Coney Island

Location: Maghery

Coney Island, taken from slipway at Country Park, Maghery 2Coney Island is an island in Lough Neagh.  It is situated approximately 1 km from Maghery in County Armagh, is thickly wooded and of nearly 9 acres in area. It lies between the mouths of the River Blackwater and the River Bann in the south-west corner of Lough Neagh.  Coney Island was once known as Innisclabhall and then as Sydney’s Island.

Coney Island has a rich history with long evidence of human occupation.  Excavations carried out in 1962-63 indicated that there was a settlement on the island in Neolithic times which lasted into the Bronze Age.  The island was connected to the mainland by a causeway or submerged ridge, which can be seen in summer when it is under less than two feet of water.  It is known locally as Saint Patrick’s Road, as the saint is said to have used the island as a place of retreat.  This causeway was breached in the 19th century to allow the passage of barges from the Bann to the Blackwater.

It features a 13th-century Anglo-Norman motte and was one of the most westerly outposts of the Normans during their settlement of Ireland. A  native settlement flourished there in the later Middle Ages when there was also a small iron industry.  Subsequently the island was refortified with a bank, ditch and an external palisade.  It also has a 16th-century stone tower used by Shane Ó Neill as a lookout post and stronghold for his riches.  The island was one of O’Neill’s major strongholds, but was delivered to Lord Deputy Sir Henry Sydney in 1567 and appears to have continued in use as a fort for a generation at least.  At some later point the defenses were thoroughly razed.  In the 17th and 18th centuries the island was only sporadically occupied.  In the 1890’s, Coney Island was bought by James Alfred Caulfield (1830-1913), 7th Viscount Charlemont, supposedly for £150.  In 1946 the island was given to the National Trust.

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