Stevenson's Dowery, or: What's in a place name?

Stevenson's Dowery—also known as Galvally—townland (link to map) includes part of the town of Stewartstown and a rural tract due west of that town. Within Stewartstown, the townland occupies about seven acres within the following boundaries:

  • on the north, the lane running up the hill into, and beyond the northwest corner of, St. Patrick's church yard—ab0ut 250 metres;
  • on the east, the road to Coagh (B160), for about 13o metres;
  • on the south, the Sherrigrim road; and,
  • on the west, a lane that runs south-to-north, commencing just west of the Orange Hall.

The remaining one hundred acres of the townland are rural, lying for the most part on the northeast side of the Donaghendry road as far as the foot of Annie Hill—with a small triangular bump into Drumagullion townland south of the Sherrigrim road. 

The townland consists of a large portion of a Very Prominent Hill ... this, in a district known for its rolling hills. Driving southeast on the Donaghenry road towards the west side of Stewartstown, you can't miss it. The hill is that grand, not only in its stature, but also by the prospect afforded from its peak of the surrounding countryside ... tall enough, I imagine,* to glimpse Tullaghoge Fort three miles off to the northwest, and easterly, past the hills of Letterclery and Drumard, to the waters of Lough Neagh. *a hypothesis which I hope to test.

Such a prominent hill must have been employed by those who wished to take advantage of the commanding view—perhaps the ONeills or the OHagans—in order to maintain a vigilant surveillance. One can easily imagine a lookout stationed atop the hill when rumours of invasion were afoot or when, for example, the Earl of Tyrone sought refuge on the crannoge in Craobh Lough nearby. Even before the Plantation of 1609-10, Ireland had been invaded by intruders, and otherwise visited and inhabited by foreigners and strangers.

Interesting, then, isn't it? that the old gaelige name for the townland, Galvally, means town of the strangers, or the foreigners' hill—and that there may have been a parcel of ground known as the Strife land, which seems to correspond with the the Outlands of Galvally. (See the discussion points on this subject under the entry, 1698, August 4th.) One wonders when, in history, this district became associated with strangers or foreigners.

It has proven much simpler to determine the point at which this townland became known as Stevenson's Dowery. I didn't set out with this as a research objective, but this is the kind of local history and genealogical research gold that begs to be mined from the Registry of Deeds.

In this instance, our subject is Memorial no. 51-513-34556, Stevenson to Akie and others (dated 13 Sept 1722, registered 14 April 1727 (Registry of Deeds, Dublin). The parties to this tripartite agreement were:

  1. Capt. James Stevenson of Stewartstown;
  2. Wil. Akie of Fyagh, parish of Arboe, Esq., and Robert Stewart of Stewarthall, Esq.; and
  3. William Stevenson of Portadown, merchant, and son of James Stevenson, and Ann Stewart, daughter of the late Andrew Stewart of Stewarthall.

The primary purpose of the agreement was to set the terms and conditions for a settlement to be made by James Stevenson on his son, William, on the occasion of his marriage to Ann Stewart, and also for the dower which would be paid to Ann's intended husband. A considerable portion of this very long deed involves the recitation of a previous marriage settlement, two wills, and five deeds of lease and release. The earlier marriage settlement reveals that William had been married previously, to Elizabeth, lately deceased, daughter of William Fleming of Portadown.

However, the more remarkable terms involved James Stevenson's direction that all of the fee farm grants which he held in the parish of Donaghenry, county Tyrone, and in the parish of Drumcree, county Armagh, should be placed in the hands of Wil. Akie and Robert Stewart, in trust for William Stevenson after the decease of his father. It is difficult to assess, but it seems unlikely that Capt. Stevenson would cede control of his lands, albeit in trust to two worthy gentlemen, except for the favourable marriage which his son was about to make with the daughter of the late, de jure Baron Castle Stewart.

Does it not seem plausible in the circumstances then, that this marriage settlement was the basis for Galvally townland acquiring the geographical alias of Stevenson's Dowery?

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Irish place names for other townlands in the vicinity, with anglicized names—Parker's Farm, Castlefarm, and Common Moss, for example—do not seem to have survived (though a 1936 reference for Boyd's Farm, on, yields domnach riasca, "Church of the moor.") On the other hand, government issue documents, from the Tithe Applotments in the 1820s to the 1951 Census, have given our townland of interest the double-barrelled place name of Galvally or Stevenson's Dowery. It would be an interesting research activity to conduct a survey of current and previous inhabitants of the parish of Donaghenry, to learn whether either or both of these townland names remains in common use.

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As mentioned, this deed is a sizeable document, citing a goodly number of surnames and placenames. Indexes follow:

Surname index:

  • Akie (Fyagh, parish of Arboe)
  • Clark(e) (Portadown, Annasamry, & Armagh)
  • Delgerno (Stewartstown)
  • English (Armagh)
  • Fleming (Portadown)
  • Greenway (Portadown)
  • Houston (Castlestewart)
  • Mathers (Drumgor & Killycomain)
  • McCann (Killycomain?)
  • Obins (Portadown)
  • Scott (Stewartstown & Armagh)
  • Shortrigs (Portadown)
  • Speer (Stewartstown?)
  • Stevenson (Stewartstown & Portadown)
  • Stewart (Stewarthall)
  • Wattson (Strabane)
  • Woolsey (Portadown)
  • Workman (Portadown)

Place name index:

  • Annasamry, parish of Loughgall
  • Baltylum, parish of Drumcree
  • Castlestewart, parish of Donaghenry
  • Cloncore, county Armagh
  • Derrykerran, parish of Drumcree
  • Donaghenry (parish of), county Tyrone
  • Clownagh, parish of Drumcree
  • Corcrain, parish of Drumcree
  • Drumagullion, parish of Donaghenry
  • Drumcree (parish of), county Armagh
  • Drumgor, parish of Seagoe
  • Fyagh [Feagh], parish of Arboe
  • Galvally, parish of Donaghenry
  • Killycomain, parish of Seagoe
  • Killymurphy, parish of Donaghenry
  • Newry, county Armagh
  • Portadown, county Armagh
  • Rouskyroe, parish of Donaghenry
  • Seagoe (parish of), county Armagh
  • Stewarthall, parish of Arboe
  • Tamnylennan, parish of Donaghenry

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© Alison Kilpatrick, 2016. All rights reserved.
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"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

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