ARDKEEN, a parish, in the barony of ARDES, county of DOWN, and province of ULSTER, 3 miles (N. by E.) from Portaferry; containing 2176 inhabitants.
This place derives its name, originally Ard-Coyne, from its situation on the shores of a lake, which was formerly called Lough Coyne. It was one of the most important strong holds of the ancient Irish, who made it a place of refuge from the violence and rapacity of the Danes, and had a large and well-fortified camp protected on three sides by the sea, with extensive pastures in the rear for their cattle. On this point of land, jutting into the lough and forming a fertile peninsula nearly surrounded by every tide, Raymond Savage, one of the followers of De Courcy, erected a strong castle in 1196, which became the chief residence of that family, whose descendants throughout the whole of the insurrection remained firmly attached to the English monarchs. In 1567, Shane O'Nial, who had overrun and destroyed the neighbouring country on every side, besieged this castle, but was so vigorously repulsed that he retreated with great loss and never penetrated farther southward into the Ardes. The parish comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 4800½ statute acres, of which 169 are islands, and 114 are covered with water. The living was formerly a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Down, and the rectory formed part of the union of Inch and the corps of the prebend of St. Andrew's in the cathedral of Down; but the Ecclesiastical Commissioners having recommended the dissolution of the union on the next avoidance of the prebend. Ardkeen and the northern part of Witter were constituted a distinct rectory, in the patronage of the Bishop, in 1834, by consent of the prebendary, and the perpetual curate was made rector: the tithes amount to £464.18.9. The church is situated on the peninsula and at the extreme western boundary of the parish; it is a small ancient edifice, and contains several monuments to the family of Savage, its original founders. The glebe-house was built at an expense of £500, of which £450 was a gift and £50 a loan from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1816: the glebe comprises 12½ Cunningham acres, valued at £1 per acre and subject to a rent of £4 per annum. In the R. C. divisions this parish is included within the unions or districts of Upper and Lower Ardes: the chapel at Lisbawn is connected with that of Ballygelgat, in the parish of Witter. A school of 76 boys and 84 girls is supported by Col. and Lady H. Forde, who contribute £50 per annum; there are also a Sunday school and a private school. The only remains of the castle are the foundations; the fosses are tolerably perfect, and some of the gardens and orchards may be traced.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.
The transcription of the section for this parish from the National Gazetteer (1868), provided by Colin Hinson.
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