STEPPING BACK IN TIME: Story of Maghera house set to be revealed in new book

After the success of his first published book ‘Blackhill School, Draperstown (1820-1967) and Other Local National Schools’ published by the Ballinascreen Historical Society, Draperstown, Al Bodkin is on his next book which would be of interest to any local historian or those with a curious mind.

Saturday, 30th January 2021, 12:00 pm

The new book, which has a planned publication date later in the year, is called ‘Cloverhill House, Maghera, County Londonderry: The stories, historical events and associated families covering 300 years of an Ulster country house.

The story behind the book is in, and of itself, interesting which Al relates as follows: “My mother had just gone into care and for the previous three months I had been painting and clearing out her house in Lisburn.

“During the clearing out of her house I had come across a blue and white Copeland Spode cylinder vase and recalled the story that my mother had often told me about its history.

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The 300 years of ‘Cloverhill House’ acts as a perfect ‘vehicle’ to chronicle both local and national historical events through those who inhabited the house

“She said that my Grandmother Annabella McLean (nee Gray) had bought the vase at an auction at Cloverhill House, Maghera. The date of the auction was unknown but in later years as it happened my uncle Maurice McLean, her son, was to purchase Cloverhill House in 1966 and later to establish his company called Cloverhill Fuels Ltd.”

The story of this country house and other similar sized country houses in Ulster have been long lost in the mists of time.

The larger Ulster country houses such as those owned by the National Trust have been largely documented but these other country houses have been sadly neglected by historians.

In addition, the 300 years of ‘Cloverhill House’ acts as a perfect ‘vehicle’ to chronicle both local and national historical events through those who inhabited the house.

Ma Brannan and her chickens at Cloverhill, Maghera, Co Londonderry

In fact, one family alone, the Forrester family with four generations, occupied the property for 180 years.

Although research for his book has been difficult due to restricted access to the public record offices in Belfast and Dublin, Al still has managed to uncover many new discoveries and describes his book as follows: ‘This is the story of how a broken and worthless 1920s Spode vase led to the unravelling of a 300-year story of country house located just outside Maghera, Co Londonderry. The story takes you from a druid’s altar to: a curate in the Siege of Derry; a 1742 murder in Trinity College, Dublin; the 1798 Rebellion and a cross-dressing Presbyterian minister!; a tyrannical bankrupt Justice of the Peace described as the curse, terror and scourge of the county; a trial concerning an army major described as a religious maniac; a natural disaster; a 1953 ferry tragedy; German U-boats (yes German U-boats!) and up to the present day being a successful family business – this book has everything...and more.”