I dedicate this booklet to
and the three
whom I love the most and who know me
"A Leader is best when he is neither seen nor heard. Not so
good when he is admired and glorified. Worst when he is hated
`Fail to honour people, and they will fail to honour you'. But
of a good leader, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
The people will say, `We did this ourselves'."
"We do not need great leaders. We need leaders who
will bring out the greatness in all of us."
am very pleased to commend this history of the Parish of Dromara,
Diocese of Dromore.
One of the strongest parts of our diocesan life over
the years has been the deep devotion of clergy and laity in rural
parishes. They have through their families and for generations given
generously of themselves and of their material resources in loving care
for our Church. I have had experience of this when I was Rector for
several years of a large rural parish in County Down.
This fine tradition is well illustrated in the
parish of Dromara, and in their Rector the Reverend Samuel Ernest
Long, with his concern not only for the spiritual needs of his
parishioners but also for the community in general. This latter
service is evidenced by the honour and the responsibility conferred
on him as a Justice of the Peace.
It is good that the Rector has prepared this
historical record of the parish and I commend it not only to those
who kinow this particular part of the Diocese of Dromore, but also
to others whose ministry and mission are set in rural surroundings.
GEORGE Down and Dromore.
It was such a daunting task to write a brief
history of the ancient Parish of Dromara, Co. Down, that in spite of
being constantly engaged as a writer I shied away from it. But
recent happenings in the Church, and projects like the organ rebuild
and the tower renovation, with the persuasion of Lt.-Col. F. M.
Cunningham, church secretary to "get on with the job", were
pressures not to be resisted.
This then is an attempt to tell the Dromara
Parish story. Regrettably I had no help from the past efforts of
clergy or people, for no one saw fit to chronicle the events of any
period in the life of the parish. That means that the story is
uneven, for there are long periods about which I was unable to
discover anything from any source. And the imbalance weighs in
favour of the period we know at first hand. But because histories
are for the future, it is possible that the things of our day, as we
write of them, will help others to a better understanding of a
picture when seen from their eye level in a diffrent age and time.
I pray that the Church of St. John, Drornara,
will ever witness a good confession of the Faith once for all
delivered unto the saints. It has had a good past. May its future be
bright in service for Christ and for people.
ST. JOHN'S CHURCH.
The village of Dromara, nestling at the foot of
the Dromara Mountains, with Slieve Croob as their highest peak,
1,755 feet, "and from whose northern slopes the River Lagan takes
its rise" - the other peaks are Monahoora (1,499), Cratlieve
(1,416), Slievenisky (1,408), Slievecarran (1.293), and
Slievenaboley (1,069) is a quiet place, not well known to travellers
and hardly any better known to the people of Ulster, much less of
Ireland as a who!e. That is a shame! For few villages in an island
of lovely townships have a more attractive rural setting, and a more
tranquil, enjoyable, and convenient geographical situation.
It is near to everywhere. Belfast is within
twenty miles, and it is ringed by the thriving towns of Lisburn,
Dromore, Banbridge, Rathfriland and Ballynahinch, with Castlewellan
over the mountains and Newcastle a few miles beyond. And it is no
mean place itself. Residents have little need to travel distances to
shop for the necessities of life. True, it has only one factory, a
new one in the village employing mostly female labour. Workers
commute, happily, to Ballynahinch, Lisburn and Belfast particularly.
The village, and the large area around, has all
the evidence of a peaceful. prosperous community, with a standard in
new and restored housing which must make it the envy of many who
live in other parts of the country. And the people have been most
law abiding and peaceable, with none of the sectarian tensions which
have affected relationships so adversely elsewhere in Northern
The Dromara district has, therefore, blossomed
into a community of self-respecting citizens whose concern for the
common good made them establish an association which, by the
generosity of the populace, gave heart machines to the doctors of
the Dromara practice, to lead the way in such an enterprise in the
Province. Other tangible evidence of community togetherness proves
the contention that people who think differently in religion and
politics, even in Ireland, can live together agreeably. And
remarkably the strength of religious loyalty is not less than
elsewhere. On the contrary, the district is noted for its many
places of worship, and for its devotion to denominational needs and
aspirations. It is still the case that the lives of the great
majority of the people are influenced by Christian commitment and
In politics, while the several parties have their
supporters, there is a quieter-than-usual-in-Ulster approach to
party politics. The area is not fully represented by local people
for that reason, and this has sometimes been seen as a weakness, for
people's representatives in local government are naturally more
concerned to speak for those nearest them. Dromara has been affected
by being without its full quota of "native" councillors. And for the
other reason that the village is unequally divided between the
Lisburn Borough and Banbridge District Councils. While the position
is better than formerly, when acceptance of responsibility for the
area was not properly shared - there is now the Housing Executive
for instance - the problem persists, divided responsibility often
means weak administration. it is to the credit of the community that
such obvious progress has been made in spite of inherent
The change from what was to what is has been most
marked in the last twenty years. For centuries Dromara was a
backwater, poor in communication with the outside world, and peopled
by citizens who struggled to live on small. holdings entirely
inadequate to provide them with a standard of living similar to
their fellows elsewhere in the country. Small farms have been
gathered up to make larger viable units, and those which have been
retained are held by men who are farmers with other employment.
In lengthy conversations with older residents,
one fact emerges, there is no comparison between the hardships of
the people in their youth and their descendants of today who are
enjoying the benefits of the Welfare State, much improved
educational and social amenities, and a far better managed economy.
What Harris had to say of the Dromara of 1744 remained the dismal
picture until well into the present century. He described it as
"rough, bleak, full of rocks and hills, which render access to it
troublesome and unpleasant. It is justly complained of by travellers
who can only hobble through the narrow and broken causeways."
He went on to say, in pained surprise, perhaps,
that in spite of the awfulness of life in the district, it was fully
peopled. That there were possibilities for improvement, was
recognised when he added the information that the valleys and sides
of the hills produce fine crops of oats, flax and rye. Too many
people, too many landlords, not enough land!
In 1857 a survey describes the streets of Dromara
as dirty, and its cabins in a wretched condition. It gives figures
for emigration - many were awakening to the possibilities of making
better lives for themselves and their families in the "New World" -
twenty five families a year were going overseas.
The village is described by Lewis' Topographical
History, in 1837: "Dromeragh (Annesborough or Annesbury) a small
village with patent granting a weekly market on Thursday, and a fair
for three days in September. The market has been changed to Friday
chiefly for the sale of butter and linen yarn. The fairs are now
held on the last Friday in February, May, August and November, for
farming stock and pedlary." He details it as "a post town and
parish, partly in the barony of Kinelearty, partly in that of Lower
Iveagh, but chiefly in Upper Iveagh, Co. Down, Ulster." And places
it "5 miles E.S.E. of Dromore; 72 miles N by E of Dublin on the road
from Banbridge to Ballynahinch, containing with the district of
Magherahmlet a population of 10,129. It contains part of the lands
granted by patent of Queen Elizabeth in 1585 to Ever MacRorye
Magennis, which was forfeited in the war of 1641, and afterwards
granted by King Charles II to Colonel Hill. They were included in
the manor of Kilwarlin. A Petty Sessions Court is held every fourth
Monday. And there is a sub-post office to Dromore and Comber."
The linen industry, so long a basic of Ulster
economy, and the source of employment for a large percentage of the
working population, had its influence on Dromara. The land,
especially suited to the growing of flax, had meant that a flax
fibre business at Woodford, on the edge of the village, had been
founded. It flourished to the extent that it employed some 200 men
in its heyday. Some of the older men in the community easily recall
their employment at the mill.
When the linen industry went into decline the
mill workers were scattered in all directions. Many of them left the
district and the country forever. In the 1960s when the present
writer spoke to the Stormont Minister of Commerce, Lord Glentoran,
on the attempt then being made to revive the linen industry, he was
to be told that the benefit to Dromara would be minimal, for the
Ukraine was producing flax at a price with which the Dromara farmers
could never compete. In the event a small temporary benefit accrued
to Castlewellan, but Dromara had no profit from what proved to be an
abortive attempt to rejuvenate an industry which 'had not adapted
generally to changing patterns in production and sales or to the
development of the man-made fibre industries which were appearing
THE PARISH CHURCH OF DROMARA
THE CHANCEL WITH THE FONT AND
LECTERN IN FOREGROUND
The church has a lengthy history. What is not
unusual in Northern Ireland is that such church history is not well
documented, and the beginnings, and early continuing of things, are
lost in the mists of antiquity. That a Christian settlement was
located in Dromara in the early days of the emerging Celtic Church
is possible. It has been suggested that the old churchyard, a half
circle, was originally a full circle, with the old church in the
centre, a "manufactured" mound of good earth of lighter, dryer
quality than the native soil.
Be that as it may, the first dates of the Church
and Parish are 1427-1440 when Gilbert McInerny was Perpetual Vicar
of Drummeragh. The early spelling of the name was Drumbera, and
there have been variations on both these spellings until Dromara was
finally settled on sometime in the 19th century. McInerny was
succeeded by John Armstrong, described as Rector. He had been
ordained deacon on 4 February, 1441, priest ten days later, and
instituted Incumbent of the parish in the same year. After William
O'Rooney, 1460 - ?, there is a gap in clerical succession until 1529
when Peter ()Rooney is named as Prebend of Dromerach, and another
until William Massie became Incumbent in 1634.
