The Townland of Lisbunny in the Parish of Cumber Upper

The townland of Lisbunny is located to the south of the village of Claudy in the valley of the Glenrandal river which joins the river Faughan just to the west of Claudy - [see map of the locality]. As the map shows the northern boundary of the townland follows the course of the Alla Burn which is a tributary of the Glenrandal. The general area of which Lisbunny is a part is one of deep glens and valleys, the most famous being Bond's Glen to the northwest of Lisbunny. The Sperrin Mountains lie to the south of the area. The other townlands shown in this map are referred to in the story of one of the Bond families of Lisbunny.

Lisbunny was part of the civil parish of Cumber Upper in the barony of Tirkeeran. Later it was part of the District Electoral Division of Ballymullins in the Poor Law Union of Londonderry.  After 1922 it became part of the District Electoral Division of Claudy. The townland was also part of the Skinners Estate which, until 1874, was leased by the Ogilby family.

1831 Census Returns Excel PDF
1828 Tithe Applotment Book Excel PDF
1831 First Townland Valuation House details Valuation map
1858 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation Printed pages Valuation map
1860 to 1901 Griffith's Revision Books Excel PDF
1901 Census Returns Excel PDF

See also:

Database of Enrolment Registers for Ballyneaner National School - read more. Excel PDF

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

Townland 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Lisbunny 278 [53] 210 [38] 183 [31] 167 [30] 148 [29] 165 [30] 159 [26] 122 [24]

Like many townlands in the other localities in the county, the numbers of people and houses in Lisbunny halved between 1831 and 1901. The decline here actually began in the 1831/41 decade when the population fell by 21%, During the Famine decade of 1841/51 it only fell by 13%. However, the total fall between 1831 and 1851 was 34% which demonstrates that the slowdown and decline of the Pre-Famine population had already begun in certain areas before the Famine. Like elsewhere in Ulster, the population declined a further 33% between 1851 and 1901, producing an overall decline of 56% between 1831 and 1901. Note, however, that the population during the 1871/81 decade virtually returned to its 1861 figure. The fact that there was virtually no change in the number of houses in the townland suggests that something must have happened within some of the families that led to this increase. As yet I have not been able to identify these families.

The table below shows the religious breakdown of the population in the townland 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 %
Lisbunny 53 0 53 278 62 23% 70 25% 142 51% 4 1%

The inhabitants of the townland were mainly protestants, with the Presbyterians dominating. I have not studied this townland in great detail but I suspect many of the planter families moved into the townland in the later part of the seventeenth and early part of the eighteenth centuries. The 1831 Census Returns list the names of the 53 householders and the Tithe Applotment Book of 1828 gives the names of some 24 landholders in the townland, some of whom held more than one plot of land. It looks as if the townland was originally leased to a Lindsay and a Rosborough because in the 1831 Census Returns the townland was divided into Lisbunny Lindsay and Lisbunny Rosborough. The Lindsay lease covered the western part of the townland and the Rosborough lease the eastern part. Interestingly most of the Roman Catholic population lived within the Rosborough part of the townland and most of the Church of Ireland population in the Lindsay part. The Presbyterians were fairly evenly divided between both parts.

 You might want to compare the names and properties in the Tithe Applotment Book of 1828  with those in the 1831 Census Returns and the 1858 Griffith's Printed [Tenement] Valuation and see how many you can match up.

The 1858 Griffith's Printed [Tenement] Valuation gives details of the holdings in the townland c.1860 and it is relatively easy to separate out the Rosborough part of the townland from the Lindsay part of the townland. Number 13 is interesting. Here there are 10 persons holding 131 acres in common as well as sharing another 132 acres of mountain land. When you look at this holding on the 1859 map you will see that the houses of these 10 persons form a cluster at the centre of the holding and there is clear evidence on the map of strips of land around the settlement. This is a classic example of a clachan where the land in the infield, which was laid out in strips, was held in common by the occupants of the clachan. This was a system of land holding known as rundale. Because it was difficult to disentangle who owned what, the valuers simply valued the holding as one block of land. If you look at the valuation of each person's land within the clachan you can work out their proportion of land each held within the infield.

Note that the valuation of the houses and buildings in the townland was very low. The earlier 1831 Townland Valuation gives some valuations, but no details of size, age or condition of the houses in the Rosborough part of the townland. The houses in the clachan on the Lindsay part of the townland were not of a high enough valuation to be included in the 1831 valuation - see map.

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 as well as indicating when certain families left the townland or new ones arrived. However, it must be stressed that not every family who moved in and out of a townland at this time was recorded in the valuation records. This was particularly the case with labourers.

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 and the religious breakdown of the population.

Townland Inhabited Houses Uninhabited Houses No. of Families Total in Houses E.C. % R.C. % Presb. % Others %
Lisbunny 24 3 24 122 17 14% 49 40% 55 45% 1 1% 

In common with many other townlands in the county the number of families and houses had fallen dramatically. The number of Church of Ireland families had fallen from 13 in 1831 to 2 in 1901 and the number of Presbyterian families from 17 in 1831 to 12 in 1901. In contrast, the number of Roman Catholic families had only fallen from 13 in 1831 to 10 in 1901. The overall effect of all of this was that the percentage of Roman Catholics in the townland had risen from 25% in 1831to 40 % in 1901 and the protestant population had fallen from 75% in 1831 to 60% in 1901. Clearly there had been either been substantial emigration amongst the protestant families or they had moved to other townlands in the general locality. I have not investigated this matter further.

As to occupations, 19 of the 24 heads of households in the townland were farmers. There were only 2 labourers suggesting that these family farms did not require much outside labour, depending instead on members of the family and neighbours. Certainly families in clachan settlements pooled their labour, particularly at harvest time in a practice known as "morrowing".  The other 3 heads of households were a blacksmith, a shoemaker and a shopkeeper. Given that most houses would bake their own bread, make their own butter, have their own cow, etc. such an occupational structure, and the presence of the shop owned by Henry Rosborough, suggests that this very large townland was almost self-sufficient.


Most of the people in the townland in 1901 had been born in the county and the majority of the male heads of households were probably born in Lisbunny. Naturally, some wives, would have come from further afield.  Five wives had been born in the adjoining county of Tyrone and two in Donegal. Most of the others either came from within Lisbunny, e.g. Elizabeth Bond the wife of Thomas McMillen, or from townlands relatively nearby e.g. Henry Rosborough's wife, Mary Ann Cairns, had come from the parish of Clondermot, Christie Rosborough's wife, Isabella McComb, hailed from the parish of Cumber Lower and Mark Whiteside's wife, Martha J. Lindsay came from the parish of Clondermot. The Devine and McGrellis families had grandchildren who had been born in Scotland indicating that their parents had lived in Scotland for a time. Seasonal migration to Scotland for the harvest was a very common feature of life for many families in the nineteenth century and some occasionally stayed for much longer than a year. There was also a Baptist Evangelist, who had been born in Scotland. He was visiting  in the house of Henry Rosborough, mentioned above.

The main planter names in the townland during the nineteenth century were Rosborough, Whiteside, Lindsay, Bond, Temple and Ramsey. The main Irish names were Gormley, Devine, Carlin and McGrellis.

Copyright 2010 W. Macafee.