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Templecorran, Ballycarry

The name ‘Templecorran’ is derived from the Irish term for ‘church of books’, or ‘church of learning’. The modern Church of Ireland building next to the graveyard is just the most recent place of worship and burial at this site. Other, earlier churches now ruined and no longer visible date back over 900 years of continuous Christian worship. The earliest of these can still be seen from the air surrounding the site, in the form of a slight earth bank to the west, and the modern roads to the east (highlighted by a red line on the map).

This represents an early Christian enclosure, probably the largest of its kind in Northern Ireland. This would have been an important centre of learning and craftsmanship at the heart of early Christian Irish society. At this time Ireland was among the few Christian lands in the world, producing some of the early missionaries who brought Christianity back into Europe during the Dark Ages.

In later times invaders came, first Vikings who settled in this area and may have raided and destroyed Templecorran, then Anglo-Normans in the 1100s who built a medieval church at this site. In the early 1600s, during the Plantation of Ulster, settlers from Scotland came to the area bringing a new version of Christianity to Templecorran — Presbyterianism. They built a new church from the earlier Norman building, shaping it in the form of a Greek Orthodox cross, with four arms of equal length. This is the ruin that now exists in the graveyard, and evidence of the insecurity of the new population can be seen in the defensive gun-loops — holes where muskets could be fired on outside attackers from within the protection of the church — built into the walls of the ruin.

The first Presbyterian minister in Ireland, Edward Brice from Stirlingshire in Scotland, preached here from 1613 until his death in 1636. He is buried in the graveyard.

Jonathan Swift, the celebrated satirist and author of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ preached here. It is said that he began one sermon with the words “Dearly beloved Roger…” as the only person in attendance was Roger, Swift’s manservant.

Edward Brice’s memorial stone can be found on the inside wall of the ruined church. It reads “Do well - doubt not”.

Seven admirals are said to be buried in the graveyard and there are a number of memorials dedicated to people who lost their lives at sea. These include Samuel McIlwain, lost overboard from a ship rounding Cape Horn in 1817 and James Dowlin whose memorial is engraved with a map of his native Tasmania.

Some of the volunteers of the United Irishmen who rebelled against the Crown in 1798 are buried here. Prominent among these is James Orr, the Bard of Ballycarry. Orr was one of the weaver poets and his memorial displays symbols of Freemasonry as he was secretary and treasurer of the local lodge. Freemasonry was responsible for spreading the new ideals behind the French revolution that inspired the rebels, and Orr’s memorial is one of only two such monuments erected by this organisation in Northern Ireland. Other 1798 rebels buried here include 16 year-old William Nelson, hanged for refusing to inform on his fellows, and James ‘Bombardier’ Burns.

Probably the most poignant gravestone is that of the seven members of the Hutchinson family who all died in one night in April 1941 during the WWII German aerial bombing raids that destroyed large areas of Belfast.

St John's of Ransevyn, Ballykeel

Ransevyn is a corruption of the Irish name Rinn Seimhne - the peninsula of Seimhne, Seimhne being a Gaelic tribal name. This is the name that Islandmagee was known as in medieval times, and is evidence for the age of this ruined church and small graveyard now situated at the edge of the main road. Written records date this church to the late 13th century, and it is said that the holy water font was taken from here to Larne and from there to Ballygowan, where it is still in use.

The ruined church survives as west and east gables, tucked into the north west corner of the graveyard. It is likely that the graveyard would have been more extensive in earlier times, as it is unusual for a church to be set against a graveyard boundary. Despite the ruined condition of the church, it is clear from the different styles of surviving stonework, that various alterations to it took place over the years. The earliest inscriptions on the headstones in the graveyard date to the late 1600s. Edward Brice, the first Presbyterian minister to preach in Ireland, preached alternately between here and Ballycarry between 1611 and 1619.

The graveyard is accessible via a gate from the main road. There is no designated parking area.

St John's Ballyharry

St John’s Church is thought to have been established in the late 1500s. The earliest written record mentioning the church dates from 1657 and states that the building was under repair at this time. The Ordnance Survey Memoirs of the 1830s mention an immense quantity of human bones and silver coins having been found within 200 yards of the church and it is likely that an important medieval religious site was located here. In the 1600s many Presbyterians came to settle in this area from Scotland, and they often reused old burial grounds and churches to build their own. St John’s was likely to have been established at this site around this time by Presbyterians, as Edward Brice, the first Presbyterian minister in Ireland, preached here during the time he was based in Templecorran.