There must have been a settled ministry, for in
1546 the church was taxed at seven marks and the vicarage at three
marks. In 1609 Dromara was constituted the head of a prebend,
Prebenda de Drumerach. "A portion of the parish in the barony of
Kinelearty marked Magherahowlett, commonly called Magherahamlet, has
been formed into a perpetual curatage. In the patent of 8th of James
J to Bishop Todd, it is called the Rectory of Magherahamlagh and
seems to have been included in the 15th century in the denomination
of Drumerach Cum Capellis." Added is the information, "The ruins of
the old church called Templemoyle within the ancient churchyard in
the townland of Dunmore, remains measuring 42/24 feet."
(Reeves: "Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Down, Connor and
The association of Magherahamlet and Dromara is
of very much longer duration than many believed, for the story
persists that Magherahamlet Parish Church was built as the Chapel of
Ease of Dromara Parish by the Rev. H. E. Boyd, as the tale goes, to
spite his brother Charles, who was Rector of Magheradroll,
Ballynahinch, by catering for the people of this area, as well as
for the visitors who came to the Spa to take the curative waters of
the lake. Obviously the reference is to the present Magherahamlet
Church building which was consecrated 12 May, 1815, by Bishop John
Leslie. Leslie was Bishop of Dromore 1812-19, Elphin 1819-54, with
Kilmore and Ardagh 1841-54. His son Charles was Bishop of Kilmore
for two months until he died while his father was 41 years a bishop.
In 1614 the Church of Dromara was in ruins and
the Incumbent had been driven from his parish. The cause of the
troubles was the native Irish reaction to the Plantations of Ulster
by English and Scottish settlers who had been granted land taken
unceremoniously from the Irish people. The Church lay derelict so
that at 1641 when the war between the settlers and the natives
reached its climax it was included in the list of the many churches
ruined in the Dioceses of Down and Dromore.
This was a particularly turbulent period in the
history of an island which has always lurched from one violent
situation to another.
Elsewhere there is something said about the
Church of Ireland and the other churches in the 1600's, suffice to
draw attention here to a clergyman named in the Rev. W. G. Glasgow's
history of First Dromara Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Mungo
Bennett, who came to the Dromara district from Scotland to be its
first Presbyterian minister.
Glasgow suggests that since he appeared fifty years
before the first Presbyterian Church was founded in 1713, he
preached in the Parish Church. We have found no record of him.
Later, Glasgow says, he went from Dromara to appear as Rector of
Coleraine. Bennett was one of the Presbyterian ministers to submit
to Episcopal ordination. By doing so he secured his position as a
minister of the Established Church and avoided the tensions and
persecutions of a Presbyterianism which had to struggle for its
survival in a land which found its form of church order and
government very different from what was customary in Ireland.
When the first Presbyterian ministers came to
Ulster from Scotland they were received by the Bishops of the Irish
Church, and their orders were accepted. Later pressures from England
against non-conformity caused the Bishops to suspend, and later to
depose them. (cp.
John Barkley, "A Short History of the Presbyterian Church in
The Parish Church of Dromara was restored in
1744. Harris, historian of County Down, writing in 1744, says a
"good part of the walls outbraving the injuries of time were lately
repaired and the church rendered fit for service the last Festival
of St. Matthew when it was restored." In the years 1641-1744
accommodation for shared worship with other churches was made by
clergy and people, and much of the time the old church was used
while in very rough state. Those were the days of hardy
parishioners, for even well appointed churches then, and for
centuries after, made few concessions to creature comforts. Comfort
was at the whim of the weather.
In 1794 the church was in need of repairs again.
A familiar note was struck when it was said that owing to the high
price of materials in wartime, only temporary repairs could be
carried out. It was 1811 before the reconstruction was completed.
The church was then a rectangular building. The work is described in
the Minutes of the Select Vestry. "That the walls be made
substantial and raised to a sufficient height, that there be a new
slated roof and ceiling with new pillars and windows and that a
gallery be made in the West End and the floor raised and flagged
with a new chancel, and that there be a belfry built and a bell
purchased towards the same."
The bell was to be the gift of the Rev. Francis
Burrowes, the Rector, who paid ten guineas for it. The money had
been the gift of the parishioners to him in 1808 for the excellence
of his leadership in the church and community.
During the time of the Napoleonic Wars, and the
early years of the 19th century most of the business of the church
had three main items - the Militia; the Raising and Apportioning of
Funds; and the support of Paupers and Illegitimate Children. The
political and social involvement of the clergy and laity of the time
was considerable. Good citizenship demanded commitment to the
maintenance of the country in safety and security.
The Militia was a permanent, trained force, for
service at home, and liable only for such service. There was a form
of conscription in wartime and parishes were compelled to provide
men to fill the ranks. If they were reluctant to serve it was
possible to obtain substitutes at a price. In hardship cases this
was always done. And for this reason, the Militia was predominantly
Roman Catholic, while the Volunteers were Protestant.
The money for the Militia "Stand-ins" was raised
in the parishes. In 1805 the Dromara quota was nine men, and
£24/3/11 was spent in paying for substitutes. In 1807 twelve men
were needed. There were doubts as to the ability of the Parish to
raise the money to purchase alternatives, for the sum set for
volunteers was £10 a head. To raise the money it was decided to
collect three farthings from each man liable for military service.
This levy raised more than was needed and "The parishioners then
present (at a Vestry Meeting, 13 January, 1808) being well pleased
with the manner in which the raising of substitutes was executed and
willing to justify their grateful acknowledgments to the Rev. Mr.
Burrowes (Rector) for his exertions in assisting the parish affairs
thereon do vote that the sum of ten guineas be paid to him . . . Mr.
Burrowes being not willing to receive any pecuniary compliment for
his trouble nor to disoblige the good inclinations of the
parishioners declared his intention of expending the said sum on the
purchase of a bell for the church."
Rector Burrowes must have been exceptionally
popular in the parish for he managed to raise large sums of money,
for those days, to obtain militia men while gathering funds for the
rebuilding of the church. Like Moses he did not enter into the joys
of his labours for by 1810 he had left the parish to become Vicar of
Seapatrick, and the Rev. Hannington Elgee Boyd, his successor, saw
the dedication of the reconstructed churdh by the Bishop of the
Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Thomas Percy, D.D. That work is memorialised
in a stone above the West Door with the names of the Bishop and
Rector and the date in Roman numerals.
Thomas Percy, Bishop of Dromore, 1782-1811, was a
scholar and literary figure of stature. Dr. Samuel Johnston, the
lexicographer, wit, and man of letters, wrote James Boswell on
Percy, 23 April, 1778, "He is a man very willing to learn and very
able to teach; a man out of whose company I never go without
learning something. I know that he vexes me sometimes, but I am
afraid that it is by making me feel my own ignorance. So much
extension of mind, and so much Minute accuracy of enquiry, if you
survey your wide circle of acquaintance you will find so scarce, if
you find 'it at all, that you will value Percy by comparison . . .
Percy's attention to poetry has given grace and splendour to his
studies of antiquity."
The Bishop went blind before his death on 30
September, 1811. In Dromore Cathedral there is a tablet which
describes him as "residing constantly in his Diocese, and
discharging the duties of his sacred office with vigilance and zeal;
instructing , the 'ignorant, relieving the necessitous, and
comforting the distressed with personal affection; revered for his
eminent piety and learning, and beloved for his universal
benevolence, by all ranks and 'religious denominations."
The care of illegitimate children was regarded as
a church duty. Dromara, now, in an age when illegitimacy is not the
matter of family dishonour and personal disgrace it once was, has
the same low rate of births outside marriage, common to most of
rural Ulster. In those other days conditions made it easy for people
to have unfortunate relationships. The number of unmarried mothers
was large in the district until about thirty years ago when social
patterns changed dramatically. The writer has not filled one
baptismal entry with the word's "Single Woman" in twenty-two years,
though there are many such insertions in 'the church's registers.
The poor were cared for with gifts of money, and
practical assistance. In 1832 the Vestry 'resolved "That the present
distressed state of the country requires that some certain and
permanent provision shall be made for the relief of the sick, aged
and helpless poor." A member was appointed to look after deserted
children and provision was made to supply coffins for paupers. That
the Vestry was not going to be an easy touch for lay-abouts passing
through was made clear in an 1831 resolution, "That the poor
of the Parish shall be 'lodged, and that strangers shall not be
served 'in future."
The ravages of drunkenness -- so often the poor
man's malady in hard times - caused the Select Vestry to deprecate
the use of "spiritous liquors" at wakes and funerals, and to ask for
its discontinuance throughout the parish. It is highly unlikely that
the appeal had universal acceptance. The concern on 'the matter is
shown to have been constant over many years by the circulation of
"forms for signing" by parishioners. Here is the heading of one
found in the minute book of the Parish.
"TO THE HONOURABLE THE
COMMONS OF GREAT
BRITAIN AND IRELAND IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED
The Humble Petition of
That your Petitioners believe that Drunkenness in
Ireland, with all its manifold attendant evils, is largely caused by
That your Petitioners believe that the traffic in
Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday in Ireland, is carried on against the
wishes of a large majority of all sections of the Irish people.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray your Honourable
House to pass the "Sale of Liquors on Sunday (Ireland) Bill" under the
provisions of which the traffic in Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday in
Ireland shall be stopped.
And your Petitioners will ever pray."
