Weathered masonry at the height of Torr Head was there to serve the custom house and as support for a spotting station where ships transiting the Strait of Moyle (Irish Sruth na Maoile), the 12 miles of water to the Mull of Kintyre.
Lloyd’s of London, vitally interested in the appearance of ships’ progress crossing the oceans, had notice of passage via semaphore (and, later, Marconi’s “wireless”). Destination ports were copied in.
Here is a photograph from our day touring the Glens of Antrim. While making our way up the coast to Torr Head a group of stone walls resolved into ruins. A cluster of cottages on grassy slopes above the Irish sea above Loughan Bay. This is the townland of Loughan. Along the road are wonderful signs providing in handsome carved letters the place name in english and gaelic. Here a signed only provided a gaelic name: “Loughan an Lochan”…near enough to meaning “Loughan Bay” in English. The bay is a shallow scallop shaped indentation of the coast, a margin of narrow sand strand.
Ruins are spread across the slope. Immediately before the views are traces of a foundation above the grass. Beyond the top of a gable, an entire gable to the left. On the far ridge, just visible, is an entire structure with doorways, gables, walls.
Across the Irish Sea, 13 miles distant, is the Mull of Kintyre. In faint outline, rising above the horizon, find the highlands of Islay more than 30 miles. Both are tips of peninsulas jutting from Scotland.
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In this Part 03, some contemporaneous people are introduced, more information on the environment provided, some previous residents named and imagined.
To understand the full beauty of a place, it is necessary to live it, to experience the seasons, approach the land from different aspects; pass the same place many time, noticing overlooked features, enjoying old favorites. We did our best in this single day and took the exploration of this Antrim County coast slow, savoring all the views we noticed as this is a once in a lifetime experience. Imagine our amazement to find Scotland so close at hand. In the past, on a fine day the trip across the North Channel, up eastern Kintyre peninsula shores to Campbeltown at the head of Campbeltown Loch, was easier than a land crossing to a closer town.
I picked Campbeltown because my great great grandfather, a sea captain, emigrated from Scotland to County Louth where my great grandmother, Anne Campbell, married John Mills. In this way Captain Campbell escaped persecution for his Roman Catholic faith.
Late in her life, Anne Mills posed for this portrait. I can tell great grandmother Mills is facing north from these clues:
— the press of the eternal east wind on her dress, against her left left and flowing away from the right.
— the sun shadow on her cheek. It was around noon. With the sun, at this latitude, in the south the shadow from her right cheekbone is darker than the left.
A few miles before Loughan Bay, at Coolranny, are informative placards describing the area. I thought the white flowering trees, or shrubs, on the slopes were Hawthorn. On revisiting my capture of the placards I learned these are a different plant named Rowan Tree, aka Mountain-ash. This wind stressed specimen is an typical example of Rowans on this coast, stunted and little more than a bush. This individual is slanted westward from a constant and stiff east wind, as with Anne Mills’ portrait. Residents, past and present, of this coast know this damp, persistent wind well. Note the lack of blossoms on the east side, blossoms that ripen to small dark red fruit called poms (also called rowans). The leaves turn red in the fall. More time, for the fruit to form and leaves to turn, was necessary for me to be certain my identification of this, as a Rowan, is correct.
On this day, Friday, June 6, 2014 I did two rounds of shooting the cottages. The first, handheld, with a Sony Alpha 700. Upon returning to the car for the Canon, Pam was talking to a friendly sheep farmer who pulled up in a large tractor pulling a tank. It turned out we parked below the turnout for his sheep enclosure built on the hill west of Torr Road. His flocks grazed the surrounding land. He and I talked, too briefly, about the hard lives of the people who lived here.
The Coolraney placard, up the road, claimed the cottages were deserted in the 19th century. I found evidence, in the 1901 Irish Census, of three Roman Catholic families, 19 men, women, children, living on Loughan Townland. In Part 02 of this series, setting the stage, Loughan is sized at 112 acres, a single photograph captures Loughan entire. These families had nowhere else to live, in Loughan, other than the cottages.
