Old photo of Swatragh village, Mercers, McFadden Funeral

Swatragh was a few miles from our small farm.  It is a small village with just over 500 residents.  My father would go there only occasionally – and more often than not, to visit the Northern Counties Co-Operative Enterprises Ltd (or the CO-OP as it was known).  This wonderful local initiative had been set up in the early 1960s. By late 1963, it had over one thousand members – mostly local farmers.  My father was a member and had less than ten pounds of shares in the venture.

I recently came across this old photograph of the village (and cleaned it up a tad).  Based on the specific type of British Telecom phone box in the image, the photograph was most likely taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

Anyway, the photo shows the grocery and amalgamated post office on Main Street in Swatragh.  If the time frame is correct, the man standing at the door may well be Anthony Mulholland who was the postmaster around that time.

Swatragh grocery & post office

While perusing old newspapers, I encountered a number of interesting stories linked to Swatragh.

1843, Mercers’ Delegation Visits Kilrea & Swatragh

A deputation from the Mercers’ Company, consisting of Mr. Watney, Mr. Palmer, and Mr. Black, arrived at Kilrea on Thursday, the 10th of August 1843, on visit to the extensive estates of the company that neighbourhood, and took up their residence at the Mercers’ Hotel in that town, the Manor house being occupied by the company’s agent (Mr. Holmes.)

On arriving on the confines of the property they were met by large numbers of their tenantry, and were most warmly welcomed and greeted, which reception continued throughout the whole route; and in no place were they more warmly received than the town of Swatragh; thus proving that the opinions as the estimation in which the London Companies are held their tenants, are by no means entertained in the north of Ireland, and that the active co-operations of the tenantry with their landlords in promoting agriculture and the propriety of that part of Ireland, may be confidently relied on.

On Thursday, the 15th, the deputation entertained all the school children at present in the course of education in the Kilrea division of the estate, to the number of about 1000; and on Saturday, the 17th, lesser numbers were entertained on the Swatragh portion. The orderly behaviour of the children, and the good feeling evinced by all parlies on these occasions was highly gratifying to the deputation.

At Swatragh, the entertainment was given in the open air; and the day proving ultimately fine, the scene was really such a one as will leave a deep impression on the minds of all present, of the good that must flow from reciprocal confidence between landlord and tenant.

During the entertainment, the health of her Most Gracious Majesty was given, amid loud cheering, with the National Anthem — the responses given by the assembled multitude, and with a spirit and enthusiasm, too, rarely equalled.

The day will be recorded in the annals of the retired village of Swatragh, as one of unmixed gratification to all present on the occasion. The deputation having terminated the immediate objects of their visit, separated highly pleased with the reception that they received during their stay.

Londonderry Standard – Wednesday 06 September 1843


Here’s details of a funeral in late 1892, of a well-respected Swatragh lady.  The list of mourners gives a good insight, from a moment in time, of the main people that lived in the area.

1892, Funeral of Mrs McFadden, Swatragh

After early Mass yesterday morning, the remains of this highly-esteemed and most amiable lady were conveyed by hearse to Garvagh Railway Station.

Notwithstanding the earliness of the hour and the inclemency of the morning, the hearse was followed by a great number of vehicles, and a large body of the most respectable people of the village and the adjoining townlands, thus testifying to the very high esteem in which the deceased lady was held.

The following are the names of some of those who were at the funeral:— Sergeant McFadden, Swatragh; Acting-Sergeant O’Brien, Cavan; Constables Glass, Keating, and Cummins, R.I.C., Swatragh; ex-Sergeant Glass, do.; Mr. Mulholland, Schools, Swatragh; Sergeant Neely. Constables O’Reilly and McGinty, Maghera; Messrs. Daniel Boylan, Garvagh; Edward O’Kane, Tirhugh; Edward Friel, senior, Swatragh; Edward Friel, junior, do.; John Friel, do.; John McKeefry, senior, do.; John M’Keefry, junior, do.; Henry M’Keefry, do.; John O’Kane, do.; Matthew Diamond, do.; Thomas O Kane, do.; Hugh Wade, Garvagh; John McMullan, do.; Robert Smyrrel, Swatragh; John Kinney, do; Patrick McKeefry, do.; Robert Norris, do.; Neil Collins. Granahan; George Adams, Tirhugh; John M’Gilligan, do.; John Michael, Swatragh ; Michael Doogan, do.; Stewart Atkinson, Swatragh; Daniel McNicholl, Maghera; Sergeant Shier, Constables Ranaghan, Clarke, and Carroll, Garvagh.

