by Rosemary McClenaghan

In Ballycastle town there sits a place that I do know so well,
My father often spoke of it and he had a tale to tell
Of warriors and chieftains, lost treasure and lost life
Built as a place of worship it has seen its share of strife.


This place sits on the golf course now but not alone it stands,
Two houses overlook Tee one, and in my families hands
Those houses were one dwelling place – a guesthouse called Borrowmore
For my father grew up living here on Ballycastle shore.


He played some golf and tennis too, he loved this town so much,
In adult life he moved away, but his desire was such
that in Ballycastle town he spent his last remaining years,
And he often spoke of this one place and how it could bring fear.


Its Bonamargy Friary, and it dates to 1485,
Rory McQuillan helped establish it and it quickly grew in size
From a gatehouse with a dorm above – to a place for songs and prayer,
Its name means “foot of the Margy”  the river runs by over there.


Macdonnel first fought Maquillan in the fields that lie nearby,
And Sorley Boy is buried here – a dark vault – no light no sky,
He shares space with the Earls of Antrim including one called Randall,
This place has its share of secrets of mystery and scandal.


By 1790 the friars had gone departed from these shores,
But someone else was living here if you believe folklore,
A McQuillen; first name Julia but known better by Black Nun,
It’s said she was a prophetess – or so the tale does run.


She predicted modern motor cars and a drowning off the Rocks of Pan,
A red haired priest; and it came true – poor Father James McCann,
Her death? well, there’s many say – she was murdered on the stair,
And If up you climb – avoid 13 – you’ll see there’s little wear.


She’s buried here – it was her wish – to lie at the chapel door
So all that enter tread on her – she was humble to her core,
Her grave is marked with a “holy cross” – you can take that in 2 ways,
It gives the power to conjure her or so my dad did say…


Walk 7 times around her grave be sure to go clockwise,
Then 7 times go counter round – and it is said she’ll rise
if in the hole you put your hand – and you call out her name,
Many say they’ve seen her ghost – if you believe their claim.


On a different note some manuscripts they were discovered here –
Deep in an oak chest-  in the ruins – writing still bright and clear,
The life of Christ, Works of Aquinas, and other holy matters,
Vellum yellow but for its age not fallen into tatters.


But there are things that have not been found – gold and treasures of the Monks,
In the surrounding ground – in its own grave-  its said that it is sunk.
To keep it safe from pillaging hands the fortune they’d misuse
but the site’s been lost, the treasure too – unless a special way you choose.


Some say in yound East window – if you light a candle late at night,
Furthest north east you can see it from – will identify the site,
so take a chance if gold you seek – go digging in these grounds
but with headstones all round about you – who knows what will be found!


But for now my tale is over and I thank you for your time,
I hope you’ve enjoyed my monologue albeit told in rhyme,
It wasn’t meant to scare you – nor bring you fear and fright,
It’s just a simple introduction to The Bonamargy site.


Rosemary McClenaghan