Ros Davies' Co. Down, Northern Ireland Family History Research Site
© Rosalind Davies 2001
Permission granted to reprint research for non-profit use only

Kilkeel parish

Kilkeel town Kilkeel Church of Ireland old Church & graveyard, Kilkeel Mourne Presbyterian
Kilkeel Presbyterian Church . Kilhorne Church of Ireland Annalong area
Annalong Presbyterian Church . Ballymageogh Catholic Church Ballymartin Catholic Church
Glassdrumman Catholic Church Green Castle Maggie's Leap .


Kilkeel town

The men of Mourne Volunteer Corp was set up in 1778 to prevent a French threat of invasion to the area. The Walmsley family from England set up a mill on the Kilkeel River bringing a spate of flax fields and bleaching greens to the area c. 1790s. Both Presbyterians and Catholics in the area joined the United Irishmen Rebellion in 1798 but their defeat was another cause for emigration.

In 1836 there was a Church of Ireland, a Presbyterian & United Brethren & Catholic churches, 150 houses and 2 schools here. The population in 1839 was 14,806. The Union Workhouse was built 4 Feb 1840 at a cost of £4050 & designed to house 300 paupers & with a 40 bed fever hospital. By 1847, the Workhouse was full with an average intake of 14 paupers per week. One in seven died per week. The dead were buried nearby in The Burying Banks. Forty inmates died during the peak of the famine in 1847. Outdoor relief was given to 300 people daily. (photo of Kilkeel Workhouse MO 6/2/2019 p18)
(See Journal of Mourne Local Studies Group 2010 pp53-57 by Anne Maddocks for an account of the Famine in Mourne & p65 for a photo of the Workhouse)

In the early 19th century a track was dug through the sand at the mouth of the Kilkeel River to form a landing place for small boats. Work on the harbour began in 1850s and a pier built in 1868. It wasn't until the South Pier was built in 1885 & the old dock in 1886 that trading schooners started to arrive..
In 1901 there were 84 paupers resident in the Workhouse including ten army pensioners. The town's population in 1910 was 1374 people. In 1916 the harbour was extended to cope with expanding trade and fishing fleet.

Newspaper article from Northern Herald;
Orange men charged for walking 12th July & 29 Mar 1834

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
Rev Close & Rev Boyle appointed as a deputation to Newcastle re storm & fishing fleet disaster 21 Jan 1843*; failure of potato crop in some areas 1 Nov 1845*; Ribbonmen here 31 Jan 1852*; shipwreck & loss of Life 25 Jan 1862*; Earl of Kilmorey , landlord & tenants meeting 27 Nov 1880*; suicide 30 Jan 1886 (George Gordon)*

try & &

Newcastle / Bridge St, Kilkeel c. 1910
This lovely old postcard (above) was kindly sent by Paddy Byers; It was sent by her father (Harry McKee) to his father (Henry McKee) in 1917.Henry had gone to New Zealand in 1914. His wife Martha and four children had intended following him but World War 1 broke out and Martha and children had to remain in Ireland until 1920.


References; MO 12/8/2009 p30(Hanna book review) ; HPA p29,30, 31,33 (photo of workhouse); V3 p 48, 50 OSM ; DR; NH;MO 29/8/2007 p42; O'L B p 323; PNNI V3 p 13;POD; SSM p95; MO 22/10/2008 p27 (old photo 1952 of Harbour St); OKA p3
This photo shows the corner of Harbour Road & Newcastle/ Bridge St, Kilkeel in 1952


Kilkeel 'new' Church of Ireland

Kilkeel Church of Ireland- Christ Church the Redeemer
in Newry St, Kilkeel town, in Magheramurphy townland

This photo (left) of the 'new' Church of Ireland was taken from the graveyard of the 'old' parish church.