The smallest, and poorest, the poorest of the poor, family was 32 year old Mary Corbit and her two children, 10 year old Mary and Robert, 2 years. The Corbit family lived in a one room, stone walled, house with a wood or thatch roof. Unlike the other families they had no outbuildings, structures to house livestock or to support a farm operation. The house owner was Marj Delargy.
Here is a single room house among the ruins, four low walls, the east/west with intact gables, the stones collected from the hillside. The west wall higher up the slope, the floor now thick with fern.
Little Mary most certainly took care of Robert for part of the day. Did Mary, with Robert along, gather rowans, and other forage?
Mary Corbit: head of household, occupation laborer. There is a footnote to Mary’s “Marriage” entry as Married, “husband at sea.” The “C” of her census signature exactly like my mother signed her name Catherine.
Mary Corbit and her children were not listed in Loughan Townland for the 1911 Census.
….to be continued….. Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills, All Rights Reserved.
For me, the romance of a place is settled in exact knowledge as much as a feeling. Starting with a recollection of the ruined cottages making such an impression we found a parking place and hiked into them loaded with photography equipment, three years later returning to use the photographs, bringing back a rush of memories and feelings, it is a matter of using the set of photographs from that day to build the location.
This much I knew, going in: we were touring Antrim Glens entering at Cushendall, after visiting Glenariff Forest Park, proceeding up the coast through Cushendun to Torr Head. A fortuitous encounter with a village of abandoned farm cottages (“ruins”) happened somewhere in between.
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There was a photograph of a notable church prior to the ruins and a fine view, from a place named Greenhill, afterwards.
Here is a picture of the terrain with the three pushpins:
A fine church just off Torr Road, to the west. I found the location in Google Maps, marked as “church”. Google earth showed buildings at the location, this set the “church” pushpin. Associated with the church, using the date/time stamp, were images of signage naming Coolranny townland.
A sign identifying a location as “Greenhill” was after. Neither Google Maps or Earth lists this as a place. It took hours searching web sites of Irish townlands before I found the reference. Greenhill is not a townland; it was listed as a place on one of the maps. Just above the notation was Torr Road, two unique bends in the road. I used these bends to identify the turnoff where I photographed the “Greenhill” sign.
For reasons to be explained later, it is important to know the name of the ruin townland. The place name sign presented in post 1 was a clue (“Loughan an Lochan” — or Loughan Bay), as well at the web site (see link below) listing Irish townlands. The web site map names “Loughan Bay.”
With this information I was able to peruse Google Earth, found the turnoff and the ruins!
See the above Google Map image sized to approximate the Loughan townland boundaries.
The scenery was jaw dropping lovely the entire time, so I captured view and view. Here are two landscapes time stamped just prior to the church, views including Coolranny and Loughan townlands with Torr Head in the distance.
That is Torr Road….
……a bit further along. It is possible to locate the ruin site from the Google Earth picture. There is a signature grove of bushes on the slope below the ruin site, sandy beach along shore. In the landscapes, Loughan Bay is cradled in a curve of coast.
We pulled off the side of Torr Road for this fine view on the way to Torr Head to take in this view of the Irish Sea. The steeply rising distant headland is the Mull of Kintyre. Loughan an Lochan, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
We parked on a turnout above the Loughan Cottages, near this farmer’s sheep pen. He drove up in a huge tractor and conversed with Pam while I was below shooting the cottages. He made a good impression.
Roofless walls of a cottage more substantial than the other deserted ruins above Loughan Bay, with two fireplaces a walled porch with a view. A number of outbuilding foundations lay around. The integrity of the walls, chimneys and gables speaks to the quality of construction. A freighter in the North Channel of the Irish Sea is visible in the distance above the upper ridge. Beyond is the island of Islay, Scotland, about 30 miles distant. Loughan an Lochan, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
I am happy to report a series of thirteen (13) photographs of these ruins were accepted for publication by Getty. You can click any of the photographs in this posting for my Getty portfolio.
The land slopes steeply to a rocky beach.
A thick growth of ferns, grass on the gable was once a home with a view of Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre 13 miles across the North Channel of the Irish Sea. The Isle of Sanda just visible on the right of the far gable. A landform named Alisa Crag is just visible in the distance, to the left of the nearest gable.
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