Lower Drumgooland & Upper Drumgooland

by Michael McCartan

Until about the year 1784, there was only one parish in the area known as Drumgooland. From around that time two separate parishes were formed and ever since have been known as Upper and Lower Drumgooland. It is proposed here to present an outline history of the united parish. This will be followed by summary accounts of the main events and highlights of parish life in the two entities plus a record of their parish priests.

The ancient Parish of Drumgooland lies along part of the eastern boundary of the Diocese of Dromore within easy reach of the majestic Mourne mountains to the south and the smaller Slieve Croob to the north. Dechomet Mountain almost touches on its western boundary while Castlewellan is very near its eastern extremity. The original parish occupies a considerable portion of land, a large portion of which was reasonably flat and fertile and a smaller area which was more hilly and barren.

The land quality in this part of County Down must have been a factor in attracting some of its earliest settlers because as far back as 1,500 B.C, the Beaker people, a Bronze Age tribe, left traces of their settlement at Closkelt townland on what much later became the western border of the old Parish of Drumgooland. The presence of an ancient High-Cross which formerly stood in Drumadonnell townland, is the only visible trace of early Christianity in the area, prior to the establishment of the parish system. In medieval times the parish formed but a small part of the Magennis territory known as Iveagh. As will be seen, the Reformation of the sixteenth century had important implications, both nationally and locally, for those who chose to remain Catholic. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the parish felt the impact of political turmoil which brought changes in land-ownership and hastened the arrival of English and Scottish newcomers, replete with their cultural and religious differences.


The origin of Drumgooland Parish is by no means certain. The earliest known reference to it is to be found in the Calendar of Papal Letters which records Tiernacus O'Ronaga (O'Rooney) as Vicar of Drumgolyn (Drumgooland), who died circa. 1419 and was succeeded by Patrick O'Ronaga on the 17th. January 1420. Donald Makartan was Rector of the Parish when he died in 1422 and was replaced by

Magnellus O'Ronaga. According to Cromer's Register, Gelacius O'Makrell became Vicar of Drumgooland in 1529 on the death of William O'Ruonaghe and was followed in this post by Arthur O'Runaga. For the next 120 years there are no known records of the priests of the parish.


Although there are now no structural remains, strong local tradition and some documentary evidence would locate pre-Reformation church sites in the townlands of Legananny, Magheramayo, Dechomet and Drumnadonell. The archaeologist, Dr. Ann Hamlin, believed that the cross-carved pillar stone at Legananny, which stands at the head of a small graveyard mound, is a likely church site, as is Drumadonnell - the probable original location of the ancient High-Cross. In the mid-19th. century, the antiquarian, Dr. William Reeves, documented the ruins of an old church at a place known as Shankill, in Magheramayo townland, and an ancient cemetery in the townland of Dechomet, where the ruins of an old church formerly stood.

Ancient High Cross of Drumadonnell


The impact of the Reformation along with the political upheaval of the seventeenth century had long term implications for the Catholic Church at national and local level. Protestantism was now the official state religion and Catholic churches and their lands passed into the hands of the Reformed Church or fell into disuse. Penal legislation sought to reduce the numbers of the clergy and severely restricted the freedom of the laity to openly practise their religion. In Drumgooland, the practical outcome of these developments was the insufficient supply of trained clergy and the loss of places of worship.

In terms of church buildings, the western end of the parish was particularly badly affected. Drumnadonnell passed into the ownership of the Established Church and the site at Dechomet was reputedly destroyed by Cromwellian forces. There is no strong oral tradition to account for the demise of Legnanny and Magheramayo churches. It is therefore not surprising that the practice of the priest celebrating Mass in the open, at some secluded spot in the countryside, first became a necessity at this time. In Drumgooland, a number of Mass-sites have been identified. The best known is the Rock on Ballymagreehan mountain where Mass has been celebrated in recent years. The townland of Gargory once had a Mass-bush, while another Mass rock was located in Backaderry townland.

