Bally is the Anglicisation of the Irish word Baile which means town. It is frequently used in Ireland in front of another noun as in Ballymena and Ballymoney. In the case of Ballycarton it would then translate readily into the town of the Cartins or Cartons etc. from the Irish version, Baile Ui Meic Cairthainn. The townland of Ballycarton exists to this day and is marked on Ordnance Survey maps. For example Ballycarton forest is marked just north of Ballymaglin and Shanvey on the road north out of Limavady through Aghanloo and Drumbane. There is visitor accommodation at Ballycarton House there.


 T.H. Mullin in his book Limavady

A map showing Ballycarton is reproduced by T.H. Mullin in his book Limavady and the Roe Valley on page thirteen (1). Rev Mullin records the forfeiture of the lands at Ballycarton :

“Several native Irish freeholds were forfeited because their owners had participated in the rebellion (1641): the large O’Cahan freehold in Boveagh, the O’Mullan freehold at Ballyness and the Magilligan freehold at Ballycarton”

At that time the townland was in the hands of the Magilligans who were probably part of the Ui Mhic Carthainn.


The Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland 1831

The Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland parishes of Co Londonderry 1831-5 Roe Valley Lower Volume 11 (2) make many references to Ballycarton, in particlular mentioning a Fort there. It contains a map of County Londonderry from Samuel Lewis’ Atlas of the Counties of Ireland (London1837) and shows Aghanloo as one of the few places named north of Newton Limavady and it is about a mile from the mouth of the river Roe. In a chapter on the parish of Aghanloo there are several mentions of Ballycarton (Ballycarten). Under the general heading “Modern Topography Remarkable Events” is the following;

“In 1818 George Berriman was murdered at a dance in a barn in Artikelly. In 1828, as James Williamson was returning from the market at Newton Limavady, he was beaten by a party of Irish from Ballycarton.”

Under the general heading of Social and Productive Economy is a paragraph headed “Inundations of the River Roe” which mentions Ballycarton as follows:

“ The townlands which suffered the late inundations of the river Roe are Ballycastle, Ballyhenry, Shanvey, Carbullion, Gortnamoney, Granagh, Clooney, Artikelly, Drumbane, Rathfad, Ballymaglin, Tullyarmon and Ballycarton. A large quantity of potatoes were carried off by the floods. Some of Mr Church’s tenants have lost 100 barrels and a great quantity were rotten from the water remaining in them for so long. A quantity of hay was also taken off. Many ditches were thrown down and large heaps of sand were cast upon the fields which will take a great deal of labour to remove. Houses have been tossed by this flood, which took place on the 7th November 1834. “

Under the heading of townlands where the economic resources of each townland is detailed there is;

“Ballycarton: 2 looms, 1 small lime kiln, Rotation of crops: first potatoes, second barley, third whet or oats: sometimes barley is laid down with cover, as the manure is plenty they seldom take more than 3 crops without manure. Potatoes are often planted on stubble ground if the farm is small. Beans and peas with some vetches. 20 sheep, 21 horses, 36 head of black cattle, 22 geese, 12 turkeys, 50 ducks, 100 hens, 26 pigs, 1 threshing machine, 2 horsepower, diameter of horizontal wheel 3 feet. 1 farm above 50 acres, 2 farms above 20 acres, tenure of Mr Jones farm lives renewable forever. Information from Benjamin Lane Esquire, Miles Sweeney, Alexander Olliver, Reverend David Lynch and Matthew Turbitt. 19th January 1835.”

Under the heading of social and productive Economy by J. Stokes there is included;

“On the 7th November 1834 an inundation of the river Roe took place which greatly injured the townlands; Ballycastle, Ballyhenry, Shanvey, Carbullion, Gortnamoney, Granagh, Clooney, Artikelly, Drumbane, Rathfad, Ballymaglin, Tullyarmon and Ballycarton by sweeping off hay and potatoes, throwing down houses, injuring fences. Some of Mr Church’s tenants have lost 100 barrels of potatoes.”

Under the heading of Table of Schools by J.Stokes there are four schools mentioned, one of which is Ballycarten, established 1832, 1 Protestant teacher, 71 males, 15 females total; 86 pupils; supported by the new Board of Education.

