The Townlands of Coolafinny and Muff in the Parish of Faughanvale

The townlands of Coolafinny and Muff contain the village of Muff, renamed later as Eglinton. Virtually all of the village is in the townland of Muff, thus its earlier name [see map of the locality]. As the map shows, the two townlands are separated by the Muff river which runs from the higher ground to the south through the village to Lough Foyle. Coolafinny is part of the low-lying ground which occupies the area between the village and Lough Foyle. The townland of Muff is also low lying immediately around the village but then begins to rise towards the higher ground to the south of the village. The old road to the City of Derry/Londonderry runs through the village. A new mail coach road from Belfast to Londonderry was built in the early 1800s and lies to the north of the village. This is the present day main road to the city.

Coolafinny and Muff were part of the civil parish of Faughanvale in the barony of Tirkeeran. Later they were part of the District Electoral Division of Eglinton in the Poor Law Union of Londonderry.  The townlands were also part of the Grocers' Estate which, until 1825, was leased by various persons, including the Conolys who had bought the estate of Sir Thomas Phillips in Limavady.

Townland of Muff

1831 Census Returns Excel PDF
1835 Tithe Applotment Book Excel PDF
1832 Townland Valuation House details Valuation map
1858 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation Printed pages Valuation map
1860 to 1910 Griffith's Revision Books Excel PDF
1901 Census Returns Excel PDF

Townland of Coolafinny

1831 Census Returns Excel PDF
1835 Tithe Applotment Book Excel PDF
1832 First Townland Valuation House details Valuation map
1858 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation Printed pages Valuation map
1860 to 1910 Griffith's Revision Books Excel PDF
1901 Census Returns Excel PDF

The figures in the table below [compiled from the official census] show how the number of people and [inhabited houses] in each townland [and the locality as a whole] changed during the period 1831 to 1901.

Townland 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Coolafinny 129 [19] 110 [14] 79 [10] 74 [10] 64 [11] 52 [11] 43 [10] 33 [7]
Muff 192 [34] 171 [44] 217 [49] 181 [41] 169[37] 175[43] 158 [39] 134 [36]
Total  321[53] 281[58]  296[59]  255[51]  233[48]  277[54]  201[49]  167[43]

Because the townland of Muff contained the village of Muff [later renamed Eglinton] these figures look very different from those in the other rural localities. In Coolafinny, a rural, agricultural townland, the population fell by 28% during the Famine decade of 1841/51, then fell by 58% between 1851 and 1901 resulting in a 74% decline between 1831 and 1901. Muff, on the other hand, experienced a 26% rise in population during the Famine decade, having seen a decline of 11% between 1831 and 1841. Between 1851 and 1901 the population declined by 38%. The overall fall between 1831 and 1901 was only 30%, much lower than the average rural townland.  Clearly, the village which had been repossessed by the Grocers' Company in 1825 was instrumental in keeping up the population in the townland of Muff. However, some of the townland was rural and this part would lose population from time to time.

The table below shows the religious breakdown of the population in the locality in the early nineteenth century, calculated from the 1831 Census Returns.

Townland Inhabited Houses Uninhabited Houses No. of Families Total in Houses E.C. % R.C. % Presb. % Others %
Coolafinny 19 0 21 129 58 45% 57 44% 14 11% 0  
Muff 34 0 38 192 75 39% 78 41% 39 20% 0  
Total 53 0 59 321 133 41% 135 42% 53 17% 0  

The religious mix here is interesting in that the Presbyterians are in the minority and it appears that the pattern remains much the same in 1901 - see table below. The 1831 Census Returns [Coolafinny] & [Muff] also list the names of the 53 householders in the two townlands and the Tithe Applotment Book of 1835 [Coolafinny] & [Muff] gives the names of 38 landholders in each townland.  If you compare the names in the 1831 Census Returns and the Tithe Applotment Book of 1835 and you will see, that despite the four years difference between the two sources, many names do match up. Note that the ratio of landholders to householders [1.3] is much lower than in many other townlands in the county e.g. Ballyagan where the ratio is 2.6.

Because of the relatively high value of many houses in this locality more meet the criterion of >3.00 for inclusion in the 1832 Townland Valuation. Here you will information on the size and condition of 14 houses in Muff and a further 4 in Coolafinny. The location of these houses can be seen on the accompanying valuation map. Again the names here can be easily matched to the 1831 and 1835 records.

The 1858 Griffith's Printed [Tenement] Valuation shows that the village was surrounded by fairly substantial farms with good houses [many located in or adjacent to the village] valued at a much higher level than the usual 1.50 or 2.00 for farmhouses. Within the village there is a group of houses [Nos. 10 to 13] valued between 4.00 and 6.00. Also there is a group of houses [Nos. 2b to 2k] valued at 1.00 each. The accompanying valuation map shows these as Widow's Row, presumably similar to the Widow's Row in Derry.  Six of the ten occupants were in fact women.

