History has been defined as "a past of more than common interest." We hope
that this revised History of Drumbo will prove such to all who may read
it, and that it will fall into the bands of all lovers of Drumbo at home
We think of certain people as "makers of history." That, in a
little measure, at least, is how we think of some of those mentioned in
the following pages. May what is here written serve to keep their memory
fresh as well as preserve much valuable information.
The texts and mottoes enhance the hook. Their daily use should be a
source of encouragement and an inspiration in the vicissitudes of life.
Sincere thanks to all who sent quotations accompanied by contributions
towards the funds of the Church. And a special "thank you" to the Rev.
David Stewart, B.A., D.D., for his much appreciated help by way of
information and suggestion, and for so kindly reading the manuscript.
|'Midst wooded hills and rich farmlands
This church Drumbo has stood;
Through centuries three, 'mid changing scenes,
A witness to God's Holy Word.
This stately fate embowered in
And lawns of golden daffodils,
Where banks of roses bloom in June,
Shedding around their rich perfume:
And nature in floral mantles gay
Greets the proud ter-centenary:
A setting worthy to adorn
This Fine historic church of God.
Where men of vision bore on high
The lamp of truth and loyalty,
And left enrolled undying fame
When they had passed with oriflamme
The opened gates beyond the sun
And there had heard the great "Well done"
From the Master whom they served.
The Tower, too, a Watch has kept,
In the background on the hill
Whose frowning bulwark challenges
Any untoward thing!
Historians might add a page,
Before their leaves are bound,
In honour of a duty done
On that ancient grassy mound.
THE HISTORY OF DRUMBO PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
The Parish of Drumbo is in the Barony of Upper Castlereagh, and is one of
tte most pleasing parts of County Down. There are extensive and charming
views from some of its vantage points, such as Braidujle, Tullyard,
Ballycairn Hill, and The Back Hill. When Baronies were divided into
Parishes and Townlands, Drumbo included twelve Townlands that were later
annexed to Drumbeg. As it now stands, it comprises 9,629 acres, chiefly
arable, with a small proportion of woodland. At one time there was a large
tract of bog which is now cut out.
It is a district of much historic: interest, as we shall see, interest
that stretches from pre-Christian times down to quite modern days. King
William III, once visited the Court, Hillhall. This was probably on his
journey from Carrickfergus to Hillsborough, and, although there is no
record of it, he may have visited the Round Tower at Drumbo on his way.
Within its hounds are some things of much archaeological interest,
which are worthy of note. There are several raths, i.e., pre-historic hill
forts. They are generally circular, comprised either of large stones
without mortar, or of earth thrown up and surrounded by one or more
ditches. The most outstanding of these is on the summit of Tullyard, and
is constructed of earth, loose stones, and vitrified substance similar to
the cairns of Scotland. It is supposed by some writers that there was once
a fortified town here.
THE, GIANTS' RING.
The Giant's Ring, in the Townland of Ballynahatty, is one of the most
important of its kind among ancient Irish monuments The stones lying
around, disturbed from their original position, indicate that there was an
avenue leading to the Cromlech. The enclosure, which is about six hundred
yards in circumference, is not quite circular, though nearly so, nor is
the altar in the exact centre. The sloping stone, which has slipped out of
position somewhat, is almost circular, and is about one foot in thickness
at the edge, but considerably more at the centre.
In a field to the North side of the embankment, there was once
discovered an ancient sepulchral chamber covered with earth. Two little
compartments within this chamber contained four urns of burnt clay, and
were filled with burnt bones. One of the urns held two skulls and
fragments of several others. In this same piece of ground indications of
extensive interments have been noted, stone coffins found, which in most
cases contained urns, and in one urn there were two stone arrow-heads
along with burnt bones.
The area of the enclosure, which is a little over ten acres, has not
been disturbed for almost a century. Indeed it may have lain fallow from
the time, perhaps about 2000 B.C., when it is believed that the Cromlech
was erected as the burial place of some pagan ruler. But in the early part
of 1955 most of it was turned up at a ploughing contest by some eighteen
competitors from all parts of Northern Ireland. Not long ago some
hand-worked flints were unearthed during excavations. And in the hope of
discovering more ancient treasures, Mr. Patrick Collins, of the department
of Archaeology in Queen's University, spent the day at the site. The only
"finds" which were reported to him, however, were a 1902 penny, a sixpence
of even later vintage, and a piece of stone which might have been shaped
by man or nature.
