by Leo McNeill

Annaclone means `Marsh of the Meadows' (Eanach Cluana). Alongside it existed the ancient parish of Drumballyroney meaning `Ridge of O' Rooney's town'. Christianity has been practised in Annaclone from the time of St. Colman, around 510 A.D., and perhaps earlier. The townland of Tanvally in the parish means `the old road' and this was part of the main road from Armagh to Downpatrick. Saint Patrick must have travelled along this same road on his way to Saul.

From 510 A.D. the Gaelic Chieftains, The Cobha and the Magennises of lveagh allowed missionaries to say Mass and travel freely as there was no monastic foundation in the parish. These services were held in Ardbrin - in the old church beside the lake - and Aughnavallog (Drumballyroney Church), formerly the sites of pre-Celtic worship. In 1765, the lake at Ardbrin Church was drained into the River Bann thus forming an area of bogland. In 1809, Rev. Joseph Martin A.M. found the famous `Ardbrin Horn' in this bogland. The horn, which dates back to Celtic times (c. 200 BC), is adjudged to be one of the finest of its type ever found in Europe. It is now kept in a Dublin museum. The Synod of Kells, in 1152, may have confirmed the parish of Annaclone with a church at Ardbrin and the parish of Drumballyroney with a church at Aughnavallog. These two parishes were united in the post-Reformation era and became `Annaclone and Drumballyroney'.


The earliest reference to Annaclone parish clergy was that of a `Canon of Dromore', Peter McGyryn (McGivern), who held lands in Annaclone during 1427. The next reference was to Odo O'Shyagiel (O'Shiel). The O'Shiels held the townlands of Aughnacloy and Ballyshiel. Ode O'Shiel was `Rector of Annaclone', in 1527. Eugene Magennis was `Rector of Annaclone' in 1539 as well as being Bishop of Down and Connor. In 1611, the Bishop of Dromore granted church lands in Ardbrin, Tanvally and Lisnasliggan to Patrick McGivern. The McGiverns were a `church family'. The next surviving record is that of Patrick and Eurny O'Sheal who held the Annaclone church lands during 1657. (One of these men may have been a priest).

In 1422, the `Vicar of Drumballyroney' was Comedinus Mag Uryn (McGivern). In the same year John McFiach was listed as `Rector'. The next record of 1609 shows James McKay holding the church lands of Aughnavallog. The McKays were another `church family' and James McKay may have been a priest. In 1640 he was succeeded by Daniel McKay. The latter was to serve for a time as acting-Bishop of Dromore. From 1678-1690 the Vicar General of Dromore was Rev. Henry McKay from Drumballyroney.


A survey carried out for the Church of Ireland authorities in 1657 mentions "only old walls" of the Annaclone and Drumballyroney churches still standing. These churches were destroyed sometime between 1641 and 1649, after Cromwell arrived in Ireland. From this time onwards the Church of Ireland permanently took over these churches and graveyards. The Catholics still used the graveyards until the cemeteries of Annaclone and Magheral were consecrated. At a Williamite court held in Banbridge, John O'Killen was registered as Parish Priest of Annaclone. In 1704 at Downpatrick, another register gives a total of thirty priests operating in County Down with O'Killen as P.P. of Annaclone and Drumballyroney. He had been ordained by the Bishop of Dromore, Daniel McKay, in 1674. The next recorded priest was Fr. Hugh O'Kelly who ministered from 1730-1740. He was one of the O'Kellys from the townland of Tierkelly (`the land of the O'Kellys') and hence was a native of Drumballyroney. He was educated on the Continent.

From 1742-1745, Father James Pulleine was Parish Priest of Annaclone. Father Pulleine was also Dean of Dromore and looked after the administration of the diocese. He compiled a Catechism for the diocese of Dromore, written in both Irish and English. It was used from 1782 until 1880 when it was replaced by Bishop Leahy's `Penny Catechism'. Father Pulleine was a tireless worker during the Penal times. Part of a sermon of his, preached at the funeral of Eoghan O'Neill who was buried in Hilltown in 1744, is most poetic, and gives us a background picture of those dark Penal days: "This island of Ireland is now a desert without learning, light or faith. It is now clouded over by ignorance, heresy and darkness. See how this land is now devoid of churches, without clergy or altars. Nothing now remains of the abodes of saints but lonely places with empty walls worn away by time and the elements."


Without churches, the native population was forced to have Mass said at `Mass Rocks', in barns and in people's houses. There were four Mass Rocks in the parish - in the townlands of Tierkelly, Ballynafoy, Ballyroney (on land owned by the McArdles of the Mount) and in a field of McClorey's at Poland's Bridge. Evidence suggests that there was a `Mass House' in Magheral during Father Pulleine's time - he most likely got permission from the Lord of Lisnavaghrog, Cowan of Anahilt.

