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Roe Valley

Founded in the 17th century, discover music, culture and history along the River Roe.

Famous music on the River Roe



Both Limavady and Ballykelly were Plantation towns, founded by English and Scots settlers in the 17th century. Ballykelly was owned by the London guild of Fishmongers, who developed it as a ‘model’ village, to show how even this wild part of Ireland could be transformed into a civilised corner of dear old England. Of course, it didn`t always work out quite that way; Walworth bawn at Ballykelly is a rare, surviving example of a fortified farmhouse which would have been typical of that time, constructed with a high wall around it, to protect the inhabitants. The ruins of Ballykelly`s original church can be found near Walworth bawn – it was burned during a rebellion in 1641.

The Earl Bishop commissioned the elegant, upright Tamlaghtfinlagan church that still proudly stands by the roadside in Ballykelly. It was completed in 1795 and its first rector was Harry Bruce, a cousin once removed and the brother of Frideswide Mussenden, whose name graces Frederick`s temple at Downhill. Harry was very loyal to Frederick through difficult times and was well-rewarded, not just with this church and the rector`s job that went with it, but eventually with the entire Downhill estate, which Frederick left to him because he had fallen out with his own, more immediate family. Tamlaghtfinlagan is still in use to this day.

Neighbouring Limavady became a prominent local market town with an early, thriving linen industry. During Frederick`s time, this part of Ireland produced linen in vast quantities and exported it around the world, generating a great deal of prosperity. The beautiful River Roe that runs through the town would have been used to wash the raw linen, which was then dried in the flat fields, watched over by guards in case someone tried to steal it in the night! Close to the linen green is the statue of a dog, bounding from a rock to cross the river; Limavady gets its name from Liam a Mhadaidh, or ‘Leap of the Dog.’ Local legend has it that a dog belonging to the O`Cahan clan, who once own the land, jumped the river during a battle to fetch help for its besieged masters.

However, Limavady is better known for a piece of music, transcribed by a local lady called Jane Ross, during a market day in the mid-1800s. Legend has it that she heard the tune from her house window, being played by a beggar with a fiddle. Many local musicians have been retrospectively credited with handing the music down, one being Frederick`s harpist friend, Dennis O`Hampsey, although O`Hampsey died before Jane Ross was even born. 

Whatever about its origins, the haunting tune, called The Londonderry Air, eventually found its way into the hands of a lawyer called Frederick Weatherly, who lived in Bath, in south-west England. Other, older lyrics had previously been set to it, but Weatherly wrote his own version, called Danny Boy, and that is the song known around the world today, particularly associated with the Irish diaspora. The house where Jane Ross lived, and where she apparently transcribed the song, still stands in the centre of Limavady. Almost opposite is the Roe Valley Arts Centre, which has permanent exhibitions and regular events, celebrating the vibrant culture of the surrounding area.


Interesting Places Nearby

These locations are specifically linked to the Earl Bishop, they are close to Limavady. 

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