by Gerry Quinn

"GREETINGS AND BLESSINGS to our Beloved Brother Priest, the Very Rev. Thomas McConville. As a new Parish has been erected to be known as St. Patrick's Clonallon, and since according to the norm of Canon 521, it is clear to us that you have the required qualities of good morals, sound doctoring, zeal for souls, prudence and the other virtues necessary for the wise direction of this Parish, we hereby appoint you Parish Priest of St. Patrick's, Clonallon according to Canon Law and we enjoin on you the zealous care of souls to be exercised under the authority of the local Ordinary.

As proof of this, we have ordered this letter of ours, stamped with the Episcopal seal, to be handed over. Given at the Bishop's House, Newry, on this the twenty-sixth day of January in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and eighty four"

Bishop of Dromore

With these words, Father Tom McConville became the last in a long line of much-loved curates of the Mayobridge section of Clonallon Parish and immediately became first Parish Priest of the new parish of St. Patrick's, Clonallon, known locally as Mayobridge Parish.

Mayobridge or 'Droichead Mhaigh Eo', commonly known as 'the Bridge' and taking its name from the structure spanning the first stretch of the Clanrye River and separating the townlands of Mayo and Bavan, became a parish in its own right on 26th. January 1984. It had formerly been part of the Parish of Clonallon.


Aughnagun - Achadh na ngambain: the field of the calves, or Ath na ghun: forest of the hounds.

Ballydulaney - Baile Dubh lainne: the dark townland of the road or pass.

Ballyvalley - Baile an bhealaigh: townland of the road or pass.

Bavan - Badhun: a cattle enclosure.

Cabragh - Cabrach: bad land, poor quality, mountain grazing very infertile.

Carnmeen - Ceathranhadh Mhin: the level quarter. The old townlands or `Ballybetaghs' were often divided into quarters, each of which was usually designated by the word `Ceathramhadh' or `Ceathru'. The four quarters into which the townland was divided were generally distinguished by their size, shape and the quality of the land. The measure of the level quarter was that understood by native speakers in the district in the mid-I800s.

Part of Carnaney - Ceathramhadh Eanaigh: the marshy quarter.

Carrickcrossan - Carraig Mhic an Chrossain: O'Crossan's rock or the rocky land of Crossan or Crosbie. Another interpretation for this townland name is the rock of the little crosses. The former appears more authentic however since the land therein is a mass of rocks and boulders with very little arable content.

Croan - Cruadhan: very hard ground, of poor quality and of little use for farmers.

Cullion - Bode an Churilinn/Cuileann: The townland of the holly tree. It probably had `baffle' as a prefix.

Edentrumley - Eadan Tromlaigh: the hill-brow of the elder or boor tree.

Mayo - Maigh Eo: the plain of the Yew trees.

Part of Tamnaharry - Tainhnach na Cairthe: the green field of the pillar stone - the pillar stone being located in the valley behind Tamnaharry Mountain.


St. Patrick's Church is an imposing landmark in the surrounding countryside. The church is in use since 1862,

St. Patrick's Church, Mayobridge, was, according to the historian, Hugh Digenan, erected on the site of a former Mass Rock and replaced an earlier church, which had been erected in 1806, part of which is now the disused Mayobridge Parochial Hall. The present church was erected by Fr. Brennan, who, it is related, was wont to remind the people to say a prayer for him every time they saw that edifice, for often he had "blistered his feet travelling through England" in order to raise the money to build it.

A fine Gothic-style building and reputed to be the largest `country' church in the diocese, it can hold up to 600 worshippers in comfort. From the front entrance, it commands a fine view of the surrounding countryside right into County Armagh and beyond.

Dr. Leahy, co-adjutor bishop of the diocese, blessed the foundation stone of St. Patrick's Church on 15th. August 1859 and a little over three years later, on I2th. October 1862, the same pious prelate officiated at the dedication ceremony. The preacher of the dedicatory sermon was the Bishop of Kerry, Dr. David Moriarty. As a result of his powerful appeal the congregation subscribed over �500 towards the new Church.