St John’s Church underwent important renovations in 1827 and became the building that we see today. In 2002 the church received a grant to renovate again, and during this work human burials were found beneath the floor inside the church. These were two skeletons which had been placed in coffins during the 1700-1800s and buried under the floor of the church, one below the other. The lower burial was found to be lying with the head to the east, as is the Christian custom, but the upper burial unusually had the head to the west. Five skulls and numerous other loose human bones had been deposited along with the upper burial, probably disturbed from earlier burials when the grave was dug, and then replaced along with the new burials. The mystery of why the upper body was placed facing west has never been resolved - it may be that this was a particularly dedicated minister laid to rest facing his congregation.

Ballyprior Graveyard

Ballyprior graveyard is a small, secluded site in a quiet part of Islandmagee with beautiful views over the north of the peninsula and up along the Antrim coast. The Ordnance Survey Memoirs of the 1830s describe it thus, “it would be difficult to select or to find a more romantic or picturesque situation than that occupied by the ancient burial ground in which the ancient church or (it is said) monastery of Ballyprior once stood”. The Memoirs also report that the foundations of a church building once stood near the centre of the graveyard, but these had been dug out in the early 1800s, and no above ground traces of this structure now remain. In later centuries, the graveyard came to be used by incoming Scottish settlers, arriving in the area during the mid 1600s, and many legible headstones reflect the names and arms of these families - names like Brown, Woods, Donaldson and Sinclair.

It is recorded that during work in the graveyard in the 1700s, a bronze urn was dug up. The urn was inscribed with the letters OR. DO. M(AC). ETAIN. AU. BROLCHAIN. (a prayer for McEtain O’Brolchian). The O’Brolchains were a distinguished family from Derry and Donegal who had produced many important medieval and later churchmen, including Martin O’Brolchain - professor of divinity at Armagh who died in 1188, and who may be the individual commemorated on the urn’s inscription. This urn is currently in the Saints and Scholars gallery of the Ulster museum. The name Ballyprior, and the local townland name, Ballyprior More, suggest that long ago this may have been the site of a priory and, perhaps at one time, the most important church in Islandmagee.

Today, it is a quiet, peaceful place that is rarely visited. There is public access however, through the Islandmagee Riding Centre on Brownsbay Road. Please ask permission at the Riding Centre to park here and access the site.

Glynn Old Church

The ancient church and graveyard of Glynn are located in a picturesque setting on top of a small hill rising above the Glynn river, close to the shore of Larne Lough. The earliest recorded history of Christianity here goes back to St Patrick, who brought his ministry to the maritime Gaelic kingdom of Dalriada, which stretched across the Irish sea between north-east Ireland and south-west Scotland. Patrick founded a church in the valley of Gleanindeachta, where Glynn derives its name from, and this is believed to be the site of this church.

The ruined church we see today was built in two phases. First the nave (the western section, where the congregation would have sat) was erected around 1000AD, and later the chancel (the eastern section surrounding the altar) was added around 1300AD. This can be detected in the different styles of stonework and windows in each section. Alterations like this are an unusual feature for medieval parish churches in Ireland, evidence that Glynn church was an important site during the period.

The church is reported as being in a ruined state by the 1650s, when it had been passed to the Church of Ireland. It had become a popular burial ground, with the interior of the ruin being the most sought after area of the site for burial. The Ordnance Survey records of the 1830s note that many Roman Catholics from throughout the area chose to be buried here, perhaps due to the site’s association with St Patrick. Burials at Glynn represent the entire community and are not restricted to any one denomination.

The new church was designed by Sir Charles Lanyon and built in 1840. It was completely refurbished in 2001.

Local folklore maintains that a nearby old house with thick stone walls was connected to the church via an underground tunnel, and that an iron chest filled with gold is buried somewhere in the graveyard. Neither of these items have ever been found.

A number of memorials exist in the graveyard commemorating individuals who died in the World Wars, people who died at sea and individuals with other maritime associations.

