Saturday, August 11th - Far side of the Lough.

Brian McElherron

About 20 members travelled to our first destination in East Tyrone by luxury coach, where we were joined by 4 more members travelling independently. The idea was to visit some ancient sites near the western shores of Lough Neagh. These included three castles of similar dates but different designs, and two High Crosses.

The first site was Castle Caulfield (grid ref: H755626). Sir Toby Caulfield arrived in Ireland in 1598 in command of a troop of horse. He was put in charge of Charlemont Fort, Co. Armagh, in 1602, and administered the O'Neill lands in Co.Tyrone after the Flight of the Earls in 1607. The three-storied mansion at Castle Caulfield was built between 1611 and 1619 on the site of an earlier O'Donnelly castle. The oldest part of the existing building is the gatehouse which has Tudor-style doorways, murder-holes and gun-loops. The Caulfield arms appear over the entrance. The main house was originally half H in plan but the NW wing is now missing. The building has many large mullioned windows and tall chimney stacks. The castle was burned in the rebellion of 1641 but was repaired and reoccupied by the Caulfields until the 1660s. St Oliver Plunkett is known to have held a service at the castle in 1670 and John Wesley preached there in 1767.

About 4km NW of Castle Caulfield is Donaghmore (grid ref: H768654), where St Patrick is said to have founded a monastery. The Bell of Clogher, which is associated with the monastery, is now in the National Museum, Dublin. The churches and refectory were burned in 1195 and it was a parish church in 1306. The ruins of the old church were still standing in the 19th century, but there are now no visible remains. In the centre of the town is a High Cross which is made up of parts of two crosses. It is richly decorated with biblical scenes. On the east side the New Testament subjects include the Adoration of the Magi, the Miracle at Cana, the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes and the Crucifixion. On the west side are the Fall of Man, Cain and Abel, and the Sacrifice of Isaac. It probably dates from the 10th century. It is said to have been thrown down in the 17th century and re-erected in the 18th century. A modern copy has been erected in the nearby graveyard, where there is also a large boulder with a deep bullaun. Also in the graveyard is a tall memorial cross which lists the names of many members of the O’Neill Clan.

At about this time the lack of a suitable comfort station created an urgency which meant a rapid drive towards Cookstown. We were fortunate to find a friendly garden centre which served our purpose, and the car park proved to be an excellent picnic site. An early lunch was taken.

The idea of a circular tour was now abandoned and we retraced part of our route, through Newmills, to Roughan Castle (grid ref: H824683), on the outskirts of Coalisland. This castle was built in 1618 by Sir Andrew Stewart, after whom Stewartstown is named. It belonged later to Sir Phelim O'Neill, executed for his rebellion in 1653.The walls are aligned with the cardinal points. It is a small square building with four large drum flanking towers. The entrance is through the tower at the NW corner. This tower also housed the spiral stairway of which there are fragments. At the S wall the flankers are connected by an arch at the top level. This arch has a murder-hole. The building is three storeys high with evidence of a gabled attic storey. There are string courses at second and third floor levels. Inside there were large square rooms at each level of the main building but the floors are now missing.

There are fireplaces in the N wall at first and second floors. There were small round or square chambers at each level of the flanking towers except the NW tower which had the stairway. The tower at the SW corner was vaulted above the ground floor room. All the rooms at the lower level had small square musket loops with good splays on the inside. The larger windows at the higher levels do not have mullions but the holes for the glazing bars are evident. There is a carved mask on the wall at the second floor level in the SE corner. There is a scar on the outside of the SW flanker indicating that an attached wall once ran westwards from the castle. This is the only evidence of the former presence of a bawn. In the small lake close to the castle there is a crannog.

From Roughan Castle we travelled through Coalisland and northwards to Mountjoy Castle (grid ref: H901687). It stands in Magheralamfield townland on a hill overlooking Lough Neagh. It was built by by Frances Roe for Lord Mountjoy in 1602 and is a typical Elizabethan fort. It is a two storey brick building and the lower storey is stone-faced on the outside. It consists of a central rectangular block with four spear-shaped angle towers with gun loops. The north west tower is partly demolished and the west curtain wall destroyed. The entrance was on the south side of the east curtain wall. On the first floor there are some wide windows. It was taken by Sir Phelim O'Neill's troops in 1641 and evacuated and burnt by them in 1642. Retaken by British forces in that year, it was burnt two years later, before Sir Phelim’s troops again regained possession. Granted to Lord Dartmouth in 1683, it was garrisoned as a military station under James II and William III.

Our last visit of the day was to Ardboe High Cross (grid ref: H966756). It stands in Farsnagh townland and is a tall slender object with only one portion of the ring missing. The Cross is a typical Scripture Cross with many carved panels with figure sculpture. Some panels feature geometrical and other decoration. Many of the panels are greatly weathered and unclear. A decorated panel encircles the shaft about three-quarters of the way up. On the west side below the decoration there are four figure panels. The top panel shows the Flight into Egypt, but the others are not clear. Above the decoration a panel with three figures possibly represents the Arrest of Christ and there is a Crucifixion at the cross. On the east side the bottom panel shows Adam & Eve.
Above this is Abraham & Isaac. At the cross is the Last Judgement or possibly Christ In Glory.

The bottom panel on the south face shows Cain & Abel. The church nearby is a simple rectangular structure measuring 19m by 6m, with a north doorway and a pointed east and west window. There are two windows in the north and south walls. The walls are 1m thick. It probably dates from the early 17th century. The memorials in the churchyard range from 18th century to modern. Ardboe Cross marks the site of a monastery associated with St Colman and founded perhaps in the 6th century. The monastery was burned in 1166 but later emerged as a medieval church site. In a field about 200m north east of the cross is an overgrown rectangular ruin measuring about 12m by 7m. A short distance to the north are three sides of a substantial structure. These buildings may be part of the early monastic settlement.

Brian McElherron

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Brian McElherron

Donaghmore High Cross

Roughan Castle

Carved mask, Roughan Castle

Mountjoy Castle

Gun loop, Mountjoy Castle

Arboe High Cross

Roughan Castle

Mountjoy Castle

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