Daniel McConaghy

                                          

   

Taken at front door of Warren View. Double wedding at Billy Parish Church, Sep 1897. Daniel McConaghy and Margaret Ann Graham are the couple, center left; Danielís sister, Marianne McConaghy and Robert Wark are the couple, center right (they went to live in Durban, South Africa, where Robert Wark worked for a sugar refining company. Marrianne died there. In retirement, as a widower, Robert Wark returned to Warren View to live out his days.) Far right is John McConaghy, Danielís father. Far left we think is William Graham, Margaret Annís uncle from Kirkpatrick Fleming, Dumfriesshire.
 

 

Daniel McConaghy was born in 1865, the second son of John McConaghy and Mary Jane Redmond. The family home, Warren View, sits right next to the Causeway Memorial School, both sited so uniquely, just a field or two away from the headland which plunges dramatically down to the Giantís Causeway. The headlands and shore, and the spectacular rock formations of this ruggedly beautiful part of the North Antrim coast were in his very back yard and he must have explored every nook and cranny as a boy and come to love the bracing air, the glorious sea and the sky of this lovely place. Within this setting and to the community that meant so much to him, he devoted his lifelong service as headmaster of the Causeway School. It was here too that he met his wife, Margaret. Danielís descendants still enjoy sharing the story of that romance. Margaret Ann Graham was raised in Dumfriesshire in Scotland. She was trained in haute-couture dressmaking and hair-dressing. In the mid 1890's she became Lady's Maid for Lord Macnaghtenís six daughters, and came from London to serve them there at Runkerry House. When she made her first appearance in the area, following behind the Macnaghten ladies as they filed into church, the local commentary praised her poise and style and lovely thick, auburn hair. The Macnaghten's used to host wonderful cultural evenings at Runkerry and Daniel McConaghy, the local school master, would attend with his violin. Margaret Graham first saw him there, and was quite taken with him. The story goes that she made a visit to the Wishing Chair at the Giantís Causeway to make a very special wish - that one day she would be his wife. Love blossomed, and they were married at Billy Parish Church in 1897. Daniel and Margaret lived at the Teacherís Residence at Ardihennon, now demolished, which was only a hundred yards from the school gates. Here they raised eight children, but sadly lost a daughter, Ellen Mary, who was not quite ten. She died in April 1917, during the heaviest snow fall that had visited the area in many years. In those conditions, a horse drawn hearse was unable to travel out from Coleraine or Ballymoney. It is a moving testimony to the spirit of the community and the love extended to the family that local friends and farmers dug a path through the drifts all the way from the Giantís Causeway to Billy Parish Church, a distance of three miles or more, so that her little coffin could be taken by pony and trap for burial.

 

Daniel McConaghy trained at the Church of Ireland Teacher Training College in Dublin, and also studied Horticulture at Glassneven near Dublin.  He began teaching in 1887, and taught at the Giantís Causeway for 43 years, moving up from the National School at the Nook, to become principal in 1915 of the new Causeway Memorial School which was built by the Macnaghten family. He served there until he retired in 1930. Even in retirement he continued to be known affectionately as the ďMasterĒ. Writing of her high regard for him, one former pupil said that she could fill the page telling all the good things about the Master. He was a person of quiet integrity and his life and example demonstrated kindliness toward all men and a deeply held faith in the sovereignty and goodness of God. A quote which he appreciated was:   ďThe prospect of a future state is a secret comfort and refreshment to my soul. It is that which makes nature look gay around me; it doubles all my pleasures and supports me under all my afflictions.Ē      (Addison)    At that time many people were rather taken with Spiritualism. Daniel McConaghy was not, but as this excerpt shows he was gracious to those whose ideas differed to his own. In his own words . .     ďAlthough my old brain is unable to grasp the facts and teachings of Spiritualism I read with pleasure your remarks about your meetings with good mediums in London and that you had spoken with your mother. It is indeed wonderful. But I feel that it is better for me to be content to wait till I pass over to the other side where I can meet and talk with the loved ones gone before. I enjoy our Communion Service in Church where I feel that the congregation in which I find myself is not the few people assembled in Church at the moment: it is the whole Communion of Saints. I offer myself to God and pray that the Life of Love and service and sacrifice may take possession of me thereby knitting me to all others who share it whether in this world or in that beyond.Ē

 

The McConaghys of Warren View were people of faith Ė they loved books and were also musical. Danielís father trained a Temperance Band in their home, and Daniel could play piano, violin and flute well. He taught the children at school to sing songs and hymns in four part harmony, and at the end of the school day he played the flute or fiddle for them for drill and dancing. He was gifted artistically too, and undoubtedly would have shared his love of drawing with his students. The Causeway School was said to have been one of the most progressive in the area. Daniel McConaghyís enthusiasm for teaching scientific ideas and his personal love of horticulture, and bee-keeping, created a diverse and hands-on learning experience for his students. At home, Daniel kept a thriving and intensively cultivated garden in which he grew all kinds of vegetables Ė including unusual ones like Jerusalem Artichokes. He built a greenhouse and may have been one of the first in the community to grow his own tomatoes. He also kept a dozen or more bee hives, which he constructed himself.  At school he installed a glass fronted hive so that the children could observe the bees and their busy activity inside.    In addition to bee-keeping the boys at school were taught gardening and how to create good drainage for the earth. They learned about pruning and together they trained apple trees to grow flat against the school wall, since it was too bleak and stormy there for normal growth. Daniel kept a science cupboard well stocked with apparatus for conducting experiments and displayed an interesting collection of geological specimens in a glass case to stimulate enquiry and discussion. One or two other teachers were employed at the school to assist, and at one time, Danielís wife, Margaret, was employed to teach sewing to the girls.

