Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary, Ireland

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Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary Ireland comprises of several counties, cities, boroughs, parish and villages – with historical and statistical descriptions – of Ireland.

  • Place
    Billy
  • County
    Antrim
  • Parish
    Billy
  • Content
    BILLY, a parish, partly in the barony of CAREY, but chiefly in that of LOWER DUNLUCE, county of ANTRIM and province of ULSTER; containing with the post-town of Bushmills, 5845 inhabitants.

    This parish is bounded on the west by the river Bush, and on the north-east by the sea; it is also intersected for nearly three miles by the road from Ballymoney, through Bushmills to the Giants Causeway which is within its limits. Including eight townlands which now form part of the parish of Dunseverick, it comprises according to the Ordnance survey 17,329.75 statute acres, of which 16,860 are applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £8,139 per annum. The land is generally in a good state of cultivation; the system of agriculture is considerably advanced, and is still improving; there is very little waste land except moss and bog, which together form nearly one-third of the surface. Whinstone abounds, and is quarried for building and for the roads; limestone is found in great quantity and is occasionally burned for manure, and wood-coal is obtained near the Causeway.

    Among the principal seats are Bushmills House, the residence of Sir F.W. Macnahten, Bart., Ballylough, of W. Trail, Esq.; Ballydivity, of J. Stewart Moore,Esq.; Black Rock House, the property of Miss Wray, and now in occupation of Hugh Lecky, Esq; and Benfield formerly the residence of Col. Wray, but at present uninhabited.

    There are some weirs on the river Bush, near its influx into the sea, for taking salmon, of which great quantities are sent to Liverpool and London. A market on Tuesday, and five fairs are held at Bushmills; and on the day after Dervock fair, which is generally on Aug. 12th (except that day falls on the Saturday or Sunday, on which occasions it is held on the Monday following) a pleasure fair, called the Causeway fair, is held at the Rock Head, above the Giants Causeway, and is numerously attended by persons for many miles around, for whose accommodation tents are pitched.

    This parish was formerly the head of a union, which comprised also the parishes of Armoy, Ballyclug, Donegore and Kilbride, together forming the corps of the archdeaconry of Connor; but by the act of the 5th of Geo. IV., obtained by Dr. Mant, the union has been dissolved, the parishes disappropriated from the archdeaconry, and the rectorial tithes annexed to their respective vicarages, with the exception ony of this parish, of which the rectory and vicarage alone now constitute the corps of the archdeaconry, with the cure of souls, the former archdeacons having no cure of souls: it is in the diocese of Connor, and patronage of the Bishop. The late Archdeacon Trail, then rector of this parish, in 1830, separated nine townlands from it, giving the tithes of four; and his brother, the Rev. Robt. Trail, rector of Ballintoy, seven townlands from that parish, giving the tithes of three, for the formation and endowment of the perpetual curacy of Dunseverick, the patronage of which is vesterd alternately in the respective incumbents: the new church is a very neat building in a central situation. The tithes of the parish amount to £489 4s. 7.50d., of which £37 9s. 3d., is paid to the perpetual curate, and the remainder to the archdeacon. The church, a plain substantial building, was ereceted on the site of a former structure, by aid of a gift of £800 and a loan of £500, in 1815,from the late Board of First Fruits. The glebe-house was built in 1810, by the Rev. T. Babington, vicar, aided by a gift of £350 and a loan of £450 from the same board.

    In the R.C. divisions it forms part of the union or district of Coleraine.

    There are two meeting houses for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, one of which is of the third class, and there are places of worship for Seceders, Covenanters, and Wesleyan Methodists.

    At Eagry is a school under the Trustees of Erasmus Smith's Charity for which a good school house has been erected, with a residence for the master, who has two acres of land; a school is held in a house hired for that purpose at Bushmills, and is supported by subscription; there is a parochial school for girls, for which a house was built, in 1832 by William Trail Esq.; also schools at Moycraig, Carnbore, Straidbilly and Dromiarran, and another is held in the Methodist Meeting House at Castle-Cat, which was endowed with £20 by the late Dr. Adam Clarke. The Rev. Archdeacon Trail, in 1831, bequeathed £50 for the use of the poor of the parish, which has been invested in Government securities and the interest is annually distributed by his son, W. Trail, Esq.

    There are some remains of the ancient castle of Ballylough, which was of much importance; the lake on which it was situated has been drained, and is now under cultivation.

    The GIANT'S CAUSEWAY, probably the most extensive and curious assemblage of basaltic columns in the world, is situated between Port-na-Grange and Port Noffer, in N. lat. 55o 20' and W. Long. 6o 50'; and derives its name from a popular tradition that it was erected by giants, as a commencement of a causeway across the ocean to Scotland. This very interesting natural curiosity forms part of a large promontory, of which Bengore Head, about a mile distant, is the most northernmost point in Ireland. The only access to it by land is down a winding path, cut at the expense of the late Earl of Bristol, while Bishop of Derry, on the western side of a verdant headland called Aird Snout, to two detached hills called the Stookans, whence the first view of this stupendous work of nature is obtained.

