Ballycarry (town of the weir) is a short 1.5km detour along the Island Road from opposite the turn off to the Brown's Bay Scenic Drive on Islandmagee. I would recommend a visit to the old church ruin of Templecorran, not only for its antiquity but also the fabulous views from here to Islandmagee. Templecorran ruins which we see today date to around 1622, the site is much older and dates to an early Christian monastic settlement. The first Presbyterian minister in Ireland Rev. Edward Brice preached here from 1613 to 1636, the first recorded Presbyterian Church in Ireland. In the Taxation of Pope Nicholas of 1306, the church of Lislaynan is recorded as being in repair, this is believed to have been Templecorran. Rev. Briceis interred inside the church where his pulpit would have stood.
Along with Ballynure, Templecorran was one of the churches that Jonathan Swift preached at in 1695 when he was Prebend of Kilroot. It was not a happy posting for a young man used to a more varied social life and with a burning desire to write. During the two winters he spent at Kilroot he gained inspiration for future writings and tried his best to encourage worship. One story tells of him skimming stones on a lake on a Sunday to attract attention, when a few people turned up he preached to them in the open air.
The graveyard is not only picturesque, it contains the burial site of some interesting people who left an indelible mark on our history. One of those was the Ulster Weaver Poet James Orr who was born here in 1770 and became know as the Bard of Ballycarry. James was educated entirely by his elderly father and began writing in English and Ulster Scots from an early age. He was on the same par with Robbie Burns and had a unique gift to write the tongue he spoke. James Hewitt said of him 'he came from that time before the schoolhouse tamed their lively tongue'.
His early years followed the weaving trade of his father while he wrote and became well know locally. When the United Irishman paper, the Northern Star was published in Belfast he began contributing his poetry. In 1791 he joined the society and continued his writings as well as working in the weaving trade. In 1798 he marched with the Army of Ulster and took part in the Battle of Antrim. With the collapse of the rebellion he went into hiding but eventually gave himself up and was put in jail. With no self confession and no evidence to prove treason he was released on condition he transport himself to America, which he did. He stayed there until an amnesty was announced and then returned home to Ballycarry around 1800, here he tried to enlist in the local yeomanry but was rejected when the local landlord remembered his part in the uprising.
When his father passed away he took over the tenancy of the cottage and continued as a weaver. His only book was published in 1804 entitled 'Poems on Various Subjects', he did this by a subscription list, where 500 people subscribed to buy the book before it was printed which in itself is evidence of his popularity as a writer, considering that most books printed then ran to 500 copies. He was foremost a working man and a weaver, penning his work in his spare time. In 1816 he died where he was born, aged 46. A group of friends compiled and published 'The Posthumous Works of James Orr of Ballycarry'. All the proceeds at Orr's request went to relieve poverty in Ballycarry. Today he is remembered by an impressive memorial placed in the church graveyard by the Freemasons.
Another famous Ballycarry man was General Sir James Steele who had a long and distinguished career in the military rising to General and being knighted. He first joined as a temporary second lieutenant in the Royal Irish Rifles and served with the 7th Battalion in France from 1915-17. He saw action at Messines, Passchendaele and the Somme, and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in 1917. He continue his career in the army on secondment to the Indian Army during the North West Frontier campaign (1920/21) being mentioned in dispatches. In 1926 he was promoted to brevet Colonel and commander of the 1st Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters and served with them in Jamaica and Palestine, he reached Colonel in 1939 and was posted to the War Office mobilization unit.
He was responsible for signing the order for the mobilization of the army in 1939. He then took command of the 132nd Infantry Brigade and served in France during 1940 where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his part in the Battle of Escuat. In 1941 he took command of the 59th Staffordshire Division and in 1942 commanded II Corp as acting lieutenant general, later in the same year he became Deputy Chief in command for the Middle East Command. In 1943 he was appointed Director of Staff Duties at the War Office and in 1944 promoted to Major General. Promotion to Lieutenant General came in 1946 followed in the same year by appointment to Commander in Chief and High Commissioner of Austria. In this role he signed the treaty with Yugoslavia's Marshall Tito and received his knighthood. He was promoted to General in 1947 and Adjutant-General to the forces from 1947 to 1950 when he retired. He continued to serve as Colonel Commandant of the Royal Ulster Rifles until 1957 and was also responsible for establishing the Army Benevolent Fund. Although he lived and died in England his ashes returned to his home at Ballycarry which was always close to his heart.
Also in the graveyard is the headstone of William Nelson aged sixteen whose headstone is inscribed the Ballycarry Martyr. Many men in the village took part in the uprising and William went with a group of men to the local landlord's house to look for muskets, here he took a horse and was told to go and tell the men on Islandmagee to come over as the rebellion had started. He came back and took another horse and went to Donegore Hill where the men gathered before the Battle of Antrim. After the rebellion he was arrested and taken to Carrickfergus and ask to witness against other men from the village who took part in the uprising in return for his life which refused to do. His mother's plea for clemency was refused and he was hang from a tree in the village. No-one was allowed to come to his wake and soldiers surrounded the house and the funeral procession to prevent it.
The Ballycarry Martyr engraved on his headstone was added later. His brother John and Samuel were transported to the West Indies for their part in the uprising, Samuel died en route. The ship was attacked and captured by the French but eventually arrived in America where John was freed. He began his life there as a builder and progressed to architect, through his work he became a personal friend and architect to President Thomas Jefferson whose home he designed and built as well as The University of Virginia. He also worked for James Madison who would became the 4th President of the United States. Although he never returned to Ballycarry he did send money back to his mother. Before he died he asked that a likeness of himself should be taken back to his family in Ireland. He sent this to Mary Ann McCracken, the sister of Henry Joy McCracken and she delivered it to his family.
If you have some time on your hands then a visit to Gleno is well worth doing, the village is about 4km from Ballycarry. Gleno is well kept and has some wonderful period houses along the Main Street which give you a good idea of how villages used looked liked in rural areas. The two storey houses are of great heritage value and a credit to those who look after and live in them.
Behind the village you will find the fabulous Gleno Waterfall, the area belongs to the National Trust, there is a car park and path to the waterfall. It can be viewed from either side and a small bridge spans the river, you can also follow a path and view it from above. The water channels through a gorge and drops eight metres over the falls. Well worth seeing in summer when the trees and wild flowers are out.