St Cedma's, Larne

St Cedma’s has a complex history. The earliest records report a medieval church at Inver (present day Larne) in 1306, dedicated to St Cedma and belonging to Bangor Abbey. The Abbey at Bangor was an important early Christian site, established by St Comgall in 565 AD. Comgall’s father was a Scottish warrior named Setna, and Comgall was born in Inver, near St Cedma’s. It seems possible that ‘Cedma’ is a corruption of ‘Setna’ and that St Cedma’s was dedicated by Comgall to his father and may have far older origins as a place of Christian worship than we can tell from written records.

A Franciscan friary of the Third Order, for lay men and women to support the Chuch, named Invermore, was built around 1500 here and the ruins of this building were used to build the present church in the early 1600s. Many Scottish presbyterian settlers came into the area around this time during the Plantation of Ulster, and the church was used as a place of refuge by the planters during the 1641 native Irish rebellion against the Crown - an event that marked the beginning of the English Civil War. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, St Cedma’s had become a Presbyterian church. With the restoration, the church was returned to the Anglican Church of Ireland and remains so today.

St Cedma’s Church has many interesting features. It is one of the most ornate churches in the area, and inside visitors can enjoy two stained glass windows in the south wall of the nave made by Wilhelmina Geddes in the 1920s, a distinguished artist associated with the celebrated Arts and Crafts movement. A narrow window in the north wall is known as the ‘leper’s squint’. This is thought to have been used by people suffering from contagious diseases, enabling them to participate in church services whilst standing outside. The chancel ceiling is decorated with an elaborate canvas painted with 32 panels including symbols representing the 12 apostles, and the chancel floor is decorated with tiles depicting the four evangelists. On the east chancel wall there is a beautiful tiled panel, or dado, showing the emblems of the Passion of Christ.

The graveyard was for centuries used as the main burial site for all denominations in Larne, and many interesting headstones and memorials survive. The graveyard is entered through the covered lych gate, a distinctive feature found in many English churches where traditionally coffins were rested as they were brought into the graveyard, and prayers said before burial.

St Patrick's, Cairncastle

This quiet rural church is located on the back road behind Larne, in a beautiful setting, under the amphitheatre-like basalt scarp of the Sallagh Braes and overlooked by Knockdhu mountain and its ancient hill fort. The church and graveyard have a long history. The 1306 papal taxation refers to it as Karkastell - the origin of the modern name Cairncastle, named after the still standing ruined tower situated on top of a rock jutting out from the shore slightly east of nearby Ballygally. The church was built by an Anglo-Norman lord in the 1100s and dedicated to St Cumming. It later passed into the possession of the crusader Knights of St John.

The new church was completed in 1815 and contains one of the finest stained glass windows in Northern Ireland - the east window, made by the Meyer Company of Munich. The remains of the old church can be seen in the north west of the graveyard, now filled by burials and marked by a low rectangular depression in the ground. Jonathan Swift preached here during the 1690s and is commemorated on a plaque attached to the font. Swift named his famous character Lemuel Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels after his predecessor, Welsh preacher Lemuel Matthews. In the graveyard stands an old Spanish chestnut tree. This tree is said to have been planted over the grave of a shipwrecked sailor of the Spanish Armada, washed ashore nearby in 1588.

Glenarm Friary

In 1465 a Franciscan monastery of the Third Order was built to house non-ordained men and women, on land belonging to Robert Bisset. The monastery was built close to Bisset’s castle which was located at the site of what is now the Baptist church in the centre of Glenarm village. The Bissets were a powerful Scottish clan, of Norman heritage, and were granted land in Ulster in the 1200s. The friary seems to have been an impressive building, and would have been prestigious for the Bissets, some of whom may have taken holy orders and been buried as religious figures. Discoveries of carved stones in the graveyard over the years suggest that the friary would have been a splendid site, with a cloister built from elaborately carved stonework.

Although very little now remains, it is possible to tell from earlier records that the friary was a cross-shaped building. By the late 1500s, the friary had begun to fall into ruin. Around this time another powerful Scottish clan, the Macdonnells, Lords of the Isles, had married into the Bissets and taken control of the Route, or the area stretching between Larne and Dunluce Castle. The Macdonnells became lords of the Glens of Antrim, and later Earls of Antrim. Throughout these turbulent times, the Macdonnells managed to outwit and outmanoeuvre major powerful adversaries, such as the Tyrone O’Neills and Queen Elizabeth I, to retain control of this area. Glenarm Castle is to this day the seat of the current Earl of Antrim, Hector Macdonnell.