From the surviving records it is clear that there were very few priests available to minister to the faithful of the parish during the seventeenth century. In fact, only three priests are recorded for this period. Fr. Cahal MacRory, a poet of much beauty of expression, was Parish Priest in 1650. Fr. Patrick Matthews was Pastor in 1681 and Fr. Hugh O'Shiel, outlawed for his support of King James during the Williamite wars, was Parish Priest of Drumgooland from 1691-1704. During the first half of the eighteenth century, church organisation and religious practice were at their weakest, under the weight of penal legislation and official harassment. From 1704-1741, Fr. Patrick Byrne was the only named priest in the parish. Fr. Terence O'Fegan was the only named priest in the parish in 1742 and Fr. Michael Morgan, who became involved in a lengthy dispute with the church hierarchy, was Parish Priest in the 1760s, and possibly at a later period. The last Parish Priest of the undivided parish seems to have been Fr. Nicholas Woods.


The easing of penal restrictions, especially the repeal of the laws against the clergy in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, coincided with signs of revival

and renewal in the parish of Drumgooland. Admittedly, the dispute over clerical jurisdiction created a poor impression, however, on the appointment of Doctor Matthew Lennon as Bishop of Dromore in 1780, there were signs of positive change and development. Within four years of his appointment, Bishop Lennon had established two Parishes in Drumgooland - Lower Drumgooland, which was located in the Western sector of the old parish, and Upper Drumgooland, which would occupy the eastern half. From this moment onwards, both parishes would be fully supplied with trained clergy, better prepared to meet the pastoral challenges that now confronted them.

The emerging self-confidence of the Catholic community in both parts of Drumgooland after its division, is best represented by its almost instant resolve to embark on a much needed church building programme. Not only did this initiative serve to stimulate the faithful, but is also presented a strong outward sign of the revitalisation and permanency of the Catholic institution and ethos, following a long period of uncertainty. As will be seen, a new church was erected in Upper Drumgooland as early as 1786 and later upgraded and enlarged in 1835. In Lower Drumgooland, the need was not as urgent, as some form of church building was already in place at Gargory. Nevertheless, a new chapel was built and in use at Dechomet by 1803, to cater for the large congregation at the western end of this expansive parish. The erection of two fine new churches, firstly, at Gargory in 1855, and then at Leitrim in 1871, is a lasting testament to the dedication and commitment of both priests and people of the two parishes.


There were nineteen townlands in the united Parish of Drumgooland. When the two new parishes were established in 1784, Lower Drumgooland appears to have been comprised of thirteen townlands, whereas, Upper Drumgooland, with only six townlands, had less than half that number. This was a very unequal division and requires an explanation. The answer may be found in the solution arrived at by the ecclesiastical authorities, to end the dispute in Drumgooland Parish during the 1760s.

Put simply, the dispute involved two priests who were claiming jurisdiction in the parish at the same time. Fr. Michael Morgan claimed he was the lawful pastor and that an intruder, Fr. Rooney, was maintaining himself on the parish and collecting a stipend from part of it. To resolve the dispute, Anthony Garvey, Bishop of Dromore, was instructed in 1762, to divide the parish. The terms of settlement were that Fr. Rooney would he assigned an area within the parish, sufficient to maintain him, and Fr. Morgan would be prohibited from collecting within its limits. Fr. Morgan would continue to have control over the rest of the parish.

However, Bishop Garvey died in 1766 before the division was formally ratified. The new arrangement was not officially implemented until 1784, four years after the appointment of Dr. Matthew Lennon as Bishop of Dromore. Is it possible that in anticipation of an officially sanctioned division of the parish, a loose arrangement, based on the intended official solution, was implemented soon after the pronouncement of 1762? That this may have been so, is indicated by the sudden ending of the quarrel over jurisdiction between Fr. Morgan and Fr. Rooney.

It is not clear why it took so long to formally divide Drumgooland. The delay may have been connected to the appointment of Regular Clergy rather than Diocesan Clergy to the Bishopric of Dromore between 1766 and 1780. The Friar-bishops may have been reluctant to tamper with such sensitive issues as parish boundaries and structures which could be better handled by a bishop from a diocesan background. When Bishop Lennon, a member of the diocesan clergy, finally made the decision in 1784, it is assumed he was reluctant to change what had probably been in place and was functioning smoothly for more than twenty years. This may be the reason why the smaller portion of the parish, originally allocated to Fr. Rooney back in 1762, became, in 1784, the new Parish of Upper Drumgooland. Significantly, it was Fr. Rooney who became its first Parish Priest.


The Parish comprises 13 townlands - Ballydrumman, Ballymacareney, Ballymaginthy, Ballyward, Clanmaghery, Closkelt, Dechomet, Derryneil, Drumadonnell, Drumlee, Gargory, Magheramayo and Moneyslane.

