Cushy Glen: cut-throat
and highway man

The Murderhole
Ruins of the Ram's Horn at the Murder Hole

Margaret Lueg, the other half of  the Newsbrowser team, took it upon herself to research this notorious local outlaw. She writes:

When I did this research into the history of Cushy Glen in 2005, I had not expected there to be so little hard evidence of his exploits, given the amount of tales told about him locally. Most of these tales seem to have a common source and have been embroidered and retold for 200 years.

Cushy Glen

Cushy Glen was a robber and highwayman who was born in the parish of Magilligan and is infamous in the Limavady area for robbing travellers on the mail coach road from NewtonLimavady to Coleraine. He is reputed to have murdered several travellers and dumped their bodies in the 'Murder Hole' at the foot of Windy Hill. For 170 years the old coach road to Coleraine was called the Murderhole Road, but was renamed Windyhill Road in the 1970's. A section of the road can be seen below.

The Murderhole Road

Cushy Glen, according to the OS memoirs of 1834 lived with a gang of robbers at the Murder Hole. It was here that he was shot by James Hopkins. The OS memoirs also refer to the white Tory Cave in which Cushy Glen, a noted robber with a gang of others, resided. This cave was on the border of the parishes of Magilligan and Dunboe. Further on the memoirs refer to 'The Robbers' Cave which is the name of a limestone cavern on the cliffs at Gortmore.

James Hopkins' house

Cushy Glen was supposed to have hung around Bridge Street in Coleraine to identify travellers worthy of robbing and he then followed them along the lonely road over the mountain. (How did he do that? Must have had a horse.) According to the OS Memoirs, James Hopkins of Bolea was one such traveller whom Cushy tried to rob in 1799 but was shot in the attempt.  James Hopkins died at Bolea on 7 March 1853 aged 94. 

The lower storey of James Hopkins' house in Bolea is still in use today as a shed.

Rev William Knox was the minister of 1st Dunboe Presbyterian Church from 1765 until his death on 29 August 1801. He lived in a house called “Fairview” overlooking the village of Articlave. Tradition has it that he ministered to Cushy Glen after the robber was shot by James Hopkins.

The late Sam Henry wrote a poem about Dunboe with the following lines:

So to the highwayman good William Knox
With eyes blindfolded, saved him from the shocks

That death still batters on the sinning soul

And pointed him the way to heaven's goal.

Sam Martin's Historical Gleanings refers to Paddy Cushy Glen – a noted robber who lived at the Back Strand, afterwards removed to the Murderer's Hole on the road between Limavady and Coleraine. He had a brother called James Cushy Glen who was executed in Derry for stealing 3 bullocks, who were the property of Mr Hughy.

There is a tale that James may have been walked in chains from Limavady to Derry to be hanged.

Memoirs of the Coleraine Knoxes written down by R Kyle-Knox: (unpublished papers)

'That night two masked men called on my great-grandfather at his house. They told him he must come and visit a dying man but he must consent to be blindfolded. After some hesitation he agreed to their terms and went with them. He was absent three days leaving his family in greatest consternation. On his return he was brought back blindfolded as before. He never knew himself where he had been, but he told them he had spent the time at the bedside of the highwayman Cushy Glen and had closed his eyes after his death.'

Pat Cushy Glenn - sources Londonderry Journal -21 March 1780 and 24 April 1781

The Derry Journal, previously the 'Londonderry Journal and Donegal and Tyrone Advertiser' is one of Ireland's oldest newspapers having been established in 1772. In its pages are documented the life of Derry and its hinterland from the late 18th century. The following advertisement appeared in the Journal dated 21 March 1780:

'Joseph Smith and Pat Glenn accused of being accessories to the murder of John Kelly late of Aughill, Tamlaghtard (Magilligan) will surrender ourselves to the next Assizes'.

However, it appears that Pat Glenn failed to turn himself in and went on the run, as revealed in a subsequent advertisement dated 24 April 1781.

'John Church (and others who are not named) of Coleraine offer a reward for the apprehension of Robert Jack, Bernard Dogherty, John McCoy, James Miskimmen, Bryan McNogher and Patrick Cushaglen, who are accused of murdering John Kelly in the parish of Magilligan'.

Here we have Pat Glenn and Patrick Cushaglen used interchangeably in a contemporary source, thus adding substance to the oral history.

In the Belfast Newsletter, (online database) a similar advertisement with additional names appeared in the edition dated 29 May – 1 June 1781. John Church of Coleraine was offering reward for the apprehension of the following men for the murder of John Kelly of the parish of Magilligan – Robert Dougherty, Bernard Dougherty, Jack Dougherty, John McCoy, James Maskimman, John Maskimman, Bryan McNagher and Patrick Cushyglen. Mention was made of 'daring violent outrages'.

