The church of St. Colman, Massforth, Kilkeel.



























                                                                             Ballymagart Mill House in the 1980s.


This house was most probably built my Christopher who lived at Ballymagart in the late 1700s before moving to Drumcrow. The oral tradition has it that the pitch of the dwelling house roof was originally the same as that of the adjoining building and both were thatched. Sometime in the nineteenth century the thatch was removed and the walls of the dwelling house were increased in height. When thatched the windows on the upper floor appeared as dormer windows.

Ten years later, in 1789, with seven years of their 31 year lease, taken out in 1765, still to run, Patrick and Richard gave up possession of Ballymagart in favour of Pat’s two sons, James and Christopher who secured a new lease in that year from William Scott of  the Basin, Newry, to run for 999 years.

Following the Catholic Relief Act of 1792, various Marmions who had been in occupation of their farms for years before that date were granted leases by the Nedham family who later became the Earls of Kilmorey. The 1793 act created a class of tenants known as ‘forty shilling freeholders’ and these were also given the right to vote in parliamentary elections. The Nedhams had political ambitions and were keen to create voters, hence the granting of leases. In return for a lease tenants were expected to vote for the Nedham interest.

James Marmion married Jane Magenis, from Ballella, further north in the Co. Down about 30k from Kilkeel. She came from what had been quite a wealthy family. The name ‘Ballella’ was applied to a district which contained a number of townlands, it had no definable boundary.

This family was a junior branch of the ‘Magenis family of Iveagh’. Involvement in wars and rebellions had cost them dearly, most of their lands having been confiscated. Jane’s brother John succeeded in being elected as one of the Co. Down representatives to the Catholic Convention or the ‘Back Lane Parliament’, as it was known, which met in Dublin in 1792. The elections for this body were conducted after Sunday Mass. At this time in most Co. Down parishes Mass was celebrated out of doors or in private houses, only a small number had churches.

The Catholic Convention sought the removal of various penal laws which operated against the Catholic interest. A petition was drawn up for submission to the King and John Magenis was one of the signatories. He was later suspected of being one of the principal leaders of the ‘Defender’ movement. This body together with the United Irishmen were involved in the 1798 rebellion.

James Marmion took his new bride home to Mourne to reside at Lurganconary and called his house Janebrook in honour of her. Her uncle Roger, Jane’s father having died, arranged a marriage dowry of £400 and the usual marriage settlement was entered into and witnessed among others by her two brothers John and Roger Magenis.

1890s Leases in ‘1813 Kilmorey Rental.’
Drummon(more).
Patrick Marmion
Lease dated – 1 November 1792. Term – 41 years.
Acreage: 21a.0r.27p.
Lives; Richard, William and James Marmion.
Rent - £11.12.10. Would set at (in 1813) £38.00.00

Drumcrow
Richard Marmion
Lease dated 1 Oct 1793. Term – 41 years.
Acreage: 40a.1r.10p.
Lives; Thompson, Moore and Stevenson.
Rent - £14.16.08. Would set at £55.00.00
This was the farm Richard passed on to his nephew Christopher in 1803, yet Richard’s name still on the rental.

In a later land transaction (1825) we find a Patrick and James Marmion taking a lease, in October 1793, on a Lurganconnery farm of 30a.1r.4p, for 41 years and for the lives of Charles Lewis and Peter Doran. The third life which had passed away was not named.

It is worth noting that the fields in this townland are much bigger than most Mourne fields. They are very neatly laid out and bounded by hedges and ditches planted with quick thorn and a variety of trees. The Drumcrow farm owned by Richard Marmion is similarly arranged as is that of Brent Spencer in Ballyardle. We have already pointed out Spencer’s involvement in the 1750s with the Down Society for the Promotion of Agriculture. This society awarded premiums – ‘nine pence per perch, provided that the claimant hath made twenty perches’ – to encourage hedging and ditching. Not only did Spencer avail of the premiums but it would appear that the Marmion brothers, Pat and Richard, did likewise. Having rented the Ballymagart mill from him he may have encouraged them to apply for the premiums.

The James mentioned in the above lease we know to be James of ‘Janebrook’ since he later disposed of his half share. The Patrick may have been a brother. When James sold his share (1825), Patrick was deceased as was a William who succeeded him. The farm most probably lay adjacent to the house.
We know he was also carrying on the business of linen draper at these premises as the following report appeared in the Belfast Newsletter of 26-30th August 1791,

‘Elizabeth Crilly for feloniously taking out of the Bleachyard of James Marmion of Lurganconnery sixty yards of linen cloth value £3 sterling; found guilty to the value of 4/6 – to be transported for seven years’.

While there is no evidence to-day for the mill mentioned in the Atkinson deed a close scrutiny of early ordnance survey maps appears to indicate traces of a mill race. It emerges from the Whitewater River, flows alongside the gable of a building and re-enters the river further down. The mill may not have been very efficient, there is no evidence of a mill pond or dam. The race would have undershot the mill wheel and when the river was in flood the tail race would have back filled leaving the mill inoperable while the flooding lasted.

