Antrim History

Exploring Layde Graveyard – Darragh & McCurry

Exploring Layde Graveyard – Darragh & McCurry

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien


According to Phil Harding of Time Team fame “archaeology is not just about digging holes in the ground”.[1] This article is an archaeological dig into the records of history.

In graveyards digging holes in the ground is not generally allowed unless a burial is due to take place. Yet still academic archaeology is possible in a graveyard. The inscription on a headstone usually gives the name of the deceased, date of death, residence of the deceased and possibly next-of-kin. From such information it is possible to archaeologically dig into the archives and put some more information onto the life of the decease beyond the bare facts inscribed on a headstone.

This article takes the information on a headstone in Layde graveyard in the Glens of Antrim and explores what further information can be unearthed from the records. “The old graveyard at Layde is one of the oldest and most important historical site in the Glens of Antrim”, so says the introduction to the book Survey of Layde Graveyard, published by the Glens of Antrim Historical Society.[2]

The headstone chosen for this article is number 110 in the Survey book. This was chosen because the principal deceased person buried there died in 1906 and so falls between the two published census returns of 1901 and 1911. The inscription reads = HIS/Erected/by/Rose Darragh/in loving memory of/her mother/Jane Darragh of Clough/who died 26th March 1906/aged 72 years/also above Rose Darragh/died 10th Nov 1933 aged 63 years/& her sister Lizzie McCurry/died 1st Feby 1937 aged 94.[3]

Another Darragh headstone

Grave number 110 is not the only Darragh headstone in Layde graveyard as grave number 30 mentions John Darragh (died 17th July 1854 aged 21), nephew of Duncan McKeegan of Falmacrilly.[4]


1901 census

As the principal person, Jane Darragh, died in 1906 the first record to examine is the 1901 census. Here we meet the first challenge of our archaeological dig into the past. The townland where Jane Darragh lived as given in 1906 was Clough But this name is not in the 1901 census. Instead the census return records the townland name as Cloghs.[5] In the so-called “Census of 1659” Clough is recorded as Cloches in the parish of Layde and in the barony of Glenarm.[6] In the 1901 census Cloghs was in the Barony of Lower Glenarm; in the District Electoral Division of Cushendall; in the Poor Law Union of Ballycastle and in the Parliamentary District of Mid Antrim.[7]

M.P. for Mid Antrim 1901

The Hon. Robert Torrens O’Neill was the M.P. for Mid Antrim in 1901 and held the seat from 1885 to 1910, first for the Conservative Party and from 1886 for the Unionist Party. He first contested the vacant second seat for Co. Antrim in May 1885 as a Conservative but lost to the Liberal candidate, W.P. Sinclair. Following the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885 twenty-two town boroughs were disenfranchised and Counties Down and Antrim were divided into parliamentary divisions. One of these was the constituency of Mid Antrim. In the general election of December 1885 the Hon. Robert T. O’Neill won Mid Antrim.[8]

The Hon. Robert T. O’Neill (born 1845) was the second son of the 1st Baron O’Neill, Rev. William Chichester who was the eldest son of Rev. Edward Chichester and a collated branch of the Marquis of Donegall. In 1855 Rev. William Chichester succeeded to the estates of his cousin, Earl O’Neill (extinct) of Shanes Castle, Co. Antrim and took the surname of O’Neill.[9]

Darragh house in 1901

The 1901 census records seven people in the Darragh household on census night. Everyone was both in County Antrim and all were Roman Catholics. In fact, all 98 people living in the townland of Cloghs were Roman Catholics. Jane Darragh was head of the household and aged 67. The headstone inscription gives her age in 1906 as 72 years which corresponds correctly with that given in the 1901 census. By 1901 Jane Darragh was widow. She gave her occupation as farmer and couldn’t read.[10]

Neal Darragh (aged 70) was a brother-in-law of Jane Darragh and a widower. He could read and write and speak both Irish and English – the only person in the house who claimed both languages.[11] Only seven other people in the townland claimed they could speak both languages.

Jane Darragh had her daughter, Lizzy McCurry, living in the house along with two step daughters and two step sons. Lizzy McCurry was a widow in 1901 and aged 28 years. She could read and write and gave no occupation. As the census return records, Jane Darragh was the only member of the household to give an occupation.

