Thursday, 16 March 2017

Ram's Island Cottage

LORD O'NEILL'S COTTAGE, RAM'S ISLAND, LOUGH NEAGH
an article from the Dublin Penny journal (1832-36) 

"THIS beautiful little cottage is situated in one of the small islands of Lough Neagh, at a distance of three miles from Crumlin, and about one and two-thirds from the shore, from which the traveller can easily procure a boat for the purpose of visiting the island.


The cottage, which is extremely pretty, and furnished in the most tasteful manner, was some time since erected by Charles, 1st Earl O'Neill, to whom it belongs.

The only object of antiquity here is a round tower, of which
"..............Time, with assailing arm,
Hath smote the summit, but the solid base
Derides the lapse of ages."
We are informed by the Rev Dr Snowden Cupples that its height is 43', its circumference 35' 5", the thickness of the walls 2' 8¼".


The first storey contains the door; the second, a window facing the south-east; and the third, another window, which looks out to the north, about 3' 1½", where rest joists; and, in the first storey, there is a projecting stone, about 5½' from the surface.

Certain letters or characters appear to be cut on the stones, in the inside; but so obliterated are they by time, that they are quite illegible.

A hollow sound or echo is heard on entering the building.

This induced a person who lived in the island to dig 5' below the surface, where he found several human bones, and some coffin boards.

A skeleton was discovered near the tower some time ago, and bones and skulls in many parts of the island.

These circumstances indicate that a place of worship once existed here; and sanction the opinion of Dr Ledwich that the round towers were appropriated to ecclesiastical purposes.

It might also be inferred from this that the island was, at no very remote period, a part of the continent.

When the lake is at its summer level, a bank appears, extending from the island towards Gartree Point.

Some persons who have examined it at low water assert that the remains of a paved causeway are visible.

The entire ground is laid out into walks, and covered with verdure; [several] hundred rose trees; and those plants and flowers, which constitute the pride of our gardens, all flourish luxuriantly.

Even those sides of the island which are almost perpendicular are adorned with all those creeping plants and hardy shrubs which are adapted to the situation.

Lough Neagh is twenty miles long and fifteen broad, and is said to cover an area of about 98,000 acres, its circumference being about 80 miles 6 furlongs.

It lies in the centre of the province of Ulster, and is bounded by five counties: Antrim on the north and east; Tyrone also on the east; a small portion of Down on the north-east; Armagh on the south; and Londonderry on the north-west.

It is about thirty feet above the level of the sea.

Its situation, which resembles an inland sea, together with the celebrity of its petrifactions and pebbles, have always rendered it an object of considerable interest.

It is not wonderful, therefore, that, like many objects much less within the range of romance, it should have the honour of a fabulous origin; and accordingly, while some early writers state that it suddenly burst out in the 56th year of the Christian era, we are informed, on the authority of the late Lord Bristol, Bishop of Derry, that
in a monastery on the Continent a manuscript existed, which mentions, that in the 6th century a violent earthquake had thrown up the rock of Toome, which, by obstructing the discharge of the rivers, had formed this body of water; and that Lough Erne, in Fermanagh, was produced at the same time!
Of the formation of the lake two other wonderful accounts are given.

One states that our Irish giant, Finn McCool, took a handful of earth, and flung it into the sea.

The handful was of such a size, that where it fell it formed the Isle of Man, and the hollow caused by its removal formed the basin of the present Lough Neagh!

The other account is that some now forgotten saint had sanctified some holy well, in consequence of which the waters were gifted with the most miraculous properties.

The only injunction attending their use was, that each person should carefully shut the wicket-gate of the well.

A woman at length neglected this command; the indignant waters immediately sprang from their bed; the terrified culprit fled; but the waters followed close upon her very heels.

And, when she sank down exhausted, closed for ever around her, and formed the present Lough, the length of which is just the distance she ran!

The idea of a town being buried under the waters of the lake is very prevalent among the peasantry; and Moore, in his well-known beautiful lines, has immortalized this remarkable belief:
On Lough Neagh's banks as the fisherman strays,
When the clear cold eve's declining,
He sees the round towers of other days,
In the waves beneath him shining.
There are several islands on the Lough, but they are deficient in the bold and frowning headlands and picturesque scenery, which constitute the charm of the Scottish lakes.

Nor can it in romantic interest, or beauty and variety of scene, at all compare with Lough Erne or the Lakes of Killarney.

Coney Island lies a short distance from the Armagh shore.

A small cluster, known by the name of the "Three Islands", is situated about four miles from the river Maine, off the point of the parish of Duneane.

Lord O'Neill has planted all the islands with young trees, which have a very pleasing and ornamental effect; and from Ram's Island, in which the cottage stands, a bank of sand and gravel, eighteen or twenty feet broad, extends.

It is usually covered with water; but in very dry seasons, it is broad, firm, and dry, resembling an artificial causeway, more than a natural deposit."

First published in March, 2015.

1 comment :

Wee Gee said...

Spent some time today (St Patrick's Day, 2015) at the RSPB reserve, Portmore Lough. It was beautiful and so peaceful. Well worth a visit. Being RSPB members, we hope to take a picnic and spend more time there one day.