on
the Ordnance Survey Map.
of the Bullaun Stone
There is a boulder burial site at 52*58’52”N; 8* 24’
0”N. The cap stone is just over 2 metres long. The surface is
1.6 metres wide at the back, 1.2 metres in the middle and 0.84 metres
at the front. This dates back four or five thousand years to Neolithic
era (4000-2000 BC) and shows that the area was inhabited in those far-off
times. The Neolithic people of this era were the earliest farmers. They
introduced agriculture, wheat and barley, and domesticated animals such
as cattle, sheep and pigs. This tomb was not marked on the Ordnance
Survey map but is shown on the current National Monuments’ Map.
of the Megalithic Tomb
According to Samuel Lewis; “The system of cropping adopted on
poorer holdings was first burning or manuring for potatoes. These were
set two or three years in a row, then one crop of wheat was planted
and then repeated crops of oats until the soil was completely exhausted.”
Burning, in this context, meant burning the surface to produce ashes
which then served as manure.
The burned surface was called a ‘baitin’, from the Irish
word ‘béitín’. One of the fields in Loughnaheilla
is still called by this name.
Another field is called the ‘Black
Ground’. This was where the surface of the turbary, called black
bog or moreen was cut. It was carried home, spread over the yard and
mixed with dung, clay or gravel to make manure.
There is also a place called ‘tui
seasc’. The words mean withered sedge or thatch (used on the roofs
The drain from the hollow that was formerly
a Lough is called ‘The Canal’ because the mouth can be blocked
or unblocked to regulate the level of water.
A name that smacks of the past is a spot
called the Slough. This may be the English ‘slough’, meaning
a hole filled with mire, or the Gaelic ‘sloch’ which has
the same meaning.
When the turf in deep bogs ran out, the
family turn to the peat-covered hills for fuel. Turf cut from shallow
banks and was called wiggy which gave the Wiggy Hill on the holding
Based on the results of the project, as described above, it is safe
to say that the holding in Loughnaheilla holds a rich heritage with
strong links to the past centuries and to pre-history.
Acknowlegements: Sincere thanks to Tony
who permitted me to explore the holding and provided much useful information.
Thanks also to Dympna for her hospitality and to all who helped me with
Summary of Links with the Past