In 1742, Fr. Arthur Magennis is noted as being `Pastor of Ballyroney.' He was, in effect, the curate to Fr. Pulleine. Fr. Pulleine died in 1775. A small headstone bearing his name is situated in the middle of Magheral graveyard. In 1778, the Bishop of Derry administered the Dromore Diocese because the local clergy did not want Armagh involvement in Dromore affairs. A letter of thanks was sent to this same bishop on January 20th. 1778. Included among the signatories was Edmund Derry, `Pastor of Annaghlone and Drumballyroney.' The next Parish Priest of Annaclone was Patrick McKay. In 1793, Fr. Henry Collins is listed as Parish Priest of Annaclone.


A nephew of Fr. Hugh O'Kelly, Timothy O'Kelly, became Parish Priest in 1780. He was interred in the family plot in Drumballyroney graveyard in 1810. During his pastorate, in 1802, the first post-Reformation church was constructed in Annaclone on the site of the present one, only at right angles to it. It was 70' long, 29' wide and 12' high.

Fr. James McKay, in 1807, built a `Mass House' in Magheral. According to the inscription on a plaque built into the wall opposite the present Magheral church, it was subscribed to by people of all Christian denominations. Fr. McKay was a noted Irish scholar. He built Magheral School in 1834. It was one of the first schools built in the Dromore Diocese after the 1831 Education Act.


Fr. McKay was succeeded in 1834 by the Rev. Dr. J. S. Keenan who, during his pastorate, had the present Annaclone Church built. He was a man who served in three dioceses - Clogher, Armagh and Dromore. Dr. Keenan was a classical scholar, famed for his preaching. He ran an academy in Dundalk where Latin was the spoken language. Dr. Keenan was also the first president of St. Colman's College in Newry. Dr. Keenan's time in Annaclone, however, was sometimes turbulent, as he and Bishop Blake were at loggerheads. Both churches were closed for almost a year and, as a consequence, Dr. Keenan was suspended by the bishop. He died in Rome in 1847 and is buried in St. Isidore's cemetery there. During Dr. Keenan's time, Fr. Thomas Brady became Administrator from 1839-40 and Fr. John Mackin was appointed Administrator in 1844, becoming Parish Priest in 1847. In 1851, Fr. Mackin was appointed P.P. of Gargory. He was lost at sea in 1854. (The appointment of these `administrators' indicates that trouble was afoot!)

Fr. John Mooney became P.P. in 1851. He built the present Magheral Church, which replaced the Mass House, in 1857. It was he who also built Monteith School in 1866, and Tullyorier School, which was opened in 1861. In 1876, Fr. John Mooney left for Clonduff Parish and he was replaced by his nephew, Fr. Hugh Mooney, a native of Annaclone. The latter died in 1889 and is interred in Magheral Cemetery. A Cabra man, Fr. Henry Devlin, was the next parish priest. He served from 1889 until 1903. Fr. Devlin died and is interred in Annaclone.


Fr. Cornelius Woods became Administrator from 1898 because of Fr. Devlin's poor health and became Parish Priest in 1903. He had a long reign - until 1932. He was a much loved pastor. He is still recalled by the older parishioners. He was fond of hunting and kept a good shotgun. During Fr. Woods' spell in Annaclone there was much political turmoil, especially during the period 1916-23. Fr. Woods protected many of his parishioners from the wrath of the Black and Tans and B. Specials. Sadly, two young parishioners, James Tumilty and John McAlinden, were murdered on the roadside near Magheral in 1922. Fr. McComiskey, his curate, administered the Last Rites to them.

In 1924, Fr. Woods had Annaclone Church redecorated and two side-altars added. He also had a new high altar installed, which was consecrated on August 26th., 1928. In 1930, Magheral Church also acquired a beautiful new High Altar. When he died, in 1932, he was 93 years old. Fr. Woods was succeeded by Fr. John Carr who, in turn, was transferred to Tullylish in 1935.

Fr. Dan Pullen was appointed R.P. in 1935 but was transferred to Magheralin in 1941. Fr. Pullen did renovations to both the parochial house and the chapels. He was an accomplished carpenter and performed many of the tasks himself.

Fr. Edward James McAteer was appointed P.P. in 1941 and died in 1951. He is interred in Annaclone. During his time in the parish he did much work and he will be remembered for replacing the old latticed windows in Annaclone Church with new stained-glass ones. Fr. McAteer, a renowned preacher, was appointed a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter during his time in Annaclone.

