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Society of Antiquaries Visit to Omagh Clogher, Knockmany & Augher in 1896
THE SUMMER EXCURSION OF SOCIETY OF ANTIQUARIES
The party from Dublin will leave Amiens street station at 6.45 a.m., arriving at Omagh at 10.12 a.m., where a meeting will be held in the Ulster Hall, at noon, Luncheon at 2 p.m. in White Hart Hotel. At 3 p.m., by invitation of Charles SCOTT Esq. J.P. and Mrs. SCOTT, the visitors will attend a garden party at Lisnamallard. At 8 p.m. the members will assemble in the Ulster Hall, when Papers will be read. On Tuesday, the party will start in waggonettes for Knockmany, where will be examined the inscribed stones, referred to in Mr. Wakeman's Handbook of Irish Antiquities. Driving from Augher, to Clogher, the Cathedral will be visited. On return to Omagh a meeting for exhibition of lantern slides, illustrating the scenery and antiquities of County Sligo will be held.
No better place could be chosen for an Ulster meeting than Omagh; it stands not alone in the centre of the county, of which it is the chief town, but is in almost the centre of the province. It is an important junction on the Great Northern Railway, and easy of access from every quarter, and is also the military depôt for the north west. There was a Columban monastery founded here in the year 792, which was converted into a house of the Third Order of Franciscans in the year 1464. It was the best endowed of any religious house in Tyrone. No remains survive of this monastery, although it stood here until the close of the sixteenth century. A castle of O'NEILL's also stood here, for it is stated that in the year 1498 O'NEILL fortified the castles of Omey, and Kinnaird, and that the Earl of Kildare, the Lord Deputy, marched against him and razed the castle of Omey to the ground, and compelled O'Neill to submit to the King's authority. The names of Abbey street, and Castle street, indicate that such buildings, at one time, existed in the vicinity of these streets. The name of a suburb Gortmore, the Great Gort, or Garden of the Monastery, which adjoins the supposed site of the monastery, gives some support to the evidence in favour of the locality of the house.
Omagh is situated on a hill, around the eastern side, of which flows the river Struel, which after passing Strabane, is known as the Foyle, until it discharges into the lough of the same name, at Culmore below Derry. It is a good trout and salmon river and the conservators have a salmon hatchery on the river near to Newtownstewart, where thousands of young fish are hatched. From time immemorial, this river has been celebrated for its fine pearls, which are principally found in that part of the river, lying between Omagh and Strabane.
Though there are no remains of antiquity in Omagh, if we except the old bridge still standing, across which, James II passed on his way to Derry yet within a radius of about thirteen miles, there are a considerable number. One mile from Newtownstewart, and eight from Omagh, there is fine Cromleac, locally called Clogh Ogle. Near the old Church of Upper Badoney, above Plumbridge, there are three Cromleacs, with cup markings, also a bullaun stone, in the churchyard with two basins.
In the district of Broghderg, about thirteen miles from Omagh, stands the only inscribed Ogham stone, known in Ulster, 'in situ'. Professor Rhys examined the Broghderg stone and described it in a late number of the Journal. At Aghnahoo, near to Castlederg, there is a large Souterraine, and also a Cromleac, as well as several standing stones. At Knockmany, ten miles from Omagh, is an inscribed stone of a very interesting kind; it stands on the summit of the hill. Thus the districts around Omagh are not devoid of ancient monuments.
Clogher is the seat of one of the oldest bishoprics in Ireland, founded by St. Patrick, St Macartin was its first bishop; he died A.D. 506. The Cathedral stands on the summit of the hill, on which the village is built, and the Episcopal Palace is close by, standing in an enclosed demesne, of almost 600 acres. The Palace, which was commenced by Bishop Beresford, before he became Primate, was completed by Bishop Tottenham, in 1823, and is now the property of J. Ellison MaCARTNEY Esq., formerly M.P. for County Tyrone. Within the demesne, is a great earthen fort, the 'Regia' of Ptolemy and
supposed seat of the Chiefs, or Princes of Errigal. William CARLETON was born near to Clogher and the ruined remains of his birthplace will be passed on the road to Aughentain, on the return journey to Omagh. Many of the places referred to in his tales are situated in this locality, and the originals of many of his characters are still well-known in the neighbourhood. Clogher returned two members to the Irish House of Commons before the Union In 1629. Charles I issued letters patent, making it a corporation, to be governed by a portreeve, and twelve burgesses. The name Clogh-or stone of gold, is supposed to be derived from a stone covered with gold, and worshipped in pagan times. As late as 1490, it is said to have been kept at the right of the entrance into the church, and that traces of the gold, then adhered to it.
This hill is referred to by CARLETON, in one of his tales, as the scene of an encounter by Finn MacCool, and a Scotch giant. It commands a very extensive view and from the inscribed stone, on its summit, and the frequent reference to it, was probably a moat, or meeting place, of the people in pagan times, for which its position eminently fits it,
This village is situated two miles northeast of Clogher. The only object of interest is the castle, beautifully situated, on the margin of a lake within a well, wooded demesne. In 1601, the then castle, was taken from the Irish, by Lord Mountjoy, Sir Henry Docwra, and Sir A. Chichester. It was restored to the Earl of Tyrone, was abandoned by Sir Cormac O'NEILL, though his family continued to live there till 1611. At this time, Sir Thomas Bidgway, treasurer at war, obtained a grant of land here on an agreement to settle twenty English, or Scottish artificers, or tradesmen, and set apart a site for a market place, school, church, and castle, or bawn. In 1641, a garrison was stationed here, which was attacked by the Irish insurgents, who attempted to storm it, but were driven off and dispersed. In 1688-90, it was again in hands of the Irish Lieutenant Colonel Thomas LLOYD, second in command at Enniskillen, burnt the fortifications of Augher, and drove back, into Enniskillen, a great haul of cattle belonging to the Irish. The castle was dismantled by the Irish Parliament, and remained so till 1832, when the late Sir James Richardson BUNBURY, Bart. repaired it, and built the modern house adjoining it. After his death, it was sold to the present owner. A cannon-ball, musket-ball, and skull, have been found in the grounds, and a pike head, quern stone, and bones, at Tully, where the attacking battery was placed in 1641.
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