THE tragic 19th century dynasty of one of County Tyrone’s wealthiest families, the Ogilby’s of Altnachree Castle, near Donemana has being recalled in a fascinating book, ‘Altnachree: An Irish castle, a family and a man with a passion’, written by a descendant of the family, Australian author Joy Ware, who has spent the last twelve years researching the extraordinary story of her ancestors, the Ogilby family.
New South Wales native Joy has become an authority on Altnachree, the once opulent castle that sits on a hill at Liscloon, a few miles outside Donemana village on the road to Claudy. Her curiosity about the Ogilby clan was sparked in 2002, when she travelled to Northern Ireland and met people around Donemana and nearby Liscloon, who helped her with her early research.
The research showed a bittersweet romance between one of the sons and a local seamstress, exile from Ireland, family shame and faraway fame in Australia, heartbreak and eventual financial collapse.
Since the family left the area, all that remains of their existence is the crumbling castle at Altnachree and the local myths that had become legend through the generations since then.
Drawing on a considerable record of private letters, newspaper cuttings, scientific accounts, diaries and notebooks, these became the basis of the story Joy has woven; a great tale of a once great family who also had connections in Limavady and Dungiven, the Castle there being owned by a branch of the family.
A shameful secret which doomed the famous Ogilby name was discovered but is not yet unravelled and the book cites the twists and turns of this once landed gentry family. As Joy said at the recent launch of the book in Donemana, “I had hoped to unravel the tangled skein of folklore and fact and trace the life and scientific career of James Douglas Ogilby,” She added, “I was compelled to find out what led to the downfall of the once influential Ogilby family and why their grand home became a ruin. This family skeleton had never been mentioned. No doubt the family knew about it, but nothing was said”
This is a great book, one that is difficult to leave down once opened and it goes a long way to filling in many of the gaps in the history of the Ogilby family that few are around to remember, other than through the folklore that they left behind. It is well-written with lots of photographs and maps depicting the vast land ownership the family once had. Self-published, the book is a welcome addition to the history of County Tyrone, especially the Donemana area and with a reprint now available, copies can be purchased at the Dennett Interchange office in Donemana Village and Strabane Tourism Office, priced £12. This paperback book will be a great gift for Christmas for anyone who values the history of that part of Tyrone around Donemana or indeed those who enjoy reading about the gentry of a bygone age and the Castle they left behind in Tyrone amongst the bushes.