Northern Ireland

Rare documents and information about ancient burial ground in rural Co Derry unearthed

Around the Loup is a book published by the Loup and District Historical Society
Around the Loup is a book published by the Loup and District Historical Society

RARE documents and previously unknown information about an ancient burial ground in rural Co Derry have been unearthed.

The discovery was made by a group of people researching the history of an area known as the Loup, which stretches from near Magherafelt to the shores of Lough Neagh.

Inspired by the restoration of the local St Patrick's Chapel, the group formed the Loup and District Historical Society with the aim of recording and detailing the area's local history.

And less than a year after they were established, they are set to launch their first book.

Around the Loup records the history of the area as well as the wider Ardtrea parish from the earliest times to the mid 1900s.

It draws on oral history, historical documents and artefacts, which local families shared, with all the historical records of events and activities in the area collated into the new publication.

During the research, two original letters written in 1847 at the height of the Famine in Ireland were discovered.

The letters came from the rectors of Magherafelt and Moneymore, who were the chairmen of the their local soup committees, and who describe the deprivation in the area.

The book also looks at the importance of the Port of Ballyronan in the 1800s, the Plantation and sporting activities in the area including a report on cock-fighting.

There are also details of the area in penal times and how Mass had to be said on 'mass rocks' and how one such service led to a famous riot at the Loup.

Another chapter looks at emigration with a rare 1854 application form to become an American citizen included.

And there are also fascinating details about a newly commissioned geophysical survey of Old Ballyeglish Graveyard, which has raised the possibility of an ancient burial ground.

Sean Corey, who is a member of the historical society, said: "We got together to mark the renovation of the chapel and soon after someone suggested doing a book.

"It really just mushroomed from there and from what we had planned, which was an A4 type book, has blossomed into a 360 page book.

"There were a number of fascinating discoveries we made including two letters describing the Famine in the area in great detail.

"We also have come across a lot of artefacts and facts from the chapel as well as all the information from local families who shared stories, poems and songs."

The book will be launched tonight at Patrick's Loup GAC clubrooms with an exhibition of historical items related to the book also taking place prior to the event.

Copies and original documentation and historical artefacts will go on display, including a six-foot crocodile which had been stuffed and brought home from overseas missions and a 100-year-old altar box used in the West Indies for saying Mass.

There is also a WWII gas mask and rare books utilised in the research of Around the Loup and a full list of Penal Laws.

Dr Roddy Hegarty, director of the Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich Memorial Library and Archive is due to speak at the event, which begins at 7pm.

The book will be available to purchase at the event priced at £20.