Annaclone Church c.1980. The church had been extensively renovated, after Vatican II, in the mid-1960s.


On the death of Canon McAteer, Fr. John Lennon, a native of Derrymacash, was appointed P.P. He was a very modest man and a much loved pastor. He will always be remembered as "one who had no favourites". Fr. Lennon built a parochial hall, which was a great asset to the parish. He died in 1963 and was succeeded by Fr. Anthony Owens, formerly Vice-President of St. Colman's College, Newry. Fr. Owens had a short pastorate as he died suddenly in 1966, just three years later. In that short space of time he achieved much. He built a new school in Tullyorier. He also carried out extensive renovations to both Magheral and Annaclone chapels.

Fr. James McCartan succeeded Fr. Owens in 1966 and died in 1978. He was a native of Leitrim in Co. Down where many of his relatives still reside. He built

a new central school in Annaclone known as St. Colman's. To achieve the amalgamation of the three existing schools, he had to use all his tact. He was a great diplomat, a wise and good priest and a man of great integrity.


When Fr. McCartan died in 1978, he was succeeded by his curate, Fr. James Fitzpatrick (Fr. Jimmy), a Cabra man. Fr. Jimmy did two spells as curate in Annaclone - one while both Canon McAteer and Fr. Lennon were P.P.s, and one with Fr. McCartan. He liked Annaclone very much and the people, in turn, were happy to welcome him as their parish priest. He was, first and foremost, a priest who had the welfare of each and every parishioner at heart. Kind and discreet, Fr. Fitzpatrick was always approachable, especially in times of need and sickness. He had a great sense of humour and an infectious laugh. It was during his pastorate that the Community Centre was built. Fr. Fitzpatrick retired in the summer of 1994.

Fr. Frank Kearney, also from Cabra, became the current Parish Priest of Annaclone on Sunday, 21st., August 1994. He has overseen many renovations to the Parochial House and to both churches. Annaclone Church suffered an arson attack in April 1997, and it was Fr. Kearney's task to restore the building. Not only did he achieve his objective, but effected many improvements in the process.


Fr. Thomas Brady


Fr. Bernard O'Loughlin


Rev. Fr. Kinney


Fr. John McDonnell


Fr. Patrick McIver


Fr. Patrick McAnulty


Fr. Andrew Brennan


Fr. Stephen Ward


Fr. John O'Gorman


Fr. Felix McLaughlin


Fr. John McGrath


Fr. James McKiverkin


Fr. Matthew Lynch


Fr. George McCorry


Fr. James C. Byrne


Fr. Henry Doran


Fr. John Magee


Fr. (Dr.) O'Hare


Fr. McComiskey


Fr. Dargan


Fr. Dan Fegan


Fr. Doherty


Fr. Hugh Fegan


Fr. Joe Byrne


Fr. J. McCorry


Fr. James Murtagh 1939
Fr. Sweeney 1945
Fr. Jimmy Fitzpatrick 1948
Fr. Mattie O'Hare 1954
Fr. Bernard Treanor 1955
Fr. Tom Seymour (Killaloe) 1960-66
Fr. Jimmy Fitzpatrick 1977
Fr. Michael Maginn 1981
Fr. Joseph McConville 1982
Fr. Anthony O'Reilly 1983-89
Fr. Jack Murtagh 1989-93
Fr. John Byrne 1991
Presently there is no curate in the parish.


James McKay, (later P.P.) Arthur McArdle

Terence Fegan

John Mackin

Hugh Mooney, (later P.P.)

Thomas McGivern, Ballynanny, later Bishop of Dromore

Arthur McKay

Henry McGivern, (Ballynanny)

 Michael McClorey, (Glenburn Road)

Peter McPolin, (Lissize), Southwark

Peter McPolin, (nephew of former)

Arthur McNeill, (formerly P.P. Magheralin, C.C. Tullylish)

Peter McNeill, (C.C. Warrenpoint)


St. Colman's Church, which replaced an older building, was dedicated by Bishop Michael Blake in November 1840.

The Church was erected by Rev. J. S. Keenan P.P. to replace an older building dating from 1802. An old survey map would indicate that the original building was at right angles to the present one. Adjacent to the church there were two small buildings. The new church stood immediately below Monteith Lake in the townland of Tullintanvally. Following completion, the church was dedicated and opened by most Rev. Dr. Blake on November, 6th. 1840. The preacher on the occasion was Rev. Michael Kieran, Drogheda, who was later to become Archbishop of Armagh.

