Happy 400th to the Hall Green

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Many years ago in 1994 and 1995, B. C. (before children), my wife and I made two trips to Ulster, partly for genealogical research, to retrace the paths of my Ulster Scots (Scotch-Irish) ancestors.

On both trips we spent a few nights at a wonderful farmhouse B&B in the eastern part of County Donegal (one of the three Ulster counties in the Republic of Ireland), near the county town of Lifford. The Hall Green had been recommended in one of the guidebooks (Bed and Breakfast Ireland, by Elsie Dillard and Susan Causin, 1991 edition) we'd bought before our trip and by our hostess for our first three nights in Ulster. We had considered another farmhouse B&B nearby, but it seemed too near the highway to be as quiet as we'd hoped. The Hall Green was exactly what we'd been looking for.

Here's the review I posted to rec.travel.europe after our first visit in 1994. Please NOTE that these are 1994 phone numbers and prices; they've changed:

Mervyn and Jean McKean, The Hall Greene Farm, Porthall, Lifford, Co Donegal, Irish Republic. IR (074) 41318. This was our favorite place. IE#28 for en-suite double. They take Visa and MasterCard, which saved us having to convert more money into punts. Our room had two extra twin beds, some comfortable reading chairs, a hairdryer, and some good books. This is a working beef farm. The farmhouse dates to 1611, more homey than fancy. Mervyn and Jean are wonderful people. Each evening when we came in, one of them would make some tea and bring out some of Jean's excellent baked goods, and we'd have a nice chat in their living room. The McKeans shared our interest in Irish Presbyterian history. Mervyn lent me a book on Presbyterianism in the Laggan (the part of Co Donegal just southwest of Derry). Jean made some phone calls and put us in touch with a retired farmer (Mr Bertie Roulston) who had compiled a history of Monreagh Presbyterian Church, where in all likelihood my ancestors worshipped. It happened (providentially) that that weekend was the 350th anniversary of that church, so we were able to be a part of some of the festivities, including a flower show.

Breakfasts are huge and good -- cold cereal or porridge, scones, grapefruit or prunes, bacon, eggs, sausage, and tomato, toast, and soda farls. Kippers are also an option. They also offer dinner if requested that morning; we always came in too late in the evening, taking advantage of the long days in June, so we ate out instead.

(Between then and now, they appear to have dropped the final "e" in the name.)

One funny memory: Sitting in their parlor one evening, drinking tea and watching a news program on TV, we were surprised to see video of the storefronts of Main Street in Jenks, Oklahoma, part of a story about cities building aquariums, the tourism development fad of the mid-1990s.

When we returned to Ireland in September 1995, we booked several nights again at Hall Green, and this time we made sure to plan for one evening at the farmhouse to enjoy one of Jean's excellent dinners.

A comment on Twitter last night (Tabitha Hale's post-debate threat to go work in a pub in Ireland until the presidential campaign is over) made me think about our trips to Ireland, and it hit me that the Hall Green is 400 years old this year. The Hall Green's website has an informative summary of the farm's history.

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....

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....

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

The farm has been in the McKean family for about 120 years and at one time was also home to a brickworks with its own railway branch.

Longvale House at the Hall Green is listed on the B&B Ireland website. It gets rave reviews on TripAdvisor. I hope to get back there myself some day.

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It was good to read your post in the parlour at Longvale House - I am directly descended from Thomas Keyes who built it, and am visiting my roots for the first time. Jean and Mervyn have been wonderfully hospitable, and we are having a great mini-break in the rolling green Donegal countryside. Trying to solve the mystery of where the Keyes ancestors are buried is occupying a lot of time,and tomorrow we go to Cavanacor to see the 'other Keyes house'. Mervyn takes a great interest in my grandfather, Roger Keyes, who was a very successful naval officer in both world wars. I will be scanning and sending lots of photographs when I get home for inclusion in their little museum.

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