Carleton’s stories and novels, although written in Dublin, are mostly located in the Clogher Valley, a fertile area of County Tyrone, lying between the beautiful chain of hills to the north and the massive Slieve Beagh feature to the south. Through it runs the main road from Belfast to the West. Within easy reach are the towns of Dungannon, Omagh, Monaghan and Enniskillen, none of them more than twenty miles from the village of Clogher at the heart of the Valley.
As Carleton remarked, Clogher can claim city status as here is situated the Anglican cathedral of the Diocese of Clogher, a small but elegant building in the classical style. Nearby is the former palace of the bishops of Clogher, also a classical building. These features were noted by Carleton in a depiction that is not entirely enthusiastic as he tells us:
‘[Clogher] is only half a town, having but one row of streets, and contains not more I think than from two hundred and fifty to three hundred inhabitants. Small and insignificant-looking, however, as it seems, it is the ecclesiastical metropolis of the diocese to which it gives its name. Before the Union it returned a member to the Irish Parliament…It is, or rather was the residence of the Bishops of Clogher, and the palace, which they occupied for about a month or six weeks every year, is a very fine building…The name of Clogher is, I believe, of Druidical origin – the word Clogh – oir, signifying a ‘golden stone’. Carleton: The Autobiography.
Carleton’s etymology actually owes more to folklore than reality for, although a pillar stone preserved at the Cathedral is said locally to be the famed golden stone, the name derives merely from clochar (stony place.) The varying interpretations, however, indicate the wealth of antiquities and folklore in the district. A variety of earthworks include the hill fort within which the cathedral and its predecessors were built and the many military and ecclesiastical features have been well documented. Myth and scientific archaeology also offer their respective interpretations of the elaborate markings on the stones of the passage grave on the summit of the hill of Knockmany overlooking the Clogher Valley. Knockmany has frequent affectionate mention in Carleton’s work and the wooded path to the summit is a walk to be recommended to all visitors to the area.
The William Carleton Summer School is held at Corick House Hotel, a seventeenth century country house, mentioned in Carleton’s writings and now a hotel situated in scenic parkland.
Corick House is excellently appointed, providing accommodation, including nearby guest house accommodation, for summer school week. Situated just north of the main Dungannon to Enniskillen road (the A4), between Augher and Clogher; it is well signposted.
At the time of the Plantation of Ulster the townland of Corick was part of the lands granted to the Bishop of Clogher. Corick or Corag, meaning a confluence of streams, lies mid-way between of the villages of Augher and Clogher where the Fury River joins the Tyrone Blackwater.
About 1697 Bishop St George Ashe settled John Story from Hexham in Northumberland on the property. Story sold his estate at Bingfield Hall and came to Ireland, apparently as the Bishop’s Agent. The Story family and their descendants were connected with Corick for about three hundred years, providing mainly bishops agents, clergymen and farmers.
The parents of the novelist William Carleton were tenants at Nurchossy (early 19th Century) of John Benjamin Story (1764 – 1844). Carleton mentions him in Traits and Stories where he is described as one of the tallest and handsomest of the local squires.
The last member of the Story family sold the house and gardens at Corick to Mrs Jean Beacom and the surrounding farmland to the local farmers. The William Carleton Society gratefully acknowledges the contribution made to the successful running of the summer school by Jean Beacom, who passed away in 2011.
It was her fondest desire to carry the traditions of this grand Irish house into the 21st Century. The hotel is now run by her daughter Avril and her two brothers and has undergone a £1.4 million expansion to provide additional accommodation and a spa.
Address: Corick House Hotel, Clogher, BT76 0BZ, Co. Tyrone Tel: +44 (0)28 8554 8216 email: firstname.lastname@example.org