THE STORY OF QUARVUE
Fáilte go dtí gCorr na Muclach
Once upon a time a long-forgotten visitor to the house said:
“There’s a quare view from here, so there is.”
It stuck through the generations and 20 years ago we adopted a version of it as a semi-official name. The Casserley family lived here for at least a couple of centuries until the 1980s: James (pictured with his sister Bridget by the front door), a veteran of the First World War, was the last of them.
The family name is an unusual one, unique in Omeath but once better known in North Monaghan. According to local tradition that is where the Casserleys came from, part of the great tide of refugees driven southwards by the Plantation of Ulster in the early years of the 17th century. Omeath was part of the lands belonging to the Cistercian Abbey in Newry which were seized by Nicholas Bagenal, later Marshall of Queen Elizabeth’s army in Ireland, at the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1540s. In the 18th century the lands were in the hands of the Paget/Bayly family, descendants of Bagenal. In 1765, when the untitled Nicholas Bayly took over the estate, one of his listed tenants was Edward Cassaley (sic). By 1784, Patrick Casselly (sic) held over 30 acres, mostly mountain grazing, from Lord Paget, a member of the Bayly branch of the family.
There is no way of dating the house, which probably evolved slowly from a one-room thatched cottage. The footprint of the current house can be clearly seen on the Griffiths valuation map of 1857 …
… when Bryan Casley (sic) held six acres and a bit from the estate of the Marquess of Anglesea. It was then a single-storey house; it is thought the upper storey was added in the 1930s. A photo probably taken in the early 1880s from the Flagstaff shows the house (circled).
It already had a slate roof in the 1901 census (which recorded the family name as Casserley) with byre and pigsty alongside. The kitchen end of the farmhouse is built without any proper foundation, indicating that it may have started life as a one-room cabin with low, relatively light walls.
In 1858 Bryan Casselly (sic) managed to increase his holding to seven acres and three roods when the townland of Cornamucklagh was acquired by the Hall family of Narrowwater Castle. His annual rent was £8.12.4d. The Halls had previously been agents for the Anglesea estate. House and garden are also clearly visible on the first Ordnance Survey map from 1835.
The title of Earls of Anglesea title was granted to the Paget/Bayly family in recognition of services at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815; before that they were mere lords.
Before that, the trail goes cold. There were no Casserleys in Cornamucklagh in 1666 when heads were counted for the Hearth Tax, although there were four householders called Cassely/Cassaly in the townland of Ballorgan (now Bellurgan) near Ballymascanlon.
Some time in the early years of the eighteenth century a famous hurling match took place in the townland of Bavan, a couple of miles south of Cornamucklagh. According to local legend it was a serious affair involving up to fifty men, one of whom was killed, and went on for a few days. A Gaelic song of the time celebrates the sporting heroes, and there in the final verse we get mention of the only Ó Casalaigh in the parish:
Is ógfhear de chlanna Néill ann, ‘chóir a bheith i dtús an scéil seo
Ba ch’iste bhuailfeadh an liathróid i mbéal báire
Is Ó Casalaigh na dhiaidh ní ba dual ó fhréamh
Is an balla leis ‘sna beanna a bhfágáil.
The Nine Years War (1594-1603) revolved around the Gap of the North some ten miles from Cornamucklagh, where Hugh O’Neill sought to block the English advance into Ulster. In late 1600 O’Neill finally pulled out of the Pass and the English army under Lord Mountjoy was able to relieve the garrison in Newry, which had been under siege for months. Mountjoy then headed for Carlingford but scouts told him O’Neill was moving an army over Fathom Pass (visible from the house). Fearful of an attack from the steep hills on the Armagh side, Mountjoy advanced along the Co. Down side on 12th November and crossed the lough at Narrowwater by means of a pontoon bridge (as King John had done 400 years earlier). He camped on the hill of Cornamucklagh with about 2400 foot soldiers and 800 cavalry. He also had a number of light cannon known as culverins, which fired four-pounder balls. Fast-forward another four hundred years: we found one of their four-pounders when we rooted out some holly bushes where the corner of the extension now stands.