As to the use or purpose of this enclosure, history gives us no
information, nor can we gather any from tradition. But these monuments
were still respected at the time of the introduction of Christianity, and
it is not unlikely that they belonged to a people whose institutions had
long disappeared before the Christian era in Ireland.
In the garden of Edenderry House there is a funereal mound in which
urns have been found. There is a tradition that the site of this house was
once occupied by a church and other ecclesiastical buildings.
THE ROUND TOWER
The Round Tower is the only remaining one in County Down. This fact
greatly adds to its interest. There are many of them in Ireland, and the
theories as to their origin and use are very numerous. They have been
attributed to the Danes by some writers, while others have declared them
to be of Phoenician origin. In respect of their uses, the following are
some of the theories :-used as places from which to proclaim the Druidical
festivals; fire-temples; gnomons or astronomical observatories; phallic
emblems or Bhuddist temples; anchorite towers or stylite columns;
penitential prisons, belfries, keeps or monastic castles, beacons, and
Quite obviously all these cannot be right, but there is good reason for
believing them to be of Christian origin, and that in accordance with the
uniform tradition of the whole people of Ireland. They were always built
on church property, and were probably designed as watch-towers and places
of refuge for the clergy and of security for church valuables. It is
believed that they were built during the period of the Viking raids.
Evidently these were attached to important places of worship, or where
some special need existed. They were in close proximity to cathedral and
By way of proof of their Christian origin it can be stated that there
is no evidence that the people of this island were acquainted with the art
of constructing an arch, or with the use of lime cement anterior to the
introduction of Christianity. In no building assigned to that time, either
by historical evidence or popular tradition, have been found those forms
or features usual in Round Towers. Indeed they have no characteristics
that would indicate that their builders possessed sufficient architectural
skill to construct such edifices. On the other hand, Round Towers
invariably possess architectural features not found in any buildings in
Ireland ascertained to be of pagan times.
On several of them Christian emblems are observable, and others display
in the details a style of architecture that is universally acknowledged to
be of Christian origin. They were designed, it is believed, for a twofold
use to serve as belfries and keeps or places of strength in which the
sacred utensils, books, relics and other valuables were deposited, and
into which the ecclesiastics to whom they belonged could retire for
security in case of predatory attack. Their architectural construction
eminently favours this belief. They were probably also used when occasion
required as beacons and watch-towers, and the perfect fitness of the Round
Towers to answer such purposes strongly support this conclusion.
In the interior they are divided into storeys, varying in number from
four to eight, according to the height of the tower. These storeys,
usually about twelve feet high, are marked either by projected belts of
stone, or by holes in the wall, to receive the joists on which rested the
floors, which were usually made of wood.
In 1841 the interior of the Drumbo Tower was cleaned out to the
foundation. There was an accumulation of rubbish seven feet in depth.
Under a thin layer of mortar, the explorers found the skeleton of a man
whose probable height was about six feet two inches. The head lay towards
the west and the body extended towards the east. The skeleton was complete
except the right arm and both legs from the knees down. The explorers
believed that the missing parts had never been interred there, or had been
carefully removed. The skull was well preserved, having an almost perfect
set of teeth in the lower jaw. No vestige of a coffin or dress was
The skeleton may infer that the tower was erected on a spot which had
been previously used as a Christian cemetery, or it may simply indicate
that some one of distinction had the honour conferred on him of having
his, remains laid to rest within the tower.
Among the rubbish were large stones, a considerable number of them
having marks of fire, as had some in the interior of the building. At some
time there must have been very strong fires within the building, as the
inside surfaces towards the bottom had the appearance of vitrification.
The fire's may have been used for temporary purposes, and unconnected with
the original intention of the builders.