Lower Drumgooland has just over double the number of townlands contained in Upper Drumgooland.

According to the 1841 census, Lower Drumgooland had a population of 6,973. Dechomet was the most popular townland with 780 inhabitants.

During the 1830s, average Mass attendance was 600 in Dechomet, and 500 in Gargory.


St. Patrick's Church, Gargory, was built in 1855. It is believed to have replaced an older church in this locality. The most recent work on St. Patrick's saw the sanctuary and the baptistery renovated in 1997.

Recent accounts of Drumgooland's Parish history tend to focus on the new church built at Gargory in 1855, but pay scant attention to the church it replaced. Although somewhat tenuous, there are grounds for believing that a church was built there as far back as 1760, or even earlier, thus pre-dating by some 25 years, the erection of the first church at Leitrim.

When the Ordnance Survey team visited the Parish in the 1830s, they described the church at Gargory as, "a plain building of un-hewn stone, 63 feet long and 25 feet broad". The surveyors were unable to ascertain when the church was built or set an estimate for the cost of construction. One reason for this may have been that the church was built beyond the memory of the-older inhabitants of the Parish.

The Vatican Documents detailing the Fr. Morgan dispute, recorded the existence of a chapel in the undivided parish in the early 1760s. As there are no records of churches at Leitrim or Dechomet prior to 1786, it is conceivable that the church referred to in the documents is the one at Gargory, described by the Ordnance Survey team in the 1830s. If this assumption is correct, then this was the first Catholic church built in the undivided Parish since the Reformation.


Initiatives and Milestones


Parish of Lower Drumgooland established. A rudimentary church must have stood at, or near, the site of the present church.


First school-house built at Magheramayo.
1825: Second school-house opened.These two buildings served the Gargory end of the parish for nearly 130 years.
1840-45: Fr. Morgan built the parochial house beside the church.
1849: Church damaged by Orangemen during the Dolly's Brae Affray.
1855: Present Church of St. Patrick erected by Rev. Bernard Hughes.
Church hell erected around this time.
1912: Minor alterations to the church by Fr. McKinney.
1915: Rev. Edward McCartan, P.P. Seagoe, a native of Lower Drumgooland, expended �1,600 pounds, renovating and enriching the church. He installed a marble altar, marble railings, mosaic floor in chancel, ornamental windows and a gallery.
1920-24: Church further adorned by the addition of the following:
Our Lady's Altar, at a cost of �100 - was the gift of Mrs. McGorrian, Gargory.
Sacred Heart Altar, costing �70 - bequeathed by Rev. Peter McEvoy, RP., Dromara, a native of the parish.
Stations of the Cross, presented by Patrick Keenan, Magheramayo.
Holy Water fonts, the gift of Hugh Smyth. Altar charts, presented by Mrs. McEvoy, Ballymagreehan.
Confessional boxes, presented by Arthur McCrickard, Moneyscalp, Kilcoo.
1940-41: Further alterations to the church - undertaken by Dr. Michael O'Hare P.P., who also installed electric light.
1953: New Primary School opened at Magheramayo, 1st. December.
1958-64: Fr. Patrick Boyd, P.P., had a new floor fitted in vestry of St. Patrick's Church.


Fr. J.J. Pettit P.P., changed altar to conform to Vatican II regulations. Central heating installed, church floor carpeted and new porch erected.
1981: Fr. Liam Boyle P.P., re-roofed and re-wired St. Patrick's Church.
1997: On the 5th. October, church re-opened after extensive renovations. Mass celebrated by Archdeacon Liam Boyle P.P., with Very Rev. John Kearney Adm., Newry, the preacher and Fr. Lionel Murray Adm., Leitrim as concelebrant.


The Church of St. Mary of the Angels, Dechomet, was begun in 1822. A smaller church had existed on the same site since 1803. The adjoining cemetery has been in use since 1848.

Initiatives and Milestones

1803: Small church erected on site of present church by Fr. Bernard Magennis.
1808: Further improvements to church by Fr. Peter McCarthy P.P.