Under the heading Party spirit;


“On Monday night 17th November 1828, as James Williamson was returning form the market at Newton Limavady, he was attacked by a party supposed to have come from the townland of Ballycarton. 17 of the men were accused, and were examined and aquitted. Williamson lived in the townland of Rathfad, was supposed to have been an Orangeman, was in a state of intoxication coming home from the rabble fair on Galloping Monday”

Under the heading of Schools there is an entry:

“Ballycarton national school, established 1832, William Tate teacher, a Roman Catholic. Both free and pay school, total annual income of teacher 13 pounds. Schoolhouse built of stone and lime, thatched, cost about 8 pounds. Of the Established Church 3, Presbyterians 11, Covenanters 1, Roman Catholics 50, males 48, females17, total 65. Under the National Board, who pays the teacher 8 pounds per annum.”

Under the heading of Other Forts there is;

“Ballycarton Fort is formed entirely of earth, of circular form, 112 feet in diameter. The parapet is 6 feet higher than the trench and the interior is covered with a growth of thorn and hazel. It is situated in the townland of Ballycarton, at the base of a hill called Dowland hill and 300 yards northeast of the corn mill on the edge of the stream leading to the mill.”

Under the heading of Emigration in 1833 and 1834 these are listed:

“Wiliam Rudden, 24, Roman Catholic, in 1833 from Ballycarton to Quebec.Catherine McLaughlin, 26, Roman Catholic, in 1833 from Ballycarton to Quebec.Abraham Kilmary, 30, Roman Catholic in 1834, from Ballycarton to Quebec.”

Under the heading of Townland Census there is:

“Ballycarton, 7 Protestants, 58 Roman Catholics, 8 Presbyterians.”

Under the heading Natural State and Etymology of Parish Names there is a section, part of which reads:

“In the earliest historical notices of the foundation of the parish church, namely the Life of St Patrick by St Eimbin{Eimhin, it is called Domnach-airther-arda or “the church of the eastern height”. The parish is now more popularly known by the name of Ard-Magilligan or Magilligan and is called by the Irish inhabitants Parraiste-chlannie-Giollagain or “the parish of the clan Gilligan”. It is written Ard-meggiolagan by O’Donnell, prince of Tirconnell in 1520 and Ard-mic-Giolagan by Colgan in 1647. This name was undoubtedly derived from the district having been occupied from a very remote period by a tribe of the ancient Irish family of Magilligan, to whom at the Plantation of Ulster, the townland of Ballycarton was given as a native freehold and forfeited by Manus McGilligan in the rebellion of 1641.{Insert addition: A family of the name Magilligan is still living in the parish of Dungiven in the townland of Cashel. The native freehold of Ballycarton is at present held by {blank} Lane Esquire under the Marquis of Waterford}.”

Note the connection with Waterford where Carton families were frequently recorded. Page 11 mentions that the parish belongs to the Marquis of Waterford, except the townland of Freehall which belongs to Mr McCausland. The size of the farms was 20 to 30 acres and Waterford sought to amalgamate them when possible to it seems, increase voting capacity.

Under the heading Church of Skreen is a discussion of the history of Dun Cruithen. This discussion may have some relevance in the possible linking of the Meic Carthainn name with the Cruithin name. There is a more extensive discussion of this on page 101. The section of Memoir by J.O’Donovan and G. Petrie, with additions by J. Stokes gives a brutal history of the early people of the parish of Magilligan. In a section “Early Inhabitants” they write:

“From the notices given in the preceding section it will be seen that this parish was peopled at the earliest period of which we have historic records by the Cruithne or Picts, the ancient inhabitants of the great portion of modern Scotland. In subsequent ages this race, being either expelled or amalgamated with the Scoti or native Irish, all traces of them were eradicated long prior to the Plantation of Ulster. From the traces of cultivation which appear on the mountain side, 200 feet higher than modern industry has reached, it may with probability be inferred that the parish was not too thinly inhabited in those distant times, but what the amount was there are no data now remaining to enable us to ascertain. In the wars of the native chieftains of the North with Elizabeth, the parish must necessarily, as tradition reports, have been nearly depopulated, and on the Plantation of Ulster a number of families of English and Scottish race were fixed among the survivors on the unoccupied lands. The rebellion of 1641 brought still greater desolation in its train, and Magilligan become once more dessert. But few of either race escaped its destructive effects, and of the Irish clan from whence the name of the parish is derived, not one is now to be found either in it or the adjoining districts.”

