Camlough was an ecclesiastical district in the Barony of Upper Orior. In ancient times this was part of the O’Hanlon’s country. At the time of the Plantation of Ulster, 1000 acres or 12 townlands were granted to Henry McShane O’Neill. It would appear that this was the time that the village was developed. Shortly after this period the Church of Ireland erected St Jude’s Church, the remains of which are still standing.
Being on the main road from Newry to Newtownhamilton and Crossmaglen, the village of Camlough became and still remains a very vibrant place. Up until the mid 1960s, the monthly cattle and horse fair drew vast crowds of buyers and sellers. The cattle sales are now conducted weekly at the South Armagh Farming Enterprises premises in the village.
The village is very much to the forefront on the sporting scene, with two boxing clubs, two Gaelic football clubs, a soccer club, and a camogie club. These clubs provide activities for numerous young people each week. Camlough also hosts one of Ireland’s top annual triathlon competitions.
Points of Interest
1. Leacht Cuimhneacháin Réamoinn Mhic Raois
Raymond McCreesh Memorial
On the eastern edge of Camlough stands a memorial to Raymond McCreesh (1957 – 1981). McCreesh was born in Camlough and attended the local primary school. He became involved with the Republican movement as a teenager and was arrested and imprisoned following an army ambush in 1976. He joined the IRA Hunger Strike in 1981, and died after 61 days on hunger strike. The memorial is comprised of a Celtic cross and a large memorial stone on a plinth, within a memorial garden which also includes ten small memorial stones bearing the names of the ten Republican Hunger Strikers.
2. Frank Aiken
Camlough born Frank Aiken (1898 –1983) was an Irish politician and a founding member of the Fianna Fáil political party. Aiken was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1923 and at each subsequent election until 1973. He holds the distinction of being the second longest-serving member of Dáil Éireann.
As Foreign Minister he developed and maintained an independent stance for Ireland at the United Nations and other international forums such as the Council of Europe, defending the rights of small nations. Aiken also supported the right of countries such as Algeria to self-determination and he was a critic of apartheid in South Africa. Aiken was also a champion of nuclear non-proliferation and he was granted the honour of being the first minister to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968 at Moscow.
3. Teach Siúil Chamlocha
Camlough’s Haunted House
The house was built and furnished, but before the owner moved in he found all his furniture scattered around the fields. The story goes that the house was haunted and the owner never moved in, leaving the house derelict to this day. But another story tells of how the owner built and furnished the house to woo a woman, when she declined the furniture was thrown out in the fields in fury.
4. Brian Oswald Donn-Byrne
Donn-Byrne (1889 –1928) was a prolific Irish writer, well known for his novels, short stories and poetry . He was born in New York but returned with his family to Ireland and grew up being equally fluent in Irish and English, living in Camlough where some Irish was still spoken.
At University College Dublin, he studied under Douglas Hyde, the famous Gaelic scholar and first president of Eire, he also did work at the Sorbonne and in Leipzig, Germany. He turned down his PhD when he learned that he would have to wear evening clothes to his early morning examinations – a thing no true Irish gentleman would ever do! After Donn-Byrne’s marriage to playwright Dorothea Cadogan, the couple lived first in Connecticut before returning to Ireland to live in Coolmain Castle in Co. Cork. Several of his works are still in print, including The Wind Bloweth, and Messer Marco Polo.
5. Fuarán Mhic Craith
The water from this spring comes from Camlough Mountain through McGrath’s spout and was believed to hold healing powers. Local sportsmen (footballers, hurlers, athletes and boxers) would bathe their injuries and wounds in the water and many locals got it bottled and blessed by a priest to use as holy water in their homes.
6. Caidéal sráidbhaile Chamlocha
Camlough village pump
Originally the well located at the bottom of Gordan’s Lane in the townland of Cross supplied the water to the locality. However, in 1926 the local council decided to pipe a water supply to the village of Camlough, the trenches for the pipes were all hand dug by a local man – Mick McGlade. The pumps were installed at various locations in the village. One was outside Carragher’s Pub, another at the corner of the Village Green, and a third was placed outside the old school, and is no longer in place. The pumps hold the distinction of being the symbol of the Camlough Heritage Society.
The rock that makes up Camlough Mountain is called granodiorite. Granodiorite, just like the rocks that make up Slieve Gullion, forms from the cooling, deep underground, of molten magma. However, unlike the rocks that make up Slieve Gullion and the Ring of Gullion, which were formed around 60 million years ago, the granodiorites of Camlough Mountain are around 400 million years old. Whereas the younger rocks of Gullion are associated with igneous activity related to the formation of the present day Atlantic Ocean, the rocks of Camlough Mountain are associated with igneous activity related to the closure of a precursor to the present day Atlantic, the now long disappeared Lapetus Ocean.
Camloch – an loch féin
The often calm, tranquil waters of ‘Cam Lough’, meaning Crooked Lake, stretch for just over two kilometres. This narrow, elongate lough provides rich waters for the angler and marks a break in the lines of the hills that surround Slieve Gullion, the Ring of Gullion. In fact, Cam Lough marks the point where the Ring of Gullion is broken, or offset. On the western side, the ring of hills intersects Cam Lough at its northern end at Sturgan Mountain. However, on its eastern side, the ring of hills intersects the lough halfway down its eastern shore.
An Tarbhealach Craig Mór
The highest railway bridge in Ireland carries the rail link between Belfast and Dublin. Construction began in 1849 and the bridge opened in 1852. Designed by Sir John McNeill, the eighteen arch viaduct sweeps in a curve across the valley, 126 feet above the Camlough River. The disused track of the Bessbrook to Newry tramway runs underneath the viaduct and is now part of The Ulster Way and The Ring of Gullion Way.