A tragedy happened here to the local MacNeill family of Cushendun. The roadway through Loughareema at this time was much lower than the present road and also without walls and therefore extremely dangerous  when the Lough filled as you had to just by experience where the road lay. It had been raining heavily for a couple of days prior to the accident and the lough well flooded over the road so that it just looked like one big lake, in fact several residents of Ballycastle who had been over to the fair in Cushendall postponed there travel back due to the knowledge that the lough was in flood and dangerous to pass.

 

Colonel John Magee McNeill had been staying with his cousin Captain Daniel McNeill at Cushendun House for a few days prior to this, he left there at 1pm with the intention of catching the 3pm train from Ballycastle to Ballymoney. Captain McNeill's coachman, David McNeill, who had collected him from Ballycastle a few days early now drove him back in a two horse covered wagonette.

As they approached Loughareema they saw the state of flooding,  they hesitated to go on but at the last moment decided to make an attempt to cross on the submerged road. The horses went quietly until they came to a slight incline which increased the depth of water, they then became frightened and stopped.  A road worker nearby who witnessed the event, told a local constable who came to the scene that the water was up to the horses bellies. The coachman moved them forward and as they approached the central part the horses were starting to panic and inbetween walking and swimming, the coachman tried coaxing them on but they would not respond.

 

Colonel McNeill managed to get out of the carriage but was wearing a heavy winter coat and hat, he tried to swim but the horses were now struggling in the water between him and the shore, so he tried to make a detour around them.  The road worker, whose name was McHenry who was unable to swim  said he had waded out on the flooded road to waist depth and tried to encourage the Colonel ashore but he sank several yards away from him and never surfaced. McHenry recalled that after a few minutes all that could be seen was a hat and coat floating on the surface and a leg of a horse protruding from the water - the Colonel, Coachman and the two horses all drowned.

 

It was relayed at the inquest that the County Surveyor should be instructed at once about the dangerous and unprotected state of fencing at the lough and he should also look into proper drainage of the lough to prevent flooding and further tragedies.

 

The Colonel's son had cycled the same route only an hour or so before his father, he had intended to wait for him at Ballycastle. On reaching the lough and seeing it in flood, he carried his bicycle up over the high ground and avoided the crossing.  Colonel McNeill was sixty years old and had retired from the Royal Engineers, he resided in Ealing, London, his father was the Rev, Hugh McNeill, Dean of Ripon and native of Ballycastle. Colonel McNeill was buried in Ramoan churchyard.

 

Ref: Coleraine Chronicle, October 8th, 1898