 

The Causeway School was the very first in the district to institute a mid-day supply of hot cocoa to the children. Each child brought a penny and their bread. The Macnaghtens sent a free supply of milk fresh from Runkerry dairy each day. The milk was heated at the school and cocoa and sugar were added. This warm nourishment must have been a blessing to some of the poorer children. Margaret McConaghy would make big pots of broth, full of all kinds of vegetables to feed her own children when they came down at lunch time to the school house. They had plates of broth and ďpiecesĒ Ė thick slices of buttered bread. In those days many children had to come to school without even a piece. Those who found their way down to the house were never turned away from having share of the masterís humble fare. Some of the children came barefooted and tattered and sometimes Margaret, who was an expert needle woman, adept at cutting down old clothes to make do and mend, would take time to make a garment for an especially needy child.

 

The McConaghy family has long been connected with the Giantís Causeway. Their generations have farmed the land, grazed sheep and cattle, and collected and dried kelp there. Some from amongst them ventured out with the waves of emigrants who sailed to America and to Australia during the nineteenth century. Sad letters from Australia tell of a difficult life, and a great longing for homeland, and speak of precious connections with fellow immigrants from other North Antrim families. One of the McConaghyís who was fortunate enough to fulfill his hopes of returning from Australia was Danielís older brother, John, who later became land steward at Runkerry for Lord Macnaghten.

    

Daniel McConaghy grew up amidst great family industry. Warren View was a popular guest house in the 1880s and comments from well pleased patrons in the old visitorís book, with entries which span three decades, attest to the familyís warm hospitality, good food, and comfortable accommodations Ė a home from home, amidst the beauty of the natural surroundings, that welcomed visitors back summer after summer, and from as far afield as the United States. The family also had a Ďtentí - a little shop for souvenirs and refreshments along the path that led down to the Causeway. In 1896 Danielís father opened the Giantís Causeway Post Office in the front parlour of Warren View, and Ulsterís tiniest postal district was created complete with its own special postmark. The Giantís Causeway postmark was much in demand by stamp collectors and popularly sought by tourists who visited from all over the world. With potted geraniums on the window sill, well worn floorboards, a warm wooden counter cluttered with nostalgic postal paraphernalia - the gleaming brass scale with its assortment of weights, ledgers, files and a wall of wooden drawers, an old fashioned black telephone, walls papered with posters and notices, and lighting provided still by flickering oil lamps it was, until its close, a charming reminder of a bygone era. Family members from three generations served as Post Master at the Giantís Causeway Post Office until it closed with the retirement of Danielís daughter, Maud McConaghy in 1975.

 

 

Please credit Margaret McKendry Don and members of the McConaghy Family for this information.

     

Left Photo: Daniel and Margaret with first two children, John and Mary. Taken at the Schoolhouse (teacherís residence), Ardihennon. Right Photo: Seven of Daniel and Margaretís children: top row: John and Mary; centre: Grace; bottom row: William, Peggy, Ellen (the little one, who died) and Maud. Daniel the youngest child was probably not born yet. Taken about 1912 at the Schoolhouse

Another picture of some of the McConaghy children. The house in the background is the Schoolhouse at Ardihennon. From left to right: Mary, Maud, baby Grace, Ellen Mary, Peggy, two little boys in the wagon (unknown) and William at the end. John the eldest is missing and Danny was not yet born.

Daniel and Margaret in retirement.

Causeway National School at the Nook. Daniel McConaghy, far right.

Causeway National School at the Nook. Daniel McConaghy far left. Iím sorry I donít know who the other teacher is.

Warren View. Danielís family home.

John McConaghy, Danielís father accompanies visitors down to see the Causeway. Danielís brother George is driving the wagon. We think perhaps they might be guests who were staying at Warren View.

Again, Daniel McConaghy, accompanying guests on a visit to the Causeway. (Daniel in the middle at front). We do not recognize any of the folks.

  

Left Photo: Another of Daniel at the Causeway with unknowns Ė probably guests. Right Photo:  John McConaghy, the first Post Master of the Giantís Causeway Post Office (Danielís father).

Daniel's Daughter Maud McConaghy, the last Post Mistress of the Giantís Causeway Post Office.

      

                            Daniel as a Young Man                                                                                Daniel in Retirement

Taken outside the Causeway School

 

 

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