While the work in Dromara Church of 1811 and 1813
is not detailed in the Minutes, it would appear that what had been
promised in the Burrowes incumbency was carried out, for in October
1825 it was proposed to add to the Tower at a cost of £20, and to
purchase a clock at £10.
In 1826 the Tower and the Church was roughcast
and whitewashed for £3/2/6 (Irish). The Minute says this on the
clock purchase, which had been decided on the year before, in the
words of the clocksmiths.
"We hereby engage to construct a clock of the
best materials, and to erect the same in the tower of Dromara Church
for the sum of £45 (Irish). The dial of the said clock to be four
feet four inches with gilt letters, clock to strike with a 7lb.
hammer. To be put up in workmanlike manner and we further engage to
keep the said clock going that it shall not be attended with any
expense to the Parish for seven years.
|27th March, 1826.
A small gallery was built in 1828 which with "the
lining of the corners and ends of the church with brick" was to cost
£31. The Minutes are silent on how access was obtained to the
gallery, and how it was constructed. It appears almost impossible to
have had a gallery in a building with such a short nave. It went,
anyway, probably in 1888 when there is a last reference to it.
Body snatching was apparently a common crime in
the early 1800's, though there is no evidence that a watch-house was
built in Dromara Churchyard as had been the case elsewhere. The
Minutes of a meeting, October 1831, has this, "At a general meeting
of parishioners it was unanimously agreed that provision be made for
the erection of three buildings, one in each of the public burying
grounds in this parish for guarding against any violation of the
dead from time to come."
The money for the project was to be raised by an
assessment of two pence per acre on each person with burial rights.
The Minute continued, "That Mr. Wallace be appointed treasurer, and
that the Committee do consist of the three clergymen of the Parish,
the Elders of the Presbyterian Church, the Committee of the Roman
Catholic Congregation, and the Churchwardens of the Parish."
THE JAMES POLLOCK WINDOW,
In 1832 the subject was raised again when the
Vestry had a resolution which stated: "It was unanimously resolved
that the Ministers and Churchwardens of the Parish be requested to
make application to the various landlords soliciting their
subscriptions for building a watch house for protecting the church."
And again in 1833, "In consequence of dead bodies
having been disinterred from the churchyard the Parishioners had
determined on building a watch house for the protection of their
friends' graves on that small portion of ground formerly occupied as
a passage into the churchyard. Mrs. Black of Woodford having raised
objections thereto on the grounds that 'the same old passage
belonged to her', in order therefore to prevent any unpleasant
occurrence it was resolved that the churchwardens be directed to
write to Mr. Reilly requesting that he would be good enough to come
over and view the ground in question and decide on the matter as
early as might suit his convenience."
Like many another matter raised in the clear and
precise language of the time this one is not referred to again. We
are left to wonder as to what was Reilly's judgement if he ever made
a decision on the question.
By 1862 the church was again in need of major
repairs, and the Minutes state, "It was resolved that an application
be made to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners with regard to the
neglected state of the Church Tower, the walls of which do not keep
out the rain, and in consequence of this defect the timbers of the
floor are in a state of decay.' It is to be hoped that the appeal
met with a goon response, for we have no record of what was the
reaction of the E.C.
The Rev. Henry Murphy became Rector of Dromara in
1864. The Preacher's Book has this in its remarks column, "I
preached my first sermon in the church here on the first Sunday in
November 1864 having been collated to the Benefice (from Dromore) on
31st October 1864. Henry Murphy.
He was Rector of Dromara when the Church of
Ireland was disestablished. The Minute of the Vestry Meeting of 1869
has this statement from him. "The Irish Church having been
Disestablished and Disendowed by Act of Parliament on 26th July
last: I have duly summoned the adult members of the Disestablished
Church to meet this day - 23rd August - at 2 o'clock p.m. in order
that we may take counsel together as to what is best for us to do
NOW; so that when `The Irish Church' is sent adrift on the 1st
January, 1871 the congregation in this Parish may be kept together
after my official decease - Henry Murphy, A.M., Rector and Prebendary of Dromara."
A committee was set up, the churchwardens
ex-officio, and five others, to meet every third month, March, June,
September and December, three to form a quorum, to look after the
business of the church and to make arrangements for its finances.
At the same time reference is made to a Synod at
Belfast to be attended by the Rector and a layman on a one-to-one
membership ratio. Dr. Samuel Davison, the local General
Practitioner, was elected to represent the Parish. Dr. Davison is
mentioned frequently in the life of the church over many years. He
chaired vestry meetings on occasion, for the rector often left the
chairmanship to his curate or his senior churchwarden. He was absent
frequently from such meetings. The doctor was senior warden a number
In June 1870 when the Select Vestry is described
as a Committee of Parochial Management, appointments were made of
four delegates to the Diocesan Synod, 1891 and 1892, and of three
Parochial Nominators. The curate, the Rev. John Frost, was chairman
at a meeting on 4 July, 1870, when the following resolution was
"That the meeting has full confidence in the
Representative Body of the Irish Church.
"That a subscription list be opened for this parish
and that the subscription be forwarded to the Central Fund of the
"That all persons having property in the Parish,
who are members of the Church of Ireland be applied to for
subscriptions to above fund."
In 1871 at the 7 June meeting reference is made
to the refusal of Rector Murphy to make his promised £20
contribution to the Sustentation Fund of the church. And Dr. Davison
was asked to write him, and to find out when he could conveniently
meet with the churchwardens, to attend on the Marquis of Downshire
to ask him for an allocation of a portion of his Donation to the
Church Body to the Parish of Dromara. The intention was to use the
money to purchase the Dromara Glebe and curtilage.
The relationships of the Rector and the Select
Vestry and Parishioners appear to have been strained. Whether he was
suffering from some restricting illness is not clear; that he was
sometimes ill is apparent, or for some other reason, contact with
him was made by letter frequently. At a meeting, 17 January 1872,
with the curate, Hanly Ball, in the chair, it was agreed by the
Vestry that the Rector be asked to draw out an appeal by letter to
the several landlords of the parish to help raise an assessment of
£80 made by the Diocesan Council, and to sign it. The churchwardens
would add their names. At the same meeting collectors were appointed
for an every-member canvass to raise money for the future
ministrations of the church.
Another allusion is made to Canon Murphy, 27
January, 1873, when it was decided, "That enquiry be made of the
Representative Body whether the Rev. Henry Murphy had the power to
dispose of the Glebe lands, and if not to request them to stop the
sale on 31st January, 1873". For yet another time we areleft to
wonder about the outcome of something important. We know only that
there was no sale.
Because Murphy was one of the characters of the
Parish, we must say something more about him. In his first year as
- incumbent of the church a note in the Preacher's Book has. "Average
attendance in morning 100; in the evening (summer) 34, (winter) 123;
at the sacrament 30. Rural Dean's return for the year ending 30
April made 9 July 1866." In the year ending 30 April 1867 there is
the additional entry "Open Air 1625". The entries are signed Henry
Murphy, Rector and Rural Dean.
In June and July 1866 Murphy conducted four
churchyard meetings on the prophecies of Daniel 2 and 4. The
attendances were 800. 1.200, 2,500, 2,000 on successive Sundays. It
is not without interest that the Rev. W. J. Patton was exercising a
particularly spiritual ministry in Second Dromara Church. It could
be that the parish was still feeling the effects of the 1859 revival
in Ulster. The meetings were not repeated in subsequent years.
Coincidentally on the evening of 16 September. because of very bad
weather, he had the smallest number at service, himself and the
sexton. In January 1867 he has this note in the Preacher's Book,
"The snow was from six to ten feet deep in places - there was only
one person in church (except members of my family), very severe
The figures at Morning Prayer are very good in
January and February 1868 - 305, 325. 315. 300. 335, 245, 305, 300.
There arc some 250's after these till May when figures are more
normal. It would appear that Henry Murphy enjoyed a reputation as a
preacher and Bible expositor, and attracted congregations from near
and far, and of other communions. His evening services averaged 100
persons. Open-air meetings were popular in his ministry. He refers
to them being held at Gransha and Moydalgan.
Murphy was Treasurer of Dromore Cathedral,
1863-4, and died at Downpatrick in 1878. His fourth son, the Rev.
Edward P. Murphy, died 9 December 1878. aged 23, and his sixth son,
the Rev. Robert K. Murphy, died 9 January 1881 aged 24.
In October 1871 it was decided by the Select
Vestry "That Robert Keown he appointed Sexton of the Parish Church
at the yearly salary of Fifty-Two Shillings. The duties to be
performed by him are - keeping the church clean; washing the
vestments and communion linen; ringing the bell at the stated times;
attendance at Baptisms, Burials and Select Vestry meetings, in
addition to Divine Service on Sundays and Holy Days. Also to attend
to the heating and lighting of the church, as well as winding the
clock. To be paid quarterly and to give and receive a month's
notice." A house must have gone with the job, for later on there is
need to eject a tenant so that the Parish can gain possession of its
property. It may have been sited over the church wall.
There is no reference to schools anywhere in the
Vestry books. This could be that the administration of the church
schools was a duty of the Rector and not of the Vestry.
THE THOMPSON WINDOW.