The two step daughters were Mary Darragh (aged 32 years), and write and Jane Darragh (aged 26 years), both ladies were single and could read and write. The two step sons were Archibald Darragh (aged 40 years) and John Darragh (aged 32 years), and both could read and write.[12]

The Darragh house was number thirteen out of seventeen houses in Cloghs townland. Jane Darragh was head of the household but Archibald Darragh was the owner of the house. The house was classified as a third class house and was built of stone with a thatched roof and two windows in the front of the house. The family had use of two rooms within the house.[13]

The Darragh family had ten outbuildings around the dwelling house. These consisted of one stable, one coach house, two cow houses, one calf house, one dairy, two piggery’s, one foul house and one barn. The Darragh family had more outbuildings than anybody else in Cloghs townland. Between four and six outbuildings was the usual for the other inhabitants of the townland.[14]

1911 census

In 1911 there were six people living in the Darragh house, three brothers (all single) and three sisters (two girls single), namely, Archibald Darragh (aged 53 years, farmer and head of the family), Neil Darragh (aged 53 years, farmer), John Darragh (aged 44 years, farmer), Mary Darragh (aged 44 years, domestic), Lizzie McCurry (aged 38 years, domestic), and Jane Darragh (aged 35 years, domestic).[15] The ages of Archibald, John and Mary have gained more than ten years between 1901 and 1911 while Jane Darragh only gained nine years. Neil Darragh does not appear in the 1901 census and may have lived overseas at that time.

The Darragh house was enlarged before 1911 and had three rooms and four windows at the front of the house. There were eight outbuildings (down two on 1901).[16] These were one stable, one cow house, one calf house, one piggery, one foul house, one barn, one turf house and one shed. John Blayney had the most outbuildings in 1911 with twenty-two buildings, up substantially from the six he had in 1901.

1891 census

In the 1891 census there were 50,027 people living in 9,899 houses in the constituency of Mid Antrim (an occupancy rate of 5.05 people per house). In the Petty Sessions District of Cushendall there were 4,083 people living in 151 townlands and occupying 860 houses (an occupancy rate of 4.75 people per house).[17] The District Electoral Division of Cushendall contained 7,756 acres and had 1,413 people living in 304 houses (an occupancy rate of 4.65 people per house) with 940 outbuildings (about 3 outbuildings per house).[18]

In the 1891 census 132 people (68 male, 64 female) lived in the townland of Cloghs in 26 houses. This gives an occupancy rate of 5.07 people per house; the parish average was 4.75 people per house. Also in 1891 there were 116 outbuildings or 4.46 per dwelling house (parish average 3.14 outbuildings per dwelling house).[19]

In the parish of Layde there were 605 families and 2,773 people of whom 2,309 were Roman Catholics, 332 were Church of Ireland, 133 Presbyterian and I Methodist.[20] In the constituency of Mid Antrim Presbyterians were in the majority with 30,681 people out of a population of 50,027 – Roman Catholics numbered 11,318 people.[21]

In terms of literacy 1,724 people in Layde parish could read and write while 432 could read only and 969 were illiterate. There were nine schools in the parish.[22] The age profile of the parish was 389 people under seven years, 132 people between seven and nine years, 192 people between nine and twelve years, 534 people between twelve and twenty years, 647 people between twenty and forty years and 879 people aged over forty years – a parish with a young population.[23]

1882 rent reductions

In June 1882 John and Archibald Darragh received rent reductions from the Earl of Antrim for their land in the townland of Clough through the judgement of the Irish Land Commission. At that time John Darragh rented 25 acres from the Earl at £10 0s 10d per year. The Poor Law Valuation was £10. The Land Commission reduced the rent to £7 4s.

Archibald Darragh rented 36 acres from the Earl of Antrim at £22 on a Poor Law Valuation of £19 5s. The Land Commission reduced this rent to £17 5s. The 61 acres in total was a reduction on the 83 acres the family had in 1852. This may not be a real reduction but due to the absence of full information.[24]

1881 census

In the 1881 census 162 people lived in 29 houses in the townland of Cloghs.[25]

1880 distress

Diging further into the past we find the reason for the 1882 rent reductions. The economic depression coupled with a few years of bad weather in the late 1870s created distress across the country that approached the worst of the Great Famine. The area around Layde and Cushendall was described as the worst conditions since the Famine. The potato crop was almost a total failure and the turf supplies all used up. Because farmers got poor prices for their crops and livestock they were unable to employ labourers with the consequence of mass unemployment. The local clergy and gentry were besieged by people seeking aid. About 50 families or about 200 people were in the most distressed state. One head of a family of nine had neither money nor any food.[26] These distress conditions put pressure on people’s ability to pay their rents and rents went into arrears. The rent reductions of 1882 were the result.

