Ulster Ancestry : Newsletter
The History of the little Town of Moville, County Donegal

Bishop Henry Montgomery was the great-grandson of Samuel Montgomery (the first Montgomery to settle in Moville, and the builder of Newpark House). The Bishop had nine children, one of whom was Field- Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery the Allied Commander of World War 11 fame.

He died at New Park in 1932, aged 85 years.

???Moville is by no means an ancient place of habitation. I have no certain information before the year 1768 about the neighbourhood, but in that year, Moville did not exist. Yet, the Lough there, must have been in use in some sense as a port in early days. An old map printed about three centuries ago places Moville several miles up in the direction of Culdaff, but I do not attach much value to that. Of course, there must have been farms for centuries scattered along both banks of the Bredach Glen, otherwise Cooley Church would never have been built. At the date, I have mentioned there was, of course, nothing like a hard road in our neighbourhood. Even England was without them to a great extent, until the advent of Macadam in 1750. All business in the wilds of Donegal was conducted on the backs of horses and donkeys; but to all such details, I propose to devote a separate article.

Let us now approach what is now Moville by the Derry road. As soon as you reach Sea View, Redcastle, that is, about a mile from the town, the first sight of it is obtained, and charming it looks when bathed in an afternoon sun. But in the middle of the 18th century, you would only have seen mountain, or agricultural land. Within the next mile, I shall have to note four changes in the direction of the old track. First, below you there is the Carrownaff Glen, with its steep banks, and just on this side of it, right in the course of the track, there used to be a very fine specimen of an ancient "domestic fortification," as Professor MacAlister terms such places. Just before it touched this earthwork the old track suddenly bent down to the right and descended at a very steep angle to the shore of the lough, passing a famous public-house, known still by name to our older inhabitants, as John Barrs, famed for its associations with smugglers, and the glen itself could assuredly tell many a tale of adventures in illicit traffic.

But let us return to that old "fortification." The remains still visible on the left side of the road show what a fine specimen it must have been. It is much larger and better defended than the other example close to the road between Moville and Greencastle. I hope the old track turned downhill in order to avoid injuring this circle as well as to overcome the difficulty of the steepness of the glen. Experts tell us that some of these circles were burying-places, especially when there was no gap in the embankment. But usually they were the residents of Irish families. Within this enclosure, they brought their sheep and cattle at night to guard them from wolves, as well as from robbers or human enemies, and within the circle were built their own wooden dwellings. Nearly 29,000 of these fortifications are probably still in existence in Ireland, some enclosing an acre, in which case it would be a village fortification. Without doubt, also there still exists in parts of Ireland a fear lest the destruction of one of these "forts" would bring ill luck to the destroyer.

Sixty years ago an old friend in Glenagivney, whose mind was full of legend, used to point out to me one of these forts below his house, but almost obliterated by the work of a neighbour in order to extend his field. After he had done the deed he felt a tickling one day beneath his eye, which continued until the eye melted away, and he became totally blind. The fairies had their revenge!

How this Carrownaff fort came to be destroyed will appear in due time. At present, let us descend again in imagination down the old and very steep track, to the once public house. It is not surprising that Barr kept horses always ready to help heavily laden carts up to the track above. A portion of John Barr's house is still visible as part of the present residence, which was built in due time by the late Mr. William Haslett.

I have nothing further to remark about the old track until we stand beside the gate of the present Presbyterian manse. From this spot I can tell of three distinct changes in the direction of the old road:

(1) When this path reached the spot where the Presbyterian Church now stands it turned at once to the left and passed down the river bank and made for the very ancient stone bridge, most fortunately still in existence, just opposite Gulladuff House. There was no other bridge in the old days but this. Having crossed the river at that spot, the track climbed the opposite bank, passed along the lane on the left of the present Rosebank, reached Ballynelly Lane, and proceeded on at the same level to Ballybrack on its way to Greencastle. Nor is it difficult to trace the old route all the way still.

(2) Once more, stand by the gates of the manse. Probably about 1775, a second bridge was required, and one was built which crossed the river at a spot about 100 yards down where the River-row now stands, and then passed on to where Moville now exists. The track to this bridge is the natural one to take, as anyone can understand who looks in that direction from the gate of the manse. It was at this second bridge that the accident befell Sir Andrew Ferguson, about the year 1808, which led to his death. Sir Andrew was the father of Sir Robert Ferguson, whose statue is familiar to Derry people.

This second bridge was swept away in 1828 by the greatest flood that has ever been recorded in the Moville River. It must have been caused by something like a cloudburst in the Bredach Glen. The flood swept down upon Gulladuff House, entirely submerged the old bridge, rose four feet within the house itself and then carried away that second bridge into the lough. An old friend tells me he remembers his father telling the story of the disaster and how he had helped to carry out the dripping furniture from the house into the sun.

(3) The third bridge is the present one built in 1829.


My great-grandfather, Samuel Montgomery was a wholesale and retail wine merchant in Derry. He was reared in Killaghtee (Dunkineely), where our family settled about 1628, and we still own part of this property acquired there three centuries ago.
I think Samuel Montgomery came into business in Derry about the year 1750. The firm was Montgomery and Gamble, but where the business premises were situated, I have never been able to discover. He lived in 13 London Street, which was, I suppose, considered in those days to be a fashionable street.

