Bonamargy Friary

A late Franciscan foundation established in 1485 by Rory MacQuillan

The name ‘Bonamargy’ means ‘foot of the Margy’, the river formed by the joining of the Cary and Shesk rivers. The monastery lies off the Cushendall Road on the approach to Ballycastle. A late Franciscan foundation established in 1485 by Rory MacQuillan, it is thought that the first battle between the warring MacDonnell and MacQuillan clans was fought on adjacent land.

A small, two storey gatehouse is located at the main entrance to the friary, which opens into a store and workroom. Well worn steps lead directly to the dormitory above. Traces of an altar can still be found in the adjoining church, and the locked vaults hold the remains of the celebrated chieftain, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, and several of the earls of Antrim.

However, Bonamargy Friary’s most famous resident is the seventeenth century prophet and recluse Julie MacQuillen. Known as ‘The Black Nun’, MacQuillen wished to be buried at the entrance of the chapel so that she might be trodden under the feet of those who entered. A round holed cross marks her grave.

© Danny Carson 2004

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