The new church was begun in 1815 and finished in 1818 at a cost of £7,000, part of which was defrayed by Lord Kilmorey. Rev. Lucas Waring was rector of the combined parishes of Kilkeel, Kilcoo & Kilmegan for 37 years before his death in 1823 and in 1830 the rector was Rev. Francis F.Close.In 1836 it was described as being capable of holding 900 people but that it was rather large for the congregation. It had no organ. The rector at that time was Rev. Mr. John Forbes Close & he was there until his death in 1883 (57 years) . The curate in 1862 & 1886 was Rev. Edward O'Brien Pratt then he became rector in 1886. The curate in 1886 was Rev. G.H. Daunt. In 1893 the rector was Rev. Freeman Dudley (from Drumbo) with Rev. Stephen Radcliff as curate (BWN).

Records from 1816; UHF ( ) have burials 1816-1884 ; have burials 1816-1884 ;graveyard attached, gravestones from 1855 UHF Vol 10; email me for a gravestone look-up

References;POD; MIs; V 3 p 47, 48 OSM; GIC: GIPR ; V10 MIs; FR ; POD ; Belfast Weelly News; OKA p16


old parish church, Kilkeel

The old Church and graveyard

in the centre of town

This church was built on the site of the Pre Reformation St. Colman's Catholic church and an ancient rath. The pastor had under his jurisdiction the chapels of Kilcoo, Kilmegan, Ballaghanery, Tamlaght and Greencastle with assistants to help service them. It was described in the 1622 returns as being a ruin. It was rebuilt but abandoned when the new church was opened in 1818. It was used as a school in 1816 run by Kildare Street Society with 146 students.
There is a tradition that the old church had been erected by a foreign merchant in gratitude to the people of Kilkeel, who had decently buried the body of his son, who was drowned on their coast. There is also a tradition that the bodies were carried three times around the ancient rath immediately before burial. The last noted example of this was at the interment of Mrs. Sloan in 1870s.

Here's a list of Priests / Rectors taken from a Board inside the new Church;

1317 Robert Russell 1446 John Mackellidh, Nicolas O'Servan 1536 Peter Lewis 1661 Amdrew Law 1823 Hill McKenna CC 1957 Dermot G.L. Jameson
1356 John de Preez 1450 John Leths B.L. 1548 Patrick McGwyryn 1664 John Arthur 1826 John Fornes Close, Last Pleeanus 1962 James Mehaffey
1369 John de Thrius 1456 John Leche 1618 BP. Echlin 1671 Andrew Matthews 1883 Edward O'Brien Pratt 1966 David B. Hutchinson
1374 Nicols Fer... 1476 Nicolas O'Servan, Patrick Machynn 1625 Robert Dawson Dean of Down 1701 Randulph Lambert 1887 Thomas H. Abrahall 1975 John T. McCamman
1388 John Eheene 1526 Cormac Roth 1633 William Powell 1704 Charles Ward 1890 Freeman Dudley 1982 Henry N. Pedlow
1406 Patrick Dywer, Patrick Oweeyn 1527 Patrick McRowry 1634 Richard Heaton 1756 Richard Hughes 1898 Henry McKnight 1990 David A. McClay
1421 Patrick O'Servan 1530 Cormac Macmaryg 1636 Robert Price 1772 Edward Bayley DD , Archdeacon of Dublin 1916 Ernest Carlile Hayes 2001 Gary Millar
1442 John Leche 1531 Eugene Meguisa 1640 Lewis Williams 1785 Lucas Waring 1925 John Thomas Belton  

Gravestone inscriptions UHF Vol 10; earliest grave 1700; email me for a gravestone look-up

References;V10 MIs; O'L V1 p 11-15,18;PNNI V3 p 17


Mourne Presbyterian Church

Mourne Presbyterian
is NW of Greencastle St, Kilkeel town, in Magheramurphy townland

The three early Presbyterian congregations of Clesh church near Ballymartin, Derryogue & Ballymageough merged in 1696. The first minister was Rev. Charles Wallace who was ordained in 1696 until remained his death in 1736. There is an early marriage record that suggests that there was a Meeting House opposite the Catholic Church in Ballymageogh , just outside town which may have been the original site. After a time Rev. Andrew Kennedy was appointed in 1741 & stayed until his death in 1781 . Next minister was Rev. Moses Thompson 1783-1800 then Rev. John McIlwaine 1800-1839.