In 1872 there is a long minute dealing with the
office of Parish Clerk. The man in the job was Hugh Dennison whose
pay was set at £7/4/- a year, on condition that he instruct the
singing class for one hour on Sundays. Dennison carne and went as
clerk over many years. In 1880 an advertisement for a Parish Clerk
required that he be organist as well at the increased salary of £8 a
In 1873 it was decided to print and circulate the
proceedings of the Easter General Vestry.
Canon Murphy having resigned in 1874 he was
succeeded by his curate, William Hanly Ball. In February 1874
reference is made to the uncomfortable glebe, with thanks to the
Representative Body for some essential repairs to the house. But
again worry was voiced at the danger of the glebe being sold, and
concern for the welfare of the Rector. There must have been
satisfaction in the matter for it is not raised again, though the
sale of the Rectory and Glebe lands was to remain a subject of
discussion for many years.
At about this time the work and worth of Dr.
Davison was appreciated in a Parish presentation to him.
There was deep concern over the finances of the
church in 1874 when the Vestry questioned the refusal of money to
the Parish by the Diocesan Council from the disposition of the
former Rector, Canon Murphy. And yet at the General Easter Vestry of
1875 the members had other things in mind when they produced a
resolution "That this Parish urge the necessity of Revision and
respectfully call upon the General Synod to adopt such measures as
shall effectively remove all erroneous doctrines such as Baptismal
Regeneration and the Real Objective Presence of the Body and Blood
of Christ in or under the forms of the Sacrament of Bread and Wine."
The appointment on 28 February, 1879, of the Rev.
Samuel Black, Incumbent of Ballyeaston, as Rector of the Parish is
noted in a copy of the deed of election attached to the Minute Book.
He was Rector of Dromara for less than a year. He was followed by
Joseph Henry Chapman. Incidentally, the Rev. Samuel Scott Frackleton
was treasurer of the church in 1881. He was a former Perpetual
Curate of Magherahamlet, 1859-1880, and the husband of Elizabeth
Baxter, a member of a well known Dromara church family. The
Frackletons lived at Woodvale, now the home of Mrs. Tom Ervine. The
house can be seen from the Rathfriland Road in the village.
The parishes of Dromara and Garvaghy were grouped
in 1885 in a settlement which has worked remarkably well. The
arrangement was a return to a partnership which had existed in the
period 1661-1734, in the ministries of William Lindsay, Henry
Harrison, Leonard and Samuel Hodson, John Wetherby, William
Johnston. Joshua Pullein and Gabriel James Maturin. The reason for
the grouping then was because Dromara Church was in a bad state and
could only be used seasonly. Dromara parishioners were encouraged to
worship in Garvaghy Church, which appears to have survived the worst
of the 1641 devastation of churches. At 1811 they were linked again
with Magherahamlet in the Prebend of Dromara, and in that year
separation of the three units was recommended.
The Prebendal system was very different to what
pertains today where the association of Dromore Cathedral, Dromara,
Garvaghy, and Magherahamlet is made practical in the Rural Deanery
of Dromore in which are also the parishes of Annahilt and
Dromara Church was re-consecrated on Saturday IS
February. 1896, and dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, by the
Lord Bishop of the Diocese, the Right Rev. W. J. Welland. D.D., when
a new chancel, transepts, and pitch pine roof were added at a cost
of £400. In 1897 the Pulpit and Prayer Desk were dedicated. The fine
marble font was presented and installed in 1903. Engraved on the rim
are the words: "One Faith: One Baptism". The brass inscription plate
To the Glory of God
Elizabeth Shaw of Derry in this Parish.
28th December 1902.
"The eyes of the blind see."
William Shaw. 12th April 1903.
On 3 May 1899 an exchange was ratified between J.
H. Chapman and W. F. Wilkinson, Rector of Castleterre, Co. Cavan,
when Mr. Wilkinson was instituted Rector of Dromara and Garvaghy.
There has always been a story which accounted for the removal of Mr.
Chapman. It has to do with grave plots which were covered over with
the building of the transepts, and the annoyance of plot holders.
In 1899 the times of services were 11.30 a.m. and
7.15 p.m. There was one Harvest Festival service each year from
1899, on the Friday before the first Sunday in October. In 1906 the
Sunday Harvest Services were started, soon to settle on the second
weekend in October, Friday and Sunday. At an Orange Institution
service IC July. 1904, 500 attended and Rector Wilkinson preached
from the steps of the Vestry Room in the churchyard. There were many
other occasions down the years when the weather and the numbers made
the same arrangement necessary.
In 1905 there was one Sunday service regularly in
Dromara Church at 11.30 a.m. The Garvaghy Church service was held at
3.30 p.m. Alternating services began in the churches in the
incumbency of the Rev. James Armstrong, mid-summer 1920, 11.30 a.m.
and 3.30 p.m. Sometimes there were evening services in Dromara
In a Rector's notebook there are these statistics
for 1905-6 - Dromara and Garvaghy: Baptisms, D9 : G7; Marriages, 0 :
0; Burials, 8 : IS; Communicants, 168 : 187; Christmas, 10 : 8;
Easter, 15 : 13; Whit Sunday, 14 : 16; Average, 13 : 14.
In 1906 water heating was installed in the church,
and the grand Megahy of Cork pipe organ was purchased and installed
in 1907 at a cost of £250, half of the price being met by a grant
from the Andrew Carnegie Fund. The service of dedication was on
Saturday 25 May. The 1978 rebuilt and restored organ is worth many
thousands of pounds to the parish.
The fine brass lectern was given to the Church in
1906. It has the inscription: "To the Glory of God, the gift of
Thomas Lavery, Ballykeel, in loving memory of his mother, Eliza
Lavery, died 30 July, 1901, aged 68 years; also his father, Edward
Lavery, died 16 August 1905, aged 78 years."
In 1914 James Pollock was appointed church
organist, a post he held for sixty years. He came to St. John's as a
young Presbyterian to become an Anglican of sterling quality. A
profile of Mr. Pollock by the present writer was published in the "Mourne
Observer", 4 June, 1971.
The townland of Ballykeel was added to Dromara
Parish in April 1922.
At a meeting of the Select Vestry, 4 July 1924,
there was notification of the Matthew Bailey bequest of £400 to be
invested to produce £20 interest per annum, £15 for the Organist and
£5 for Sustentation.
The General Vestry of 1929 heard that the
financial state of the parishes was such that there must be a
meeting with the Diocesan Council on the group's future. Two
vestrymen of each parish were to attend to present the case, and to
seek some assistance to help solve the financial problems of the
churches. Again we have no Vestry minute follow-up on the matter. It
would appear that something was done for the situation improved
Names began to appear of people well remembered
and well known - John Alexander, Rodger Hunter, Samuel J. Bailie,
John E. Bailey and John Jess. J. E. Bailey's widow and members of
the family remain strong supporters of St. John's. Mr. Millar Kenny,
treasurer, is a son-in-law, and Mr. John Bailey, organist, is a
grandson. Mrs. Kenny, daughter, and Mrs. M. S. Bailey,
daughter-in-law, are members of the Select Vestry.
John Edgar Bailey became a magistrate at 27, a
councillor, and Member of Parliament for West Down in the Northern
Ireland Parliament, and sometime Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister of Agriculture. He died in 1958. His son, Matthew S.
Bailey, has followed some distance in his father's footsteps. He is
a J.P. and councillor, and was in 1977 chairman of the Banbridge
District Council. Mr. John Jess, People's Churchwarden in 1936 - he
has held the office again since 1966 - also became secretary to the
Select Vestry, a post he held until he was succeeded by Lt. Col. F.
M. Cunningham in 1969. Mr. Jess has an unequalled record of selfless
service to St. John's Church. He continues to encourage everyone by
showing the way rather than pointing it out.
In 1930 Miss Margaret Fee and Miss Rachel Mercer
(Mrs. Harte) were thanked for their work with a Sunday evening Bible
Class which met in the church. Miss Fee, who was class leader for
some years, had worked with the Salvation Army in America and
elsewhere. Two of her sisters, the Misses Georgina and Rebekah Fee,
are valued members of St. John's. The late William James Moore
became sexton in 1935. He retired in 1965 to be succeeded by Mr.
Joseph Walker, who had been caretaker of St. John's Hall since its
opening in November, 1957.
A 1939 Vestry Minute provides the information
that the Advent services were held in a Rectory room because of the
difficulty in blacking out the church. This is one of the few
intimations to remind us of the war of 1939-45.
In December 1954 Hymnboards were presented to St.
John's by Mr. Joseph J. Mercer, U.S.A., in memory of his father,
James A. Mercer.
In 1944 the need of a church hall was accepted by
the Select Vestry and £75 was donated to start off a building fund.
For many years the proposed hall was an inevitable topic of
discussion at Vestry meetings. In time, plans were approved, a site
was promised, and some money was gathered. But the project only
became a reality when the present Rector cleared the size and
purchase of the site, through her solicitor, with Mrs. Hunter,
Dromara. New plans were prepared by Mr. Samuel Hunter, Builder,
Dromara, and the hall was built on an arrangement with the Rector
for the supply of materials.
The story of St. John's Hall is an interesting
one. The scheme as it was executed owes nothing to the prior plans
of other days which envisaged a loan of £3,000, and loans at low or
no interest from parishioners willing to lend to the same amount. The
new plan took shape when Mr. John Jess and the Rector obtained the
sympathy and help of Mr. Jim McCormick, Roads Contractor,
Ballynahinch, and then of other suppliers of building materials on a
"pay as you can" arrangement.
