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St Johnston & Carrigans

Binnion District,  St. Johnston by Rev Philip Lynch

Gratefully contributed by his nephew James Lynch April 2013


Half way up Ballyboe lane from Listanagh in upper field on right at foot of field is Casal Bán – a grave yard. The last to be buried there was John Grey. Kilgores lived in Baile Both and they said they were there since the plantation. The Lynches lived also in Ballyboe, Robert; the father of William in whose time they came back to Binnion. The story goes that some went to the Duke of Abercorn and asked him to put the Lynches out of Binnion. He refused them saying it cost him too much to put the Lynches into Binnion. They do not know what he was referring to, maybe just dismissing busybodies. William had six or seven sons John was very strong. He carried a grave stone to Glenleigh and when bringing a bag of flour from Derry rested first on the bridge at St Johnston. Flour was generally sold in 10 stone bags 7 stone bags came in later.

Listanagh:  (Listánnagh)

There is some underground apartment in or near the house.

Creaghadoos:- Greach á da Chuas- Marsh of the two caves

There is a cave opens in Paddy Browne’s garden [plot]. There is an underground apartment down in a field below Willie Doherty’s house.

There would appear to be some opening in Davy Cookes garden as it was reported that a horse put his foot down into some hole – it does not appear to have been ever investigated.

Sanny Hill:

On Mongorry side of Binnion between it and Mullagh Sowney [Letterguill Hill] there is a cave called the Dane’s Cave in or rather near the corner next Mongorry of a field called the ‘Cove Field’ not far out from the upper fence that runs in the Legnathraw direction. Its mouth has been closed since M’Nutts came there but its opening was small before that and large stones met in the roof supported from both sides in the cantilever way. It was closed for agriculture. It was said it opened into Logan’s garden, Sam Long’s, and ‘the farther in the deeper’ was said to have been played by a fiddler who went in and never came out. There is an excellent view towards St. Johnston and the Foyle from itscave’s mouth and it would seem to have been for a lookout and protection against the Danes. Rubble made going in to it impossible about say 1920. There is a field in Lynch’s land in Binnion [Postal address Ballyboe] called the Den’s Park and they always associated it with the Danes. In Dunn’s Roughground it was said that a cave opened? – this would be farther up than the Denspark. In the [level] field below the DensPark there is a stone in the centre of the field. It is called the Walfield from a well on right as you enter from road. It was filled in, as the water left it when a drain was made farther down. It was dangerous. It was said a horse fell into it. On the upper part of that stone there is a weathered-out shape or little hollow like where a petrified animal had been when the stone was bring stratified [Eryops?] The hollow was deeper but about 1918 a young boy used a hammer on the then deeper edge of the North Eastern side. Two other marks are on the East side. These resemble marks that would be made by an animal coming down when stone was still soft. No human name is associated with it.

There was a few slate stones on the tip-top of Binnion and they may have been the remains of a Cairn. On the southern side of Lynch’s hill below where the solid rock appears there may be the remains of ancient graves for slate stones on their edge were seen a long time ago – as if where people were buried standing. Note to bury in earth on the flat needs a big long hole – not always easy with tools available to country people or even to armies outside their own territory. But it was disgraceful for a victorious army not to build the cairns of the defeated, decent burial was decent. There is a case in County Derry where they did not build the cairns!

High up above Rateen there is a Mass rock in a field called the Altar Lea, [not far from the top of Binnion] where Mass was said in the Penal days. There is a smaller rock beside it. Rumour had it that if this rock was taken away it would be back again so a Presbyterian tried this by removing it and his son said he found it was back. The Pennytrough goes from the forge in Creaghadoos up to Dunns’ Forebrae. There is the lower and upper. At the head of the lower there was a slate stone fort. There is near this a suitable stone that was used in pounding whins with a wooden mallet for use as food for horses especially in the Spring when they had much land work to do.

