A Synopsis of the History
of the Parish
The Parish Church of Derriaghy was
erected in 1871 consecrated in 1872 and is a listed building noted
for its outstanding architectural beauty. Prominently situated on a
sloping hill at the entrance to Derriaghy Road, it is surrounded
traditionally by a copse of mature trees. The church affectionately
known as Christ Church has a unique tall slender spire which is
bedecked with a superb Virginia creeper possibly as old as the
church itself. The setting has proven to be a favourite subject for
artist and photographer alike. The picturesque pastoral surroundings
overlook the Lagan Valley Regional Park to the east, Colin to the
north west and to the north the Black Mountain and Cavehill,
Belfast. The name of the parish, Derriaghy, derives from two Irish
words meaning The Valley of the Oaks.
The origins of the parish date back to
the eleventh century although the earliest reliable documentary
evidence dates from 1204. The first rector of the parish was the
Rev. Milo Whale. In modern times parishioners often refer to the
rector as vicar, a usage which goes back to mediaeval times when in
1356 Richard Fitzralph, a famous Archbishop of Armagh held the lands
and rectorship of Derriaghy and appointed a vicar to administer the
St. Andrew's Church, consecrated on the
21st June 1957, was built to serve the growing community of Colin.
It is a bright spacious building with panoramic views of the Dromara
Hills, the Mourne Mountains and the Carlingford Mountains to the
south with the Lagan Valley and Belfast Lough in the immediate
The oldest register of the parish dates
from 1696 - 1772. Historical records have been well preserved and
credit for the research, reappraisal and recording of facts must go
to a former rector and Dean of Connor, the Very Rev. W.N.C. Barr and
senior parishioner, Mr. W.C. Kerr to whom the parish is indebted.
Extracts have been taken from various publications with the consent
of the authors.
Today, the church has a stable population
whilst the eighties saw a decline in numbers due to demographic
changes. The church records a small increase at present. Parish
population is four hundred and twenty families with an average
church attendance of two hundred and twenty. The youth organisations
consist of scouts, cubs and beavers for boys in addition to guides,
brownies and rainbows for the girls. The youth club which meets on a
Wednesday night provides fellowship for both girls and boys. The
Mother's Union, Choirs and Bowling Club provide a busy schedule for
Biographical notes on the incumbents of
Derriaghy during the period covered by entries in the register 1696
Joseph Wilkins 1696 - 1707
A former Fellow and Vice Provost of
Trinity College, Dublin. Joseph Wilkins had become Rector of Lisburn
against all expectations. When James Mace, his predecessor, died in
1670 Sir George Rawdon wrote to Lord Conway, who improperly claimed
the presentment to the incumbency, that he and the primate favoured
Mr. Clulo, this despite the fact that Wilkins was married to
Rawdon's niece. However in 1671 Joseph Wilkins was instituted to
Lisburn and so became also vicar of Derriaghy, which was still
united to Lisburn. The Lisburn vestry minutes testify to his
scrupulous attention to every detail of his pastoral
responsibilities and especially to the structural improvements he
carried out to the church in Lisburn. He appointed a curate to
attend to the needs of Derriaghy Parish. The fire which destroyed
the church, castle and most of the town of Lisburn on April 20th.
1707 did not dishearten him. At a vestry court on June 22 he
launched plans for rebuilding the church. He had also showed his
devotion to duty by making sure that the church registers escaped
the flames. But his stricken parish had enough to do in coping with
its own problems, and it must have been a relief to Dean Wilkins
when Derriaghy was separated from Lisburn in 1707.
John Gayer 1707 - 1737
During his thirty years as vicar Gayer
saw his congregation steadily grow, and the minutes record the
building of additional seats and the erection of a gallery on the
west wall, also the road maintenance programme was commenced. Why
John Gayer did not continue to serve until his son took over is not
explained, he is said to have retired to a farm in Derriaghy and
residence now occupied by Mr Wesley Withers at the Osier Cross and
to have lived until 1745. Dr. William Reeves, Bishop of Down, Connor
and Dromore, was a direct descendant of John Gayer. When he was
bishop he lived in the house which stood on the site of the present
Philip Gayer 1737 - 1755
Although the Trinity matriculation book
records that Philip Gayer was born in Derriaghy, his baptism is not
recorded in the parish register. Educated by Mr. Clark in Lisburn,
he graduated B.A. at Trinity and was ordained in 1721. His first
curacy was at St. Catherine's Dublin, where Henry Echlin was rector.