The site beside the church was cleared by a
McCormick digger, and the foundations were laid by a John Jess squad
of strongly muscled and willing volunteers, not all of them members
of St. John's. The commodious hall with minor hall-cum-gallery and
the necessary ancillary accommodations was built, decorated and
furnished for £5,000. Then money was raised by Parish collection,
and the running of every kind of money-making entertainment suitable
to a church hall, so that Mr. McCormick, the last of the creditors
by his own insistence, was not kept waiting long for what he was
owed. Mr. Millar Kenny's work as treasurer of the special hall fund
was very much appreciated. A car park at the hall was made by
voluntary labour. An extension to it was made in 1975 by contractor/
members R. & J. Fee, Dromara, with voluntary assistance.
THE CHURCH HALL,
A service of opening and dedication took place on
7 November, 1957. Taking part were the Bishop of the Diocese, the
Right Rev. F. J. Mitchell, D.D., and Mr. John E. Bailey, J.P.. M.P.,
who opened the hall in the place of the Lord Wakehurst, Governor of
Northern Ireland, who had promised to do so, but was prevented
through illness. The hall story and a pictorial record of the
Opening Ceremony was published in 1958. Titled "One Momentous Year",
it was written by the Rector.
Prior to the building of St. John's Hall the
Megahy Organ was electrified in the summer of 1957 at a cost of £400
by the Irish Organ Company. Two well-known men of St. John's had
been organ blowers, the late Matthew Maguire. 1922-42, and R. J.
At the service of re-dedication of the organ,
gifts of a Canterbury Chair at the Prayer Desk and a brass alms dish
were presented by the Mercer family in memory of their parents, and
an Offices book was the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Fee. The
Archdeacon of Down. the Ven. G. A. Quin, the present Bishop of the
Diocese, dedicated the organ and the gifts. Gifts of linen for the
Holy Table were made at other times by Mrs. James Jess, Mr. and Mrs.
George Jess, and Mrs. Selina Fee.
From 1945 the times of church services had been a
matter of discussion in the Vestries. The arrangement which had
existed from 1920, alternating services, was unpopular in Dromara.
The St. John's Vestry argued that it was confusing to members of
both churches. And it added the plea that a morning service was
necessary in a village church where visitors would expect to find
one. Dromara suggested 11.30 a.m., Dromara, and 1.30 p.m., Garvaghy,
every Sunday, with a financial adjustment of the assessments of the
two Parishes. The Garvaghy Vestry would not agree to this suggestion
or to others which were made at that time and subsequently.
Agreement was reached after some experimentation during the present
incumbency when the times were set to begin 2 August, 1959:
Garvaghy, 10.45 a.m. and Dromara 12 noon. Sunday evening services
are held in St. John's in Lent and Advent, and in Garvaghy Church on
the Wednesdays of those church seasons.
In 1964 the baptismal font was moved from its
position near the West Door in the Nave, and re-sited at the Vestry
door, to allow for the provision of more seating in the church. On
the advice of a friend, the Rector approached the Rector of St.
Jude's Church, Ballynafeigh, Belfast, with a request to purchase
four pews similar to those in St. John's which were no longer needed
in St. Jude's, where some reconstruction work had been done. In the
event the St. Jude's Select Vestry made a gift of the pews to St.
John's, and the Rector, Mr. Robert Thompson, Rector's Churchwarden,
and Mr. Sam Elliott, brought them, with the help of a Presbyterian
friend and lorry driver, Mr. Angus Kinghan, to Dromara.
The font was moved and the pews installed by Sam
Elliott, whose skill as carpenter and builder was always at the
disposal of the Parish. At the same time he made safe steps to the
Vestry Room from the churchyard - the semi-circular steps were
dangerous in frost and damp weather - and he did extensive interior
re-building and plastering work in the Tower. Sam's work then and
over the years before and after, saved the church many thousands of
pounds. He was a most meticulous and dependable workman. Up to a few
weeks before his sudden death on 4 May, 1978, his advice was sought
by the Rector on building and maintenance matters to do with the
church, church hall and rectory.
In June 1966 a beautiful Holy Table in oak was
presented to St. John's by the Bell Family, Artana, Dromara, in
memory of their parents. The sanctuary carpet was the gift of the
Rector, and the flower vases for the Holy Table re-table were
presented by Lt.-Col. F. M. and Mrs. Cunningham. The Rt. Rev. F. J,
Mitchell, D,D,. dedicated the gifts.
In 1968, 19 May, three special thanksgiving
services were held to mark work done in the Parish. The preachers
were the Bishop, the Rt. Rev. F. J. Mitchell, Canon John Barry,
Hillsborough, and Archdeacon George A. Quin.
The South Transept Window, stained glass,
designed and installed by Caldermac Ltd., 1974, was dedicated in
memory of Mr. James Pollock, the gift of parishioners and friends in
thankfulness for his sixty years as organist of the church. He had
died on 28 February, 1972. The Bishop, the Rt. Rev. George A. Quin,
M.A., dedicated the window and preached the sermon.
To make for greater comfort in the church oil
heating was installed by Johnston Bros, Heating Engineers,
Hillsborough, in 1969, and a new lighting system by R. Spence,
Electrical Contractors, Dromara, in 1976. The church had been
re-roofed in 1968 and the East End exterior wall of the sanctuary
re-built by John Smyth, Builder, Gransha, Dromara. The wall job,
which appeared originally to be of little consequence - a section of
broken plaster on the short gable wall - turned out to be an
expensive one when it was found that the wall had no foundation. To
secure a sound base on which to build, the area had to be excavated
to a depth of eight feet.
All the exterior woodwork was treated by Rentokil
in 1970. And replacements of spoutings and gutterings were made in
At 1977 the state of the exterior of the Tower
was such that it had to be cleaned and spot pointed. The work was
done by H. L. Stuart Cox & Co. Ltd., Belfast. A collection taken up
in the parish with a grant from the Marshall Beresford Fund paid for
the work. And a number of special money-making efforts yielded such
a sum of money that the Select Vestry was encouraged to put in hand
the restoration of the organ.
Johnians have always been noted for their support
of worthwhile schemes in the Parish. Their response to the
promptings of careful, thoughtful, and yet adventurous leadership
over the last twenty years has been excellent and fully justified by
results. And the Parish has less than 100 families.
The organ rebuild was by Mr. and Mrs. Charles
Smethurst, Belfast. Mr. Smethurst, before his retirement, was the
principal in a large organ building firm. His highly professional
skill, and Mrs. Smethurst's remarkable knowledge of the organ,
ensured a high quality job. And of about equal importance was the
removal of the instrument from the chancel where it had always
unbalanced it, and because it had put the sanctuary out of sight of
many in the congregation. The organ change-over to the North
Transept meant that the chancel had to be painted to rhyme with the
rest of the church. This work was done by Richard Crothers, Painter
and Decorator, Dromara, who has done painting work for St. John's
for many years. The chancel floor was carpeted by Stewart & Gibson
At the service of dedication on 3 December, 1978,
the Bishop also dedicated a stained glass window to the memory of
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Thompson, Ballykeel. The window by C. W. S.
Designs, Lisburn, was the gift of their son, William, a member of
the Select Vestry. Robert Thompson, who died suddenly on 18 January,
1977, was for more than twenty years Rector's Churchwarden in St.
John's. He was one of God's gentlemen, a thoughtful, generous
parishioner and friend. Other gifts dedicated were collecting plates
from Miss Etta Fairley, in memory of her parents, and carpeting by
the Misses Rebekah and Georgina Fee in memory of their parents.
The storm glazing of the memorial windows to
James Pollock and Robert Thompson was a parishioner's gift to two
most worthy servants of the church.
The Rev. Stanhope Sabine Squires was Rector of
Dromara and Garvaghy, 1940-56. His ministry in the war years was
marked by concern for those who fled Belfast in the air raids to
find a haven in the quiet of the country. A humble, gentle, much
respected pastor, his work was greatly appreciated in the grouped
parishes. He died suddenly in February 1956 when undergoing an
operation in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.
The present Rector, from 1956, is the Rev. Samuel
Ernest Long, L.Th., J.P. Mr. Long, a magistrate since 1968, has been
Rural Dean of Dromore since 1971. A prolific writer, his works have
been published widely here and abroad. He serves the wider church as
a member of the Diocesan Council and General Synod; secretary of the
Down and Dromore and Connor Home Mission Society, the Council of
Mission for Ireland, and the Lurgan Clerical Union; member of the
Northern Ireland Board of Social Responsibility (and its pamphleteer
for many years); the Publications Committee of General Synod; the
Down and Dromore and Connor Education Board; and the Management
Committee of A.P.C.K. He has represented C. of I. boards at various
conferences and seminars. He has also travelled widely as writer and
speaker on Orangeism and Unionism.
The officers of St. John's Church are -
Churchwardens: Rector's, Ernest Jess; People's, John Jess; Glebe,
Howard Jess. Select Vestry: Mesdames M. S. Bailey, M. Kenny, F. M.
Cunningham, Messrs R. J. Rowan, E. Sprague H. Silcock W. Jess W.
Thompson, J. H. Thompson, P. McKinstry, M. Kenny (treasurer), and
Lt. Col. F. M. Cunningham (secretary). Mrs. P. McKinstry is Freewill
Offerings secretary/ treasurer. The organist is John Bailey and the
sexton, Joseph Walker, 9 Dundrum Road, Dromara.