    This view is one of the most magnificent imaginable, embracing an immense bay broken with capes and headlands, rising abruptly to a height of 400 feet above the level of the sea and consisting of lofty colonnades of the most symmetrically formed basaltic pillars, inserted in the cliffs like artificial supporters, standing in groups lke giant honeycombs, or scattered in pleasing disorder like the ruins of a city of temples and palaces.

    From the Stookans the road leads to the base of the Causeway, which extends in a northerly direction from the promontory to the sea. This splendid natural pier is somewhat triangular in form; the base beneath the cliff being 135, the eastern side 220, and the western 300 yards long; while the breadth in the centre is about 60.

    The view of the causeway from the footpath suggests the idea of an immense unfinished embankment, forming an inclined plane, in some cases rising by successive steps, in others presenting a nearly level pavement, formed by the tops of the closely united columns, with some chasms exhibiting the admirable arrangement of this wonderful structure. The causeway is divided into three unequal parts. The little, or western causeway is 386 feet long but only 16 high, and is separated from the central compartment by an enormous whin dyke, extending from the cliff to the sea. The middle section which is the shortest, contains a magnificent group of lofty pillars, called "the honeycomb" and is also bounded on the east by a whin dyke. Beyond this is the grand causeway, which is 706 feet long by 109 wide in the middle; in that part of this compartment which is called "the loom" is attains an elevation of 34 feet, from which it diminishes in height gradually as it approaches the sea into which it enters for some distance beyond low water mark. In the western and central compartments all the columns are perpendicular, but in the grand causeway they are vertical towards the east, inclining eastwards as they approach the sea, and westward near the base of the cliff.

    The three divisions of the causeway comprise 37,426 distinct and perfect columns, besides many that are scattered and broken about in its vicinity. The columns consist of prisms of equal dimensions through their whole height, which ranges from 15 to 36 feet, with diameters of from 15 to 28 inches, and varying in their number of sides from 3 to 9, although the greater number are pentagons and hexagons. Each of the pillars is perfectly distinct, and almost invariably differs in size, number of sides, and points of articulation from the adjacent columns, to which, however, it is so close that not even water can pass between them. Almost every column is composed of several pieces, the joints of which are articulated with the greatest exactness, and in a strictly horizontal direction. Generally, the upper part of the section is concave and the lower convex, but this arrangement is sometimes reversed. The cavity or socket is perfectly circular, from two or four inches deep, and in a few instances its rim is divided, covers two or three articulations, and terminates in sharp points. In a few of the columns no joints are visible; in some three, four or more may be traced; and in the "loom", columns are found which are divisable into as many as 38 pieces. The basalt of which these columns is composed is of a very dark colour, approaching to black; its weight is three times as great as that of water; and of 100 of its constituent parts, 50 are siliceous earth, 25 iron, 15 argillaceous earth, and 10 calcareous earth and magnesia.

    About 300 yards east of the causeway is the Giants' Organ, about 120 feet long, consisting of 60 columns, of which those in the centre are 40 feet high, but those on the sides are lower. At the eastern extremity of Port Noffer are four lofty and massive basaltic columns, rising to the height of 315 feet; they are hexagonal and jointed, and from their height and isolated position are called the Chimney Tops. Near these is the Theatre, consisting of three distinct colonnades, the successive tiers of which are separated by horizontal strata of amorphous basalt, red and grey ochre, and fossil coal, the alternations of which with the columnar basalt produce a very extraordinary and pleasing appearance.

    A little eastward of Port-na-Spagna is a perpendicular cliff, 326 feet high, composed of alternate layers of columnar and horizontal basalt, arranged with surprising regularity; but the most picturesque cliff is Pleaskin, which rises from the sea in a gentle acclivity for more than 300 feet, and then ascends perpendicularly 70 feet more to its summit. This beautiful headland is 382 feet in height, and strikingly exhibits the geological formation of this district, as it consists of numerous clearly distinguishable strata, which rise above each other in the following order: at the base is a bright red ochreous rock, on which are placed tabular basalt, grey ochreous rock, amorphous basalt, clear red basalt, irregular basalt with cracks, iron ore, imperfectly formed basaltic pillars, argillaceous rock, fossil coal, and the lower range of basaltic columns, which is 45 feet high. Imposed on this colonnade are grey rock containing nodules of iron, slightly columnar basalt, grey ochreous rock, amorphous basalt, and then the upper range of basaltic pillars, which forms a magnificent colonnade 64 feet high, and has broken basalt for a superstratum, above which is vegetable mould covered with green sod. This splendid headland, which is unrivalled for beauty of arrangement and variety of colouring, is seen to most advantage from the sea, from which also some of the grandest views of the causeway and its adjacent scenery are obtained.

    Fossil wood, as black and compact as coal, and fossil oysters and muscles are found in the limestone rock that forms the substratum of the causeway and its neighbouring promontories; and large opals, chalcedony, agates; &c., are collected here. Specimens of these fossils and minerals, and a wooden model of the causeway, are in the museum of Trinity College, Dublin.
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