Fr. Thomas McKay P.P., commenced construction of new church on original site. He died before its completion.
1834: First school in Dechomet, erected by Dr. Patrick Morgan P.P.
1835: Work on new Church of St. Mary of the Angels completed by Dr. Patrick Morgan P.P., and dedicated by Bishop Blake on the 2nd. October.
Ordnance Survey memoirs description of church:- "A plain rectangular building of un-hewn stone, slated and in good order. Built by private subscription. It is 71.5 feet long and 33 feet broad."
1837: Dechomet School came under control of National Education Board.
1848: Fr. Morgan P.P., purchased plot of land beside church for use as new burial ground The old Drumgooland Cemetery had been used up to this time and was used for some years afterwards.


Fr. Bernard Hughes P.P., added a room to Dechomet School and added a bell at the church around this time.
1965: On 23rd. August - New Primary School


Fr. Pettit RP., extensively renovated church at approximate cost of � 10,000 - thanks to voluntary work of parishioners. Altar move( from gable to left side of church. Choir anc confessionals placed on opposite side. New organ and seats installed.
Church blessed and rededicated by Bishop O' Doherty.
About the same time, cemetery improved and new car-park made.

The interior of St. Mary's, Dechomet. The Church was rededicated on Sunday, 14th. November 1971 by Bishop O'Doherty. It had been extensively renovated, at a cost of �10,000.


The Rev. Nicholas Woods (1784 - 1808), was apparently the last Parish Priest of the undivided Parish and the first parish priest of Lower Drumgooland. He died in 1803 and was succeeded by Rev. Bernard Magennis (1803-1806), who built the first small chapel on the present site at Dechomet. Prior to his appointment to Lower Drumgooland, Fr. Magennis had been interned in Carrickfergus Castle for almost four years on suspicion of involvement in the 1798 rebellion. He was released without charge in January 1802 and, for the remainder of his life, was a committed supporter of the struggle for Catholic Emancipation.

The Rev. Peter McCarthy (1806-1817), the next Parish Priest, continued improvement work on Dechomet Chapel until his transfer to Donaghmore Parish in 1817.

Little is known about the Rev. John Magennis, Parish Priest from 1817-1820, except that he is interred at Gargory.

The Rev. Thomas McKay, Parish Priest (18201832), commenced the building of a new church in Dechomet, but he died before it was completed.

His successor, the Rev. Patrick Morgan D.D., Parish Priest (1832-1853), served a lengthy period in the parish, during which time he finished the church at Dechomet and built the new parochial house in Gargory. Fr. Morgan was an eminent theologian and was also very much involved in the social and economic issues of the day. In 1833, the Poor Law Commissioners sought his views on the living conditions of the local community and during the famine he was very active in supporting the introduction of relief measures to alleviate the hardship endured by the poor of the parish. For the greater part of his incumbency in Lower Drumgooland, Fr. Morgan worked tirelessly to improve cross-community relations by seeking to reduce sectarian tensions, especially at the western end of the parish. Despite intimidation and personal attacks on him and on church property as a result of sectarian tensions, he constantly endeavoured to promote peace and harmony between all denominations. Unfortunately, his hopes were shattered when, on the 12th. July 1849, four Catholics were murdered and many houses wrecked near Dolly's Brae, on the homeward march of the Orangemen. Uncertainty surrounds the circumstances of Fr. Morgan's departure from the parish. The diocesan records of the clergy say that he died in either the South of France or Australia.

Fr. John Kelly, who was the curate at the time, appears to have administered the parish from January to November 1854, until the appointment of the Rev. Bernard Hughes as the new Parish Priest.

During his thirty-two years in Lower Drumgooland, Fr. Hughes had the arduous task of erecting the new Church of St. Patrick at Gargory which was opened in 1855. He also erected the church bell and added another room to the school at Dechomet in 1856. This much loved and respected priest died in 1886 and was interred in Gargory.

Rev. Patrick McCartan, unlike his predecessor, served the parish for a very short time, (1886-1891). He was a native of Upper Drumgooland and was also interred at St. Patrick's Gargory.

Little is known of Rev. Michael McConville, who was Parish Priest from 1891-1911.

Rev. John McKenny served the parish for 26 years from (1911-1937). A native of Dromara, he celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his ordination in 1928 when he received a gold chalice from the parishioners. During his pastorate, the church was renovated and enriched internally. He was interred in the local cemetery.

The Rev. Michael O'Hare, a native of Donaghmore, was Parish Priest from 1937-1951.