FIRST CHURCH AT DRUMBO
In Drumbo a church existed at a very early period. Indeed it is one of
the oldest religious foundations in Ireland. In the life of St. Patrick,
which is contained in the Book of Armagh, the name Drumbo signifies "the
long hill of the cow," which was translated into "Collum Bovis," a name by
which the ancient church was known. Its the burial ground close to the
supposed site of the ancient church was an abbey, said to have been
founded by St. Patrick, and of which St. Mochumma was the first abbot. It
is probable that he was not only abbot, but bishop, for the lands of the
church of Drumbo passed into the possession of the Bishops of Down. St.
Mochumma was, according to Aengus the Culdee, brother of St. Domengart,
whose death is placed by the calendar of the four masters at the year 506
A.D. In the same calendar, the names of Luighbe and Cumin occur at the
24th July and l0th August in connection with this church.
Harris, in his "Ancient and Present State of the County of Down,"
published in 1744, says :-"On the hill of Drumboe are the ruins of a
church, forty-five feet in length and twenty broad, and at the north-west
corner of the church, twenty-four feet distant from it, stands an old
Round Tower .... It is the opinion of some that there has been a small
fortified town on the hill of Drumboe, and that the foundation of the wall
is at this day easy to be seen .... Close to this church there has been a
Presbyterian meetinghouse erected."
From all this the conclusion is borne in upon us that in this place men
and women have worshipped God since the introduction of Christianity into
Ireland. What a history we have here! For nearly a millennium and a half
the old story of God's redeeming love has been proclaimed. This spot has
been hallowed by the prayers of thousands, and eternity alone will reveal
the numbers who have sought and found pardon here. The very thought of all
this should deeply impress us. If Ireland ever was an Isle of Saints, then
Drumbo had its share of them, and we can think of them from Mochumma
downward, as looking over the battlements of Heaven to see how we run our
race, and how we pass on the great inheritance of the ages that has
accrued to us.
PLANTATION OF COUNTY DOWN
The site of this ancient church came to be the site of the Drumbo
Parish Church. In the year 1622 it was described as a ruin. Who or what
circumstances were responsible for this state of affairs, the writer
cannot say. But in the Ulster Visitation Book it is stated as being under
repair in that same year. Also in that year complaint was made that the
twelve townlands of Drumbo, and the four of Blaris, had been let to Sir
James Hamilton and Sir Hugh Montgomery by Bishop Dundas, at the yearly
rent of £64. William Forbes is mentioned as curate in 1634.
The population as given in 1660 was small indeed. In Drumbo there were
thirty-two - twenty-eight Scotch and English and 4 Irish. Ballycairn had
14-8 and six; Ballymagarrick, eleven-seven and four; Leverogue, five-four
and one; Mealough, nineteen-thirteen and six; Ballylesson and
Ballynahatty, twenty-ten and ten; Ballycairngannon, twenty-no Irish;
Tullyard, ten; Lisnod, seven; Carr, nine-all Irish.
A subsidy roll (something like our income tax) dated August 1663 has
the following names with their annual, payments:-James Graham, Drumbo, £4;
Allan McIlveen, Ballycowan, £4; Richard Steele, Ballylesson £3 8s 9d;
David Kennedy, Ballynahatty, £3 17s 0d; Thomas Johnston, Tullyard, £3 12s
6d; James Maxwell, Drumbeg, £3 10s 0d; Andrew Warwick, Carryduff, £3 10s
Henry, Earl of Clanbrasil, held from the Crown certain lands which
included among others the following townlands :-Drumbo, Ballycowan,
Ballymagarrick, Ballylesson, Ballynahatty, Edenderry, and Tullyard.
He leased Drumbo (1,274 acres) to James Maxwell for a term of five
hundred years from 1st May, 1671. The lease, given as security for £500,
was a conditional one, with the option of redemption at the end of
sixty-one years. If the £500 was not paid in that time, Maxwell was to
keep the land for the five hundred years. In these conditions the head
rent was fixed at £20 per year. It was then already tenanted, bringing in
an aggregate of £70 yearly.
