MACOSQUIN, or CAMUS-juxta-BANN, a parish, in the barony of COLERAINE, county of LONDONDERRY, and province of ULSTER, 2 miles (S. S. W.) from Coleraine, on the road to Dublin; containing 6639 inhabitants.
The place derived its latter name, which is the more ancient, from the foundation of a monastery at Cambos or Camus, on the river Bann, by St. Comgal, in 580; and the former, by which it is more generally known, from the Cistercian abbey of St. Mary de Fontana or Macosquin, founded in 1172 by the family of O'Cahan. Both these establishments, of which the former became very celebrated as the resort of numerous pilgrims, continued to flourish till the dissolution and were granted in 1609 by Jas. I. to the Irish Society, by whom the church of the latter was made parochial.
The parish, which is chiefly the property of the Richardson family by purchase from the Merchant Tailors' company, is situated on the river Bana, by which it is bounded on the east, and comprises, according to the Ordnance Survey, 17,804- statute acres, of which 65- are in the river Bann, and 12,923 are applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £6851. 5. per annum.
The land is generally of good quality, in a profitable state of cultivation, and well fenced and drained; there are extensive tracts of bog and mountain, which might be brought into cultivation at a moderate expense. Basaltic stone of excellent quality for building is scattered over the parish, and is quarried for that purpose and for mending the roads; granite, porphyry, and clay-slate are found in the channels of several of the numerous rivulets by which it is intersected; and iron ore is also very abundant, especially in the townland of Drumcroon, but the mines have never been worked in consequence of the high price of coal.
There are several gentlemen's seats in the neighbourhood, most of them surrounded with extensive and thriving plantations, which form a conspicuous and interesting feature in a district generally destitute of timber. Of these, the principal are:
Somerset, the residence of the Rev. T. Richardson ;
Greenfield, of S. Bennett, Esq. ;
Ardverness, of R. Bennett, Esq. ;
Drumcroon, of J. Wilson, Esq. ;
Dromore, of J. Gamble, Esq. ;
Ballyness, of Miss Heyland ;
Castleroe, of Capt. Hannay ;
Castleroe, the property of Rowley Heyland, of Dublin, Esq., at present untenanted; and
Camus House, of Curtis McFarland, Esq.
The linen manufacture was formerly carried on to a very great extent, especially in the finer fabrics, and there are four large bleach-greens, capable of finishing 60,000 pieces annually, all of which were in full operation; but the trade has so much declined, that one only is now kept at work by the proprietor, for the humane purpose of affording employment to the numerous families which had settled around them.
The salmon fishery, first granted to Sir Arthur Chichester in 1605, and afterwards to the Irish Society, is situated at a place called "the Cutts," to which the tide flows up ; but the river Bann, though navigable here, is unavailable to the benefit of the parish, as no vessel can pass under the bridge of Coleraine; the navigation is also prevented by fords, and by the "Cutts," where the great salmon fishery of the Bann is carried on, about a mile from the bridge.
The courts leet and baron attached to the manor have not been held for some time; the jurisdiction of the court of Coleraine extends over this parish, and all pleas are now referred to it. The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Derry, and in the patronage of the Bishop, but the advowson is claimed by the Richardson family; the tithes amount to £600.
The glebe-house was built about 70 years since at an expense of £738. 9. 2- ; the glebe comprises 200 Cunningham acres, valued at £200 per annum.
The church, a very spacious structure (formerly the abbey church of Macosquin), was new-roofed and repaired in 1826, at an expense of £500, of which one-half was paid by assessment and the other by the incumbent.
In the R. C. divisions, the parish forms part of the union or district of Killowen or Coleraine.
There are places of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, of the third class, at Englishtown, and with the Associate Synod, of the second class, at Crossgare; also one for Covenanters at Ringrash.
About 500 children are taught in the public schools of the parish, of which the parochial school, near the church, is partly supported by the rector; one for girls by the lady of the rector, who gave the school-house; one at Ballywilliam by the Ironmongers' company; one at Castleroe, established by the late F. Bennett, Esq., who, in 1820, endowed it with £10 per annum, charged on the Castleroe estate, built a large and handsome school-house, and directed £5 per annum to be paid to a minister for officiating in it occasionally; it is further aided by a donation from T. Bennett, Esq., who also contributes £3 per annum and a house to a school at Camus ; and there is a school built by Mr. Richardson and afterwards endowed by Dr Adam Clarke with a sum of money left by an English lady to found schools in Ireland, after which it was connected with the Methodists for some time, but has now reverted to the patronage of its original founder. There are also four private schools, in which are about 200 children, and eight Sunday schools.
The small remains of the monastery founded by St. Comgal were taken down to build a wall around the burial-ground; among them was a very ancient stone cross having four compartments, in each of which were three of the apostles sculptured in high relief, and profusely ornamented with scrolls and wreaths; it was removed from its socket and now forms a gate pillar in the wall. There was also an ancient font, to which, previously to the removal of the cross, the people resorted in great numbers.
Several stone and bronze celts have been found, chiefly in the bogs; also fossilized tubs of butter, one of which, weighing 22 lb., is in the possession of J. Wilson, Esq., of Drumcroon. There are five ancient forts and several artificial caves, one of which, at Ballywilliam, contains five apartments.
There are also several strong chalybeate springs in the parish, of which those at Drumcroon and Greenfield contain iron, sulphur, and magnesia in solution, with a considerable portion of carbonic acid gas.