It may have closed in the early 1800s when bleaching was on the decline. If it belonged to the Atkinson family, as it did in 1783, it may well have been sublet to the Marmions prior to their leasing of Ballymagart. These two families had close friendships and business ties.

Flaxgrowers’ Reurns 1796.
This report lists seven Marmions who were awarded premiums for flax growing. There may well have been other Marmion families who were not flax growers and who are not named on this list. These families were all believed to have all been related.

To return to the original brothers Patrick and Richard, we know that Patrick had a family but the evidence seems to indicate that Richard was possibly a batchelor or had no children because in 1803 he conveyed his farm in the townland of Drumcrow to his nephew Christopher. Presumably he would not have done so if he had had any family to succeed him.

The Marmion names on the Flaxgrowers list are well known. They contain a James and a James Jun., a Richard Sen., and two other Richards, a William and a Christopher. James Jun. was obviously not a son of James of Lurganconary (later of Bellhill). This James married in 1790, he died 1843 aged 85 years.

Christopher, his brother, died 1850 in his 85th year; he married later than James, probably about 1803 when his uncle Richard passed his Drumcrow farm on to him, and he too appears to have had no children. His wife Charity (known as Mary) Magenis would have been approximately forty years old when they married; she died  in 1856 aged 93/4 years, five months before Jane, her sister and the widow of James, who died in 1856 in her 100th year.

There is evidence to suggest that the William listed might also be a brother of James and Christopher. He appears to have married in the late 1790s. His name, together with that of James, is given in a list of linen drapers published in The Newsletter of 2-5 September 1796. He also inherited Patrick’s half of the Lurganconary farm mentioned above.

We are now left with a James Jun., and two Richards, where do they fit into the family? They appear not to have been the children of any of the three brothers nor of Richard Sen., One of the Richards may have been a forth brother but we cannot be certain, nor can we say anything about James Jun. To further complicate matters a John Marmain (sic) is listed as living in the townland of Kilkeel in 1803. We are left with the possibility that Pat and Richard, lessees of Ballymagart mill, may have had other brothers.

A Richard Marmion was living in Kilkeel in 1797 (see below). A person of the same name was living there in 1814 and also in 1840. Another Richard is named on the passenger list of the brig ‘Factor’ which sailed from Newry to New York on the 20th June, 1817. On the same list are a James and John Doran. In the townland of Lurganreagh, next to Lurganconary, lived a Doran family. This family had a long friendship with the Marmions and later intermarried with them; also in Drummond beside Pat Marmion’s farm lived another Doran family.

It is strange that no Patrick Marmions are listed among the Flaxgrowers of 1796, perhaps they did not grow sufficient flax to warrant a premium
The 1798 rebellion.

In the north of Ireland this rebellion was restricted largely to counties Antrim and Down with two major engagements at Ballynahinch in Co. Down and Antrim town.
The northern revolt was quickly suppressed and that in the south shortly thereafter.

It was over so quickly that potential rebels in south Down did not have time to become involved.  In June the Marmions, James and Christopher were arrested by the Argyle Fencibles and taken under armed guard to Newry were they were held in the Bridewell. While they were there two executions took place; that of a man called Lowens and another of a youth aged 16 years, called Clokey. This lad was a son of Joseph Clokey of Ballynahinch who was heavily involved in the rebellion.

James and Christopher were released from custody, largely it seems, through the intervention of influential friends. They were fortunate to escape with their lives. The authorities were keen to get their hands on Christopher. He, together with a Hugh Cunningham, had been brought before the court during the previous lent assizes and charged with maiming cattle but the charge was dismissed. The deliberate maiming of an opponent’s cattle, terrible as it may seem now, was a common occurrence in those years. If there had been any evidence to substantiate this charge these men would most certainly not have been freed.

At the Summer Assizes he was charged with shooting at a revenue officer but again the charge was thrown out. The Marmions, with other very prominent Mourne families, were long suspected of being involved in smuggling. The Custom’s House Letter Book of the period makes mention of their names.

Captain Alexander Chesney, had fought on the loyalist side during the American War of Independence and on his return to Ireland had been placed in charge of the Revenue men at Mourne. They were required to put an end to the smuggling. Not only did Chesney keep a close eye on the smuggling activities of the Marmions he also suspected that they were involved in seditious activities.

In September 1797 he reported to the authorities in Dublin Castle that a certain James Quin of Carginagh had been taken by William Cunningham to the house of Richard Marmion in Kilkeel where he (James) was ‘made a United Irishman’. This Richard, I suspect, was a brother of James and Christopher. Chesney by this date was in charge of a corps of yeomanry which he had helped raise in the Mourne area. They were established by government in 1796. Many were formed around the newly established Orange Lodges. The lodges were perceived as ultra-loyal and seen as a counter balance to the militia regiments which were believed to be heavily infiltrated by the Defender movement.