Ballycowan (778 acres) was also held by James Maxwell in fee farm from
Lord Clanbrasil, but no rent was reserved. Arthur Maxwell, the son of
James, had a nephew by the name of Arthur Rainey Maxwell.
Ballymagarrick (964 acres). was leased to Thomas Bradley on the 23rd
October, 1670, for fifty-one years, to commence on 1st November, 1673.
There was a mortgage for £l00 lent by Bradley. He was to keep the premises
at - a yearly rent of £25 until the mortgage was paid, after which the
rent was to be £35. A condition of the lease was to ditch and quickset the
premises by twenty perches a year until the whole was enclosed.
Ballylesson (524 acres), Ballynahatty (257 acres), Eden-derry (122 acres)
and Breda (496 acres) were leased to St. John Webb on the 4th October,
1672, at a rent of £7 19s 0d.
Tullyard (378 acres) was leased to Gavin Hamilton on the 28th July,
1674, at a rent of £8.
Hugh Montgomery, of Braidstane, in Ayrshire, afterwards Viscount of
Ards, died in May, 1636, and was succeeded by his son Hugh, second
Viscount of Ards. On the 6th October, 1639, Hugh granted to his brother,
Captain George, a portion of land that he called the Manor of Drumbrackley,
or Drumbrackland. It included Mealough (827 acres), Ballycairn (457
acres), Ballyaughlis (302 acres), Lisnod (240 acres), part of Ballylesson
(containing 140 acres), Knockbreda (496 acres), Clogher (310 acres) and
Duneight (416 acres). Captain George died in 1674.
He was succeeded by his son Hugh (commonly called Ballylesson), who had
one son, Hercules, who assumed the name of Willoughby in order to inherit
lands in Tyrone. He died in 1732 and left an only child, Ann Montgomery,
who married Hector M'Neill, of Duruseverick, County Antrim. Hector died in
1738. On the 17th May, 1756, Ann sold (probably this only means that he
was made trustee) to the Hon. Michael Ward (Lord Bangor is his successor)
Justice of the Court of King's Bench, the townlands of Ballyaughlis,
Ballycairn, Lisnod, Ballylesson, Mealough, Clogher, and Knockbracken.
She bequeathed her estate to her second son, Archibald. After her death
in September, 1758, there was some litigation between Archibald and his
elder brother, Roger. This was settled in 1764 by Archibald getting a life
interest in the estate. At his death in 1781 it reverted to Roger, who had
a son called Daniel, and several daughters. Daniel married Jane Isaacs,
and to discharge his debts he sold (after 1816) the lands of Mealough and
Knockbracken to Richard Keown for £24,000. The remaining part of his
estate was valued at a like figure.
The plantation of Down took place at the beginning of the seventeenth
century by Sir James Hamilton, afterwards Viscount Clandeboye, and Sir
Hugh Montgomery, afterwards Lord of Ards. As the settlers came from
Scotland, ministers were brought over to look after their spiritual
interests. To begin with, these ministers carried on their work in parish
churches. Archbishop Usher drew up a confession of faith in 1615, in which
he implicitly admitted the validity of Presbyterian ordination, and denied
the distinction between bishop and presbyter. Thus it happened that men
like Robert Blair and John Livingstone maintained a Presbyterian communion
within the Episcopal church supported by its endowments. Bishops received
ministers from Scotland and placed them in Episcopal churches. Even in the
case of ordination, the Bishop acted simply as a presbyter. Had this state
of things continued, there would have been one great Protestant Church in
The rebellion of 1641 and subsequent years overturned church and
constitution, and in 1642 the long Parliament abolished Episcopacy, and
summoned an assembly of Divines to meet at Westminster in June, 1643, to
advise Parliament as to the new form of church government for the three
kingdoms. In June, 1646, the ordinance establishing Presbyterianism was
ratified by Parliament. After the Restoration, Episcopacy gained the
ascendancy, and persecution of the Presbyterians began. The bishops
insisted that the Presbyterian pastors should submit to re-ordination at
Episcopal hands. With only a very few exceptions they refused, and so were
driven from their churches. Happily, this state of affairs is long since
ended, and the spirit of toleration and goodwill is firmly established in
all the Protestant churches.