Fr. Cornelius Woods, P.P., had the church redecorated and two side-altars added in 1924. A marble High Altar was installed and consecrated on 26th August 1928. The original latticed windows in the church were gradually replaced with stained-glass in the course of the 1940s, under the guidance of Canon Edward McAteer, PP

An extensive renovation of Annaclone Church and re-ordering of the sanctuary was undertaken in the mid-1960s. One of the existing side-altars was retained so that it could be used as an `altar of repose' for Holy Week ceremonies. A new octagonal-shaped baptistry was built around an existing side-entrance

opposite a new high altar. A new entrance porch was built to enhance parishioners' access to congregational seating and the choir gallery was enlarged. In addition, the following were installed, all in mahogany: new seating, two confessionals, a new ambo and credence table. The original Stations of the Cross, being canvas paintings of artistic merit, were restored. New lighting and heating replaced the old systems. A feature of the heating was that it was in tubular form, amongst the seats and powered by electricity. This project of renovation cost � 17,000. The architects were Messrs. Smith and Fay, Newry, and the contractors were Messrs. McDonald Bros., Newry. The priests concerned with this restructuring were Fr. Anthony Owens P.P., and Fr. James McCartan, P.P. Fr. Owens died before the work was completed.

St. Colman's Church was blessed and rededicated by Bishop O'Doherty on Sunday 11th. June 1967. Solemn High Mass on this occasion was celebrated by Rev. M. O'Hare C.C., Newry, with deacon: Rev. A. McNeill C.C., Warrenpoint, and sub-deacon: Rev. T. Seymour, C.C. Banbridge. The Master of Ceremonies was Rev. Fr. J. Lynch, Adm., Newry. His Lordship, the Bishop presided. Also in the sanctuary were Rev. J. Burke P.P Clonduff, Rev. F.G. Brooks, St. Colman's College, and Rev. J. Power S.M.A. Dromantine College. The music was rendered by the Palestrina Choir, Newry, which was conducted by Rev. S. Moore, C.C., Newry. Addressing the congregation, the Most Rev. Dr. O'Doherty traced the history of the parish and paid tribute to the two priests who were responsible for the fine work of renovation, namely, Fr. James McCartan and the late Fr. Anthony Owens. Fr. McCartan then thanked His Lordship for performing the rededication ceremony and for presiding at the Mass.


On 15th. April 1997, an alert farmer, some distance away, noticed smoke billowing from the rear of the chapel. The fire brigade was on the scene almost immediately and prevented the main building from catching alight. However the windows, floors, stairs and furnishings of the upper and lower sacristies were completely destroyed. The cost of restoration was �50,000 which was defrayed by the Northern Ireland Office. The reconstruction was extensive. The floors of the two sacristies were re-constructed from mahogany, as was the connecting staircase. The furnishings were fashioned from ash and the leaded windows were restored.

Fr. Frank Kearney P.P. availed of the opportunity to make several alterations. The seating was reorientated so that it faced the sanctuary. Several more seats were added and the inter-seat electric heating system was replaced. It had proved both faulty and expensive to run. A new Kerosene-fuelled system, employing radiators, was installed at a cost of �13,000, in its place. In addition the church was re-wired and new electrical fittings replaced the old. A new canopy was built over the high altar and a wrought-iron spiral staircase replaced the wooden one which led up to the choir area. Outside lighting was added and the church was tastefully re-decorated. This act of arson was a traumatic experience for a little parish, but nevertheless the church can truly be said to have been restored to its original grandeur.


The ground for the cemetery was acquired when the original church was built in Annaclone in 1802. Annaclone Cemetery was extended in 1980 when one rood of land was bought from Willie Sawey.


The Church of Mary Immaculate, Magheral, was built in 1857. An earlier `Mass House' had occupied this site since 1807.

This church was built by Rev. John Mooney, P.P. in 1857 and was dedicated by Dr. Blake on October 17th. 1858. It replaced an earlier `Mass House' which had been constructed by Fr. James McKay P.P. in 1807. Magheral Church was renovated and a new high altar erected in 1930. This altar was consecrated in November of that year. The church was closed in 1965 for renovations. The floor, seats and sacristy were replaced and a re-opening ceremony was held on October 30th. 1965. The re-opening ceremony was performed by Rev. A. Canon McMullan P.P., Dromara, assisted by Rev. A. Owens P.P., Annaclone and Rev. T. Seymour, C.C. Annaclone. The ceremony was followed by a Solemn Mass at which Forty Hours' Adoration was inaugurated.

In recent years, under the direction of Father Frank Kearney P.P., the interior of Magheral Church has been re-arranged and the church re-decorated. An extra car park, to one side of the church, has provided much needed parking spaces.


