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A history of Cill Eaneigh, The Church in the Marshes

The Early Days 1194 - 1641

The Parish of Killaney was first referred to by Roger of Dunesfort when he was granted a charter by John de Courcy in 1194, as the Church at Anelor. The name is carried on in the local name Anagh Bridge, which is located on the present main road from Carryduff to Ballynahinch, one mile south of the present Saint Andrew’s Church. It was over a stream running from Bow Lough to Gill’s Lough and runs through a culvert under the road.

The name Killaney was mentioned in the census of 1605 as Killeny or Anaghalone, corrupt forms of Cill Eanaigh or Church in the Marsh.

The census at Ardquin on 4th July 1605 indicates that a Tare McPhelin McIvor occupied a small island in Lough Henney (eanach a marsh).

It appears that an ancient church and settlement had grown up around Lough Henney and Bow Lough. It must be remembered that there were no roads in the area and that this part of Down south of Lisburn and Belfast was covered with forest and marsh lands with low rolling hills. The only routes through the area would be forest tracks, not an area that strangers would care to enter.

Both Lough Henney and Bow Lough were fed by the Garrilough, now called the Ravernet river which was the boundary between the Baronies of Upper Castlereagh and Kinelarty. The Barony of Castlereagh has a significance to our present day church through the Hill family and the Marquis of Downshire.

The site of the ancient church was in a circular enclosure co-located with the old graveyard on a low hill overlooking Bow Lough and can be seen from the main Carryduff/Ballynahinch Road surrounded by Irish Yew Trees. The graveyard is still in use although nothing remains of the church.

Queen Elizabeth I upheld the Reformed Church of her father Henry VIII and was in dispute with the Gaelic Irish Chiefs who were Roman Catholic, amongst these was Conn O’Neill, who held the lands of Castlereagh, in the hills above Belfast. He was charged with treason and held in Carrickfergus Castle until he managed to escape to Scotland, where he began selling off his lands to raise money. Among those who purchased his Castlereagh estates was one Sir Moyses Hill, ancestor of the Downshire family at Hillsborough, who would eventually deed the land on which the present Church of Saint Andrew’s is built.

During the latter part of the 16th century Scottish settlers encouraged by Elizabeth, moved to Ulster and began the settlement of the old province of Ulster which included nine counties. The Queen died in 1603 and was succeeded by James I, a Stuart. In 1607 the “Flight of the Earls” took place when the Gaelic Lords left Ulster and took ship for the continent. To fill the vacuum James encouraged English and Scottish Protestants to settle Ulster thereby dispossessing the native Irish. This would eventually result in an uprising in 1641 led by Sir Phelim O’Neill.

The rising commenced in Charlemont, County Armagh and soon spread to County Down. Properties belonging to the established Church were targets for insurgents. It is recorded that the Rector of Killinchy, while reading a burial service, was pushed from the grave by women “with laps full of stones and men armed with swords”. At the same time the ancient church at Bow Lough was severely damaged, never to be rebuilt.