The old rectory of Dromara, Dromara House, was
built in 1821, the lease dating November 1817, from the Marquis of
Downshire to the Rev. H. E. Boyd, with a gift of £100. A loan of
£1,125 was granted from the Board of First Fruits.
The Vestry Minute Book has no references to the
building of the house, but some on the claims of the Parish to lands
over and above the twenty-eight acres granted to it. There appears
to have been court action on the matter which the Parish lost.
The decreasing value of property, and the
increasing cost of labour and maintenance began to effect the
attitude of the Parish to the Rectory and its lands from 1945
onwards. The very poor condition of the house and grounds encouraged
the Select Vestry to consider selling the property, and building a
smaller more suitable house for the Incumbent. To this end
application was made to the Diocesan Council for permission to sell.
The permission must have been granted, for there are Vestry
allusions to offers originally as low as £700 rising in 1951 to £5,000 for house and lands.
The matter became so pressing that the two
vestries met on 2 August 1951 to consider the £5,000 offer, only to
refuse it. In June 1952 they met again and decided to sell at £7,000
if that sum could be obtained. As there were no takers at that
figure, the matter rested until 1958 when after a Parish meeting, a
two-vestries meeting, and several meetings of the St. John's Select
Vestry, it was decided to sell the 'Rectory and five acres of land
to Lt. Col. Cunningham. The decision to sell the part and not the
whole was taken after the Rector, with the expert assistance of Mr.
H. W. Sherwood, Roads Surveyor, had submitted a plan for the
division of the glebe in the conviction that land should be retained
by the Parish. The house had been drawing off the parishes' money in
maintenance costs which had failed to stay its decline. The Cunninghams have completely restored the house over the years and
the grounds are well kept.
The present Rectory, on the glebe land, was built
in 1960 by Pharis Carlisle, Builder, Ballycrune, Hillsborough, at a
cost of £5,000. It had central heating installed in 1973 through the
kindness of Mr. Walter Johnston, Johnston Bros., Hillsborough, who
gave the radiators, less one, as a gift which meant that the scheme
cost much less than it would have done.
During the fourteen months when the Rectory
family was waiting on the house to be built, they lived at
Tullyniskey, Dromara, in a delightfully reconstructed house owned by
Mr. George Ervine, O.B.E., J.P., the Waringsford miller. On an
arrangement with the Rector, the house was loaned for a token sum of
very small amount. The Parishes were deeply indebted to Mr. Ervine,
a good Presbyterian, for a gift which was typical of the man. We can
refer to his benefaction now, for he would not have had such account
taken of it in his lifetime. The Ervine family, with Mrs. George
Ervine, continue to be very good friends of our churches and of
It must be appropriate in a booklet about St.
John's Church and Parish to say something about Garvaghy Church and
Parish, for the two have been closely and happily associated.
The first mention of Garvaghy Church was in 1422.
The Garvaghy area - the church is about five
miles from Dromara - is entirely rural, hilly, with good quality
land. In the Parish at Waringsford is the Ervine grain mill. It is
to the great credit of the founder of the firm and his sons, William
and George, that the business has long provided good employment for
men of the district. The growth of this family firm, when so many of
the kind were being sold up or absorbed in giant combines, is a
matter of pride to employers, employees and the community at large.
It is just over three miles from Garvaghy to
Dromore and six miles to Banbridge. Garvaghy Church is sited on the
Garvaghy Church Road which runs parallel to the Waringsford (Gall
Bog) Road from Banbridge to Dromara.
Among the items of interest about Garvaghy is the
story that in the townland of Shanrod there took place the first
public demonstration in Ulster in favour of some redress of the
wrongs against tenant farmers from the excesses of some landlords.
The infamous Rutherford evictions in the townland of Corbet in 1851
sparked it off. The robbery and brutality of the evictions aroused
the fury of a generally quiescent people. Their champions were
William Sharman Crawford and James McKnight, LL. D. The
effectiveness of this, and other such demonstrations, was proved by
the reforms which came later by parliamentary measures. The way was
being prepared for the Land Act of 1881 and much fairer treatment of
those who lived by their labour on the land.
The heroine of W. G. Lyttle's novel "Betsy
Gray and the Hearts of Down", in the opinion of some
authorities, was born and raised in the Parish in a house at
Waringsford, and baptised in Garvaghy Church.
The Rev. Thomas Beatty, Vicar of Garvaghy, in '98
was highly respected by everybody. "After the Battle of
Ballynahinch, when the licentious soldiery and yeomanry were let
loose upon a defenceless people, he rode his horse day and night to
all the centres of authority, and pledged his honour, his life, and
his property for the good conduct of the inhabitants of his parish,
with the result that not a soldier or yeoman ever entered it with
evil intent." For his work he was presented with a good horse and
all the necessary riding gear, a proper present for a "horsey" man.
Garvaghy Church is a small building in the
Grecian style. It was built in 1699 and thoroughly renovated in 1780
when the chancel was reconstructed. It was re-roofed in 1895.
Electric lighting was installed in 1955.
The chancel was carpeted and choir chairs were
added in 1962 when a memorial to the former Rector, the Rev. S. S.
Squires, was dedicated. It was a parish gift of pulpit, prayer desk
and lectern in oak. Also dedicated were two oak sanctuary chairs.
The furniture was made by R. H. Knox & Co., Belfast And there was a
gift of an oil fired heating system by Dr. Mary Cantley in memory of
her parents. It was installed by Sam Hunter, Dromara. The dedication
was by the Bishop, the Right Rev. F. J. Mitchell.
In 1966 an entrance was built to church and
churchyard and a pedestrian gate, "never open, never shut", was
fitted. Water was piped to the churchyard. In 1969 the walls of the
church paths were remade and a new wall was built on the south side
of the churchyard. A car park was made in 1973 on church land
re-acquired when the Garvaghy School was returned to the Parish
after the pupils had been transferred to Kinallen School. All this
work was done by voluntary labour. In 1971 a new Yamaha electronic
organ was installed. The 'interior woodwork of the church was
treated by Timbercare, Lisburn, in 1974. In 1976 the voluntary
workers laid a cement floor in the Vestry room.
The Church with some thirty families has a very
good record of loyalty and devotion by people who have a strong
commitment to their church.
The house was built in 1820 and had 74 acres of
land in its glebe. It cost £800 and was paid for by a £400 gift and
£400 borrowed from the Board of First Fruits.
After the Disestablishment of the Church of
Ireland in 1870, all the glebe lands, which were let in several
small tenancies, were sold by the Church Commissioners. In Garvaghy
the glebe house with four acres (Irish) was acquired by the Parish
for £700. It was sold when the Parish was grouped with Dromara in
1855. Some years later it was purchased by the committee of Garvaghy
Presbyterian Church as the manse for its minister and so it remains
OTHER DENOMINATIONS IN THE
Dromara is very largely Presbyterian by
denomination. The Irish Presbyterian Churches are First and Second
Dromara and Garvaghy. There is one of the largest congregations of
the Reformed Presbyterian Church, a Baptist Church at Ballykeel, and
a Roman Catholic Church at Finnis.
The Presbyterians are from the same source.
The "Big Meeting House" of First Dromara at
Artana is a fine example of the barn architecture of the time. A
style of building which was meant to illustrate the characteristics
of a "no-nonsense" creed, which laid great stress on simplicity in
worship and transparency in conduct; honesty and sincerity in man's
dealings with his God and his fellowman. The congregation was formed
in 1713 and the church was rebuilt in 1820. While extensive
renovation work has been done on occasions down the years, the
exterior remains much as it was from the beginning. The Rev. A. P.
McComb is the minister.
Second Dromara was founded in 1844 to meet the
needs of Presbyterians in the area between Artana and Ballynahinch
with special concern for the village of Dromara, and because First
Church was "bursting at the seams". The congregation there often
took turns sitting and standing, at the much longer services which
were common to the Presbyterianism of the time. The original
intention may have been to build Second Church at Burren, a townland
midway between Dromara and Ballynahinch, but it was sited on Begney
Hill Road just out of the village. The church was built and in
regular use by 1847.
In the ministry of the Rev. W. J. Patton,
1853-94, the old manse and the schoolhouse were built. While the
Rev. John Logan, M.A., LL.D., was minister, 1895-1908, extensive
renovations were carried out to church property, a minister's room
was built and a new pulpit installed. The congregation is presently
vacant. The Rev. James Johnston, 1968 1978, was installed minister
of Carnlough Church, Co. Antrim, 6 October, 1978.
Garvaghy Presbyterian Church was founded in 1803
when it was finally decided by the strictly orthodox Presbyterians
of the area that as they had no taste for the "New Light" preaching
of the young ministers, educated at Glasgow University, who were
"occupying the pulpit" in First Church in the last years of the
pastorate of the Rev. James Jackson Birch, they should form their
own cause. Birch, while old and infirm, held on to his position in
the hope that his grandson would succeed him. He did.
It seems that the Dromara and Garvaghy
Presbyterians never really blended together. From 1798 the breach
began to occur on doctrinal grounds. There was another reason, the
Garvaghy people wanted a church nearer home. The present church was
built in the manse grounds in 1904. Stories still circulate of how
the minister, the Rev. Robert Baird, travelled abroad to gather
money for the building of the church. The present minister is the
Rev. J. A. Todd.