Gayer married his daughter Agnes. He was curate at Carrickfergus
until he moved to Derriaghy. One of his duties at Carrickfergus had
been to supply straw and bread to prisoners in the county gaol. The
grand jury granted him for this purpose thirty pounds in 1730. As
soon as he became active as vicar, the minutes record that he was a
stickler for precision and detail. The poor money accounts came in
for scrupulous examination and the road maintenance programme was
described each year in exact detail from the stretches of road to he
repaired to the parishioners required to work on each stretch. Gayer
also had the steeple of the church slated, the church given a plain
ceiling and an altar piece installed.
He had two sons, William Watts Gayer and
Edward Gayer. Not only did they become joint clerks of the Irish
House of Lords, but they married sisters. Edward and his wife became
followers of John Wesley, who stayed several times in the house at
the Osier Cross, and a yew tree in the Gayer garden under which
Wesley preached is still standing.
William Lill LLD 1755 - 1757
A Dublin man, the new vicar William Lill,
was presented by the primate on February 16th 1755. It would appear
that he regarded Derriaghy as a temporary halt in his career. He
signed his last minutes on March 30th 1757 and appears to have been
absent from the parish in early 1756 when the minutes were signed by
Anthony Sampson, described as curate. During his brief incumbency
the only notable event recorded in the minutes is the purchase of a
carpet for the communion table.
Arthur Hodgkinson 1757 - 1768
Lill's successor as vicar was a local
man, son of Roger Hodgkinson of Lisburn. It is most unfortunate that
the vestry minutes break off less than two years after Hodgkinson's
arrival. The last minute in the register was signed by him on June
19th 1759. What happened to the succeeding minutes is not known. His
incumbency witnessed the commencement of a programme of building and
maintenance, including tine construction of a vestry room and repair
of the steeple.
Philip Shields 1768 - 1772
Register contains no entries which can he
dated to the years 1768 - 1772
Philip Johnson 1772 - 1833
Philip Johnson, son of Thomas Johnson,
who was vicar of Magheragall and at one time master of the Latin
School in Lisburn, was instituted vicar on June 10th 1772.
He was unique among the vicars of
Derriaghy. A graduate of Glasgow University (M.A. 1771), incumbent
for sixty one years, justice of the peace, he played a major part in
the political activities of that troubled time as well as carrying
out his religious duties. As Deputy Governor and Treasurer of County
Antrim he was concerned with the preparation for defence against the
threat from the United Irishmen and himself took command of a
company of yeomanry - the Ballymacash Infantry. He lived at
Ballymacash House. Being moreover County Grand Master of the Antrim
Orangemen he made enemies and after several attempts on his life, he
was wounded in an ambush in Lisburn in 1796. However he survived
through all the troubles and despite his political opinions was held
in high esteem by his Roman Catholic neighbours, whom he helped
rebuild their chapels in Derriaghy and at the Rock, which had been
burned by extremists.
He did not neglect his church. The
building was radically- improved and enlarged and a new gallery
installed also additional ground was taken to provide a large
graveyard and several schools were built.
A booklet published in 1814 was written
with the object of clearing his good name and justifying the public
role he played at the time of the 1798 rebellion.
In more recent times Derriaghy Parish has
been served well by John Godfrey King 1936 - 46. Patrick Ashton
Gregg Sheppard 1946 - 60. William Norman Cocharane Barr 1961 - 1990
and George E. Graham 1991 - 9 6.
Reverend J. G. King, who retired from the
ministry in 1971, was a Canon of St. Anne's Cathedral from 1957
after periods in St. Matthew's, Belfast and in the parish of Layde
Reverend J.A.G. Sheppard, who had been a
curate in Derriaghy from 1936 to 1941, returned as rector in 1946.
During his tenure much building work was undertaken, the old stables
being converted into a parochial hall by the vicar and voluntary
helpers. The building of St. Andrews's Church at Colin was
completed, and the opening and dedication took place on 1st June
1957. The Canon Quin Memorial Hall, for which plans had been made in
1953, was also dedicated in 1957. Mr Sheppard became rector of
Ballydehob in Co. Cork in 1960.
His successor, Reverend W.N.C. Barr was
welcomed in the following year. Under the new rector's guidance
changes in the parish an improvements to church property continued.
What had been a rural area soon became almost urban due to the
increase in house building and so in 1963 the Moss Road area became
a separate parish, taking the name Derryvolgie. In 1967, as new
houses in the region became occupied, Ballymacash too separated from
Derriaghy and became an independent parish.
The main building work carried out was
that of the new parochial hall which was dedicated in October 1966
and quickly became a centre for parish activities. In 1972 the
centenary of the present church building, Christ Church, was
The new school in the parish was opened
in 1964 and in January 1965 the previous school and the teachers'
residences were returned to the church. The Church of Ireland
Education Board leases the building to Derriaghy Youth Council which
meets there regularly.