The Rev. Patrick Campbell (1951-1958), undertook to build the new school at Magheramayo. He was also interred at Gargory.

Fr. Patrick Boyd was Parish Priest from 1958-1964, during which time he built the new school at Dechomet and had electric light installed in the new school at Magheramayo. He was interred at Gargory.

Fr. J.J. Pettit, a native of Warrenpoint, was Parish Priest from 1965 - 1975 . He was responsible for the rebuilding of Dechomet Church, and for internal adjustments to Gargory Church, to comply with Vatican li regulations. Dean Pettit has been long and fondly remembered in the parish as a devout priest, full of warmth and humility. His love for Irish culture in general and the Gaelic Athletic Association in particular, was reflected in his active involvement with the local club, Leitrim Fontenoys. His special interest was the promotion of Gaelic Games amongst the youth of the Parish. This he achieved very successfully, his gentle but persuasive approach and easygoing manner, persuading all but the most timid, to participate. Fr. Pettit was also a central figure and guiding light in the decision of the Fontenoys club, in 1965, to purchase land and develop the new Fontenoy Park, which was officially opened in 1969. The successful club of today is a testament to his vision and commitment in the 1960s. He will always be remembered with pride and affection by those privileged to have known him.

Fr. Patrick Rooney who succeeded Fr. Pettit, was also a native of Warrenpoint, and was Parish Priest from 1975 - 1980 . Fr. Rooney was interred in Gargory.

Archdeacon Liam Boyle, the present Parish Priest, was appointed to the Parish in May 1980, following the death of Fr. Rooney. Like both his predecessors, Fr. Liam is also a native of Warrenpoint and comes from a family dedicated to the Religious Life. Two of his brothers are also in the priesthood. During his 23 years as parish priest, the Archdeacon has undertaken a number of projects, including the realignment of the inside of the Church of St. Mary of the Angels, Dechomet and major improvements to St. Patrick's

Gargory. Archdeacon Boyle is an unobtrusive parish priest, deeply committed to his vocation and much respected by those who know him well. The sick and elderly of the parish and all those who have suffered the loss of loved ones over the years, will readily testify to the great comfort and consolation received from their patient and most attentive spiritual leader.


The parish comprises six townlands; Backaderry, Ballymagreehan, Benraw, Legananny, Leitrim, and Slievenaboley. Strands of local tradition state that Ballymaginthy townland, which is now part of Lower Drumgooland, was originally attached to Upper Drumgooland, and that Ballymagreehan townland was once part of Lower Drumgooland.

The 1841 Census lists Backaderry as the most populous townland in the parish with 759 inhabitants. The total population of the parish at that time, is recorded as 3,594.

The Ordnance Survey Memoirs of the 1930s put the average Mass attendance in Leitrim Church at 300. The same source records that a Sunday school was held in the church in summer-time, attended by 200 -400 children.


The Church of the Immaculate Conception, Leitrim, was originally opened in August 1874. The granite stone used for the building was drawn from the local Ballymagreehan quarry.

Initiatives and Milestones

1784: Parish established.
1786: First church erected in Leitrim - on the present site.
1834: School at Morgan's Barn in Legannany - connected to the National Education Board.
1835: Fr. Michael O'Loughlin P.P., repaired and enlarged original church.
Ordnance Survey description - Plain, slated, rectangular building.
Main dimensions - 60 by 50 feet,
Cross-shape. Contains open seats and gallery.
1840:  Plot of land purchased by Fr. O'Loughlin P.P., for new cemetery, adjoining church.
1842: On 13th. March, Fr. Theobald Matthew, the famous temperance priest, preached a sermon in newly-extended church. Collection taken up to help clear debt incurred by enlargement.
1857: New parochial house erected by Fr. A.J. Finnegan P.P., on site of present house.


Fr. A.J. Finnegan, P.P., erected new church on original site. Main building erected first and spire finished in 1874. Granite stone - quarried locally. Cost of church less spire -�2.891.19p. Official opening and dedication on 2nd. August 1874, by Fr. John Lowry P.P
1893: New school built at Legannany to replace Morgan's Barn School.
1924: Fr. McGivern P.P., repaired and structurally improved parochial house.


