Belfast Telegraph

Belfast 'burial site' of Gaelic lord Conn O'Neill for sale

The site thought to be Conn O'Neill's resting place.
The site thought to be Conn O'Neill's resting place.

The site where historic records say the Gaelic lord Conn O'Neill is buried is up for sale in east Belfast.

Several sites in the area are named after the Lord of Upper Clandeboye, who is referred to by some as the last King of Castlereagh who ruled from 1601 to 1619.

They include Connswater Shopping Centre, Connswater Bridge and Connswater River.

He is believed to have been inaugurated at a mound near the Manse Road and ruled land between the River Lagan to Bangor and to the south at Crossgar from a castle in Castlereagh.

BBC News NI reports accounts suggest O'Neill was imprisoned for treason by Sir Arthur Chichester in Carrickfergus Castle in 1604 after fighting broke out between Conn's troops and English soldiers stationed in Belfast.

The Ayrshire aristocrat Sir Hugh Montgomery helped him escape to Scotland, after which he gave up much of his land, leading to an influx of Scottish settlers.

He died in poverty in a small house in Holywood in 1619 and his inauguration stone is on display at the Ulster Museum.

O'Neill was denied a burial in Knock Cemetery
O'Neill was denied a burial in Knock Cemetery

His story was described as "a fall from grace" by Gordon McCoy, the Irish language education officer at Turas, an east Belfast project which promotes the Irish language and history among the Protestant community.

"It's quite a sad story. Conn was a man out of time," he said.

"He lost hundreds of townlands and had a long time to contemplate his own oblivion. He saw Belfast change and his woods chopped down that he would have hunted in, as well as witness his castle fall into ruin.

"Conn tried to be an English-style landlord, but it didn't work for him."

It's believed Conn wanted to be buried in Knock Cemetery but this was denied to him.

Sources say he was buried in the old graveyard of the church which was known as Bailie O'Meachan, now known as Ballymaghan.

The site is currently Moat House, which was built in 1862 off the Old Holywood Road.

It's believed the graveyard was adjacent to this site, which is now up for sale in two lots for £600,000.

It's listed through estate agent Rodgers & Browne, which describes its location as "within the sought after setting of Belmont".

Mr McCoy runs tours about Conn's life and said people are shocked when they arrived and see the "for sale" sign.

"There's Connsbrook Avenue, Connswater Shopping Centre, there's a memory of him in the area," he said.

"Ideally, I would like Belfast City Council to buy it and turn it into a park to commemorate Conn O'Neill.

"If not, a plaque to commemorate him and mark his life."

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