A new thatched meeting house was erected in 1821 behind the present church and was replaced in 1831 at a cost of £800. Lord Kilmorey gave £200 with the remainder paid by subscription. In 1836 it was described as a very plain building capable of holding 800 people with an average attendance of 160 - with more in summer and less in winter. The next minister was Rev. James Alfred Cannings 1839-1848 then Rev. Samuel Mateer 1849 until he became infirm in 1881 & Rev. David Wilson was installed until 1885 when Rev. William E. Campbell was minister 1885 but died a few weeks later. He was followed by Rev. William McMordie in 1886. The church was improved in 1887 & 1933. The minister from 1886 was Rev. Robert White & in 1937 Rev. Herbert Martin.

records from 1840, graveyard attached, gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 10; email me for a gravestone look-up . I have transcribed the births 1840-1851 throughout my Surnames Lists with a big thank you to Sheila Philips.

This photo was kindly sent to me by James Edgar & shows his cousin Richard Edgar in the foreground.

References; Sheila Philips; HOTC p65,102,136 ; HCPCI p204; ; V3 p 46, 48, 49 OSM; GIPR; V10 MIs ; DR; MO 4/4/2007


Mourne Presbyterian Church

Kilkeel Presbyterian Church

in Meeting House Lane, Kilkeel

In Meeting House Lane, Kilkeel town. The minister in 1862 was Rev. George Nesbitt

graveyard attached with stones from 1880s ; baptism registers from 1842

References; GIC; POD



near Annalong
7km NE of Kilkeel on the coast

Annalong is snuggled between the Mourne Mountains and the Irish Sea in the townland of Moneydarraghmore. You can see the village in the middle right of the photo.

In 1659 there were 4 Irish people living here & it was leased by Savage Leech Esq. It was owned by Lord Nicholas Bagenal in 1690s . There were Church of Ireland & Presbyterian churches here and the Catholic Parochial House. A corn mill was built in the early 1800 & still exists on the north bank of Annalong River & harbour ( MO 27/3/2019 p19 photo). The population in 1910 was 301 and the industries were fishing and granite quarrying.

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
storm & flishing boats calamity 21 Jan 1843*; new pier 2 Jan 1847; relief meeting 1 May 1847; important meeting about fisheries 12 Oct 1878

References;SP: DR; GIC ; PNNI V3 p 54; MO 5/8/ 2009 p6SSM p32,103-105; POD ; OKA p3 , 37-48 (photos)


Kilhorne Church of Ireland

Kilhorne Church of Ireland, Kilkeel Rd, Annalong
beside the shore

Kilhorn means ' church of the river'; This church is on the site of an old Pre Reformation Catholic church with traces still of the old cemetery. It was built in 1840 with the chancel added 1883. Rev. George M. Black was appointed perpetual curate 17 Oct 1846* under the patronage of Rev. Close of Kilkeel.

Newspaper article from Down Recorder;
new church in Annalong town 4 Sep 1841;

Baptisms from 1842, marriages from 1769 & burials from 1857; gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 10 , oldest stone 1845; email me for a gravestone look-up

References;V10 MIs; DR; GIPR; GIC; PNNI V3 p 60; DR


Annalong Presbyterian Church

Annalong Presbyterian Church
in Annalong village, Moneydarraghmore townland

The congregation was established in 1840 and met at Annalong Mill until the Meeting House was ready for use in 1842. Six ministers have served the congregation: Rev Samuel Burnside (1840-87), Rev John Johnston (1887-88), Rev David Hadden (1888-1910), Rev Edwin Pyper (1910-45), Rev James Adair (1945-81), and the Rev Stuart Finlay who began his ministry in 1982

