Northern Ireland news

Lottery-funded project to reveal hidden history of Co Armagh townland

An illustrated example of how a Court tomb and cairn would have looked
Mairead Holland

IT was once the site of an ancient tomb, the scene of battles and highwaymen and a location frequented by Sir Oliver Cromwell and author Jonathan Swift, but to many Co Armagh locals, the history of the townland of Ballintaggart is a closed book.

However, a project which has been awarded just under £50,000 from the National Lottery, is set to unlock the heritage of the area, which is located just two miles outside Portadown.

Richmount Rural Community Association is aiming not just to preserve the historical details for future generations but also put the location on the tourism map.

Part of the project will focus on a neolithic burial site, dating back 5,000 years and pre-dating the Pyramids, located on land belonging to Armagh Cider Company.

Part of the four-chambered Court Tomb, known as the Giant's Graves and comprising a number of ancient stones and a cairn, was excavated in 1966 to save it from quarrying work during the building of the MI, and taken to the Ulster Museum.

The stones are currently stored at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra.

According to David Weir of Craigavon Museum Services, more than 100 flint flakes, stone age tools and neolithic pottery was found during the dig, including the Ballintaggart Bowl which is now in the Ulster Museum.

There are almost 400 court tombs in Ireland. It is believed that burial was possibly restricted to people of high status or that they may have been ritual structures, rather like a church today.

Owners of the cider company, Philip and Helen Troughton, who live at Ballintaggart House, are hoping that the project could be a catalyst to have the stones returned to their original resting place, and add another dimension to the tours they already conduct of their orchard and stud farm.

Joe Garvey, chairman of the association, said the area has a wealth of heritage. "There was a Plantation House which was later rebuilt in the style of a French Château," he said.

"And Sir Robert Hart, the Inspector-General of China's Custom Service, courted one of the residents of Ballintaggart for all of 24 hours before proposing marriage."

Local people and schools from both sides of the community are being encouraged to participate in the project which will include research, video making, storytelling, writing and informational trips.

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