From under the heading Landlords can be extracted:

“The native freehold of Ballycarton is held by [Blank] Lane under the Marquis of Waterford [Insert note: The freehold of Ballycarton was granted by Lord Waterford’s ancestor to the ancestor of Mr Lane as a reward for his services in a contested election.”

Under the heading Natural State Name and Extent is the following:

“In old writings Mac-Ileogain as the territory of Innishowen on the opposite side of Lough Foyle was denominated Kinel Eogain; why in either case is not recorded. A family of his name is said to have lived in this parish and enjoyed the native freehold of Ballycarton until he forfeited it by rebellion in 1641, when the parish suffered severely”

Under the heading wooden Bridge is a description of a wooden bridge over the rive Roe and ends: "Information obtained from Mr Benjamin Lane, Ballycarton.”

Under the heading fort at Ballycarton:

“A fort comprised entirely of earth is situated at the foot of Downland hill and 300 yards north east of the corn mill. This fort is circular and 112 feet in diameter. The parapet is 6 feet higher than the trench, which is a quagmire. The centre of the fort produces blackthorn, a small rose tree and brushwood of hazel. This fort is of clay and undisturbed. 14th May 1835.”

Under the heading productive and social Economy:

Townland Divisions is Ballycarton Townland and includes the extracts; Only one farmer, Benjamin Lane Esquire, 8 cottiers. The orchard is let each year at 11 pounds per annum. Mr Lane pays rent for half the River Roe. Tenure of holding lives renewable forever. From Benjamin Lane, proprietor, dated 19th January 1835.”

Under the heading Social Economy Legal Disputes and Boundaries the mountainous parts of Ballymacarton are mentioned:

“About the year 1831 a dispute took place between Benjamin Lane Esquire of Ballymacarton and Connolly Gage Esquire of Magilligan, about the boundaries between the mountainous parts of Ballymacarton and the mountain part of Magilligan. A number of the oldest inhabitants were called upon to show the boundary.”


Records of the Town of Limavady 1609 to 1808

In the Book ”Records of the Town of Limavady 1609 to 1808edited by E M F-G Boyle (4) there are no references to any variation of Cartin or MacCarthainn. The records are mostly of the Borough representatives and the names those of the post plantation people e.g. Ogilby, McCausland, Ross, Hamilton etc. There is however a John Gormley admitted and sworn freeman in 1730 who is the sole old local name.


Bobby Forrest: his privately published Book


Bobby Forrest in his privately published "Book Historical Gleenings from the Parish of Magilligan" (5) provides excellent historical background to Ballycarton as follows:


The ancient name for the parish was Tamlaghtard - the high Plague-Monument or Cemetery, and this is still the ecclesiastical name for it. Magilligan is undoubtedly an ancient place of settlement. Traces of mezlolitithic culture have been discovered in the townland of Ballymulholland with examples of pottery with ornamented lip or rim and lattice –work design. The townland of Tircreevan suggest (sic) ancient origins: “the district of the Cruithann”. The parish was named for one of its most ancient inhabitants of the Magilligans whom McFibris says were descended form “Oilioll, son of Eoghan Bredagh”. The parish in the 16th century was called - !Ard-MacGillygen”, from the family, who were hereditary tenants of the twelve quarters of the Church lands in it.

