Last week my path took me on a walk through the peaceful woods of Ballymoyer or Ballymyre three miles from Newtownhamilton, County Armagh and just about four miles from our farm. What a lovely day with a clear blue sky overhead, the shadows of the tall tree tops on the forest floor and the music of the river all along my way.
I think I met just 2 other people on my walk but my mind as always took me down the road of those who had lived in this townland of Ballymoyer many hundreds of years ago.
As always with me I question the origins of place names and Ballymoyer was no different. Ballymoyer “keeper of the book”. Breaking the name down further the “keeper of the Book” was a Franciscian monk called Forence MacMoyer (various spellings). The MacMoyer family held considerable land in the area in the 14th Century and were hereditary keepers of the 9th century illuminated manuscript – The Book of Armagh’
This illuminated manuscript The Book of Armagh would you believe is approx 6 x 3 inches in size! I suppose not unusual for this time in early Christian history it is neat enough to fit into a wandering monk’s pocket!
What amazing information we have within this important book. Put together by the scribes of Armagh in the 9th century when Armagh was recognised as a world famous place/school of learning for the early world pilgrims. This beautiful manuscript contains several of the earliest texts referencing the life of Saint Patrick including his “Confessio” one of the most important documents relating to Saint Patrick. How cool is that………all put together in my home City of Armagh.
The life of this little book takes on a very eventful historical twist when in the 1681 the Archbishop of Armagh Oliver Plunkett was imprisoned in Tyburn London. Florence MacMacmoyer, pawned the book for £5 to finance his journey to London to give evidence at the trial of Oliver Plunkett however Oliver Plunkett was to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
Somehow, sometime in the early 18th Century this little book became the property of the Brownlow Family Lurgan who in the 19th century donated it to Trinity College, Dublin where it remains to this very day!
What ever became of Florence MacMoyer well all we know is that he died in 1713 and is buried in the old 17th Century Ballymoyer Church ruin of today.
Took my feet on down the road to the old church ruin to find an amazing tall ruin standing in the shadow of today’s Anglican Ballymoyer Church. Saw numerous old headstones but while I didn’t manage to find that of MacMoyer I felt very aware my footsteps were walking on my homeland’s Christian heritage.
You just can’t walk the land of Ireland and not trundle through history!