Records from 1840; graveyard attached

References; GIPR: GIC; POD ; OKA p44


Massforth Catholic Church, Kilkeel parish

St. Colman's Catholic Church Massforth, Ballymageogh Catholic Church- Upper Mourne
3km NW of Kilkeel on Rostrevor road
Curate's house; Massforth, 152 Newry Rd, Kilkeel BT34 4ET ; Tel 4176 2257 Fax; 4176 5405

This large Catholic church is a few kilometres west of Kilkeel town, on the Rostrevor road. Before this chapel was built, the people worshipped in the open air at a place called Mass Forth. This chapel was commenced in 1811 by Rev. John MacMullan and completed in 1818 by Rev. Richard Curoe & replaced 1870 by Rev. George Maguire ( 1856- 1885 ) at a cost of £5,000. It is beside an ancient court grave made of large granite stones in the shape of a boat. The architects were Messrs. O'Neill & Byrne of Belfast.

There is a graveyard surrounding the church and a school attached. The Rev. Richard Marner was the parish priest there for 33 years until he died in 1906 His tombstone is inscribed in Latin and is in the horizontal style of the 18th century. He was born in 1834 in Kilmore parish and was the 1st President of St. Malachy's College, Belfast. Rev. Thomas O'Donnel was curate in 1886.

List of 20th century priests;
Rev. Richard Marner until 1906; Rev. Murtagh Hamill 1906- 1913; Rev. John McAlister 1913- 1923; Rev. Bernard Laverty 1923- 1931; Rev. John McGowan 1931- 1957; Rev. Denis Cahill 1957- 1962; Rev. Daniel Gogarty 1963- 1975; Rev. Walter Larkin 1975- 1988; Rev. Hugh Starkey 1988-2000; Rev Sean McCartney 2000+

Baptisms & marriages are available from 1839; has baptisms 1845-1863 with free indexes but pay-per-view for details.
Graveyard attached, gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 10, oldest grave 1810; UHF has baptisms 1837-1900 & marriages 1839-1900 & deaths 1869-1900

References;POD ; GIC; V10 MIs; LM 1994 p59 , 72


Ballymartin Catholic Church, Kilkeel

St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Ballymartin - Lower Mourne
on the western side of the coast road ; Parochial House in Ballymartin BT34 4PA Tel: 4176 2313

The chapel was built before 1790 by Rev. James Killen after the old parish of Mourne was divided into Upper & Lower Mourne. Rev. Killen was succeeded by Rev. Cormac O'Hagan who was succeeded by Rev. John Magreevey, who entirely rebuilt the chapel in 1825. Rev. Hugh O'Neill was appointed in 1827 and succeeded in 1832 by Rev. Patrick Curoe. It was described in 1836 as a very old chapel near Kilmeloge in 1836 with a small gallery which was erected by subscription, a few seats but most people stood or knelt on the mud floor. 300 people attended then and there were 500 Catholic families in the parish with an average of 8 in each family. Rev. James Magee was appointed parish priest in 1834 until 1842; then Rev. James Crickard in 1843 & the Rev. Hugh Connor 1852-56. Then Rev. James Keating in 1856. It was rebuilt in 1902.

The graveyard is attached, gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 10, oldest stone 1820; email me for a gravestone look-up

References;V3 p 49 OSM; GIC; V10 MIs ; O'L V1 p 30-33; LM 1994 p56, 63 ,68,74,75
20th century priests for Lower Mourne parish;
Rev. Robert Murphy until 1911; Rev. Charles O'Loan 1911- 1934; Rev. Edward Smyth 1934- 1949; Rev. John Murphy 1949- 1971; Rev. Vincent Leonard 1971- 1983; Rev. Patrick McFerran 1983- 1988; Rev. Patrick McVeigh 1988- 1996; Rev. Michael Murray 1996+