In Powerscourt Co. Wicklow there are ‘Penny lanes’ so called from the daily wages of the workers at them. Jack Inch Bryson tells us that there was a sort of a concentration camp in Creagadoos for imported prisoners who had to work at the time of the Plantation and informs us that the table knives they used for dinner were chained to the table for fear they would be used to do harm. They could only come the necessary distance. There is a laneway goes from the foot of the Pennetroch to the lower road – The leightoon o’ Creach a’da Chuas. On the right, over half way there is a rock called Carrick Róigh. There was a tannery in Creaghadoos but the method of tanning was strictly secret for fear of opposition to trade.

The forge and farm were got from Mahaffeys by the Prescriptive Right. Mahaffey wanted to put out the smith and he did not want to leave, so it went to court and it transpired that the rent had not been changed for seven years – so the blacksmith came home the legal owner. 

Odds and ends and jottings

Home Rule was in the air and the blacksmith got young lads to tie a lot of ribbons off a cut [or torn off] shirt to the big beech tree at the head of the Upper Pennytrough and he brought out Harvey Galbreath to convince him that Home Rule was a fact and that Jamie lynch was celebrating it. Jamie’s wife who probably had not yet heard how the hill had got mixed up in politics was accosted by some of the Gilfillans for being so bigoted in celebrating so quickly – the joke had spread and was believed.

John, the blacksmith said he could hear Tam Dunleavy at the harvest thanksgiving in Creaghadoos singing: ‘We have all gathered in except Jamie Lynch and Robert Dinn’, reasonable enough for Binnion is a fortnight later than Creagadoos.

Liza Jane [Bradley]’s daughter had prepared a modest little spread for her intended but he did not manage to come. She, seeing he was not coming, said to her brother Johnny ‘He’s not coming, you may pull in and start.’ Johnny said: ‘The Lord be praised, I am amazed to see how things have mended. There’s cake and tea in front of me where broughan [porridge] was intended.

The wife of a man whose work and thirst kept him from coming home early was ever afraid something might happen or have happened to him and she was at her wits end to know how to correct him – presuming words and eloquence had failed. A neighbour very reluctantly allowed himself to be persuaded to enter the world of Ghosts – if they might be able to help. She supplied the ghostly apparel and he duly took up his stand where a ghost would be at home along a lonely part of the lane, in the hedge. The late comer came along, thirst cured, and passed by without even raising a hair. To rectify such irreverence in the presence of a ghost, the ghost thought and was certain something had to be done to let him know that there was a bad form of ghost there. In a deep disguised voice it said: ‘I’m the devil, I’m the devil’ Your man turned at once and in a very friendly way said shake hands you are a friend of mine I’m married to your sister. [Two worlds had met].

A man was coming along the Mass Road alone Mosey Crowe’s land and a black dense darkness about three to four feet in diameter rolled before him and rolled in through the hedge or fence without crashing it in any way. The man was not afraid but when he got into bed the cold sweat began to roll down him and a great evil fear came on him. He knew it was the devil.

The same man got a pair of boots made to measure but they hurt him and were sent back for adjustments to the maker who had been trained in Derry. They still did not fit and the second time they were returned with the instruction to tell him ‘I can make shoes but not feet’.

During the famine there was a man passed up the road and farther up he was found dead and nobody knew who he was or where he was going. Hugh Lynch of Binnion used to oblige people by carting their dead to the graveyard in his donkey’s cart. When his people had the fever he was not allowed to come in but could leave the goods on the window – this was for fear he would get it but he did not. When talking about the famine the tears even in old age used to run down his face. He said it would have taken a tear from a stone. He was around twelve or so then.

The biggest ‘basting’ he ever got was from his Mother who had diligently enquired of him where he had got ‘the bonny gooseberries’. From somebody’s bush. He was made go back and leave them under the bush he had pulled them off. He bought Binnion in the early eighties of the last century for £160 from Philip Lynch.

There was a meeting of the farmers in the Sunday school in Ballylennon [Listenagh]. It was to settle or reduce rents and it was not in the farmers’ interest to praise the quality or fertility of his land. When Hugh’s was in consideration he said if it was not for Mr Lowry’s ducks coming over and dunging on it nothing would grow on it. ‘Isn’t that right Mr Lowry’ That’s correct Hugh’. Mr Lecky at the end of the meeting said: ‘Now Hugh seeing you have got on so well you’ll become a Presbyterian’ ‘Ah no your reverence I’ll never deny God for this world’s dirt’.

