Britannia, by William Camden

The County of Down.

Small N NEXT on the east, lies the County of Down, very large and fruitful, and reaching as far as the Irish sea. ⌈This is a populous, rich, and flourishing Country; containing in it six Boroughs, besides other considerable Towns.⌉ It is bounded on the north with Lough Eaugh (call’d by a later name, Logh-Sidney;) and on the south with the County of Louth; from which it is separated by the river Newry. Upon this river, at its very entrance into the County, a town of the same name was built and fortify’d * * So said, ann. our memory, by Nicholas Bagnal, Marshal of Ireland; who, with excellent conduct, did many memorable exploits here; and by his diligence very much improv’d the County. Not far from hence, lies the river Ban the less, which rising out of the solitary mountains of Mourne, runs through the territory of † Eaugh, C.Evaugh, belonging ⌈in part⌉ to the family of Mac Gynnis,Mac Gynnis. who had formerly a Controversy with the O Neals (the tyrants of Ulster) whether they should find provision, &c. for the Soldiers of O Neal; which kind of service they call’d Bonoghty. It has also an Episcopal See at Dromore; ⌈which place also hath given the TitleViscount Dromore. of Viscount to the Honourable Family of Fanshaw.⌉ Above this, upon the bank of Lough ¦ ¦ Eaugh, C.Neagth, ⌈(the water of whichPhil. Trans. 1713. p.263. is useful for the Cure of the King’s-Evil, and other running Sores, and Rheumatisms; but hath no petrifying Virtue, as hath been reported,)⌉ do lie the territories of * * Kilwlto, C.Kilulto and Kilwarny, much incumber’d with woods and boggs. Banbridge Urns. ⌈Near Ban-bridge, have been discover’d three Urns in three small stone Chests, under a great Kern, or heap of Stones.⌉ Thus much of the inner parts.

Upon the coast, the sea winds-in with so many chops and creeks, and the Lough spreads so much, near Dyffrin (a woody vale, heretofore the Estate of the Mandevills, and since of the Whites; ⌈and now of the Hamiltons and Steinsons;)⌉ that it makes two Peninsulas, viz. Lecal on the south, and Ardes on the * * Aquilone.north. Lecal. Lecal is a rich soil, the remotest part of Ireland to the east. The Promontory Isanium. The utmost promontory in it, is now call’d by the Seamen S. John’s Foreland, but by Ptolemy Isanium; perhaps from Isa, a British word, signifying lowest. In the very * * Isthmus.neck stood Dunum,Dunum. a flourishing town, mention’d by that name in Ptolemy, but not in its proper place †.Dunamouse in Queen’s County, Ware. It is now call’d Down,Down. and is very ancient, and a Bishop’s See, ⌈(erected about the end of the fifth Century,)⌉ and remarkable for the tombsS. Patrick’s Sepulchre. of S. Patrick, S. Brigid, and S. Columba, who had this rhyming distich writ over them,

Hi tres in Duno tumulo tumulantur in uno,
Brigida, Patricius, atque Columba pius

One tomb three Saints contains; one vault below,
Does Brigid, Patrick and Columba show.

This monument is said to have been demolish’d by Leonard Gray, Lord Deputy, in Henry the eighth’s time: and thus much is certain, that upon his being accused of male-administration in Ireland, and found guilty, the prophanation of St. Patrick’s Church, was, among other things, objected against him. The Religious have contended as much about the burial-place of S. Patrick, as the Cities of Greece did about the birth-place of Homer. Those of Down will have it there, upon the authority of the foresaid verses. Those of Armagh claim it, upon that passage cited but now from S. Bernard. The Monks of Glastenbury in England have challeng’d it, offering the ancient Records of their Abbey, in evidence of their title. And lastly, some of the Scots affirm him not only to have been born near Glasgow, among them, but bury’d there too.

