The Road To Glenlough

The valley owners

But it is not just the famous that have a narrative worth relating. The truly heroic aspect of any account of Glenlough rests with the people who lived and breathed it. When the population of this remote parish rose sharply at the beginning of the nineteenth century, it led to pressure on available land. Families began to consider their upland commonages as places of habitation for the first time. A McGinley family were the first to set up home permanently in the valley where the uplands proved ideal terrain for mountain sheep.

They were succeeded by the Heekins who had a large family of twelve there. As well as their flock of sheep, they also kept a large herd of cows and fattened pigs. Due in the main to many of the offspring emigrating to America, a decision was taken to eventually leave their valley in 1919 and to move out closer to ‘civilisation’.

The valley stayed on the market for two years until it was purchased by returned emigrant Dan Ward and his wife Rose in 1921. Dan had worked for a decade in New Zealand before coming back home to marry his sweetheart in Ardara Church. Dan heard about this valley being for sale, and being well used to this type of vast and remote farming, immediately purchased it. There the couple were to live and work for the next thirty years and were the only inhabitants when the Kents (in 1926) and Dylan Thomas (1935) came to share their valley.

Eventually as they grew old, it became too tough for the Wards to live out there any longer and although Rockwell Kent almost bought the valley from them in 1951, it would eventually be sold to Rose’s nephews, the four Heekin brothers. They carried on with the sheep farming there but following the sudden death of Mark in 1980, the remaining cottage was closed and so marked the last time that anybody slept out there.

Now the valley is remotely farmed and only day trippers and walking groups visit to take in the vistas and experience the unique peace and solitude there.