Church completely redecorated and gracefully adorned with many fine embellishments - mosaic sanctuary floor, marble steps to the altars. Stations of the Cross and Lourdes stained-glass windows were the gifts of Mrs. McEvoy of Ballymagreehan.
The mosaic church floor, marble font and brass gates of the Baptistry were donated by Mrs. & Mrs. Owen McCartan and their daughter, Mary, of Ballydrumman, Leitrim. Mr. & Mrs. James McNulty, Benraw, presented Baptistry windows.
Mr. John Owens, Backaderry, donated the stained-glass window depicting the Resurrection.
1929: The Lourdes Grotto, a gift from Mr. & Mrs Patrick Owens, Belfast, and formerly of Backaderry, was consecrated by Dr. Mulhern, Bishop of Dromore, on the 26th. May.
1964-66: Fr. James Mooney, P.P., erected new parochial house on the site of the old one.
1969-70: Exterior of church sand-blasted and internal refurbishment undertaken.
1971: Centenary of church celebrated on Sunday 10th. October.
Celebrants of the Mass were Fr. James Mooney, P.P., Fr. Michael O'Rourke, P.P., Dromara & Canon Alex McMullan; the latter two being natives of the parish. Church was filled to overflowing for this momentous occasion and the special sermon was preached by Fr. O'Rourke.
1972: Listed building status was conferred on the church by Department of Environment for N.I
1993: Closure of Legannany Primary School. Retirement of Fr. Mooney, P.P.

Extensive renovation to the 125 year-old church, commenced on 3rd. February. Work was well on the way to completion when disaster struck in the early hours of 2nd. Jul: 1998. The church was targeted by Loyalist arsonists and suffered damage which necessitated its closure. Work did not recommence until 12th. January 1999 and was finally completed in December of that year. On the 5th. December, before a packed congregation, Most Rev. John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore, rededicated the magnificently refurbished Church of the Immaculate Conception.

1999: New car-park completed.
New cemetery entrance opened and access road completed.
Drainage scheme undertaken in cemetery.
2002:  Granite monument with inscription erected in church grounds to commemorate all still-born babies buried there.


This Lourdes Grotto in the grounds of Leitrim Church was solemnly blessed in May 1929 by Bishop Mulhern.

The Church at Leitrim was refurbished 1969-70. in advance of its centenary. This photograph shows the interior of the Church at that time.


Following the establishment of the new Parish of Upper Drumgooland in 1784, the Rev. Fergus Rooney was appointed as its first Parish Priest. It is likely that he was the same Fr. Rooney who was mentioned in a 1762 Vatican document as claiming jurisdiction in Drumgooland, along with Fr. Michael Morgan. His successor in 1785, as Parish Priest, was the Rev. Patrick McKay, who built the first small church in Leitrim on the present site.

The Rev. Peter McEvoy, a native of Lowe Drumgooland, was Parish Priest from 1808 - 1825 and was succeeded by the Rev. Thomas O'Hare, who was an eloquent preacher.

The Rev. Michael O'Loughlin was appointed Parish Priest of Upper Drumgooland in 1827 However, there is confusion about the length of time he served in the Parish. Diocesan records have him still in the parish up to 1850. However, according to the parish register, Fr. John Mooney was the Parish Priest (or Administrator ) in 1846, a fact that is corroborated by other contemporary documents. It seems that Fr. O'Loughlin either resigned or retired about this time. Fr. John Mooney continued to administer the parish until the end of 1850. Along with Fr. Morgan of Lower Drumgooland, he attempted to discourage the Catholic "Ribbonmen" from opposing the Orange march over Dolly's Brae in 1849 and appeared before the subsequent investigation in Castlewellan.

The Rev. John Mackin, became the next Parish Priest in 1851. He died on a sea journey to America in 1855.

The Rev. Arthur J. Finnegan born in Ballymaginthy, Lower Drumgooland, became Parish Priest of Upper Drumgooland in November 1855, and served in the Parish until 1885 when he was transferred to St. Peter's, Lurgan. A distinguished theologian and classical scholar, he accepted the invitation of Dr. Leahy, Bishop of Dromore, to act as President of St. Colman's College, Newry, from 1864 - 1866. Fr. Finnegan is stated to have possessed all the virtues that adorn the life of a good and faithful priest. A glorious monument to his zeal and efficiency was the erection of the new church at Leitrim, one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture in the Diocese of Dromore. The church was opened on the 2nd. August 1874.