In pre – plantation times , all of the parishes of Taimlheacht Ard Mhic Ghillogain, whose patron was St Catan (or Caidan), were bishops lands (tearmannach – MacGiollagainn) except for those set aside for the support of the local churches whose erenach was O’Loinn (or O’Fhloinn). The church was said to have been founded by St . Patrick in Tamlaght, which adjoins Duncrun on the south-west where its ruins are (Reeves’ Colton, p.84). There was also the important shrine to Colmcille at Baile na Scrine de Ardo, that attracted pilgrims from the remotest parts of Ulster and Connaught in the period before the plantation. Tamlaghtard has an impressive ecclesiastical history and the attachment to the ancient faith of St. Patrick was remarkable.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, both the old religion and the old polity as to face its greatest challenge from its neighbouring islands. The Roe valley, which remained one of the last outposts of Gaelic civilisation, was about to face a ruthless enemy determined on conquest. In 1601 Sir Henry Dowcra and his English forces attacked the valley of the Roe in a pincer movement. Dowcra marched from Derry along the south-east shore of Lough Foyle, whilst Captain Roger Orme crossed unexpectedly by boat from Greencastle to Magilligan Point. It was in Magilligan that Captain Orme killed some defenceless people, and soon the whole of the Roe valley fell into English hands. The Government held an inquisition at Enagh on 16 November 1603 where it decided to confiscate monastic lands. The jury panel, which determined land ownership, included Eugene Magilligan of Ardmagilligan and Ailpatrick O'Lyne of Tamlaghtard. Monastic lands fell into the hands of English adventurers and as soon as the Protestant church got established, the church –lands were seized.

In 1606 an inquisition found that the ancient inhabitants of O’Cahane’s country granted to St. Columba and his successors Ardmagilligan, containing 12 quarters of land where two Chapels , then destroyed had been erected, the said lands paying 40/- annual rent to the Bishop of Derry. The herenach was Patrick O’Linn. There was one quarter, a good stone house close to the Church. Rory Magilligan had the Episcopal thirds for 20/- and held good termon lands and a salmon fishery. An inquisition of 1615 found that the See lands of Ad-McGillygen consisted of 40 Towns of balliboes, and the whole of the parish was church land held under the See of Derry, with the exception of Ballycarton, which was a freehold held by the Magilligans as hereditary herenachs. In 1622, on the old Glebe or Gort of 9 or 10 acres were the ruins of an old vicarage house, instead of which a timber house was erected. The church was re-edified by William Gage, Esq’r., the Bishop’s tenant (the will of William Gage of Ardmagilligan, Londonderry was proved in the prerogative Court of Canterbury, 8 July 1633).


Civil Survey of 1654-1656


In the Civil Survey of 1654-1656, for the parish of Tamlaghtard, we read,


“All these lands in the 2 paged are held by John Gage Esq., by lease from the See of Derry, bearing date in July 1634 for the trearme of 60 years’ (the will of a John Gage of Rounds, Ballymargie was probated in 1675). In 1393, the estate was in the hands of another John Gage who complained in a letter that his tenants were being cite to the Bishop’s Court for refusing to pay tithes on rabbits, which they never had to pay before (T/1075/6). In 1713, the estate was inherited by the half –brothers Thomas and William Gage, and divided into separate northern and southern estates for them (the will of William Gage of Ballymargy was probated 1724). The southern portion of the estate was held as a single estate by the family until beyond the mid nineteenth century. The northern portion was divided into three major holdings in the 1730s and 1740s and eventually re-let to a number of individual tenants by the earl Bishop during the last decade of the century. Ballycarton, which was a native freehold under the tenancy of Manus Magilligan until 1641 when he joined Manus for O’Cathan in the uprising and as a consequence his lands were forfeited by the Commonwealth commissioners in 1652. Mr William Lane was leased the whole of Ballycarton townland in 1715."



Samuel P Mitchell  In the The Land of the Roe  1993

In the The Land of the Roe (6) Samuel P Mitchell 1993 records; (page 24);  


By the end of the 7th century AD the Cineal Conaill and Cineal Eoghain were in effective control of north-west Ireland. The area now comprising the Limavady district was inhabited by two tribes of the Cineal Eoghain; the MacCaerthain inhabited the territory lying to the west of the present village of Ballykelly; the Cianachta occupied the Rroe valley. In the year 679 the O’Connor family o’conchobhair Cianachta) appeared in written records as ruler of Keenaght, but by the 12th century the O’Cahans were in control and were to retain their power until the flight of the Earls in 1607.

