History of Kilmegan parish book launch

History of Kilmegan parish book launch

27 November 2019

A FASCINATING and meticulously researched book on the history of the ancient civil parish of Kilmegan was officially launched at a reception in Castlewellan on Friday night.

The project was launched two years ago by a group of history enthusiasts and writers led by local man Leo King and culminated in the publication of the 500-page ‘History of Kilmegan and Surrounding Area’.

Ciaran Crilly, the lead author and editor, said the book “provided a snapshot” of life in the locality against the wider political and  social history of Ireland in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

He was joined on the editorial team by established writers Pauline McCrory, Michael McCartan, Aidan Rodgers and Kieran Heenan.

“In telling our story we take a journey through all the historic watersheds, from the earliest of native Irish settlements, invasion, rebellion, An Gorta Mor (the Great Hunger), Home Rule agitation, two World Wars and the Troubles,” Mr Crillly said.

Since the latter years of the 17th century the growing influence of English landlords dominated the social, economic and political structure of the country. 

While they wielded enormous power over the local population and often evicted tenants for political rather than economic reasons, it is acknowledged they also provided employment, built towns and villages, roads and railways and in many cases financed schools on their estates.

“It is also true to say that during the famine years local landlords did show some compassion to their tenants compared to the many absentee landlords in other parts of the country,” Mr Crilly added.

Events on the wider Irish stage also impacted on the parish of Kilmegan including the Home Rule crisis of 1912 and the gun running exploits of both the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Irish Volunteers.

Two years later these same young men joined Ulster and Irish regiments of the British army to fight in World War I. Many from Kilmegan and the surrounding areas tragically  paid the ultimate price on a foreign field and are remembered in the book.

Chapters on the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, the Troubles, the loyalist and IRA ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement take the history of the parish into the modern age.

Hundreds of hours of painstaking work researching historical documents and the archives of local newspapers, including those of the Down Recorder, were involved in the production of this book which will undoubtedly be regarded as an important point of reference for current and future generations.

In a typically noble and generous gesture the Kilmegan and Maghera Historical Group have decided proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Children’s Heartbeat Trust.

Copies are now on sale at Walkers’ newsagents and JR’s Discount Stores, Castlewellan, with details of further points of sale on the Group’s Facebook page, Kilmegan Maghera.