1871 census

Digging further down into the past we come to the 1871 census. Because of the destruction of the individual census return forms before 1901 we are left with just the gross figures for the population and cannot follow individual families and people as can be done in 1901 and 1911 census returns. In the 1871 census 181 people lived in 33 houses in the townland of Cloghs.[27]

1861 census

In the 1861 census the townland of Cloghs had 175 people (87 male, 88 female). This was down from 189 people in 1851, a fall of about 7.5%. The parish population fell about 3.4% in the same decade. There were 34 inhabited houses in the townland along with 3 uninhabited and one under construction. This gives an occupancy rate of 5.2 people per house (the parish average was 5.3 people per house). The Poor Law valuation in in 1861 was £484 5s, an increased from the 1851 valuation of £424 15s. This was despite a fall of eight acres in the area of the townland.[28]

Griffith’s Valuation c.1852

At the time of Griffith’s Valuation (about 1852) John and Archibald Darragh rented plots 8a and 8b from the Earl of Antrim in the townland of Cloghs in the parish of Layde. This Earl of Antrim with an address at Glenarm Castle was Hugh Seymour, 4th Earl of the 2nd creation, who in 1835 assumed the surname of McDonnell and died in 1855 to be succeeded by his brother Mark McDonnell.[29]

The two plots rented by John and Archibald Darragh consisted of two houses, outbuildings and land. The land totalled 83 acres 2 roots and was worth £9 (plot 8a) and £18 (plot 8b) separately. A big area of land with a low valuation points to poor, rough land. The buildings on plot 8a were worth £1 15s and the buildings on plot 8b were worth £1. Neal Darragh rented a house on plot 8c from John and Archibald Darragh worth 5s. John O’Hara, a progressive farmer in Co. Antrim said in 1847 that ten to twelve Irish acres or sixteen to nineteen statue acres were minimum needed for a farmer to live who did not have an off farm income such as linen weaving. The Darragh family had more than the minimum even if the land quality was not the greatest. The total area of the townland was 1,349 acres 3 roots and 18 perches.[30]

1851 census

Digging further into the past history we come upon the 1851 census. Parts of the individual returns for this census survive for parts of County Antrim but unfortunately a search of the Darragh surname came across 93 people of that name in the county but none from Layde parish. Thus we are just left with the gross population figures for Cloghs and Layde.

In 1851 the townland of Cloghs in the parish of Layde had 189 people (105 male, 84 female). This was down from 276 in the 1841 census (31% decline), the decade of the Great Famine. The total parish population fell about 9% in those ten years. There were 30 houses in the townland (down 16 on 1841 figures). This gives an occupancy rate of 6.3 people per house which is moving towards the overcrowding level. The parish average was 5.74 people per house and 5.77 if you include the urban areas of Cushendall, etc.[31]

1841 census

In the 1841 census the townland of Cloghs had 276 people (135 male, 141 female). There were 46 inhabited houses and 2 uninhabited houses. This gives an occupancy rate of 6 people per house (5.7 was the parish average – 5.85 if you include the urban areas).[32]

1837 Layde parish

In 1837 Samuel Lewis described Layde as a parish of about 20,000 acres of which one third was arable. The low lying ground was good for crops but the mountain areas were only of rough pasture. In the Roman Catholic division Layde parish was known as Cushendall parish and was head of a union of parishes with a chapel at Cushendall and Redbay. There were six schools in the parish including a national school and parochial school with over 400 students.[33]


Darragh headstone and inscription in Layde graveyard

Earlier history

They say when you are in trouble you should stop digging a hole. For this armchair archaeologist historian the 1830s are as far back in history we can go. In other counties the Tithe Applotment records are online but no such online records exist for County Antrim. Parts of the individual returns for 1831 census survive but a search for the Darragh family only gave records for 60 people of that name in County Derry.

Some earlier records exist relating to the property of the Earl of Antrim such as his interests in 1637 in Cloghs which he granted Donal McCauley.[34] In 1796 Anna, Countess of Antrim made a lease of land to various people in Cloghs but no mention of the Darragh family.[35] A search of items in the Earl of Antrim paper at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland or in the Registry of Deeds in Dublin may unearth pre 1840 records for the Darragh family but this is the end of this archaeological dig into the past begun with a headstone in the old graveyard of Layde in the heart of the Glens of Antrim.

