FINVOLA - GEM OF THE ROE
Local legend mourns the 17th century story of Finvola, the young and beautiful daughter of Dermot, the chieftain of the O'Cahans, who fell in love with Angus McDonnell of the McDonnell Clan from the western isles of Scotland. Dermot consented to the marriage on the condition that on his daughter's death, she would be brought back to Dungiven for burial.
Tragically, Finvola died young, soon after reaching the isle of Islay and distraught, Angus could not bear to part with her and buried her on the island. On Benbradagh Mountain Finvola's two brothers heard a piercing wail and recognising the call of the banshee Grainne Rua, knew that a member of their clan had died. After discovering all at home alive and well, the brothers set sail for Islay, where they recovered Finvola's body and brought her home to Dungiven, setting the banshee's cry at rest.
THE HAUNTS OF THE HIGHWAY MAN; SHANE CROSSAGH O'MULLAN AND CUSHY GLEN
The mountains and lonely valleys of Limavady and the Roe Valley have been witness to the colourful and in some cases blood-thirsty exploits of 18th century highwaymen. The most notorious of these, was Shane Crossagh O'Mullan, whose famous deed was the defiant ambush of General Napier and his troops on what is now known as General's Bridge in Feeny. After taking their arms and valuables, he made the troops strip to their underwear and walk the rest of the way to Derry! For many years Shane evaded capture, but eventually was sent to Derry Gaol and hanged in the Diamond in Derry in 1722. His body is buried in Banagher Old Church graveyard.
The Windyhill road, between Limavady and Coleraine, was formally known as the Murderhole Road, due to the rather gruesome tales it has witnessed. Cushy Glen, the infamous 18th century highwayman, used this lonely stretch of road to prey upon unsuspecting travellers. The name arises from the murder hole, where Cushy reputedly had his den. Today, the road is mainly used as a scenic route, with a picnic site at Largantea Bridge, but on a dark eerie night, the legend of Cushy Glen is still very much alive.
THE BROIGHTER GOLD
The phrase "hidden treasure" may conjure up thoughts of wild pirate tales and fairytale fables, nevertheless you may be suprised to learn that a hoard of treasure was discovered not far from Limavady buried in a field at Broighter! One morning in February 1896, two local ploughmen, Tom Nicholl and James Morrow, stumbled across an incredible find during their daily toil. The Broighter Gold, as the treasure later became known, comprised of an ornamented collar, a little boat with oars, a bowl, two bracelets and two necklaces. Sold to the British Academy, the find then became embroiled in further controversy when the Royal Irish Academy claimed that the gold should be declared treasure trove and handed over by the British Academy. In 1903, the case came to conclusion, when the court ruled that the gold be handed over to the National Museum in Dublin, where it is on display today. A hologram installation of the Broighter Gold is on display in the Limavady council offices.
PEG OF LIMAVADY
"Beauty is not rare; in the land of Paddy Fair; beyond compare, is Peg of Limavady"... These romantic sentiments from William Makepeace Thackeray betray the story of his visit to Limavady, where reputedly he fell in love with the subject of his poem, "Peg of Limavady". In the early 19th century, Thackeray paid a visit to Limavady, staying at a small inn in Ballyclose Street. During his stay, the inn keeper's daughter's striking look caught his eye, becomming his muse for the poem. "Peg of Limavady" later appeared in his Irish Sketch Book, immortalising her beauty forever.
THE LEAP OF THE DOG, THE O'CAHAN CLAN AND SIR THOMAS PHILLIPS.
Limavady derives it's name from the Irish meaning "Leim an Mhadaidh" meaning leap of the dog, arising from the legendary leap over the River Roe by a dog owned by the O'Cahan Clan to warn the Chieftains of an enemy ambush. The jump took place from the Dogleap Bridge, in the Roe Valley Country Park, where the site of O'Cahan's castle once stood. O'Cahan's Rock, an 80ft high riverside precipice within the park used for abseiling, is also associated with the legend of the O'Cahans; legend relates that an O'Cahan horseman evaded his pursuers through leaping from O'Cahan's Rock to safety on the other side of the river. It is said that the horse's hoof print is still visable on the rock. The O'Cahans, the ruling clan of Limavady, are often associated with such fabled legend, being the bastion of power, fear and romanticism within the area until the 17th century, when the last O'Cahan chief was imprisoned for treason and died in the Tower of London in 1628. The O'Cahan's fortified land was granted to Sir Thomas Phillips, who is credited with the founding of 'Newtoun Limavady', granted a borough charter in 1613.
CONVENTION OF DRUMCEATT
In 575AD, the High King of Ireland, nobles, clerics, poets and historians met at Mullagh Hill to settle the matter of the Irish bards in the Kingdom of Dal Riata which extended into Scotland. St Colmcille presided over the meeting and when he was exiled from Ireland in 565AD, he had vowed he would neither see Ireland again or set foot on Irish soil, legend has it he was blindfolded and had sods of Alba (Scotland) tied to his feet.
ST AIDAN'S HOLY WELL AND THE GRAVE OF DENNIS O'HAMPSEY
The Holy Well, situated at St Aidan's Church, Magilligan, originates from the legend that part of St Aidan's body was buried here in a cairn by St Coleman, a celtic Abbot in 664AD, on his way to found a new monastery in Mayo. Due to the proximity of the grave to a celebrated well, St Coleman blessed the well and dedicated it to St Aidan, encouraging local folklore which suggested that the well cured ills and ailments. Any visitor to the site wishing to avail of the legendary healing powers of the well should first draw some of the dust from the cairn, where it is said St Aidan lies. Water extracted from the well should then be mixed with the dust and the mixture should be applied externally to the affliction to effect healing.
The churchyard of St Aidan's also hosts the grave of Denis O'Hampsey, the renowned harpist from Magilligan, who performed at the famous Belfast Harp Festival in 1792. O'Hampsey, who was said to be the last and greatest of the Irish Harpers, reportedly played the tune of Danny Boy, then known as 'O'Cahan's Lament' for Bonnie Prince Charlie. His bicentenary was celebrated in November 2007.
MYTH OF THE SERPENT
Near the source of the Owenreagh River, outside Dungiven is a pool called Lig-na-paistie, were an enormous serpent is said to lie curled up. It used to ravage the adjoining lands until St Murrough prayed to be able to put three bands of rushes on him, and then that these should become bands of iron, thus trapping the serpent forever.