The village of Clare near Tandragee is not much different from the many other villages dotted throughout the Counties of  Armagh and Down. 'Blink and you miss it'. It's essentially just a crossroads between Loughgilly and Tandragee and with just 30 or 40 houses in the entire village you wouldn't think there would be much to write about. But there you would be wrong! Author Sarah Jennifer McClelland proved there certainly is a lot to write about when she published her 626 page epic to raise funds for Clare Presbyterian Church. Stories extensively document the area and are abundantly accompanied by illustrations, maps and photographs going right back to the 1600's.

Blacksmith John Clarke and his wife Elizabeth with their children Sarah and David John and a trainee at the Eleven Lane Ends Forge.
Blacksmith John Clarke and his wife Elizabeth with their children Sarah and David John and a trainee at the Eleven Lane Ends Forge. Photograph courtesy of Irene Clarke.

The History of Clare - The People, The Place and The Presbyterians covers everything from the Plantation of Ulster, Presbyterian persecution, the 1641 Uprising and details of virtually every single minister in Clare from 1679 starting with Rev. John McBride. The Rev Robert James Whan ministered there from 1882 to 1928, A passionate member of the Orange order he was the last Minister as the book comments "to have his Church correspondence addressed as Clare, Tandragee, County Armagh, Ireland" Rev Whan's funeral in 1928 saw 27 cars in the village, a sight not witnessed before.

Cookes Hill

Cooks or Cookes Hill. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Cooks or Cookes Hill. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

A page in the chapter on the Plantation caught my eye. The Author explains "Although many Irish remained on their farms, (but under a new landlord) there were those who did lose their land" and adds "In 1610 King James I granted 1000 acres in the Barony of Orior to Sir Francis Cooke" Part of that land included the Townland of "Moyculleneightra" or Mavemacullen as it's now known, the very Townland where I grew up. One of the fields on our farm was called Cook's Hill which I suppose we assumed a Cook lived there in the past but it is certainly plausible that it was "Cookes Hill" named after the very man who got it handed to him in 1610!

Clare Castle

The book is an incredibly extensive history of the journey of Presbyterians in the area but it doesn't stop there. One amazing chapter discusses Clare Castle, a substantial castle which it appears was being built in 1619. Also known as the Earl of Bath's Castle it was destroyed by fire during the 1641 Uprising and again accidentally fell victim to fire in 1785 when sparks from a chimney fell on to a shingled roof.

Clare - The People, The Place and The Presbyterians
Clare - The People, The Place and The Presbyterians

Restored again it was the location in 1794 of Clare Academy. The book publishes an article from the Northern Star Newspaper in 1794 and it's so detailed that it deserves to be printed here in full:

"To be opened, at Clare-Castle, in the Co. Armagh, On the 1st day of August next, by the Rev. JOHN MAGUIRE, wherein he trusts, by the aid of chosen Assistants, Youth will be educated in the following departments of Literature, in a new and expeditious manner, viz the English, French, Latin and Greek Languages: Writing and Arithmetic - with all the useful and ornamental branches of the Mathematics, the principle of Astronomy, the use of Maps and Globes, natural and moral Philosophy, History &c"

"The fine air and beautiful situation of the Place, the spacious and convenient accommodations, the moderate terms of 16 guineas per ann. And 4 guineas entrance for Boarders, 4 guineas per ann. and one guinea entrance for Day Scholars, and chiefly the strict attentions which Mr Maguire promises to pay to the Morals, Health and Genius of his pupils will, he hopes, render the undertaking worthy of public encouragement. As his plan is to confine his attention to a limited number, he requests that those who intend honouring him with the important trust, will apply some time previous to the commencement of the Classes." A well rounded extensive education indeed you could say but as the book author states "Certainly not for the local populace" who wouldn't have exactly been floating in guineas! One student who did study there was the Rev Michael Montague, a former President of Maynooth College and presumably the person Montague Street in Tandragee is named after! Sadly the castle no longer exists.

The Red Star

Another chapter mentions the 14th of July as a forgotten holiday with people in the 1940's and 50's heading en-masse to Warrenpoint via bus and train with the obligatory boat trip over to Omeath on the Red Star.

I had a little bird. Its name was Enza. I opened up the window and in-flu-Enza

Appropriate for the times we live in now, although obviously much harsher, the 1918 Flu pandemic brought a particularly hard time to Clare. The book notes three McClelland brothers Robert, David and William all died within a week of each other.

Clare National School.
Clare National School.

Use your Townland Name

With Ballymore Parish made up of 48 Townlands and their use dying out, in no small measure due to the introduction of Postcodes, the Author seeks to create a bit of a popular revival for this "unique aspect to our countryside and our history", She mentions the beautifully sounding Drumnagluntagh, suggesting that residents there should use it before it becomes extinct.

The Patience of Job

A chapter on old sayings brings up many popular comments of the past including "Ribs on him like a washboard" and "He hasn't been beaten from the trough" or as my own Mother used to say to me "You'd try the patience of Job"

Where to Buy

Full credit must go to Editor Sarah Jennifer McClelland for what must have been years of research. The book is stocked in Tandragee where you can get it at Hamilton Hardware and Garden Fresh. In Markethill you can buy at Willis Hardware. You can also contact the Author at

The book costs £25 with all money going to church funds.

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