In this Down it was, that John Curcy (a war-like Englishman, and more devout than Soldiers generally are,) first settled the Benedictine Monks, after he had reduc’d these parts; and he also translated the Monastery of Carick (which Mac Eulef, King of Ulster had built in Erinaich near S. Finin Mac-Nell’s Well) into the Isle of Ynis-Curcy (so called from him,) and endow’d it plentifully. Before that, the Monks of IrelandEndowment of Monasteries. (like those anciently in Egypt, whose Order the pious Congellus, that is, as they interpret it, A fair pledge, brought into Ireland) were wholly devoted to prayer, and supply’d their own and others wants, by the labour of their hands. But this, like all human Institutions, was but short-liv’d; their manners grew corrupt, and riches by degrees stifl’d that Piety which first gave them being in the world. Robert de Monte, de Immutatione Ordinis Monachorum. Robert, Abbot of Molism in Burgundy, took a great deal of pains to recover the ancient discipline, perswading his disciples to live by the labour of their hands, and to quit tithes and oblations, leaving them to the Clergy of the Diocese; and to wear woven or leathern breeches no longer. But they flatly refused to depart from the Customs observ’d in the Monasteries of the west, which were clearly instituted by S. Maurus, a disciple of S. Benedict, and by S. Columban. But this is too great a digression; ⌈and we will only add, that the title of Viscount Down,Viscount Down. is now vested in the Honourable Family of Dawney in England.⌉

Upon the Sea-coast, stands Arglas, where S. Patrick is reported to have built a Church, ⌈and lately, the honourable John Barrington in England, hath been advanc’d to the dignity of Baron Barington of Newcastle near Dublin, and Viscount Barington of Ardglass.⌉ Viscount Barrington. Then, Strangeford, formerly Strandford, a safe harbour, where the river Coyn runs into the sea, with great noise and violence; ⌈and from which place, a family of the name of Smith take the honourable title of Viscount.⌉ Viscount Strandford. In the Peninsula hard by, Queen Mary (always bountiful to the Nobility) gave much lands to the Earl of Kildare. The Russels, Audleys, Whites, and they who settled last here, the Bagnalls, all of English descent, * * Live, C.liv’d up and down among the wild Irish in these parts, against whose Incursions they stoutly † † Defend, C.defended the Estates left them by their Ancestors; ⌈but three of these, viz. the Audleys, the Whites, and the Bagnalls, are now extinct.⌉

Ardes. Ardes, the other Peninsula, lies over-against this, and is separated by a small chanel from Lough Coyn, with which it is enclos’d on the west; as it is on the east, by the sea, and on the north, by the bay of Knoc-Fergus. You may resemble it to a bended arm; for, by a very narrow Isthmus, it grows to the main land, as the arm grows to the shoulder. The soil is very good in every part, unless it be in a flat boggy plain in the middle, about twelve miles long. The shore is well stock’d with Villages, and had formerly a famous monastery, situate upon the bay of Knoc-Fergus, of the same order and name with that eminent and very ancient Monastery in England near Chester, call’d Banchor. Banchor Monastery. Which of them produced the Arch-heretick Pelagius,Pelagius. is uncertain; some will have him from this, others from that of Britain; but neither upon any good authority. That he was a Britain, is most certain, as from other testimonies, so particularly from that Distich of Prosper Aquitanus, inveighing against his impiety;

I procul insana impietas, artesque malignas
Aufer, & authorem comitare exclusa Britannum

Far hence with wicked arts profaneness fly,
And bear thy British patron company.