The Reformed (Covenanter) Church came out of the
"big split" of 1873 and 1874 when the quarrel over the call of a
minister to the vacant congregation of First Dromara produced a
situation when the majority who refused to accept the Presbytery's
ruling on the case, separated to form a church of the Reformed
Presbyterian Communion. The first Reformed Presbyterian minister in
Ireland was the Rev. William Martin, who Was settled near Rasharkin,
Co. Antrim, in 1757. The first Presbytery was formed in 1763
The split is well documented in the histories of
First Dromara written by W. G. Glasgow (1913) and Aiken McClelland
(1963). It is necessary here only to add that relations between the
two congregations have been very good following the early years of a
separation which had affected catastrophically a closely-knit
community Over the years the Reformed Church has developed an ethos
of its own. Its way of worship and its involvements in the
denomination make it recognisably different to its neighbour. The
minister is the Rev. Robert Hanna.
The Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to St.
Michael the Archangel, at Massford, Dromara, began to be built in
1825 in the ministry of the Rev. Francis Reavy, and was finished in
1833 when the Rev. Michael McCartan was in charge. The dedication
was delayed until a new bishop was appointed. It took place in 1835.
The parish meets the needs of an extensive Roman Catholic population
in the townlands of the risings of the Dromara Mountains and the
Dromara area generally. The Parish Priest is the Rev. Bernard
The Irish Baptist Church at Ballykeel was founded
in 1891. The church was built in 1897 and the congregation is drawn
from a wide geographical area. The witness at Ballykeel overflowed
to found churches of the denomination at Dromore, Ballynahinch and
Lisburn, "a fruitful bough whose branches ran over the wall." From
1891-7 the congregation met first in the house of a member, Mr.
Thomas Weir, Ballykeel, and later in a loft belonging to Mr. Samuel
Hamilton, at Ballykeel cross-roads. Pastor J. R. Grant shares his
ministry at Ballykeel Church with the post of Secretary of the Irish
There are two Christian Workers Union Halls in
the Parish. These are inter-denominational meeting places. The
organisation was founded by converts of the Rev. W. P. Nicholson's
missions of the twenties. "W.P." was born in Bangor, Co. Down, and
he became the best known Ulster evangelist. His work in the Ulster
of "The Troubles" of the 1920's made a very large contribution to
the religious and social life of the country. His converts made an
impact on the churches in Ireland and on missionary enterprise
Writing on Nicholson, the present writer titled
his article "The Rude Evangelist" ("The Church of Ireland Gazette",
18 August, 1967) for the man had a deliberately cultivated crude use
of language which produced the affect he wanted. The life, work and
influence of W. P. Nicholson deserves a depth of research and
appreciation which it has not yet received. He had a following in
Dromara and the two C.W.U. Halls in the Parish are at Dromara
Village and Kinallen. The workers in the halls are members of the
churches of the district.
Methodism came to Dromara when a church of the
Primitive Society was opened in the village on 13 September, 1835.
The building of the church was almost literally the work of one man
named Hill, of "deep piety and liberal spirit." Undaunted in his
resolve to build a place of worship, "He laboured with his own hands
and prayed and laboured, night and day, until, without having one
shilling to assist him, the object of his prayerful solicitude was
accomplished." Such a man deserves more than this fleeting mention.
The Methodist cause survived for some 70 years.
After services were discontinued the building
remained in the care of the Dromore Church. After several uses, and
as a Technical School for a time, it was purchased by the Dromara
Apprentice Boys in 1969. They rebuilt and modernised it to make it
an attractive meeting place. It is used occasionally for
evangelistic services. (See "Dromore Methodism : A Short History.
1779-1979", by J. Lennox Booth.)
Relationships among the denominations in the
Parish have always been very good. There is an amount of sharing
among clergy and people which shows a proper appreciation of the
value of Christian togetherness.
In youth organisations there is sharing, most
markedly in the First Dromara Company: The Boys' Brigade, which was
founded by the Rector in 1957 and re-formed in 1963 as a
four-churches company with Mr. Nelson Andrews, an officer of the
Banbridge Road, Dromore, Company, as Captain. The story of the
Company is one of service to the churches and the community. Many
young men are grateful for the time they spent in its ranks. While
St. John's brought the Girls' Brigade to the Parish and district,
the Company has not been active for some years. The girls of the
church have been made welcome in the Companies of the other
churches. Many of them have brought credit to St. John's by their
And there has always been sharing in Indoor
Bowls, where all ages enjoy a game which remains remarkably popular
with the church people of the Parish. St. John's had the distinction
of introducing the game to the area in January 1958.
It was a St. John's appeal backed by the other
Dromara churches which produced the day-a-week centre for senior
citizens at St. John's Hall. It 'is open to everyone in the
category. Social welfare is responsible for the funding and running
of it and through it provision is made for other needs of the people
who attend. Out of the day centre came meals on wheels. In both
ventures voluntary help is provided by ladies of the churches. And
church people work together in several committees for various
charities and charitable objects.
SOME DROMARA PERSONALITIES
We have dropped names in this booklet of people
who were extraordinary among their fellows. Every community in every
age has those who were not the same as everybody else. They are
those who give variety to our humanity. That Dromara has had its
quota is as certain as Slieve Croob. But remarkably we have no long
list of favourite sons and daughters. Those who have impressed us
for the most part are those who have come to reside here, not native
to the Parish. They are clergymen whose calling brought them to the
heart of Down, and to experiences and friendships which satisfied
some of them, and prepared others for larger ministries elsewhere.
It is passing strange that the two men of the
cloth who have most impressed me, the one by his writing and
evangelistic zeal, his hooks "How to Live the Christian Life" and
"Pardon and Assurance"; the other by his zeal for the Gospel and his
enthusiasm for the Christian ministry, were clergymen of another
communion the ministers of Second Dromara, W. J. Patton and W. J.
I shall never forget Mr. Gregg's kindness to me
as a young student struggling to master Greek and Latin
constructions. I met him when he was minister of Argyle Place
Church, Belfast. And I wrote of him as "My Most Unforgettable
Character". ("The Church of Ireland Gazette", 1968.) He was a saint
and a scholar who earned a recognition which he received only from
sensitive people, often unimportant, who like Simeon and Anna,
realised quality instinctively and with a spiritual perceptiveness
which is not always possessed by religious leaders. W. J. Gregg is
still remembered in the Parish for his open-air lectures when the
"magic lantern" pictures were projected on to gable walls at Dromara
Village, Ballykeel, cross-roads and elsewhere in an area of some
And there was Hannington Elgee Boyd, for 54 years
Rector of Dromara, 1810-1864, a magistrate and community leader. His
younger brother, Charles, was 55 years rector of Magheradroll. They
were sons of Henry Boyd, Vicar of Drumgath, Rathfriland, and the
translator of Dante. H. E. died at 94 and Charles at 97. Regrettably
they were reputed to be most unbrotherly in their relationships. The
Rev. George Bellett, curate of Magherahamlet. 1821, in his "Life"
speaks of the Rev. Charles Boyd, of Ballynahinch, brother of the
Rev. H. E. Boyd, but not on speaking terms with him.
The memorial tablet in St. John's Church is inscribed:
In Memory of
Mary Mortimer Boyd.
Born 1798. Died 1862.
She was the wife of Hannington Elgee Boyd, A.M.
And in memory of
Margaret Gillespie, their daughter,
who died at Heidelburg in the 26th year of her age.
"They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they
are not divided."
The Rev. H. E. Boyd, A.M., J.P.
Fell Asleep, 29th July 1864.
Aged 94 years.
For 54 years Vicar of this Parish.
Among the Dromara born men who have become famous
is the. Rev. Hugh Hanna, the Presbyterian minister of Berry Street
and St. Enoch's churches in Belfast. He became one of the best known
preacher/politicians of a Belfast often embroiled in sectarian
Sybil E. Baker in "Orange and Green, Belfast
1832-1912" (1973) says: "A line of Protestant demagogis
politician/preachers ensured that the defence of Protestant liberty
would be a clarion call in nineteenth century Belfast. The
grandiloquent oratory of the Rev. Dr. Henry Cooke nursed the infant
Conservative Party and defied O'Connell. The energy and sectarian
intolerance of the Rev. Dr. Drew sustained mid-century Orangeism.
The Rev. Hugh Hanna carried the pulpit battle into the streets. The
Rev. Dr. Kane welded the Orange Order into the constituency
machinery of the Unionist Party. They preached violence and deplored
its outcome. 'They could lead a mob' it was said of Kane and Hanna
in 1886, but not control one'."
This judgement on Hanna was not that of many of
his contemporaries who regarded him as one of the greatest
Presbyterian divines in an age of great men in the ministry of the
church. He had a well earned reputation as pastor and preacher. "As
a preacher, lecturer, and educationalist he had few equals."
("Presbyterianism in Belfast") He restored the old Berry Street
Church in 1852 and gathered such a large congregation that the new
church of St. Enoch's at Carlisle Circus was built for him in 1872.
That he was highly esteemed by his denomination is illustrated in
the fact that he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from
the Presbyterian Theological Faculty in 1885. Later he had the
degrees D.C.L. and LL.B. conferred on him by American universities.
