Ballykelly (Baile Uí Cheallaigh) translates to ‘Town of Kelly’ or Kelly’s Town’. The village which has views across the Folye to Donegal was largely established and developed by the Fishmongers Company during the Plantation of Ulster and contains some wonderful period architecture. Its history as a settlement though, goes back much further in time.
The present day Tamlaghtfinlagan Church of Ireland built in1795 and funded by the Bishop of Derry and the Hon. John Bereford traces its name back through a series of ecclesiastical buildings to the foundation of an Abbey in the locality in 580AD. This was located not far from the present church, the first Abbot was Findluganus who was a close follower of St. Columba.
The present church is also the final resting place of Blind John McCurry, the itinerant fiddler whom Jane Ross heard playing outside the Burns & Laird Shipping office in Limavady. The melody he was playing so captivated her that she noted it down. It later passed with her song collection to George Petrie, he subsequently published it with the name ‘Londonderry Air’ which is the melody we all know as ‘Danny Boy’, its origins are believed to be from ‘ O’Cahans Lament’.
The architecture of the Presbyterian Church so impressed William Makepeace Thackery that he commented on it while passing through the village during his Tour of Ireland in 1842 :
"In Ballikelly, besides numerous simple, stout, brick-built dwellings for the peasantry, with their shining windows and trim garden-plots, is a Presbyterian meeting-house, so well-built, substantial, and handsome, so different from the lean, pretentious, sham-Gothic ecclesiastical edifices which have been erected in late years in Ireland, that it can't fail to strike the tourist who has made architecture his study or his pleasure. The gentleman's seats in the district are numerous and handsome; and the whole movement along the road betokened cheerfulness and prosperous activity".
Page 1 of 4