Glassdrumman Catholic Church

St. Mary's Catholic Church, Glassdrumman - Lower Mourne
on the western side of the Newcastle to Kilkeel road
Parochial House 284 Glasdrumman Rd, Annalong BT34 4QN Tel; 4376 8208

This chapel was built in 1832 and paid for by subscription or by donating labour. Prior to this the people worshipped in temporary erections called Bohogs. Also called Dunmore. There were 160 families that attended this chapel in 1836 with generally 4 in each family going to mass.It held 400 people and there was a mud floor. In 1910 the priest was Rev.J.R. Murphy & curate was Rev. G. McKay.

Newspaper article from Northern Herald;
consecration 21 Dec 1833

PRONI & NLI have baptisms 1842-1881 & marriages 1839-1880; UHF have baptisms 1842-1900 & marriages 1839-1900;graveyard nearby, gravestone inscriptions available UHF Vol 10; email me for a gravestone look-up

References;GIC; TIA; V10 MIs; O'L V1 p 33;V3 p 49 OSM; NH; POD


Green Castle overlooking Carlingford Lough

Green Castle
overlooks the entrance to Carlingford Lough,5km SW of Kilkeel

This medieval fortress is prominently sited on a low rock outcrop, 300 metres from the northern shore of the narrow mouth of Carlingford Lough. A grassy mound at the tip of the peninsula may be an Anglo- Norman motte, the predecessor of this stone castle. The ruins of a medieval church stand in a field below the castle to the west and to the north rise the jagged peaks of the Mourne Mountains.

The castle was probably built in the mid 13th century, when the Anglo- Norman colony in east Ulster was separated from the main area in English settlement in Leinster by Irish-held areas, frequently hostile, in south Armagh and south Down. In 1252 a mandate was issued by King Henry 111 that Adam Talbot should be paid by the exchequer 'what he had expected on the custody of Greencastle of the king.' The castle was destroyed in 1260 during the Battle of Down when annals record that the 'the green fortress of Ulster was demolished.' Details of repairs carried out at this time are preserves in a surviving fragment of the Ulster Pipe Roll, including work on the roof of the main hall of the keep.

In the 14th century the castle was captured and wrecked on several occasions, for example by Bruce in 1316 and by Magennis in 1375. Presumably the damage was repaired after each sacking. The offices of constable at Greencastle and at Carlingford ( on the opposite bank) were amalgamated from the start of the 16th century onwards. In 1505 the castle was granted to Gerald, Earl of Kildare, but the funds from the sale of goods from some Irish monasteries were sent to cover the repair to Greencastle in 1539. In 1552 the place was included in a grant of lands to Nicholas Bagnall and in 1597 could be included as one of the few strongholds retained for the Crown in Ulster. The castle was not garrisoned for long in the 17th century but by that time had given service for over 350 years.

The castle consists of a large rectangular keep within an irregular quadrilateral curtain wall, with a projecting D-plan angle tower at each corner.

References;SP; V 3 p 30, 37, 52, 53 OSM:HMNI p101; IPP p 111; PNNI V3 p 9, 42; JMLSG 2010 p17; OKA p19; MO 7/9/2016 p23 (photo)


Maggie's Leap

Maggie's Leap- Coiscein na Cailli- means 'footstep of the cormorant'

This postcard c. 1904 was kindly sent to me by Marion McCall. It shows a natural rock feature, 3km S of Newcastle which was named after a woman who leaped across with her eggs to evade soldiers. Another story says that an old woman called Maggie used to jump across with a basket of eggs on her head.
In 1701, James L'Armour killed his father & pushed the body into the chasm (known as L'Armour's Hole).

Articles from Down Recorder newspaper;
shocking death of Margaret Crickard who fell 26 Sep 1868; young man killed here 24 Sep 1870

ReferencesDR; PNNI V3 p 62; LM 1999 p68; WDG p164-168 (photo)


by Ros Davies