Here he reared a large family, and he and all belonging to him are buried in an altar tomb in St. Augustine's Church. The last to be brought there was my father, Sir Robert Montgomery, in 1887. There is no room there for any more of the family.

Samuel Montgomery came into the Killaghtee property in 1768, and in the same year he bought from Lord Donegal, on a lease of "three lives, renewable for ever," about 800 acres, Cunningham measure, in Ballynelly, called the seven ballyboes of Ballynelly. This was the beginning of Moville. My great-grandfather had married Mary Porter soon after 1768. Her father was surveyor of Greencastle, and she herself was a Cary of Carrowtrasna, near Shrove.

It is obvious; therefore, that Samuel Montgomery was intimately acquainted with the road from Derry along the lough and away to Shrove Head. He chose well for a site of his property, for his house, Newpark, seems to face exactly towards that fine hill, Benevenagh, across the lough, and also it possesses a South aspect. His demesne consisted of sixty Cunningham acres, and it will be locally interesting to know that it comprised all what is now Gortgowan, Ravenscliff and the Bath Green, and also extended up Ballynelly lane.
West of his demesne, and at the time of his purchase, there seemed to be something like a farm held by Owen Gubbon, and on my great- grandfathers estate there were the following tenants: - Hemphill, Kerland, McLaughlin, Gillane, M'Diard, Conally, Henry, M'Dowall, Morrison. I give the old spelling.

Samuel Montgomery built Newpark in 1774. At the same time he built the old mill, the remains of which are still to be seen below the big corn store, which I think may have been built soon after. The place was called the eighth (mill) ballyboe. Prices and figures of 170 years ago have an antiquarian interest, so I set down from the list in Samuel Montgomery's own hand writing the details of the building of Newpark and of the mill.

He built by day labour, and was apparently his own architect and clerk of the works and bought all materials. The house and "stable loft" cost ??693; enclosing walls, 639 perches of stone walls, ??71; 370 perches of ditches planted with white thorn, chestnuts, and sycamore, ??50; a corn mill and an addition to its house, ??130. In all, he spent ??1,000.

It may also be of interest locally that the avenue leading to the house from the road went straight on, leaving the house on its left and passing into the yard.

Up to the building of Newpark, Moville did not exist, for in 1780 my great grandfather gave a lease to Hugh Dougherty for a farm of thirty Cunningham acres, and the farm covered the whole area now occupied by the town of Moville. The lease reserves to the landlord the right-of-way to his mill, and also to the shore for the purpose of gathering "wreck".

The farmer's house was situate, I think, on the site of what is now the garage of Mc Connell's Hotel, and there was certainly a road by that time leading from that second bridge of which I have spoken through the town past Newpark and onward to Greencastle. How long Hugh Dougherty held his farm I do not know, and indeed, there was very little progress in house building in those early days.

In 1820, there were only fifty people in Moville. The first houses for additional families were built at the beginning of the Malin Road, on the side away from the river. I suppose all the neighbourhood knew a good deal of what we may call wild life, largely connected with smuggling, as I will now proceed to relate.

Mr. Samuel Montgomery died in 1803, and was succeeded by his son, the Rev. Samuel Law Montgomery, who became rector of Lower Moville in 1812 and lived in his own house, Newpark, there being no rectory.

In 1813, the Rector wrote the following letter to the Government:-
"Dear Sir - A military party has been at length stationed in our village, where a market is regularly held for the sale of whiskey brought from all parts of Inishowen, and to which purchasers daily resort from the counties of Derry and Antrim. Nothing is now wanting but the presence of Excise officers to put down this traffic, not more disgraceful to the individuals concerned in it than to the Government of the country by which it has been permitted to exist so long. I understand from the Collector of Excise that he finds a difficulty in procuring a sentinel for the protection of his officers, and I am very apprehensive that without a guard these persons would not be safe. I hope I do not take too great a liberty in respectfully soliciting your orders to that effect . . . "

It is clear that the military presence referred to above indicated the arrival of soldiers at the Fort at Greencastle.
The two Martello towers one on each side of the entrance to the lough, date from the year 1812. The scare of a Napoleonic landing on any part of the British Isles led the Duke of Wellington to advise the erection of these forts on all parts of our coasts. In regard to the fear expressed by the soldiers, there was certainly ground for it. I suppose the whole of the inhabitants were engaged in the illicit trade.

My father, born in 1809, used to tell of an incident that occurred when he was but a child at Newpark.

One day a smuggler was seen galloping down from Greencastle into Moville with kegs of whiskey slung across his saddle. About 100 yards behind him, also riding, came the excise man; thought, as he was smoking a pipe, he could hardly have been in the same hurry as his potential victim. Anyhow, as he passed along the hedge where the church now stands, a man concealed behind the hedge fired at the excise man and shot the pipe clean out of his mouth! !

Part 2 will be published in next months newsletter

Research Services Free Pages FAQ
Ulster Ancestry 2004-2007. Opt-in E-Mail Newsletter - All Rights Reserved. Ulster Ancestry

You have subscribed to receive this newsletter via an opt-in mailing list on www.ulsterancestry.com. To be removed from this list, simply reply to this newsletter with the word UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line. Removals may take up to 48 hours.