East Tyrone Tour

On Saturday 4th August 2001 about 30 members of the Belfast Naturalists Field Club gathered at Killymaddy Tourist Centre for an archaeological and historical tour of East Tyrone. Our guide was Bobby Dickinson.

The first stop was at Castle Caulfield.

This substantial house was built in the second decade of the 17th century by Sir Toby Caulfield. The gatehouse may be all that remains of an earlier house. It is the only defensible part of the building, having murder-holes and musket-loops. It also has a round flanking tower. It has two Tudor-style doorways which suggest an earlier date. However nothing remains of the bawn which this gatehouse must have served. The main house was undefended. It was three storeys high with attics and was originally half H plan. However the NW wing has been completely demolished leaving an L-shaped ruin. The house has many large mullioned windows and some fine polygonal chimneys. There is a good string course at each level. It was burned in the rebellion of 1641 but repaired and occupied by the Caulfields until the 1660s.

The next visit was to the High Cross at Donaghmore. The monastery here was supposedly founded by St Patrick who left Colum in charge. The Bell of Clogher, which is associated with the monastery, is now in the National Museum, Dublin. The present cross is made up of parts of two crosses. It is richly decorated with biblical scenes. On the E face the New Testament subjects include the Adoration of the Magi, the Miracle at Cana and the Crucifixion. On the W face are the Fall of Man, Cain and Abel, and the Sacrifice of Isaac. In the graveyard beside the cross is a mature hawthorn tree. At the base is a large boulder with a deep bullaun.

Our third stop was at Cregganconroe Court Grave. The E forecourt of this tomb has been greatly disturbed and many of its stones are missing. Tall portals, now blocked by a fallen lintel, lead to a two-chambered burial gallery. The chambers are wide and there is a large displaced capstone. This suggests that there may have been a lintelled roof instead of the corbelled roof proposed for some other court graves. Near the W end of the cairn are two small burial chambers reached by portals from the long sides of the cairn.

The next stop was at Beaghmore. This complex monument was discovered during peat cutting. It consists of seven stone circles with associated alignments. Six of the circles are grouped in pairs and have multiple alignments approaching them from the east. The seventh circle has its interior filled with small standing stones. However it is now grass-grown and difficult to see. There are several other small cairns, some of which contained burials. Excavation evidence suggests a Bronze Age date and the circles overlie some scattered field boundaries which are Neolithic. Beaghmore is only one of several such monuments in this area. On the way to the next site we stopped to view an alignment of three stones near the roadside.

The final visit of the day was to Wellbrook Beetling Mill. This fine water-powered mill was operational until 1959 when it was handed over to the National Trust. The Trust carried out extensive repairs and renovations before opening the mill to the public in 1969. There are three operating beetling engines and the noise during beetling is hard to describe. It is no wonder most beetlers were deaf. In the upper storey of the mill there is a fine exhibition outlining the linen-making process. This was clearly explained to us by our guide, Karen. The emphasis is on making linen by hand with the beetling being the only mechanised process.

The Belfast Naturalists Field Club organises at least three fieldtrips every summer with major achaeological or historical content.