The cemetery is contemporaneous with the original Mass House built, at Magheral, in 1807.


The parochial house, alongside Annaclone Church, was built in 1851-52 by Rev. John Mooney PP. There was a former priests' residence at the rear of the church which is now known as the Upper and Lower Sacristy. The parochial house was renovated in the late 1930s by Fr. Dan Pullen P.P. The kitchen and housekeeper's quarters were renovated in 1963 by Fr. Anthony Owens PP The house has been renovated again, in recent years, by Fr. Frank Kearney P.P.


`Tetelty's Bush' is the first recorded school in Annaclone Parish. This was a `hedge school' in a hollow in the townland of Ardbrin, at the bottom of Pat McAvoy's lane. The teacher, Mr. Tetelty, also used a barn belonging to the McAvoy family. It was in operation during the eighteenth century. Annaclone Glebe School, a Lancasterian school, was founded in 1828, and though not a Catholic school, had 25 Catholics on the roll. Ballynafern School, founded in 1827, had 20 Catholics and Tullintanvally National School had 32 Catholics. The latter was known as `Cuddy's School' because Mr. Cuddy was the teacher. Although this school had pupils of all denominations, it was visited regularly by the parish priest and curate. The parish priest in question was, in all probability, Fr. James McKay.


Until recently there were three schools in the parish. Magheral School was built by Fr. James McKay in 1834 and opened in 1835. It was closed in June 1971 and is presently a dwelling-house. Tullyorier School was originally opened in 1861 by Rev. John Mooney. It was replaced by a new school, built by Rev. Anthony Owens, in 1966. This school was of short duration for, in 1971, along with Magheral School, it was amalgamated into the new St. Colman's Primary School of Annaclone. Monteith School was opened in 1866, also by Fr. John Mooney. When Monteith was in operation for about one year, it had to be inspected to see if it were a viable proposition and entitled to a grant (this was the procedure at the time). Monteith School continued in operation until the amalgamation of 1971. The new St. Colman's Primary School was opened in September 1971. The building cost �49,000. Fr. McCartan was P.P. at this time.


It is, of course, the people of Annaclone who give it its particular flavour. In many ways, these people are very special. They are people with great drive, energy and warmth.

Four or five generations ago, the people of the parish seem to have had this same zeal, for Magheral School, built in 1834, was one of the first built in the Dromore Diocese after the 1831 Education Act. Incidentally, a one-time teacher in Magheral School was a Miss Durkan, who later became known to generations of pupils in Our Lady's School in Newry as Sister Mary de Sales.

Annaclone Chapel was opened in 1840 and seems to have been built in little more than a year. Most of the other churches in the diocese of Dromore took a much longer time in the building. The population of the area was then, of course, much greater. The Tithes Book of 1833, in the Records Office in Belfast, shows that there were thirty-eight farmsteads in the townland of Ballyshiel. Now there are only eight. The same could also be said for the other townlands.

Achievement in the parish has, moreover, not been restricted to the distant past. The building of a magnificent hall in the summer of 1987 demonstrates this. At that time it was decided to build a community hall. Firstly a collection was taken up, realising �12,000. Then the tradesmen of the parish announced that they were prepared to begin work immediately and that their services would be free of charge. When Fr. Jimmy Fitzpatrick, our parish priest, performed the opening ceremony, it was exactly 17 weeks to the day from the first sod had been cut! This achievement gives us some idea of the calibre of our present day parishioners. 1 think that very few parishes in Ireland, if any, could match this mammoth task. A plaque in the anteroom of the hall says "This hall was built in the summer of 1987 by the voluntary labour of some of the parishioners and the financial contributions of the others. It bears testimony to the generosity of spirit of our little parish of Annaclone". I think this says it all!

Well almost ....I said that they were people of great warmth. This is made manifest when some student passes an examination, or some adult prospers in some way or another. Everyone is genuinely pleased for their success, and makes a point of saying so. An admirable trait!

Finally, it is worth noting that Patrick Bronte, father of the famous writers, Charlotte and Emily, was born in our parish in 1777. He taught in a school in the parish before going to Cambridge. Bronte preached his first sermon in Drumballyroney Church. The foundation walls of the cottage where Patrick Bronte was born can still be seen at Emdale. His mother's house can also still be seen, as can a larger house to which the family later moved.

Annaclone Parochial House was built 1851-52 during the pastorate of Fr. John Mooney.

St. Colman's Primary School opened in September 1971. It involved the amalgamation of Monteith, Tullyorier and Magheral schools.