The inaugural meeting of the Creggan Local History Society was held on the 25th of October 1984, and was attended by a small, but dedicated group of amateur historians, eager to collect and conserve the history of the area. The group had no resources to begin with, apart from the £5 annual subscription levied on all members; however they set themselves a daunting program of work which included the collecting and cataloguing of artefacts; the mapping out of local graveyards and the copying of their headstone inscriptions; and the recording and filing of all information relating to Crossmaglen and district from 1880 onwards.
In early 1985 the proposed work of the Society attracted a £400 seeding grant from the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust, and this enabled them to employ a full-time researcher under the Action for Community Employment scheme. Almost exactly one year later the Society employs one full-time and two part-time A.C.E. workers; and the constitution of the Society sites the following as some of its objectives:
(i) The compilation of a comprehensive history of the Creggan parish;
(ii) The presentation of a series of displays and lectures on local history;
(iii) The publication of an annual local history journal.
This journal is intended to be the First of a series of annual publications from the Creggan Local History Society, on varying aspects of the parish's colourful past. It represents not only the past year's work by Society members, but is also the product of the meticulous and unending work of local historians throughout the last few centuries.
The first article, (on Crossmaglen), quotes many of the available records of the town, from many sources, dating as far back as the early 17th century; it will be continued and expanded in future issues. It leads directly into our second article- (on another Crossmaglen - this time in Australia), and it serves as an indication of the unwitting influence that can, from time to time, be wielded by a person, a people or a place- to form unbreakable bonds between communities.
The next couple of articles deals with the overall parish history; firstly we have a short overview of the Creggan parish, and this is succeeded by an account of the Poets and Scholars of south Ulster, placing their connections with each other and with the Creggan parish in perspective. This latter piece was originally written as one chapter of a much larger work, and we are privileged to have the opportunity of including it here.
The subsequent account is of the life and times of a family renowned for their relentless and brutal hounding of local brigands - the infamous Johnstons of the Fews.
The last three articles in this issue deal with three more diverse aspects of the history of Creggan parish. We range from a piece written about the hiring-out at fairs in this district in the early decades of this century; to a look at some of the Ancient monuments of south Armagh - attempting to outline their significance to the communities that built them. Here again we have the privilege of printing an authoritative, and up to date, article on some of the ancient monuments of the area, in advance of the publication of the Archaeological Survey of Northern Ireland.
The final article lists the townlands that were part of the Barony of Upper Fews in the mid-19th century, and attempts to give an indication of what each place-name means, or how it came about, in the light of contemporary 19th century interpretations, and also with the hindsight of modern Irish interpretation.
Obviously our contents this year are wide and varied, giving a flavour of the many facets of local history. We hope that there will be something here to interest and entertain everybody. However the material included here is barely the tip of the ice-berg, and new material is being unearthed almost daily. The workload on society members is increasing at a similar rate and new members are ever welcome, to share their ideas and reminiscences, or possibly to actively engage in collecting material (of all sorts) for the Society.
If you are interested in becoming involved with the society, in any way, or wish to know more of what we are trying to achieve then please get in touch with any of the officers listed below:
Mrs. Mary Cumiskey Chairperson (Forkhill 323)
Mrs. Geraldine Hanratty Secretary (Cross' 868064)
Mr Michael McShane Treasurer (Cross' 861817)
A.C.E. Spring '86