Hugh had built a stone daek very well done with very good faced slate stones. Neighbour Lowry when he saw it said: ‘Hugh it is not a daek it is a wall’.

Hugh was in Strabane and in a yard a number of men were going to kill the ancestor of the Gourley’s. He ran and pulled him away speaking out loud: ‘Are you going to kill my brother?’ ‘We didn’t know he was your brother’ they said surprised thinking perhaps that a mistake of identity had taken place but Hugh did not delay to have things sorted out. It was said if he had not saved him there would be none of the breed of the Gourleys around now.

Binnion hill is planted

That puts an end to fun

For many a hare was tumbled there

With Gerdan’s áfu [awful] gun

The gamekeeper was Hugh Dunn and he had an apparent walking stick that was a gun. It was not completely silent if used on a pavement. He fell into the water at Derry and shouted ‘A youthful life a losing. A handsome man is drowning’ [evidently not just a kill- sport]. He lived to be an old man. His grandmother was on of the Lowrys of Binnion and reared the family as Presbyterians. About the Dunne family an old poet says

Over Ui Regan of mighty routs

A vigorous tribe that conquers in battle

Is O’Dunne – chiefs of demolition

Heros of the golden battle spears

[Ui- Regan would roughly correspond to the Barony of Tinnahinch, Offaly] Hugh’s grandfather was Billy.

There was a trickster who armed with wooden pegs began to measure out plots in Galbreath’s land in Creaghadoos asking no questions. When Galbreath got to know he went at once to him and persuaded him to take money and put his cottages elsewhere which money he gladly took! It is not reported how many elsewheres he visited or pegged.

A local trickster passing a drover caught hold of a cow by the horns and gave a roar to the driver to keep his cows off his one. The same person secured tow to a goat, brought him quietly to the door of the Meeting House and having set fire to him let him in. The animal rushed up the passage and Mr Hanson jumped out of the pulpit and said he thought the devil was coming for his body and bones.


Some time after one of the Gourleys had died there was a wake for a poor person and the bed was so bad that two friendly women said to each other ‘Could we not do better than that?’ ‘I think we could’. They both went to get a little straw from Gourleys barn but saw him standing with a hand on each post of the barn door. They fled.

(At another time) He spoke to somebody and said: ‘You take the shearing of that field. I do not want the Gormleys to get it’. He nearly put Gormley and horse and cart into a flaxdam Gormley for afraid and went to the priest who asked him if he had anything belonging to this man. ‘No’ he said ‘nothing except an old waist- coat the wife gave me’ ‘Take it off, he’d have power to drown you’.

A parallel reference to the Gormley incident: a person called James Moore from Gawley’s Gate near Lough Neagh said that a Lady Moyra came on horseback to her own funeral and the priest was got to lay her. She asked him where was he going to lay her and he told her. ‘Have you no better place for me than that?’ He said that would be the place, She’d have to go there. ‘Damn your impertinence’ she said and with that her finger pulled the eye out of the priest.

A priest was caught in a serve snow storm and asked shelter in Taylors. They refused and said they needed the beds themselves. ‘Keep them you’ll need them.’ Three, one after another spent fifteen years in bed. He went on to Gourleys. They could not do enough for him making him welcome being honoured by being asked. Everybody knew Mrs Gourley as a very good woman. When she was a widow she got so much trouble from her dead husband that she kept a Catholic maid with the holy water to keep him at bay. After some time the maid suggested that she ask the priest to lay him. ‘Will you get him?’ She got him and when he came near he asked in a friendly way ‘Where will I lay him’ ‘Put him into that water hole.  Oh you would not put anybody into that old waterhole. I’ll lay him behind the green gate?’ People called M’Clintock lived there afterwards?. Some of them lived in Creatland and had saved a priest in the Penal days. There is a story that one of them was cutting a ‘gentle bush’ and a small person appeared and said ‘My good man have you not other bushes to cut?’ He continued to cut and inside a year nearly all his stock died. He got the priest to assist and gave him £2. He had no more died.

