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History of the Parish of Banagher, Derry Diocese
...Medieval People & Events.


Archbishop Colton went to the Priory in Dungiven to reconcile the cemetery which had been defiled by bloodshed. The first mention of Banagher records the same problem. In 1121 Giolla Easpaig Eoghain O hAindiaraidh, king of Keenacht, was killed by his kinsmen in the middle of the cemetery of Banagher. His long first name means “servant of Bishop Eoghan”, no doubt St. Eugene of Ardstraw. His surname would now be O Henry, although the spelling is unusual. It is well to remember that the cemetery was common land and the focus of village life throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, a place where people met, business was transacted, animals wandered. The cemetery would have been totally unlike the more ordered churchyards of our times. Gravestones as we know them were not used. It was sufficient to bury as close to the church or to the grave of the founder as possible with a view to protection in the next life. Death and the next world were not as distant as they seem in our sanitized world, when we remember how medical knowledge has advanced in the last couple of centuries.

On 15 October 1397, as already mentioned, Archbishop John Colton of Armagh came to Banagher. Colton was Norman English, half cleric and half soldier, who had served as justiciar or temporary governor of Ireland and who had been appointed to Armagh by Pope Urban VI at the wish of King Richard II as was the custom at the time. The see of Derry was vacant and he came to assert his right as primate to visit such a diocese and to receive the emoluments due to the bishop during such a vacancy. He travelled by way of Cappagh, Ardstraw and Leckpatrick to the monastery at Derry. From there he came to Banagher with his retinue and accompanied by the dean of Derry, Uiliam MacCathmhaoil, (now Campbel or McCaul), the archdeacon of Derry, Uiliam O Catháin, and ten canons of the diocesan chapter. With the primate solemnly seated in the church before the high altar, the chapter swore on the gospels to respect the archbishop’s rights. The archbishop promised not to give any churchlands to “powerful laymen”. The dean and archdeacon each gave him a horse in part payment of rents and emoluments due to him. The canons wanted him to appoint some of their number as his representatives and collectors of rents in the diocese. After deliberation and when they had renounced any rights to spiritual or temporal jurisdiction while the see of Derry was vacant, Colton appointed the dean of Armagh, the dean of Derry, the archdeacon of Derry, a canon of Armagh, Thomas O Loughran, and Mauritius (Muiríach ?) O Catháin, canon of Derry, to represent him. The discussion seems to have been lively.

The next business was the second stage of the marriage case brought by Catriona O Doherty, who claimed that her husband, Manus MacGilligan (no doubt the erenagh of Tamlaghtard) had divorced her and taken other women in her place, calling as witnesses two judges of the Derry marriage tribunal who had pronounced in her favour. Manus denied both the marriage and the judgement. Colton in Derry had questioned both judges and postponed further consideration of the case until he was in Banagher. Manus MacGilligan sent his representative (unnamed) to Bangher to state that, even if Caitríona O Doherty should prove that she was lawfully married or prove that the Derry judges had indeed decided in her favour, he (Manus) had already been lawfully married to another woman, Mór NicBhloscaidh (McCloskey). Not having enough tome to deal with the case, on the advice of the dean and chapter, Colton appointed the same two judges, Archdeacon O Catháin of Dunboe and Canon Seán Mac Thaidhg (McKeague), no doubt from Drumachose-Balteagh, to question the witnesses orally and decide. How the case ended we do not know, but it is perhaps unlikely that these judges changed their minds about Manus.

Then the primate issued orders about discipline in the monastery in Derry to the abbot Aodh Mac Giolla Bhríde (now Hugh McBride). Next he gave the chapter letters of warning, excommunication and interdict against O Donnell, O Doherty,O Catháin, O Gormley, all lords of the lands ruled by the clans, and against Donal and Brian Mor, sons of the Henry O Neill (Enrí Aimhréidh O Néill, now miscalled Harry Avery at modern Newtownstewart) because they had usurped the rights of the church of Derry. This probably meant taking over church lands or demanding rents from the exempt tenants. At the request of the dean and chapter of Derry the archbishop then settled definitively a dispute between “two inhabitants” of the town of Banagher about the erenagh-ship of the parish. No names are given unfortunately, but at least one of them must have been O Heaney. But by this stage one gets the impression of the primate’s temper was wearing thin, and when he had appointed Dermot O Mulligan (or perhaps O Molachan), parish priest of Drumagarner, he set off through the “inaccessible places of the mountains” of Glenelly back to Armagh. Before leaving he established the rental of moneys due from the parishes of Derry. For Banagher this came to twenty shillings, plus thirteen shillings and fourpence from the erenagh, for Boveva ten shillings and ten shillings. Dungiven Priory, being a house of exempt religious, does not appear on the list.

After Colton’s visitation Banagher recedes into obscurity, broken only by the names of some of its clergy who appear in Roman records as having sought appointment or because the appointment had for some reason lapsed to Rome, e.g. because it had been left vacant too long. Three of these are called O Cartain (Cartin): Donal (1401), Patrick (1465) were vicars, and John (1419) was rector. One was O hEannacha: John (1465). One was probably O Cathain (Mauritius Obechayn: 1413). One was O Maoilmheana (Mulvenna: 1413). Two are uncertain: Comedinus Ohegyll (Cu Midhne?: 1419) and Cornelius O Muirí Riabhaigh (Conor O Murray Grey – “grey” being a nickname).


More Historical Inforation


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PARISH OF BANAGHER, 42 Glenedra Road, Feeny, Dungiven, Co Derry BT47 4TW | Tel: 028 - 7778 1223