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


The greater part of the parish of Banagher lies in the barony of Keenaught, only the Altinure area is in the barony of Tirkeeran. The baronies, by an large, represent political divisions (Irish, Tuath or Triocha Ced) taken over and renamed by the English at the time of the Plantation when Ulster was shired (i.e. divided into counties) by the government of James I in the early seventeenth century. The origin of Keenaught goes back almost a millennium and a half. The Cianachta, it is surmised, were mercenary soldiers brought up from Leinster to fight in the civil wars of the Cruithne who ruled north Ulster up to about the time of St Patrick.

These Cianachta, so called because they were descended from Cian, established themselves as independent rulers of the Roe Valley under their lords, in later times O Connor and O Henry. They withstood the attempts of Cineal Eoghain (the descendants of Eoghan, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, high king of Ireland) to subdue them for five hundred years until they were defeated at the battle of Belat near Drumahoe in 1076.

Tirkeeran takes its name from the Ui Mic Cairthinn (descendants of the son of Cairthenn) who were less successful in withstanding Cineal Eoghain pressure, and their leading names, O Colgan and O Conaill, declined into obscurity. After their defeats both Cianachta and Ui Mic Cairthinn had to yield to new overlords. These were of Clann Chonchobhair (Clan Conor, confusingly not related to the O Connors mentioned above), a branch of Cineal Eoghain. From this clan originate many of the surname common in the area still – O Lynch, O Kerlin, O Mullan, O Quinn, O Murray and O Kane) who became lord of the whole area between the Bann and the Foyle and was the chief subordinate lord in the O Neill kingship of Ulster.

The McCloskeys are a branch of the O Cathains who took their name from their ancestor Bloscaidh O Cathain, and whose lands, Ballymacloskey, were in the area. O Mullan was established as O Cathain’s leading underlord, probably in the Altinure area, named the Ballymullins as a result. The chief seats of the O Cathains were at Limavady, Dungiven and in later times at Enagh.

There does not seem to have been a parish of Dungiven in the Middle Ages (only the priory of Canons Regular of St Augustine), so that it is in fact possible that Banagher was the parish these O Cathains belonged to. This would explain the absence of earlier information about the Templemoyle church, since they were relative newcomers to the district interested in underplaying the past. It would account, by the O Mullan connection, for the fact that the parish does not follow the natural boundaries but crosses the watershed into the valley of Faughan, and for obvious richness of the the churchlands of Banagher.

Up to the Plantation of Ulster each parish with its clergy and buildings was maintained from lands set aside for this purpose. These lands were farmed by the erenagh whose office was hereditary as were most occupations at the time. In addition to the upkeep of the church and the income (in kind) of the clergy he paid a yarly rent to the bishop who had the responsibility of appointing a new erenagh if the incumbent family died out. The eranagh had some responsibility for the education of the clergy, and it was from the erenagh families that most of the clergy came. In the parish of Banagher, two quarters (of a baile biataigh) of land were set aside as the church lands around the church. The baile biataigh was a measure of land made up usually of sixteen bailte bo, each bailte bo contained about sixty acres, and was supposed to be able to carry about twenty cows.

The Civil Survey lists the churchlands of Banagher as Tiavan, Magheramore, Carnanbane, Templemore (obviously Templemoyle), Derry Tryer, Aughluske, Killmaght and Raleagh (described as glebe) The glebe was for the use and support of the vicar (now called the curate). There was also a ballyboe at Ballyarran. The parishioners also paid tithes in kind on their produce each year, and these were divided equally between rector (parish priest), vicar and erenagh who were responsible as stated above for the maintenance of the church and for hospitality to travellers. Out of their income the rector and vicar paid twelve pence apiece yearly to the bishop, and the erenagh paid 13/4, plus a ‘reflection’ paid only when the bishop did not visit the parish. It is all but impossible to compute what equivalent that represents in our money, but, it is more than most parishes paid at that time.

It is clear that Banagher was well off, because when Archbishop Colton visited there in 1397 the erenagh was able to provide accommodation for two nights for his retinue of whom fourteen are named, even if the Dungiven Priory made a contribution at the archbishop’s request. The three storey square tower beside the church may have been useful for this purpose. The erenagh and “inhabitants of the village” also gave him some five horses to carry his baggage. By the sixteenth century the eranagh of Banagher was named O Heaney, the family to which the patron saint belonged, and therefore, we infer, during the intervening period. This is the reason for their responsibility for the efficacy of Banagher sand. It only worked at racecourse or law court if it was drawn by the descendant of the erenagh family.


More Historical Inforation


If you have any historical information relevant to the parish - photographs or little anecdotes,

please let us know and we will let the world know.



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