In 1972 the rector was appointed Rural
Dean and in 1980 became a Canon of Lisburn Cathedral, being Prebend
of Cairncastle. From 1982 until his retirement in 1990 he was Dean
The present rector, Reverend G.E. Graham,
formerly rector of Broomhedge, was instituted in January 1991. On
18th March of that year the select vestry approved a motion to sell
the vicarage. The sale took place in October 1991 to buyers who
decided to extend the existing building to make a nursing home, now
known as The Old Vicarage Nursing Home.
The new rectory designed by the Lisburn
firm of Knox, Clayton and Whitley was dedicated by the bishop, the
Right Reverend S.C. Poyntz, on 5th September 1992.
Extracts from the oldest register of the
parish dating 1696 - 1772 are worth noting.
Provision for the Poor
The parish in the eighteenth century was
far from wealthy. Nevertheless the vestry was conscious of its
responsibility to the poor and throughout the period covered by the
register frequent poor money entries are to be found. There is also
the statutory obligation to provide for the maintenance of orphans
and foundlings. This is also reflected in the minutes.
From 1615 Irish parishes were obliged to
keep in repair any roads in the parish leading to a market town.
They had to provide the money, materials and labour from their own
resources and the constables and church wardens were liable to fines
or imprisonment if they failed to appoint overseers for road repairs
on the Tuesday or Wednesday after each Easter. Each parishioner had
to contribute his labour for six days to be announced in church and
the repairs had to be completed by midsummer day.
Short biographical notes on some persons
signing or mentioned in the vestry court minutes.
1709 April 25th - Richard Skelton
Richard Skelton had settled in the parish
towards the end of the seventeenth century marrying Annabella
Cathcart, the daughter of a local farmer. Not long after his
marriage, his first child was born in 1684. He was caught up in the
war between William of Orange and James II. He was conscripted as
gunsmith into the latter's army and his family took refuge in
Islandmagee. Returning to his farm after the war Richard brought a
large family the last of whom was born in 1709. He is believed to
have played a major part in the restoration of the parish church
which, as we have seen, came back into use in 1696. He died in 1717.
His youngest son Philip made the greatest mark. Despite an early
disinclination to study at the Lisburn Latin School and an addiction
to country sports such as long bullets, he graduated at Trinity
College Dublin at the age of seventeen. He then began fifty nine
years of clerical life. Eccentric, unorthodox, learned and popular
he spent most of his time in parishes in west Ulster, but died in
Dublin in 1787, leaving behind a trail of stories which enabled
Samuel Burdy to publish a most entertaining and instructive
biography in 1792.
1722 March 26th - Henry Seed
The Seed or Seeds family were long
prominent in parish affairs. Though none of the family now reside in
the parish the family grave is still used by members. An interment
was that of Sir William Seeds, formerly British Ambassador to
Russia, who died in 1973 at the age of ninety one years.
1716 April 2nd -John Bullmer
The family known as Bulmer, Bullmer and
finally Boomer still lives in the parish. They were of French,
probably Huguenot origin, and first came to public notice in the
person of Renee Bulmer, a blacksmith in Lambeg at whose smithy
William of Orange stopped on his way south to have a horse shoe
attended to. The family link continues to this day with parishioner
René Boomer of Marna Brae.
Memorials in Christ Church
Marble - North Wall
In the family vau
lt near this church
lie the remains of
the Reverend Philip Johnson
who for sixty one years was vicar
of the parish of Derriaghy.
A Deputy Governor of the County of Antrim
and a magistrate of Antrim and Down
for nearly the same term.
Obit 6th Feb. 1833
Pious exemplary, benevolent and active
as a Christian minister
Merciful though upright, kind though intrepid
as an officer of justice.
His public virtues were only equalled by the
estimable qualities of his private life.
Brass - on the organ
To the glory of God and in memory of
William Charley, DJ of Seymour Hill O.B. 1890. This organ
is erected by friends and parishioners in grateful
recollection of the many eminent services rendered by him
to the parish 1904.
Brass West Wall
Sacred to the memory of Henry Boomer who
died 22nd December 1906 hating faithfully discharged his
duties for SS pears as sexton of this church. Erected by
parishioners and friends.
East Window in Memory of William Charley Pulpit Window;
Thomas Henry Johnson, Ballymacash West Window, Maria
Corkin North West Window, Johnson Family, Ballymacash New
Reredos Incl Re-table, J Frazer Larmor