The Rev. John Lowry, a native of Clonduff, was Parish Priest from 1885 - 1906. In 1893 he opened a new school at Legannany to replace the existing school. His brother, Fr. Andrew Lowry succeeded him as Administrator of the parish until the appointment of the new Parish Priest in 1907, the Rev. Patrick Quail. Fr. Quail was born in Derryneil, Lower Drumgooland. He died in 1912 and was interred in Leitrim. His brother, the Rev. John Quail, was appointed Parish Priest on the 5th. May 1912. He was promoted to Canon in 1920, died in 1924, and was also interred in Leitrim.

The subsequent Parish Priest, the Rev. Edward McGivern, a native of Seapatrick, was largely responsible for transforming the interior of the St. Mary Immaculate Church during his seven-year pastorate. It was at this time that the mosaic work, stained-glass windows and the beautifully executed mosaic Stations of the Cross were installed, paid for principally by the generosity of the parishioners.

The Rev. John Carr replaced Fr. McGivern as Parish Priest in 1931 but was transferred to Lawrencetown in 1932 and was succeeded by the Rev. John Doran, a native of Magheralin, who served the parish well, until 1936. From then until 1941, the Rev. David Gallery was Parish Priest.

Fr. ,Joseph Byrne, a native of Dromore, was appointed Parish Priest in 1941 in succession to Fr. Gallery. Fr. Byrne served as Parish Priest until his death in 1952 and was interred in Leitrim.

The next Parish Priest of Drumgooland Upper was Fr. Michael McCartan who was returning to his native Parish. "Fr. Mick," as he was popularly known, served the parish for eleven years, until his sudden death on the 20th. September 1963. Very soon after his home-coming, Fr. Mick seemed to almost immediately strike a chord with the people of the Parish. Apart from the fact that he was a native son, well-known to both young and old, he came from farming-stock which accustomed him to the rural way of life and gave him a natural affinity to those who lived and worked on the land. Added to this was his love for Gaelic games and culture, an interest he could share with many of his parishioners. At his funeral Mass, the panegyric was preached by another native of the parish, Fr. Michael O'Rourke C.C., Derrytrasna. Of Fr. Mick, he said;

"He was an unassuming, shy and retiring man, always avoiding the limelight, always shunning publicity. But beneath a modest exterior was a priest who was kindly and understanding, a priest for whom no inconvenience was too great when a friend needed help. He was particularly devoted to the sick and the dying, and his kindly smile, ready wit and cheery word, often brought them great consolation. He was above all, a man of the people, not Merely interested in their spiritual affairs, as was his duty as a priest, but quietly interested in all their temporal undertakings."

Fr. Mick was laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery, close to his beloved people and his native place.

His successor was Fr. James Mooney, a native of Dromore, who was educated at the Irish College in Rome and ordained there in the Chapel of the French College on the 26th. May 1935. Fr. Mooney, having been appointed in 1963, served as Parish Priest of Drumgooland Upper for 30 years, until his retirement in 1993. The early period of his long incumbency coincided with the introduction of major liturgical change, following the directives of the Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965.

In 1966, Fr. Mooney moved into the new parochial house which was erected on the site of the original building. Over the next few years, he set about raising sufficient funds to refurbish the Church of the Immaculate Conception and St. Patrick, in preparation for the centenary celebrations of 1971. With the assistance of a dedicated committee, Fr. Mooney organised a series of annual carnivals, featuring leading show-bands of the time, to raise the necessary funds for the church refurbishment.

In 1970, the exterior of the church received a major face-lift, to re-invigorate the granite facade. Interior repairs to the church were also undertaken at this time.

Towards the end of Fr. Mooney's tenure, the parish suffered a severe blow with the closure of Legannany

School, the only school serving the parish. Despite communal efforts to halt the process, the decline in the school-going population made closure inevitable. This sad event, coincided in 1993, with the retirement of Fr. Mooney who had been the longest serving parish priest of Drumgooland Upper during the 20th. century. After retirement, Fr. Jim kept in touch with the Parish and was a special guest at the re-opening of the Church at Leitrim, following its extensive refurbishment, in December 1999.

An extensive renovation of Leitrim Church was carried out 1998-99. During the project the church suffered an arson attack, in July 1998. It was eventually completed and the sanctuary rededicated in December 1999.