In the life of Malachy. But let us hear what S. Bernard says of this place. A man of great power and riches gave Banchor to Malachy; to build, or rather re-build, a monastery there. For it had been a noble monastery before, under Congell the first father; and had bred many thousand Monks, and been the mother of many Monasteries. A place truly pious, abounding with Saints, and zealously promoting Godliness; insomuch that one of the sons of that holy Society, called Luan, is said to be the founder of a hundred Monasteries: which I mention, that by this instance the Reader may guess, how numerous they were in all. By this means, it fill’d both Ireland and Scotland with its off-springing. One of which, S. Columban, came into these parts of France, and built the Monastery of Luxovium, which grew up to a very great society. It is said to have been so large, that divine service continued both night and day without ceasing one moment, by the many Quires they could make, to succeed one another. And thus much in praise of the ancient monastery of Banchor. Being destroyed by Pirates, it was repair’d by Malachy, who undertook it in regard to its ancient dignity, and with a design to replant a sort of Paradise; on account of the many Saints that lay bury’d in it. For, not to mention those who had departed in peace; nine hundred are said to have been put to death in one day, by the Pyrates. The lands belonging to it, were very large and numerous; but Malachy contenting himself with the holy place only, gave them all to another. For, from the time it was destroyed, it continued to be held with all its possessions. For Abbots were still elected, and enjoyed it under that name, keeping it nominally, though not really, the same as heretofore. Although many dissuaded him from alienating these Lands and Possessions, and advised him to keep them; he was so much in love with Poverty, that he made one to be chosen as formerly to hold them, reserving only, (as we have already said) the Place, to himself and his. Within a few days, the Church was finish’d, which was made of wood plain’d and firmly jointed, after the Scotch manner; and pretty beautiful. Malachy thought it proper, afterwards, to have a stone Church in Banchor, like those he had seen in other Countries. When he began to lay the foundation, the natives were struck with admiration at it, having never seen any building of that nature in all the Country. So that one of them cry’d out, Good Sir! Why these new fashions from other Countries? We are Scots, and not Frenchmen. What means this levity? what needs this superfluous and stately fabrick?

Bishoprick of Coner. More inward, upon the lake, is the Bishoprick of Coner, of which S. Malachy was Bishop; but how far his flock was short of him in point of piety, we may learn from S. Bernard. Malachy was made Bishop of Conereth (for that is the name of the city,) near the thirtieth year of his age. When he began to do his duty among them, this man of God soon saw that he was not sent to men but beasts, such as he had never before met with, in all kinds of barbarity; in manners so froward, in customs so devillish, in Faith so corrupt, in laws so barbarous, to discipline so averse, and in life so filthy. They were nominally Christians, but really Pagans. No tithes nor first-fruits, no lawful marriages, nor Confessions, among them. No one either to ask or give penance; and very few Ministers of the Altar: But what need I enlarge, when those very few had scarce any work among the Laity. No fruit could be expected of their Endeavours, among so lewd a people. For there was neither preaching nor singing to be heard in the Churches. And what could the Lord’s Champion do in such a case? He must either retire with dishonour, or fight on with danger. But he, knowing himself a Shepherd, and not a Hireling, chose to stand rather than fly, being ready to lay down his life for his flock. And, notwithstanding they were all wolves and no sheep, he

stood in the midst of them like an undaunted Shepherd, considering all possible ways how to convert his wolves into sheep. Thus St. Bernard: and, as I am inform’d, the Bishop * * So said, ann. this day is not able to give them a much better Character. ⌈The two Sees of Down and Coner, were united into one, in the year 1441, by Pope Eugenius the fourth, at the request of John Bishop of Coner.⌉

This Ardes, before mention’d, was formerly the estate of the Savages,Savages. an English family; one of which is famous for that stout and witty saying, That he would not rely upon a Castle of stones, but a Castle of bones, meaning his own body. Afterwards, the O-Neals took it out of their hands; but they being attainted of treason, Sir Thomas Smith, Knight, and of the Privy Council to Queen Elizabeth, by her permission, planted a Colony there; an excellent design, but very unsuccessful. For after great expence, his natural son, whom he had set over it, was taken by an Ambuscade of the Irish, and thrown alive to the dogs; a piece of cruelty, for which those Wretches severely suffer’d, being themselves put to death, and expos’d to the wolves. Above Ardes to the west, lies the southern Clanboy, i.e. a Yellow Clan,Clan-boy the Upper. or the family of Hugh the Yellow, (as they interpret it,) a Country well wooded, which extends to the bay of Knoc-Fergus. It is inhabited by the O-Neals, and is the very utmost Tract of this County of Down.

⌈In this County, the Honourable title of Earl of Mount-AlexanderMount Alexander. is enjoy’d by the family of Montgomery; that of Baron Coningsby of Clan-Brazil,Clan-Brazil, Vide Herefordshire. by Thomas Earl Coningsby in England; and that of Viscount HillsboroughHillsborough. by the Family of Hill.⌉

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52