Tam Dunleavy said that Jamie Lynch and Robert Dunn appeared to him and that Jamie was looking far better than Robert. Both were dead.

Father Deeney called to a house in Rateen. The owner answered the knock. Are you the boss here? Inquired his reverence. ‘Just at times, Father.’ Herself was within earshot.

Father Deeny said that a monastic seal was found and was connected with Cuttymonhill. Maybe Messers Alexander would know something about it, or where it is. He also said that Red Hugh was fostered in Mongalvin for a while.

As the architects of Greenan were Rinkin and Gabhlan could the mane Mongavlin be conntected with one of these?

A man of the Gilfillans was on the jury at a murder case. He considered that this accused had not murder guilt on him and he would by no means agree to a verdict of ‘guilty’. They were locked up – six beds for twelve. He was a very big man and saw at a glance that there would be no rest for him… there was no need to lose a nights sleep over saving an innocent man. How are your people at home he asked his prospective bedfellow. ‘All very well thank you’ ‘Man you’re lucky, mine are just rising from the fever’. It worked, he had the bed to himself. This man [or a relative] was going to Strabane with somebody else with a horse and cart the stormy morning Montgomery was hanged. They held on to each other convinced that it was the end of the world.

When Willie [Liam Mac Ualcaigh- bearded] Wilkie was married he felt emancipated and said ‘Py me noo Daddy!

‘Ah naw yer ein rod’ ill py you sarest. [Py=pay or correct]


Expressions that have been heard

He’s as thrawn as Wilkey’s cú (cow)

Take care or you might sing Robin Wilkey’s song: Sorry I was that did the like.

He’s as big in the head as Archie Doak

He’ll sup sorrow with the spoon of grief

He got a sevéndable basting [seven double?]

The poor- house milk is jibbling in him


Dear Frank and Jack

I have tried to jot down these things. You can use them as you see fit but if you do do not use my name it would leave me freer to carry on. Perhaps also some personal names could be put into Irish or camouflaged to make sure no one is offended. So over to you now.


Philip Lynch C.S.S.p


When some anecdotes were retold they were always found entertaining and interesting. I hope yourself and Jack find them so.


I am a bold undaunted youth

My name is John M’ Cann,

A native of sweet Donegal

Convenient to Strabane.

For the wooing of an heiress bride

I lay in Liffer Jail,

And her father swore he’d hang me

Foo his daughter Mary O Nale (o’Neill)


When six long months in irons cold

My love sent word to me:

“Don’t value my fathers’ anger

For I will set you free

Don’t value my fathers’ anger

For to Quebec we will sail

For there are made arrangements

To get you out of jail.”


Her well known voice it reached my ear

I soon the wall did scale,

No prison-guard was compromised

When she sprung me out of jail.

In darkest night out we set

To Derry we did go,

And she had bribed the coachman

And he let no-one know.


On the nineteenth of June in the afternoon

A heavy fog came on,

Our captain cried: “Look out brave boys

I fear we are all gone,

For our vessel on a sandbank

Has drifted with the gale”.

Forty were washed overboard

Along with Mary o’ Nale.


I searched in vain to find her

Confusion was all around

Not on deck nor underneath

Could my own true love be found.

I espied her yellow locks

Going floating with the gale,

And I jumped into the raging deep

And I saved my Mary o’ Nale.


I wrote her father a letter

She sealed it with her hand,

It told of our experience

Before we safe did land.

We soon received an answer

Her old man did not fail-

[£5] Five pounds a week I do receive

Along with Mary o’ Nale.



Manus O Cahan helped in a quarrel (civil war- fraternal) of the O’ Donnells at Srath (Strath) on river Finn near Ballybofey in 1548. I presume the fight was so intense that following the battle the place deserved the name of Srath an Orlann  or the Srath of what you would see on a filed of battle the following morning “scrios.”

Manus was killed. This flat stretch of low land is below Stranorlan.