Rostrevor - Story of Belfast

EVERY tourist who has seen the placid restful little town echoes the words so often used "Beautiful Rostrevor." Every guide-book repeats the same and adds, " the sweetest little village under the sun." Words are but a poor medium to express the loveliness of all the surroundings, the wide waters of the bay with the purple-topped mountains of Carlingford in the distance, and the rugged slopes of the Mourne Mountains on the landward side. The silver waters of the river gleaming through the trees, the beautiful old houses with their grassy lawns, and the trees that have stood for hundreds of years, all go to create a picture that lives long in memory.

I do not know any place where there are so many beautiful old houses grouped together within such a short distance from each other. The "Woodhouse," with an exquisite view from its terrace, the "Lodge," with its spreading trees and its famous aviary and well-known collection of animals brought from all parts of the world. Here the snow-white sacred cow from India calmly grazes side by side with a fiery little black bison, and other strange animals with wide-spreading horns, and all live most contentedly together in the fields on the hill-side, while the Indian and Egyptian water-fowl are happy on the river. Then comes "Fairy Hill," and truly a more appropriate name could not have been found for such a place. The "Old Hall" and the "Ghan" are like a breath of other days. "Bladensburgh" is a beautiful demesne, and across the road stands "Carpenham," which takes its curious name from the three first syllables of Caroline Penelope Hamilton, which make the word Carpenham. The trees here are most wonderful. The view at "Arno's Vale" and the "Doctor's Walk" must be seen to be understood, and indeed the road to Warrenpoint is a picture all the way.

We may see Rostrevor in the early spring time, when the first primroses appear, or later on when the March winds have shaken out the golden bells of the daffodils, which bloom in thousands under the old trees, or when the wild cherry trees are laden with their snowy burden and make the hill-side of Slieve Bân a thing of beauty. When the glory of summer days has gone, and autumn touches the face of nature with its crimson and gold, the trees along the river-side vie with each other in tints of russet red and golden brown. Then winter comes, and we think each changing season is lovelier than the last, for the glossy green of the holly trees weighed down with the vivid scarlet of the berries against the sober colour of the firs, seems the loveliest picture of the year. Cold and frost do not linger long in Rostrevor's salubrious climate, for the snow may lie in patches beside the "big stone" of Cloughmore, or touch lightly the emerald colour of the "Fiddler's Green," but snow and winter's cold never live long here. Beautiful Rostrevor! it is well named, always fair and smiling, always a haven of rest and peace, a place to go to when we want time to pick up the ravelled threads of life again, and find a quiet breathing-space out of everyday cares and worries. But,—enough about the harmonious beauty of the place, Rostrevor has a very ancient history, and has borne many names. The oldest name is Carrickavraghad, and it was next called Castle Roe and finally Rostrevor. The massive castle, once the stronghold of Rory McGennis, one of the lords of Iveagh—stood near the centre of the town, but now there is not a solitary vestige of the ancient castle left. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the place passed into the hands of Sir Marmaduke Whitchurch, and the story of that old romance is worth telling over again. I shall endeavour to do so and condense it as much as possible.

The chieftain of McGennis and the rightful lord of Iveagh was outlawed from his home, and a price was set upon his head. Sir Marmaduke Whitchurch was made owner of the estate, and lived in the ancestral home of Castle Roe. McGennis loved Sir Marmaduke's fair daughter Eva, but his suit seemed hopeless.

One evening, as he was in a boat on the lough, the old boatman told him that night was falling and spoke of the danger of passing Castle Roe. He knew that if any of Sir Marmaduke's men caught sight of the son of their enemy near the castle, he would soon adorn the highest tree in the forest, and be esteemed the most precious fruit it could bear. But the young chieftain was in a reckless mood, and he landed at the little cove and wandered on to the castle, which was the dearest spot on earth to him, and was filled with recollections of the past. Now it was the home of his beloved Eva. The moon was shining softly through the long rows of stately trees, silence reigned supreme, broken only by the murmurs of the ocean as the waves kissed the pebbly beach. He scaled the rampart of the castle at a remote corner, and every window was dark, but one which looked out upon a lawn. Since he was a little child, he had not entered his father's halls, or passed the boundary wall.

At the open window sat Rose Whitchurch and young Edward Trevor, who was a favourite captain of Queen Elizabeth's, and afterwards Baron of Dungannon. They were to be married the next morning.

Sir Marmaduke sat farther from the window with the light from the torches falling on his grey hair and handsome face, while close beside him sat his youngest and best-beloved daughter, Eva. "To-morrow, Rose," he said, "you leave this place for ever. Wood and mountain, hill and valley, sea and sequestered glen, which you know and love so well, after to-morrow will know you no more!" "Oh! say not so, father," she cried passionately, "I could not bear the thought of leaving Castle Roe and all its charms for ever.

Look out, Trevor, and you too, Eva, where would you find on earth a scene of such exquisite beauty? See, the moon touches the tree tops with her silver light, and tinges the faint outline of the distant Foy, and castellated cliffs of Carlingford. See there on the broad breast of Slieve Bân, where Clochmore sits, a feathery cloud rests like a crown upon her brow. Where can the eye take in at one glance so much? Oh! it is as beautiful as—" "Yourself," exclaimed the enraptured lover. "Ay, Rose, as you and Trevor," interposed Sir Marmaduke. "From this night it shall no more be known as Castle Roe, but shall be called Rose Trevor!" McGennis waited long, but could not get a chance of speech with Eva. She had been kept a prisoner in her father's castle, when he heard of her secret meetings with the son of his old enemy. The next night, he braved the walls again, and was taken prisoner. He heard Eva entreating her father to spare his life, and he with stern voice swear that the next morning would see him hung from the highest tree. Shut in the dungeon keep, there seemed no hope left, but Eva came in the night and set him free. She fled with him, and there on the rugged brow of Slieve Môr they were joined in holy wedlock by the waiting priest. For two years they lived in perfect happiness as only those who live for each other know, but death had marked the gentle Eva for his own, and now a granite-covered grave marks her resting-place in Kilbroney.