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The Black Nun of Bunnamairgie, (Julia MacQuillan) lived in the 15th and 16th centuries in Ballycastle, Ireland (known then as Margeytown because of the proximity to the Margie River.) 

She was called the “black” nun because of the color of the cloak (habit) that she wore. The Black Nun of Bunnamairgie Friary (Julia MacQuillin.


The nun's story unfolds as a present-day McQuillin (Cathleen) is searching for her family’s history and travels to Ballycastle, to find out more. She comes across Julia's journal and and the story of this beautiful young lass who is a mystic with prophetic visions. The visions eventually have repercussions for her in Margeytown village. Her benefactors, Count Randall and Countess Mary MacDonald, were historically long-time foes of the MacQuillins but become her friends. 


Julia is smitten the older, Bonaventure McGinnis, who is the Bishop of the small friary. Her desires as a woman are put in conflict with her faith. Then, a crisis for Julia (stemming from her visions) forces the Bishop to step in and defend her, confirming his love for her. 


Julia is a woman of her times, caught up in the violent events of in-clan fighting and the northern Irish skirmishes against  Queen Elizabeth I’s troops during their fight for freedom against English rule. While living a simple life as a “lay” nun she still can't avoid the political conflict, sexism, and dilemmas any woman would face at that time and place in history.


The Bonnamargy Friary (present-day spelling) stands today on the road to Cushendall. Julia’s round-stone grave is at the entrance to the ruins of the friary.  She wished it to be at the entrance so those entering the church would trample upon her simple grave.

Places in the book

The Nun's Grave

MacDonnels' Tomb


My Books

Julia MacQuillan lived in Ballycastle, Ireland in what was called Margeytown in the 15th Century. Ballycastle is in County Antrim and Julia might have travelled to Dunluce Castle and to Donegal during her lifetime. There is a rich history of Antrim coast and several books about The Glens of Antrim.


The Children of Lear

"Ah happy is Lir’s bright home today

With mirth and music and poet’s lay;

But gloomy and cold his children’s home,

Forever tossed on the briny foam,

Our wreathed feathers are thin and light

When the wind blows keen through the wintry night;

Yet oft we were robed, long, long ago,

In purple mantles and robes of snow.

On Moyle’s bleak current our food and wine

Are sandy seaweed and bitter brine;

Yet oft we feasted in days of old,

And hazel-mead drank from cups of gold

Our beds are rocks in the dripping caves;

Our lullaby song the roar of the waves;

But soft, rich couches once we pressed,

And harpers lulled us each night to rest.

Lonely we swim on the billowy main,

Through frost and snow, through storm and rain;

Alas for the days when round us moved

The chiefs and princes and friends we loved!"

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