St Patrick’s Church was consecrated in 1769. It was built partly from the ruins of the friary and stands over the site of the friary’s domestic quarters. The site was being used as a burial ground from before this time, and the graveyard is remarkable in that all the graves are placed at right-angles to the church - this is unusual as churches and graves tend to be orientated in the same direction, east-west, and shows that the earliest graves were aligned to the previous building while it stood. This is evidence that a burial ground had been established before the Priory fell into ruin. Analysis of human bones uncovered by archaeologists in 2005 from the graveyard during improvements to the church showed little evidence of any manual labour or evidence of damage caused by bad diet. This suggests that the churchyard was the resting place of people mainly from the upper social levels of Glenarm. St. Patrick’s church is one of the earliest Irish churches to be built in the Gothic Revival style, and also has a fine collection of stained glass windows.

Killycrappin Graveyard

Killycrappin graveyard is a small enclosure set between the quiet backroad behind the Antrim coastal route and a steep wooded basalt cliff descending from the plateau above. It is a quiet peaceful place that is not often visited. This area is known as The Largy, or An Leargaidh in Irish - the slope or side of a hill. The name Killycrappin is also derived from Irish, the church on knobbly ground. There are no church records for this site, and no evidence on the ground for the church referred to in the place name, but local tradition maintains that this has been a burial site for people of the area for many centuries. On the 6th of March 1827, the Enterprise, a ship laden with cotton, ran aground close to Glenarm. Eleven crew members including the captain and his family perished and are said to be buried in the north-west corner of the graveyard.

The graveyard can be accessed via a narrow lane leading from the Tower Road, and next to it is a designated parking space for a small number of vehicles. There is no signage indicating the site, and the access lane is easily missed, so visitors are advised to approach carefully.

Ardclinis Church

At a dramatic section of the Antrim Coast Road, as the route turns west along the shore from Carnlough to Waterfoot, lies this ancient ruined church set between the sea and the steep scarp of the Antrim plateau. The origins of Ardclinnis church are lost to history, but it is thought that the site was founded by a bishop named St McKenna, who had connections to the important early Christian monastery on the Scottish island of Iona. Ardclinis was the medieval parish church of this area, but now lies neglected.

The church building is a ruin at the centre of the site, but would have previously been an important place of worship for the local population. It is recorded as being a ruin since the 1500s, but before then would have been a thatched building set in a marginal position, as accessible by boat from the Scottish coast as it would have been from its hinterland. A standing stone engraved with a rough cross can still be found close to the ruined church, west of the gate and a 'fairy thorn tree' stands close to the ruin decorated with prayer offerings. Although the origins of this church are unrecorded, an important relic has survived, giving us an idea of the significance of the site as a place of worship over many centuries. This is the Ardclinis crozier. A crozier is a rod or staff shaped like a shepherd’s crook, used by important church men across the early Christian world as a symbol of their leadership. In the early Irish church, croziers were elaborately decorated with scenes from the Bible and intricate Celtic patterns, and are among the most finely worked items surviving from this period. The Ardclinis crozier is made from two pieces of wood, scots pine and yew, and has a metal covering made from bronze, copper and silver showing a crucifixion scene, cloaked figures in long pleated garments and stylised animal heads and plant based patterns. It is decorated with coloured glass beads and has been dated to the 12th century.

The crozier was identified in 1860 by Belfast historian Monsignor James O’Laverty, who found it in the possession of a local farmer named Daniel Galvin. Mr Galvin had been using the crozier to dip into water given to sick cattle, as a charm to cure them. O’Laverty later found out that the crozier had been in the hands of the Galvin family for generations, and the Galvins were the trusted custodians of the crozier for perhaps centuries. O’Laverty went back to try and rescue the crozier 23 years later, and found that it had passed through marriage into first the Magill family and then the McAllisters. The McAllisters had sold the crozier to the National Museum in Dublin, and used the money to help renovate the church at Feystown, Glenarm. Feystown chapel has by way of commemoration, a representation of the Ardclinis crozier’s imagery on its alter rail which can still be seen today. The crozier itself can be seen in the National Museum, Dublin.

Ardclinis church has a designated parking area and signage providing further historical information.