P30 Under the Articles of Agreement for the plantation, the City of London was bound to provide land for a limited number of Irish freeholders. Just over 10 per cent (52,050 acres) of county Londonderry was allocated for this purpose, though it is significant that much of the land lay in poor or mountainous regions. There were thirteen native freeholds in all, six of which lay within the present Limavady District. Not surprisingly, most of the native freeholders in the old county of Coleraine were of the O’Cahan sept. Lady Honor O’Cahan, wife of the dispossessed and imprisoned Sir Donnell O’Cahan, and her two sons were together assigned 1000 acres lying east of the Castle River and south of Keady Mountain. The townland of Ballycarton was the freehold of Brian Bane McGillegan, from whose family Magilligan receives its name.


In his survey of 1622, Phillips names only six of the original native freeholders. Some had been deprived of their land for their part in the conspiracy of 1615, others sold out to planters. Three of the six named were in the Limavady area - Brian Bane McGillegan, Lady O’Cahan and Gilduffe Oge O’Mullan.. By 1639 there were as many British as Irish in possession of native freeholds. The rebellion of 1641, led by Sir Phelim O’Neill, brought ruin to Irish Roman Catholics. The effect in County Londonderry was to obliterate the native freeholds almost entirely, though some properties were restored after the final capitulation of the Irish army in 1653. The Civil Survey of 1654-56 shows that four native freeholders remained in the barony of Keenaght, with combined holdings amounting to 1,040 acres. They were named as Manus McGillagen (120 acres), Shane McGillduff O’Mullan (120 acres), George McShane O’Cahan (100 acres) and Manus McQuy Valley McRichard O’Cahan (700 acres). Each is listed as and “Irish Papist”. It would appear that a few native Irish held on to their land by religious conversion. Two of the proprietors named in the Survey, Daniell McManus O’Mullen and Tomlin O’Mullan, are listed as Irish Protestantts”.

The whole of Magilligan parish, except for half of one townland (Ballycarton), was churchland under the See of Derry, and was leased to the Gage family of Northamptonshire.



Bill MacAfee


His  map shows clearly the patchwork quilt pattern of the company lands amongst the lands which were allocated to the church and to some Irish families. The latter were known as native freeholds. The main beneficiaries of the native freeholds, which tended to be located well away from the main planter settlements, were the O’Cahans in the baronies of Tirkeeran, Keenaght and Coleraine and the O’Mullans in the baronies of Tirkeeran and Keenaght. The townland of Ballycarton in Magilligan was granted to a McGilligan. (7)


Thomas Phillips and Richard Hadsor Esq., 1622.


An early mention  of Ballycarton is recorded in the  publication : A brief survey of the estate of the Plantation of the County of Londonderry taken by Sir Thomas Phillips and Richard Hadsor Esq., 1622. Letterpress embodied in or accompanying maps of the area, ed., Londonderry and the London Companies 1609-1629 (HMSO, Belfast 1928) 147-168. Maps appear throughout the book. (8)


 Robert C. Simington 1654


Simington refers to the  townland as Ballicartan in his The civil survey, AD 1654-6, ed. Robert C. Simington, 10 vols, Irish Manuscripts Commission (Dublin 1931-61). (9)



Census of Ireland circa 1659


Census of Ireland circa 1659, with supplementary material from the poll money ordinances (1660 - 1), ed. Seamus Pender (Dublin 1939) contains further references. (10)





1. Limavady and the Roe Valley, Rev T.H. Mullin published by Limavady District Council 1983 page thirteen

2. Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland parishes of Co Londonderry 1831-5 Roe Valley Lower Volume 11 Edited by Angelique Day and Patrick McWilliams Published by the Institute of Irish Studies The Queen’s University of Belfast 1991 ISBN 0 85389 390 X

3. The Cruthin A history of the Ulster Land and People by Ian Adamson Donard Publishing ISBN 0 9503461 0 1

4. Records of the Town of Limavady 1609 to 1808 edited by E M F-G Boyle 1912 Facsimile edition 1989 By North West Books

5. Historical Gleenings from the Parish of Magilligan privately published by Bobby Forrest.

6. The Land of the Roe Samuel P Mitchell 1993 ISBN 0 9509342 1 6 published by Limavady Borough Council

7. and there is map there on this website