His last visit to Leitrim was on the 29th. September 2002, at the special invitation of the present parish priest, Fr. Frank Lyons, on the occasion of Fr. Frank's induction Mass as Parish Priest of Leitrim. The two priests had been friends for more than 20 years. Fr. Jim died on the 4th. February 2003, and was interred in the local cemetery.

Fr. James Kerr succeeded Fr. Mooney as Parish Priest of Drumgooland Upper, serving there from the 14th. September 1993, until his untimely death, aged 55 years, on the 29th. August 1995. A native of Lurgan, he was educated at St. Colman's College, Newry, and Maynooth. After ordination, he spent much of his early ministry in the field of education and specialised in the teaching of religion, having completed a post-graduate course in Catechetics. He served on the staff of both St. Colman's College and the Abbey Grammar School, Newry, and was a curate at Rostrevor, before his appointment as Parish Priest of Drumgooland Upper. He died suddenly on the 29th. August 1995 and was interred at Lurgan.

Fr. Patrick McManus, a priest of the Columban Fathers' Mission to China, administered the parish until the appointment of Fr. Lionel Murray as Administrator on the 6th. September 1997.

A native of Ballynahinch, Fr. Murray was educated at St. Colman's College, Newry and All Hallows College, Dublin, where in 1953, he was ordained for the Diocese of Salford, in Manchester.

On the 3rd. February 1998, soon after Fr. Murray's appointment to the parish, work commenced on major renovations to the 125 year-old Church in Leitrim.

However, disaster struck on the 2nd. July of that year when the church was so badly damaged in a Loyalist arson attack that it had to be immediately closed.

For the next 16 months, Sunday Mass was celebrated in the G.A.A. hall at Fontenoy Park. Work on the church did not resume until January 1999 and was finally completed in early December of that year.

At the re-opening and dedication ceremony on Sunday the 5th. December, Bishop John McAreavey announced Fr. Murray's appointment as Parish Priest, much to the delight and appreciation of the packed congregation.

Regrettably, failing health cut short Fr. Murray's ministry in the Parish, prompting his retirement on the 17th. February 2002. During his relatively brief tenure in the parish, Fr. Murray earned the love and respect of his parishioners, not only for the manner in which he handled the extensive church renovations but, more importantly, for the manner in which he discharged his priestly duties. A man of deep faith and humility, blessed with a sense of humour and a warmth of personality, he will be fondly remembered by the people of Drumgooland Upper.

Archdeacon Liam Boyle, Parish Priest of Lower Drumgooland was appointed Administrator on the retirement of Fr. Murray, until the appointment of the present Parish Priest, Fr. Frank Lyons on the 23rd. August 2002.

Fr. Frank, as he prefers to be called, is a native of Turner's Cross, in Cork City. Educated in infancy by the Presentation Sisters and then by the Presentation Brothers, Turner's Cross, in 1953 he went to study at St. Patrick's Missionary Society, Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow. He was ordained on Easter Sunday the 17th. April 1960, and appointed to the Diocese of Ogoja, in Eastern Nigeria. He remained in Nigeria for 18 years. In 1979, he requested a Sabbatical Year as curate, in a rural parish in Ireland. His request was granted and, in November 1979, he came on loan to the Diocese of Dromore. In 1997, Bishop Francis Gerard Brooks incardinated Fr. Frank into the Diocese of Dromore.


The number of lay organisations within the parishes of Upper and Lower Drumgooland has varied over the years. Some committees such as those formed for fund-raising purposes have usually lasted until objectives have been achieved, whereas other bodies such as the Pioneer Association and those involved in

Apostolic Work have endured for much longer. Finance and Cemetery Committees have done sterling work in both parishes of Drumgooland, over the past number of years, supervising the extensive refurbishment of the churches in Leitrim, Gargory and Dechomet and the cemeteries at Leitrim and Dechomet. It is the unselfish commitment and dedication of the men and women working within these organisations, from year to year, that helps ensure their parishes continue to function as cohesive and vibrant units.

Magheramayo Primary School was opened in 1953. It became known as St. Matthew's School in recent years. Along with St. Mary's School, Dechomet, it serves both Drumgooland parishes. Legannany School, in Upper Drumgooland, closed in 1993. The original Parochial House at Leitrim was built in 1857. It was replaced by the existing house which Fr. James Mooney, P.P. had erected. The old house was demolished in April 1966 and the new house opened in December of that year.