The Griffith's Revision Books will show you the changes in each holding and help you to link the names and properties in the 1858 Griffith's Printed [Tenement] Valuation with those in the 1901 Census Returns [Coolafinny] & [Muff] It is relatively easy to match up properties and names in Coolafinny between 1860 and 1901. it is not quite so easy in Muff, but not impossible in many cases. This reflects the fact that the population in villages and towns is more transient.

The 1901 Census Returns provide both statistical and personal details of families living in the locality a century or so ago. These returns provide information on individual members of a family such as age, sex,  level of literacy, marital status, religion, occupation and where the person was born. These returns are the only source that provides details of the relationships between persons in the latter part of the nineteenth century that can be matched to the civil and church records of the period. There is also  some information on houses and outbuildings which, when decoded , can give some impression of the size and appearance of the house that each family was living in and the types of outbuildings associated with the property.

The table below shows the number of people and houses in the townland in 1901 plus the religious breakdown of the population.

Townland Inhabited Houses Uninhabited Houses No. of Families Total in Houses E.C. % R.C. % Presb. % Others %
Coolafinny 7 2 7 33 10 30% 19 58% 4 12% 0  
Muff 36 3 36 134 48 36% 59 44% 26 19% 1 1%
Total 43 5 43 167 58 35% 78 47% 30 18% 1  

As explained above, the substantial fall of population and houses in Coolafinny and the small rise in population in Muff reflects the rural character of the former and the urban/village character of the latter. Despite these changes the religious breakdown is remarkably similar to that of 1831. I have not done enough work on the locality to be able to come up with a firm explanation of why this should be so. One point I have noticed, however, is  that the in 1901 Census Returns virtually all  members of the Church of Ireland population in Muff were labourers or tradesmen.

As to employment, the 1901 Census Returns show that in Coolafinny 5 of the heads of family were farmers, and the other 2 were a blacksmith and a labourer; clearly a strictly rural townland. The occupational mix in the townland of Muff was very different. Of the 39 households only 5 heads of family were farmers and 2 were farm labourers . This reflected the rural part of the townland. If you look at the range of occupations and professions, in what was the village part of the townland, you will find many more typical of a street in a town e.g. clergymen, merchants, publicans, shopkeepers, mason, carpenter, an unemployed barman, insurance agent, a National schoolteacher, etc.


As you might expect in a village places of birth of individuals can be interesting e.g. Australia, New Zealand, Cork City, Sligo, Longford, Meath, Donegal, Down, etc. At the same time, of the 35 heads of households in Muff, 29 gave the county or the city as their place of birth.

Thomas McCarter, a blacksmith, had married Sarah H. Henderson in 1872 in Ballyarnett Presbyterian Church and according the the Griffith's Revision Books came to Coolafinny around c.1876 to take over William Thompson's house and forge [No. 1 in Griffith's 1859].

Thomas Brolly, a farmer, moved into [No. 21 in Griffith's] in the townland of Muff. He had married Ellen Doherty in Dungiven Roman Catholic Church in 1881. Did he come from the Dungiven area to Muff? Certainly the surname Brolly is very common in the parish of Bovevagh. I have looked at this family in more detail and this case study can be seen at the Case Studies link in the top menu.

Henry Patton, a merchant, married Mary Devine in 1867 in Eglinton Roman Catholic Church [presumably Star of the Sea at Cregan] and moved into the caretaker's house in the village but must have had a shop somewhere else in the village.

Labouring families were also moving into the village at this period. James Harvey is first listed as occupying house [No. 8Be] in Widow's Row in 1894. He had married Matilda Keegan in 1880 in St. Canice's Church in Eglinton. Were they living in the village before 1894?

Clearly there are more families listed in the 1901 Census Returns that could be investigated e.g. the families of William Patterson, shoemaker, who married Margaret Coyle in All Saints, Clooney in 1873; James  Semple, carpenter, who married Hannah Moore in Bovevagh Presbyterian Church in 1886; Charles McGurk, labourer, who married Bridget O'Hagan in Derry in 1891; Henry Thompson, a schoolteacher, who married Margaret Moore in Kilcronaghan Parish Church in Tobermore on 30th June 1892.

Matthew Stacome, a farmer and trader who had been born in Donegal, was listed in the 1858 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation] in [No. 12] as occupying a house, office and  garden of just over an acre. The house, incidentally, was valued at 6.50 suggesting that it was a reasonably substantial house. By 1864 he had acquired a further 16 acres of land adjacent to his house and by 1866 he had married Rose Ann McLoughlin. His marriage entry in the civil registers show that he married Rose Ann McLoughlin in 1866.

Making sense of the information in these sources would be enhanced if you were to read Brian Mitchell, Historic Eglinton: A Thriving Monument (1996) and Alan Rogers, A Twice-Born Village: A Study of Planning in Muff (Eglinton) Co. Londonderry, 1600-1900 (1984).

Copyright 2010 W. Macafee.