Hanna was born in Dromara on 25 February, 1821,
the son of Peter Hanna and Ellen Finiston and baptised 3 March 1821
by the Rev. James B. Black, First Dromara. He was reared by his
grandfather, John Hanna, in the townland of Derry, Dromara. when his
parents left to make their home in Belfast. On the death of his
grandmother, he joined his parents and May Street Presbyterian
Church in the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Henry Cooke, the famous
apologist for Presbyterian orthodoxy and Tory politics.
Three men influenced Hanna greatly, his
grandfather, Cooke, and the Rev. Josias Wilson, of Townsend Street
Church, who became his friend and mentor. Hanna died much mourned on
3 February. 1892, and was buried in Balmoral Cemetery, Belfast. A
bronze statue was erected to his memory in Carlisle Circus. It
depicted him in pulpit robes, with a Bible in his left hand and his
right hand pointing heavenwards. The statue was destroyed by bombers
on 1 March, 1970.
A son of a First Dromore minister, the Rev. J. R.
McCleery, was the Right Hon. Sir William McCleery, M.P., Minister of
Commerce in Stormont, and later a Grand Master of the Loyal Orange
Institution of Ireland.
Not many of us know much about our antecedents.
Few of us bother to try o trace our origins back
further than a handful of generations.
It is different with the churches. They are
generally very conscious of their history or most conscious of their
lack of history.
The Church of Ireland has a long history. It is
the Church of St. Patrick. It can trace its lineage to the Patron
Saint of Ireland.
Until the 12th century it was an autonomous
church without a tie stronger than friendship with the Church of
England and the Church of Rome.
The English conquest of Ireland by King Henry II
of England. and the influence of the English Church, then bearing
allegiance to Rome, changed that position until the Reformation of
the Church in the 16th century. The fact of history is that the
Church of Ireland's allegiance to Rome came through the connection
with England, politically and religiously, 1172-1542, when, like the
Church of England, it was in full communion with the Church of Rome,
though not subject to it.
Following the pattern of much of Western Europe
the Church of Ireland embraced the Reformation, its faith and
practice - reformation was much needed in Ireland, too - and it was
the most revolutionary happening in Christianity for centuries. It
changed the form, and route, of Christendom. The first step towards
Reformation was taken in May 1537 when the Irish Parliament threw
off the authority of the Pope and declared the King, Henry VIII,
supreme head on earth of the Church of Ireland.
Unfortunately for the progress of the Reformation
in Ireland the people were Irish-speaking, and the English of the
new liturgy which sounded strange in their ears was distasteful to
them. And the ritual of the Roman Church was nearer to that of the
old Irish Church than the Reformed Liturgy. The determination of the
Bishops, who were mostly Englishmen, to compel acceptance of the new
way, when seen beside the cruel English rule of the time, produced a
determined refusal to accept this English thing and these English
The Reformed Church was crippled by the absence
of an Irish Prayer Book and Bible. Those circumstances allowed the
Roman Church, at first slow to react against the Reformed Church,
for there was the belief that it would return to the Roman
allegiance, to come back to Ireland. Roman emissaries were sent in
with Irish catechisms, and books of devotion, when it was clear that
the Irish Church was not going to retrace its steps, to persuade
people to leave their churches and to attend the "Mass Houses" which
began to appear in many places.
It was a short time until Titular Bishops
appeared. These were often Italian nominees of the Papacy and
absentees from Ireland.
The early years of the 17th century saw the
founding of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland as presently
The progress of the Reformation was affected,
too, by the appearance of Scottish Presbyterians from 1611 who
because they were a new element in the religious struggle, weakened
the position of the Reformed Church of Ireland.
The Plantations of Ulster in the 17th century 'is
a story well documented and frequently alluded to in the continuing
drama of Ulster, which since 1968 has been a society under terrorist
attack, and where the two philosophies, Unionism and Nationalism,
confront one another. Other philosophies are making loud noises,
too, after ten years of trouble in which many have lost their lives
and very many have been injured in body and mind. like Independence
for Northern Ireland and Federalism for all Ireland.
The Church of Ireland is self governed. It is a
member of the world-wide Anglican Communion. The headquarters are in
Dublin at Church of Ireland House, Church Avenue, Rathmines 6. The
office of the Diocese of Down and Dromore is in Church of Ireland
House. 12 Talbot Street, Belfast BT1 2QH
----- * ----- * -----
References to the Reformation in Ireland and to
the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland may encourage some
readers to study further in these subjects. Here are some booklets
which are a useful introduction to the subjects.
"History of the Church of Ireland" - Henry E. Patton
"The Church of St. Patrick" - John Barry (1961).
"No New Church" - H. R. McAdoo (1945?).
"Being an Anglican" - H. R. McAdoo (1977).
"How the Church of Ireland was Disestablished" - Hugh Shearman
"`The Church of Ireland - Why Conservative?" - W. G. Wilson (1970).
The Church of Ireland Commemorative Booklets (1932).
Changes at APCK and an appeal by the Publications
Committee of the General Synod could mean that much needed
literature on and for the Church of Ireland will be published fairly
SUCCESSION OF CLERGY
|1441 John Armstrong
|1529 Peter O'Rooney
|1634 William Massie
|1661 William Lindsay
|1664 Henry Harrison
|1673 Leonard Hodson
|1679 Samuel Hodson
Gabriel James Maturin
|1810 Hannington Elgee Boyd
|1864 Henry Murphy
|1871 William Hanly Ball
|1879 Samuel Black
|1880 Joseph Henry Chapman
1629 John Death
1634 Patrick Dunkin
1661 William Lindsay
1673 Leonard Hodson
1679 Samuel Hodson
1686 John Wetherby
1694 William Johnston
1716 Joshua Pullein
1728 Gabriel James Maturin
1734 Joseph Hanna
1741 Thomas Waring
|1828 Hugh S.
N.B.: Joseph Hanna and Thomas Waring exchanged
Garvaghy and Magheradroll, 1741. Charles Hamilton and Thomas Beatty
exchanged Tullylish and Garvaghy, 1813. Beatty was a magistrate
since 1797. James Dickson was Dean of Down, 1768-87. His son,
William, became Bishop of Down and Connor, 1783-1804, and another
son, John, was Archdeacon of Down, 1790-1814. Joshua Pullein became
Chancellor of Dromore. He was the son of Tobias Pullein, Bishop of
Dromore, 1695-1713. His great grandfather was Samuel Pullein,
Archbishop of Tuam.
RECTORS OF DROMARA AND GARVAGHY
1885 J. H. Chapman
1899 William Doran Falkiner Wilkinson
1919 James Armstrong
1940 Stanhope Sabine Squires
1956 Samuel Ernest Long
N.B.: H. H. Woodhouse, Trinity College, Dublin, was
in charge of the parishes, 1939-40. The Rev. James Armstrong died 21
1673, Robert Logy; 1713, Samuel Redman; 1724,
Jeremiah Workman: 1729, William Rowan; 1737, Thomas Waring; 1746,
Stephen McMullan; 1785, William Campbell; 1807, William McDowell
Johnston; 1808, James Forde; 1811, Skeffington Thompson; 1815,
George Clarke; 1833, Alexander Browne; 1835, James Perkins Garrett;
1844. Frederick Cassidy; 1853-60, Frederick Barber; 1861, John
1742-3, James Dickson; 1828, John Bredin; 1841,
James Silcock; 1848-64, John Williams; 1865, Abraham Smyth King;
1868, William Metge.
In this appreciation of an old Church and Parish T
have been anxious to highlight matters of interest to me and,
hopefully, to anyone who will read me. It has had to do with the
tangible things of a fellowship like ours. But the intangibles are
the things which really matter to the Christian Church. I have no
way of assessing the effects of the Ministry of the Word and
Sacraments of the Gospel in the Parish, or of valuing the benefits
of Christian friendship and fellowship, work and witness over the
centuries. How can we value the spread of St. John's influence in
the world? We can say only that the Gospel has been preached
faithfully, and sometimes powerfully, and that the Sacraments have
been administered effectively by successive pastors. People have
been taught and shown the Faith by those who were fully committed to
it. And the testimony to the truth of God in Jesus Christ continues
by word and deed.
Most Christian people have come to recognise that
the Church often does its best work quietly, almost imperceptively,
in moulding the lives of people.
This is not to deny that the Church has a
constant expectation of quick change by the Gospel. That is what
conversation is about, and of quickly awakened social consciousness.
It is in the ordinary, unexciting, ways of the
Church's life that we are impressed by the sincerity and loyalty of
our committed people.
We are constantly being reminded that it is
easier to be an enthusiast in the crowd than with the few. It is
easier to go with the current than against it. Honesty and decency
often dictate to sensitive people the necessity of standing for
truth and goodness when it would he more fashionable to accept
untruth and sinfulness.
As Church people we are required often to take
our stand for what is no longer fashionable in a permissive,
secular, society; that is faith in God and devotion to Christian
Every time we go to public worship we give
testimony to the faith that is in us.
We have to accept the inevitables of smallness
and restricted opportunities. Coming to grips with our situation
means that we shall always do the best we can with what we have. May
that be our determination for the way ahead.
----- * ----- * -----
Because inevitably all rural churches lose
members by the "emigration" of young people by marriage or career,
their influence is spread in all directions. St. John's is happy
when it retains the interest of former members, and their families.
We hope that a use of this booklet will be to reach such people to
remind them of the old Church and to encourage them to renew their
interest in us by making the contact which will keep us in touch