Bernard Dogherty was subsequently apprehended and imprisoned but escaped, as noted in the Derry Journal of 12 March 1782.

'reward offered by Michael Ross, William Lenox, Sheriffs, for the apprehension of the following who escaped March 5 from Londonderry jail – Bernard Dogherty, shoemaker charged with murder, formerly resided at Newtownlimavady aged about 35 years . . .'

Patrick Cushy Glenn remained at large until he was shot by James Hopkins at the Murder Hole Road some years later.

The Murder Hole and the Ram's Horn

Tradition has it that Cushy Glenn held up the Coleraine stagecoach near Sconce Hill, robbed and murdered the passengers and dumped their bodies in a hole near the old coach road. This road was then known locally as the Murderhole Road. The road officially became Windyhill Road in the 1970's.

Ram's Horn house

Several tales about Cushy Glenn revolve around a small house on that road near the junction with Bolea Road. It was occupied until about 50 years ago by Gilbert Purcell, a shepherd with Grange Park and had two magnificent ram's horns – one on each gatepost. Stories tell of the house having been Cushy's home, a roadside inn, a hotel and various other fanciful things. Some local people (of normally great common sense) are convinced they have 'seen things' in the vicinity of the house. Incidentally, the area is very isolated, surrounded by shadows and trees, through which the Windyhill wind moans and whistles – and that's on a bright sunny day.

Cushy's wife

Many tales refer to Cushy Glenn's wife aiding and abetting him in his dastardly deeds – helping him to bury the bodies, encouraging him with wifely inquiries such as 'Did you get him Cushy?' and generally being a real bad lot.

However, it appears that she did exist and remarried some time in 1807.  In the marriages section of Belfast Newsletter dated 11 December 1807 are the following thought-provoking entries:


At Newtonlimavady, Miss Mullin, of Scrugan, near Dungiven, to Mr. Samuel Birnie, late merchant, Newtonlimavady

Mrs. Cushie Glen, widow of the late Mr. Patrick Cushie Glen, of the Murder-hole, to Mr. Wm. Lecky, nailer, Newtonlimavady.

A few days ago, Mr. Robert Glen, of Ballyfrench, to Miss Miller, of Ballyhalbert.

On Monday last, Mr. John Logan, of Centry-hill, near Castlereagh, to the agreeable Miss Ann Richardson, of Ballytrim, near Killileagh.

An interesting twist in the wife tale, is that Cushy Glenn and his brother 'lived with a woman and a whole bake of wains' up the mountain somewhere. The brother was hanged for stealing bullocks and Cushy was shot by a local farmer. A Presbyterian minister was called to treat Cushy for his wounds and somehow in the tale, the minister's wife took pity on the 'poor wains', bringing them food and eventually taking one of the girls to work in her house. The girl grew up honest and hardworking and changed her name to be rid of her beginnings. Probably married a prince, too.

Cushy Glen statue

This impressive sculpture of Cushy Glen was installed in 2013 by Limavady Borough Council at Largantea picnic area as part of their Sculpture Trail of myths and legends.  The robber is shown behind the bank at the side of Windyhill Road, lurking malevolently, knife in hand, awaiting his next victim.  

The work is by the well-known Derry sculptor, Maurice Harron.

For the written facts and many of the references quoted I am indebted to Mr Bobby Forrest and Dr Hugh Mullin, both of whom were most helpful in supplying papers and pointers to information. Other anecdotes have been supplied by my mother's family who used to live in the Bolea and Stradreagh areas and from relatives of other families from these two townlands.


  • Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland (written down in 1834 from verbal accounts of the areas surveyed)
  • Genealogical extracts from the Londonderry Journal 1772-1784: Donald M Schlegel, Baltimore 2001 (reprint – Genealogical Publishing Company)
  • Belfast Newsletter Index, 1737-1800 online at

Further reading:

  • Dr Mullin's papers are available to view in Coleraine Library
  • Who Shot Cushy Glenn? by Jacqueline McAlister – Journal of Coleraine Historical Society 2000
        Stories of Highwaymen in Irish history and folklore:
  • An Illustrated History of Limavady and the Roe Valley by Douglas Bartlett
  • The Irish Highwaymen by Stephen Dunford
  • From Glen to Glen (Roe Valley Tales Re-told) by Mary Ellen Hayward
  • Stand and Deliver - Stories of Irish Highwaymen by Jim McCallen

And finally here is a link to Margaret's own website of oil paintings.

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