On arriving at Garvagh Railway Station, the remains were transferred to the train, whence they were conveyed to Derry, reaching there about twelve o’clock. On arriving in the city, a crowd of friends and sympathisers awaited and accompanied the remains to the place of interment in the Derry Cemetery.

Derry Journal 8th November 1892


1953, Taoiseach Visits Swatragh

Swatragh – A singular occasion in the life of the village occurred on Monday when An Taoiseach, Mr. de Valera, made a short halt to acknowledge the greetings of an assembled crowd.

An Taoiseach was on his return journey from Portstewart after his memorable visit to Bailycastle. When the news of his arrival in the neighbourhood of the village became known, a large crowd quickly assembled and lined the street to greet him.

The National Flag was displayed from many windows. Many of those present had the honour of a handshake and all wished him long life.

Derry Journal – Friday 07 August 1953



"I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

18 thoughts on “Old photo of Swatragh village, Mercers, McFadden Funeral

    1. I looked further through the old newspapers this morning, Carol. The earliest time Sergeant Neely of Maghera shows up in local media is in October 1883, when he charged three young men named Anthony Tochall, James McShane, and Anthony Crilly, with having wilfully and maliciously thrown a number of stones at a railway carriage at Upperlands station.

      He crops up regularly across the years at local court cases in Maghera (folk stealing hens, locals involved in fist fights, etc).

      The last time he appears in local newspapers is in October 1897 – when he summoned Jane Darragh, from Carrowmenagh in Maghera, for allowing six head of cattle, that she owned, wander onto the public road.

      So Sergeant Neely was based in Maghera Police Station for most of the 1880s and 1890s (at least 1883 to 1897). Hope this is of some use to you.

      1. Thanks for this information. Most interesting. Almost certainly a relative from that area but so far I have not been able to pinpoint who Sergeant Neely might actually be! From the dates and the fact that he was a sergeant it looks like a contemporary of my great grandmother/grandfather. Worth pursuing!

        1. You’re welcome, Carol. That’s fantastic if he is linked to your great grandparents.

          I didn’t have much additional luck on finding much more on Sgt Neely.

          I did find in the 1910 Ulster Towns Directory analysis of Maghera, at:

          That by 1910, the Maghera police barracks employed the following folk:
          Constabulary Barracks—Sergeant Gallagher in charge; constables Cummings, acting-sergeant; M’Laughlin, Savage, Cowan, M’Allister, and M’Bride

          So the village barracks by 1910 had seven cops. Sgt Neely was seemingly long since gone by this point.

          There are various local village historic groups that might be able to offer you further guidance, Carol. There is a facebook group for nearby Culnady. There is one for Maghera at https://www.facebook.com/magheragenealogyhistory/.

          There is a great one for nearby Portglenone village (Photos of Portglenone).

          There are also local historic groups in most villages, which would be worth googling for.

          Denver Boyd is a local maghera genealogist, highly recommended. He can be found in some of the local facebook groups, or at his website:


          I believe he also is at: http://magheragenealogy.org/

          All my best wishes in your further research.

        2. as a follow up to my earlier reply, Carol.

          This may or not be of significance.

          As mentioned earlier, the last I could see of Sgt Neely in Maghera barracks was late 1897.

          But I noticed today, a Sergeant T. Neely taking part in an athletlics event.

          The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) ran an athletics type event for the North-West in May 1899 in Derry (Lonndonderry). It was apparently “the most successful meeting ever promoted by the club” and “a record event.”

          The event seems to have involved locals of all ages…..and encompassed every sport imaginable, running across various distances, cycling, tug of war, etc. This Sergeant T. Neely represented “Second Derry Company” in a tug-of-war event.

          His colleagues were: Sergeant Wasson, Sergeant H. M’Caul, Sergeant T. Neely, Corporal John Speers, Corporal John Douglas, Lance-Corporal J. Burnside, Private D. M’Cleery, Private A. Lucas, Private J. Watt, and J. McBride; their captain was John Hazlett.

          I wonder if this is the same Sergeant Neely.

          1. Thank you so much for your further ‘finds’. I think I know now who Sergeant Neely was.
            It was probably John Thomas Neely (1863-1913) who was a constable in the RUC. He was stationed at Maghera and I know the names of his wife, parents and family. Not a direct relative but certainly on my family tree. The Bann Valley Facebook page was also very helpful when I posted there. You may want to join?
            Interesting that the initial is T not J. His father was also John Thomas but known as Thomas so maybe that happened with the son too?

