The Hall Green

 

The Hall Green     

 

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The Hall Green is situated at Porthall, near Lifford in County Donegal. This fine old house, dating to 1611, is attached to the working farm of Mervyn and Jean McKean. At the entranceway above the door is a panel with the name Longvale House. Longvale is a translation of Glenfad (Glen = Vale, Fad = Long), of which an early version was Clonfade. Glenfad or Clonfade is the name of the property on which the house was originally built. So the name Longvale goes back to before the time when the house was first built. The Hall Green is the name of the field in front of the house and it's garden.

 The year 1611  dates the house to the early years of the plantation of the Scots and English settlers in the areas previously under the sway of the Irish Earls, whose flight from their lands took place in the reign of King James VI of Scotland and I of England. After staging an unsuccessful rebellion, the Earl of Tyrone (Hugh O'Neill) had expressed his submission to the English crown shortly after the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, but the Earls soon found that James would continue the policies towards them of Elizabeth, and the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell fled, leaving their lands unprotected. James thereupon granted considerable lands to colonists, on the understanding that they would secure these against any further uprisings.

 During Elizabeth's reign "The Trenchmaster" Sir Richard Hansard was a British military officer in Ireland acting to control Irish rebel activity. From 1578 onwards Thomas Keyes and Roger Tasker both served under Hansard, and when Hansard was appointed Governor of the Liffer (Lifford), Keyes received from him the grant of a plot of land, described as "one sesiagh" on which to build a house. This piece of land was Clonfade, and the house that Keyes built there was the Hall Green House. Thomas Keyes was Sheriff of Londonderry in 1623 and owner of the estate of Clonfade, after which the house is named.

 Nearby to Clonfade, Thomas Keye's son John, along with Roger Tasker, was granted land on which to build forts to secure the area of the River Foyle at Ballindrait. This land was the land of Cavanacor on which the on which Cavanacor House was built. Over the next century the two families of the Keyes and Taskers intermarried and held shared interests in the two houses.

 The conflicts between Protestant and Catholic interests in Ireland continued, and in 1689 King James VII and II, who had declared his support for the Catholic cause, landed at Kinsale from exile in France to lead an army into Ireland and besiege the city of Derry, whose Protestant inhabitants refused to cede their city to him. On his way to Derry, King James is said to have taken his lunch beneath a tree at Cavanacor. His host at Cavanacor on this occasion was john Keyes, a descendant of the earlier Thomas Keyes. Johns two brothers Thomas and Frederick, were at this time actually inside Derry, ready to defend the citys walls against James. Perhaps James did not know this as he reclined beneath the sycamore tree at Cavanacor. In any case, when he retreated from Derry after Protestant forces relieved the city in July 1689, James retraced his steps burning many properties, but he spared Cavanacor and also Clonfade, probably because of the old alliance between their two owning families.

  Cavanacor and Clonfade have thus survived from that time as outstanding historical houses of the Lifford area.

  Clonfade or Longvale continued in the hands of the Keyes family and its descendants until the 1830s.

  Around 1890 or later Mervyn McKeans grandfather bought the house and associated farmland. There was a well in a field nearby by which they pumped a water supply for the house. Nearby there was the site of a brickworks and lime pit. Two lime kilns still remain from this time and a lake which still has clean water in it, formed by the quarrying of stones to burn for the lime kilns. The pit was closed about the time of the First World War. A railway branch line came through the fields to the brick-works. The old track was lifted by Mervyn McKeans father.

  The house itself shows the distinctive and intriguing features of its original construction. Its windows were all of a slightly different size, and the window above the front doorway was not exactly in line with the door. There was another well in the cellar area. The present front rooms were in the past each two rooms, and originally there were nine bedrooms. Cool drinks were brought up in the summer from the cellar through a door that led into the current library. The door heads have been raised because originally they were very low. Otherwise this historic house has not been added to or any part of it taken away.

  The Hall Green, as Clonfade is now known, sits comfortably at the end of a private road leading to the McKeans farm. As this information sheet shows, it is a part of the historic environment of the Lifford area and Eastern Donegal in general. Its gracious rooms, looking onto the farm, its garden, and its orchard with its fine old trees, reflect its distinguished links with the history of the land.

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