DESERTOGHILL, a parish

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

DESERTOGHILL, a parish, in the barony of COLERAINE, county of LONDONDERRY, and province of ULSTER, 1 mile (S. E.) from Garvagh; containing 4701 inhabitants. This parish is intersected by the road from Dublin to Coleraine, and according to the Ordnance survey contains 11,469 ½ statute acres, of which about 6309 are arable, 2867 pasture, and 2293 bog, or waste land. The soil, though thin, is tolerably well cultivated, and produces abundant crops. The inhabitants combine with their agricultural pursuits the weaving of linen cloth in their own houses. The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Derry, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £290. The glebe-house is a small old building on the glebe townland of Meettigan, in the parish of Errigal, which comprises 370 acres, 30 of which are on the southern side of the river, in the parish of Desertoghill, besides a plot of seven acres contiguous to the ruins of the old church. The present church is a large edifice, in the ancient style of English architecture, built in 1784, partly at the expense of Dr. Hervey, afterwards Earl of Bristol, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £227. 4. 1. for its repair; it stands in the townland of Moyletra, one mile south of the old church. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, also called Kilrea, comprising the parishes of Desertoghill, Tamlaght-O'Crilly, and Kilrea, and containing three chapels, one here and two in Tamlaght-O'Crilly.

A large and handsome meeting-house is now being built at Moneydig for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster. The parochial school at Ballyagan is supported by the rector; there are two schools under the Mercers' Company, two under the Ironmongers' Company, one under the National Board, and four others, also a private school. St. Columbkill here founded an abbey, which afterwards became parochial, but the old church, though now a picturesque ruin, does not bear evidence of such remote antiquity as some others in the neighbourhood; in 1622 it was one of the very few in the county that were in perfect repair. Not far distant from the old church is a small fortress; and in an adjoining field is an artificial cave of considerable extent, having three chambers or galleries. A curious stone, wherein are two small and rude founts, considered by the peasantry to be the impress of the knees of St. Columbkill while praying, stands in the churchyard. Half a mile above Garvagh is a curious encampment, called the Bonny Fort; and not far distant is a smaller one, called Roughfort: both appear to have been constructed to protect the mountain pass.

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