The authorities would have been well aware of the Marmion connection with the Magenis family. John Magenis, ever since his involvement with the Catholic Convention, was suspect and closely watched by government. He was also believed to be one of the principal leaders of the Defender movement. The composition of this organisation was mainly Catholic although John’s very close friend and Presbyterian neighbour, Alexander Lowry, was thought to be a member of both it and the United Irish movement.

John Magenis – Defender Leader.
John Magenis as previously stated was a brother in law of both James and Christopher Marmion. His family once quite wealthy were by the 1790s in fairly straitened circumstances. Although he is frequently referred to as ‘of Ballella’ he lived in the townland of Ballymacilreiney in the Ballella district. His father, Arthur, and his mother Jane (Savage) were both dead by 1790 and his uncle Roger, who was very comfortably off, took an interest in the welfare of John and his siblings.

Uncle Roger appears to have been highly regarded, as a list of 93 names published in the Newsletter, April 1789, would indicate. This list, a veritable ‘who’s who’ of east and south Down, was comprised largely of Protestant names. It was published in the Belfast Newsletter after Roger’s home was attacked at night by a group of men when he and his wife were asleep. Those listed offered various sums of money in return for information which might lead to the arrest of any of the attackers who called themselves, ‘Break of Day Men’. Roger headed the list with an offer of £100.

This organisation later evolved into the ‘Orange Order’. On entering the Magenis home they demanded that Roger hand over any arms he possessed. When told that there were none they proceeded to wreck the house, inside and out, and threatened to return.

Roger had apprenticed his nephew, John, to the Lisburn linen draper Luke Teeling and paid £200 for the privilege. On completion of his apprenticeship Roger paid John a further £500. The Teelings were an old Catholic family of County Meath and Luke had married Mary Taafe, a descendant of the Taafes of Smarmore castle, County Louth. This family was also related to the Earls of Carlingford.

Young John caught the eye of Luke’s daughter Betty and they were married sometime in the 1790s. Both families were well acquainted and Luke had also been elected to the ‘Back Lane Parliament’ as a representative for Co. Antrim.

In a letter dated 4th December 1795 written by the Under Secretary Edward Cooke of Dublin Castle to the Chief Secretary Pelham, Cooke had stated ‘we have at present a real clue to Defenderism if we can follow it home’. He went on to say that he had sent an agent to the north of Ireland expressly to investigate this organisation and claimed that the agent had identified John Magenis as ‘the real head of the Defenders’.

The agent was a renegade Franciscan priest, known as Friar Philips who had been excommunicated by his church. He claimed to have visited a Patrick Callaghan at Ballella who he alleged was Magenis’ secretary and while there he saw correspondence and stamps for marking Defender papers which he claimed clearly identified Magenis as head of this organisation. He went on to write, ‘John Magenis is of an old Roman Catholic family; a respectable tenant under Lord Downshire. Philips was with him and he acknowledged himself to be the Grand Master of Defenders to Philips’. The Defender organisation like that of the Orange Order was modelled on Freemasonry.

The Friar proceeded on his way to Belfast where sometime later his body was retrieved from the river Lagan. In May 1797, a group of northern United Irish and Defender leaders, Magenis included, made their way south to Dublin and met with the
United Irish leadership of the Leinster Directory. They argued that the time was ripe for rebellion but the southerners claimed that without French assistance their cause could not succeed.

The Ulster men returned home in some desperation. The ‘Dragooning of Ulster’, under General Lake had commenced the previous March and much of the province was in turmoil. Mass arrests were underway, prisoners were frequently tortured and many, on the order of a magistrate, were dispatched to serve in the fleet. The people were under strict orders to surrender all arms not legally held.  The penalties not to do so were severe.

Homes were regularly burned and in Mourne, the Davidsons, a Presbyterian family living at Cranfield, neighbours and close friends of the Marmions, had their home burned by the local yeomanry under Captain Gustavus Matthews. Matthews who formed the first Orange Lodge in Mourne was later found to have acted illegally despite the local rector the Rev. Lucas Waring writing to Dublin Castle in support of him and the Davidsons were compensated; a most unusual occurrence.

Meanwhile the northern leaders or more precisely the Co. Down men had determined to go it alone. They had consulted with Co. Antrim and while they got a non-committal response they were hopeful that in the event of success Antrim would also turn out but this was not to be.

Magenis and his brother in law, Bartholomew Teeling, together with Lowry and a Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Arthur McMahon managed to assemble between 1000 and 1300 men in the neighbourhood of the Magenis home between Kate’s Bridge and Castlewellan. No sooner had they assembled than there was a quarrel and a Dr. Malcolmson with about three hundred men withdrew. Meanwhile the 22nd Light Dragoons were on their way from Dromore and The Welsh Horse, also known as The Ancient Britons, were proceeding from Newry.

The rebel force took flight and scattered over the mountainous terrain of south Down. This would appear to be the event Allan Macdonnell alludes to in his letter of 1898. While it is frequently referred to as having happened in 1798 it occurred twelve months previously. It would appear that Magenis and his brother in law, Teeling, sought the help of the Marmions of Ballymagart.
Bartholomew Teeling – executed 1798.
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