            1. great to hear that the jigsaw of clues are all coming together, Carol.

              Yes, there’s a good chance that the son got referred to as Thomas (T) as well….or Thomas Junior, or Tom Junior.

              Do you have the url of that Bann Valley facebook page? I’d love to look in that group.

              Indeed, I’d love to find old photos of Maghera barracks.

              1. The address is www.facebook.com/groups/BannValleyNEELY.Heritage
                I forgot to mention that it is specifically for Neelys but there are other facebook sites that have a wider appeal for that area. I think one for Maghera if my memory serves me.
                For photos try May Lennox Milton who lived locally growing up and has loads of photos from around there taken on her frequent return visits. I am sure you can contact her through the site above.

                1. Great stuff, Carol. I have May in my email contact list.

                  Indeed, I recall her sharing with me a few years back, a great photo of the Neely family from near us in Eden.

                  One of those Neely girls (Agnes) was a bridesmaid at my paternal grandparents wedding in July 1927.


                  Best regards.

  1. Hello there. My grandfather was a Swatragh man one, William O Brien. Born on or around 1885. he came to Glasgow in the early 1900s to work. I think he met my grandmother there and they courted and married. Her name was Thersa Cassidy and she was from Kilrea and born around the same time period. they lived in an area of Glasgow known as Garngad where many other Irish families settled. My grandfather died before i was born so i never new him but but my mum,and aunts and uncles old told stories of him.
    i visited Swatragh a few times with my Mother Kathleen and my granny, Ma O Brien. i don,t remember where we stayed on those visits, but on visits when my father came along (no Ma) we stayed at the Friels pub and with the Kane family in their farm house.
    The O Briens lived in an area outside the village called i think, the Bi-ogh or Bi-agh. they had a cottage that i have seen in old photographs beside a river, I fished in that river. it was not far from Kanes farm.
    The cottage was in ruins when i first visited but i had a great aunt Maggie who lived in the village close to Friels pub she had lived in the cottage. The only other relative from the cottage i knew of was Mini, she was a Downs syndrom child i believe and died relatively young. I remember the village fondly and was always very happy visiting. some day i will return….. Thank you Michael. or as Ma would say Micheal.

    1. Michael, I would suspect the townland you are referring to is called Beagh, on the edge of Swatragh village.

    2. Hello Michael. Am fascinated reading your article on the OBrien family from Swatragh. My grandfather was Joseph O’Brien, born 1900 and the 2 ladies mentioned in your article were his sisters ie Maggie and Mini. His father was John born about 1856 and I am guessing was your grandfather’s older brother. You can see these details on the 1901 Irish Census. I have always been aware that some members of the family went to Glasgow. You mention a photo of the cottage. Do you still have it? My mum Therese (Teresa) would love to see it.
      Looking forward to hearing from you.
      Marie Louise Lappin

      1. Hi Marie. My grandfather was William Joseph O Brien born 1882 Co Derry Maggie and Mini were his sisters as far as I know. The Photo, I think my sister has it and hopefully knows where it is. My grand mother was Teresa Cassidy born 1882 in Killygullib Co Derry. I have her parents details also as my girl is building a family tree. My grandfather and your grandfather may be brothers….in 1900 my grandfather was 18yrs old.

  2. Hi Michael. I agree that our grandfathers were probably brothers. Can you send me more information eg when did your grandfather go to Glasgow? Do you have any information re his parents John and Mary or what happened other members of the family?

  3. Hi Marie. Finally getting round to your last message. My grandfather was born William Joseph. His father was John and his mother Mary, nee Clarke. His father John was in Philadelphia when he was born and his mother lived with her father in Creagh Magherafelt. Her father registered the birth. John and Mary Clarke married in 1879 he was a farmer, and she a housekeeper. He was from Biagh Co Derry and she was from Creagh. When they married his father had passed way, Mary’s father was William Clarke a farmer. Grandfather came to Glasgow around 1900 looking for work, he also had a brother here, Charles and his wife Cathrine. They lived in Renfrewshire but moved to Blackburn where they passed away. I have a couple of photos of William and Charles with their wife’s and one taken on the path at the Swatragh cottage, unfortunately it’s not in view. Hope this adds a little to your family knowledge, Incidentally, my uncle Johnny, William’s son, Married a Mary Lappin in Glasgow around 1925/30. No exact date sorry. I wish you well. Michael.

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