BALLYCARRY – Voices from the Past

BALLYCARRY – Voices from the Past
Souvenir Booklet produced by Ballycarry Community Association. February 1992.

IN 1992 the Ballycarry Community Association arranged a historical exhibition of photographs, maps, documents and artefacts. BALLYCARRY – Voices from the Past seems to have been produced to accompany the exhibition. This booklet consists of 20 A5 pages, crammed with pictures, articles and poems. Most of the articles are a series of extracts from other publications about Ballycarry. It’s an absolute mine of local history information.

Unfortunately, it was produced on yellow – or buff – paper and printed in brown ink. Originally this may have looked ok, but time and age has made it virtually impossible to decently reproduce anything from it. (For instance, there’s a great picture of the post being delivered in Ballycarry – by a postman complete with pony and cart. There’s also a picture of Main Street that also features just a couple of horses and carts). However, don’t let this put you off – I’ve never seen so much information crammed into such a small booklet before. It completely deserves to be updated and printed on white pages with a card cover.

So what about Ballycarry itself? For those not familiar with the area, Ballycarry nestles in the hills of Co Antrim offering panoramic views of Islandmagee. Situated midway between Larne and Carrickfergus, its population (according to the 2001 Census) consisted of 981 people. In Ulster-Scots, Ballycarry is called Braid Islann and in Irish it’s known as Baile Caraidh.

However the ancient name of the area was Irewe – sometimes spelled Ireve. There are differing accounts of the origins of this name. Some say Irewe is Norse and means plaited or braided island. Others claim that in medieval times the letter ‘v’ and ‘w’ were interchangeable and that the name Ireve referred to arable land.

Whatever the origin of the name, one thing is for sure – 1,000 years ago the area was an important ecclesiastical centre. ‘The present old church ruins and St. John’s Parish Church and their cemeteries lie within the area of an ancient enclosure – an earthen bank, stone wall or thorn hedge – which marked the exterior of an important religious site. The name of this church site in the 12th century was Lislaynan or Lislanan, and its extent, identified from aerial photographs, makes it the fifth largest in Northern Ireland’.

Ballycarry has two other main claims to fame. In 1613 (a Scot from Drymen near Loch Lomond) the Rev. Edward Brice became the first Presbyterian minister in Ireland. He ministered here between 1613 and 1636. In the 1620s and 1630s Brice and other Scots ministers came under pressure to adhere to new canon laws of the Church of Ireland (in which they had technically been ordained, although they viewed themselves as ministers of the Kirk of Scotland).

Like the others, Brice refused to accept these Canon Laws and was deposed from the parish charge and forbidden to preach as a result. Although it is likely he continued to minister in private houses and possibly also in the open air, it was said that Brice died of a broken heart. He was interred inside the church where he had ministered, and in time a memorial stone was erected there too, by which point the Presbyterians had long moved to their own church on the Main Street, where the Old Presbyterian Church is sited.

Additionally, James Orr – the Bard of Ballycarry – became one of the most famous of the weaver poets in Ulster. Orr was born in 1770 and died in 1816. He ranks on an equal par with Robert Burns as a poet, and took part in the 1798 United Irishmen Rebellion, after which he fled for a short time to the United States. He was also a prominent Freemason, and his imposing memorial was erected by members of the Masonic Order in 1831.

If you’re ever planning to visit Ballycarry make sure you don’t miss the annual Broadisland Gathering – the most prominent and successful Ulster-Scots Gathering on the east coast of Ulster. Held on the first Saturday of September, it highlights the unique Scottish heritage of the village and has attracted visitors from as far all over the world.

FOR FURTHER information about the Rev. Edward Brice, why not view this site:

http://www.ballycarrypresbyterian.co.uk/history/presbally.html

FOR FURTHER information about James Orr – the Bard of Ballycarry – why not view this site:

http://www.libraryireland.com/CIL/OrrJames.php

FOR FURTHER information about the ruins of Templecorran Church, Ballycarry, why not view this site:

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~econnolly/books/silentland/silentland05.html

– Reviewed by John Field.

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