Real archaeology

For those interested in get your hands dirty real archaeology style the townland of Cloghs has two sand stone quarries, two lime stone quarries and a cromlech with a flax mill just over the townland boundary.



End of post



[1] accessed on 20 February 2016

[2] Malachy McSparran (ed.), Survey of Layde Graveyard (Glens of Antrim Historical Society, n.d.), p. i

[3] Malachy McSparran (ed.), Survey of Layde Graveyard, p. 106

[4] Malachy McSparran (ed.), Survey of Layde Graveyard, p. 37

[5] accessed on 20 February 2016

[6] Séamus Pender (ed.), A census of Ireland circa 1659 (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 2002), p. 5


[8] B.M. Walker (ed.), Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland, 1801-1922 (Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 1978), pp. xi, xii, 129, 130249, 325, 326

[9] Debrett’s Illustrated Peerage, 1901, pp. 618, 619

[10]; Malachy McSparran (ed.), Survey of Layde Graveyard, p. 106

[11] accessed on 20 February 2016


[13] accessed on 20 February 2016

[14] accessed on 20 February 2016


[16] accessed on 20 February 2016

[17] accessed on 20 February 2016

[18] accessed on 20 February 2016

[19] accessed on 20 February 2016

[20] accessed on 20 February 2016

[21] accessed on 20 February 2016

[22] accessed on 20 February 2016

[23] accessed on 20 February 2016

[24] accessed on 21 February 2016

[25] accessed on 20 February 2016

[26] Anon, The Irish Crisis of 1879-80: Proceedings of the Dublin Mansion House Relief Committee 1880 (Browne & Nolan, Dublin, 1881), pp. 222, 261

[27] accessed on 20 February 2016

[28] accessed on 20 February 2016

[29] Debrett’s Illustrated Peerage, 1901, p. 45

[30] Griffith’s Valuation, Cloghs, parish of Layd, barony of Glenarm Lower, Co. Antrim; K.D.M Snell (ed.), Letters from Ireland during the Famine by Alexander Somerville (Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 1994), pp. 165, 166

[31] accessed on 20 February 2016

[32] accessed on 20 February 2016

[33] Samuel Lewis, Topographical Directory of Ireland (2 vols. London, 1837), vol. 2, p. 247

[34] accessed on 21 February 2016

[35] accessed on 21 February 2016


6 thoughts on “Exploring Layde Graveyard – Darragh & McCurry

  1. Meg Young (born Homan) says:

    Dear Mr. O’Brien,

    I was very interested to read your account of the life of Rev. Philip Homan. I’m not sure I have the information that connects Rev. Philip to Sir William Homan, but I just recently had a copy of the Homan family tree created in jpeg format, which I am most willing to send to you. I’m disappointed that the print is difficult to read. I could also send you a rather large hard copy, but that print isn’t much better — copies of copies.

    The Homans trace their descent from a John Homan who can be found in the religious census of 1659 in Ballilaughloe, Co. Westmeath. One of the Philip Homans that you found later in the 19th c. would be my great grandfather Canon Richard Philip Homan, Rector of Modreeny. Write me at and I’ll send you my jpeg.

    Meg Young

  2. ginlisa says:

    Lovely story and it nice to read about the family history way back before our time see they lived trying to pay for the rent those time were very hard on poor families keep up the good hard work looking forward to read more of your history blog

  3. AL says:

    Just came across your excellent read of one grave in the old Layde graveyard. Many of my McClarty, McCurry, and Hamilton relatives were put to rest there. I have tried to gane information pre-1846 about my ancestors and found information scarce. You mention a 1841 census and was hoping you can shed some light on it for me and where I might see records of. Thanks
    Alexander Hamilton

    • Hello Alexander,
      Thank you for your comment and enquires about the 1841 census. Only a small fragment of the 1841 census survives for Co. Antrim.
      The fragment can be viewed at census.nationalarchives,ie where you can search the census.
      Hope the links below work or just copy and paste them to Google. Thanks
      Yours sincerely,
      Niall O Brien

  4. Mary McAllister cochran says:

    I am interested in finding the .grave .of Charled McAllister who was rewardef by .Lord Nelson The McAllister crest .is

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