The erection of St. Patrick's Church witnessed the growth of the village of Mayobridge. which derives its name from a structure, by no means notable, spanning the river separating Mayo and Bavan townlands. In the middle of the last century the region was known far and near as "The Bridge of Mayo," and in the surrounding countryside it is still referred to as "The Bridge of Mayo." Associated with the rise of Mayobridge was the O'Hare family, who originally came from Ballydoo. An avenue of trees through the village planted by the late Mr. John O'Hare and his brother, the late Peter O'Hare, recalls memories of their many public activities. A member of this family, Canon Frank O'Hare, later became Parish Priest of Seapatrick.


Born in Aughnagun, he was a member of a noted family who owned the townland of Aughnagun and was the youngest son of Dudley and Brigid Garvey. As priest and bishop, he appears to have resided mostly at the family homestead. Fr. Garvey was educated at Paris, where he took L.L.D degree. In 1726, he was P.P. of his native parish and Vicar General of the diocese. His period as Bishop marked important changes in diocesan administration, despite the penal code which presumed no such person as a bishop to be living in Ireland. In time, however, Catholics began to enjoy some small measure of religious freedom with relaxations in the penal code. During his reign, a few churches and a number of Mass Houses were openly erected in the diocese. He was responsible for the constitution of Newry and Clonallon as mensal parishes and from this time onwards, Newry, instead of Dromore, became the seat of diocesan authority. Before his death, he erected a family vault in St. Mary's Cemetery, Newry. He died at his residence in Aughnagun on 24th. August 1766. His Will is a document of human interest, throwing some light on his relationship with his immediate friends and relatives. The original Will, unfortunately, was destroyed in the Public Record Office, Dublin, during a bombardment in the Irish Civil War in 1922.

The remains of Bishop Garvey and several members of his family rest in this vault at St. Mary's Cemetery, Newry.


St. Clare's Convent was founded in 1924 due to the inspirational benevolence of Elizabeth Barry. She donated her house and property to Most Reverend Dr. Mulhern, Bishop of Dromore, with the express wish that a convent be established there. Her generosity has had a profoundly beneficial effect upon the spiritual and educational welfare of all the people in the district. The decision to found the Convent in Mayobridge was taken on the 3rd. October 1922 and the building of the new convent proceeded very shortly after that. The foundation stone was laid and blessed on the 3rd. May 1923 by Most Reverend Dr. Mulhern. By January 1924, the following Sisters were chosen for the foundation: Mother Mary Anthony Clune, Mother-in-Charge. Mothers Mary Josephine

O'Hare, Mary Dominic Ryan, Mary Elizabeth Carr and Mary Gabriel Breen. They were installed on the 25th. February 1924. The rules of the Order were relaxed allowing the Sisters to attend Mass publicly and to teach. They were also allocated duties as sacristan to the church; Mother Mary Josephine and Mother Mary Bonaventure were appointed assistant teachers in the boys' school. Due to legal technicalities, building work on a proposed new school was delayed and, with the existing school being considered unsafe, a temporary classroom, later called the Sodality Room, was built. It, along with two rooms in the Convent, were used to accommodate the pupils pending the completion of the new school.

The new schools were opened on the 20th. May 1927. Mother Mary Evangelista was appointed assistant teacher on the 1st. February 1926 to replace Mother Mary Bonaventure, who was transferred to Newry as Novice Mistress.

Space does not allow for adequate expression of the debt of gratitude owed by the people of Mayobridge to this Community of Sisters of St. Clare. The present Mother Superior is Mother Attracta Devlin.

There are over 1,800 Poor Clare nuns throughout the world. A new mission has recently been opened in Guatemala and there are over thirty postulants. We hope that we can continue to enjoy the presence of the Poor Clares among us in the decades to come

The Sisters of St. Clare have maintained a much-valued presence in Mayobridge for eighty years. Their Convent (above), was established in 1924.


The first written record of school in the Mayobridge area is from the 1824 Report on Education, which mentions a `Hedge School' in Aughnagun; Teacher: Charles Carr, salary about �5. School: a cabin of the worst description, costing �3. The Catholic return was 21 Catholics and 3 Protestants, 16 boys and 8 girls. The Protestant return was 18 Catholics and 4 Protestants, 12 boys and 10 girls. Both versions of the Bible were read.

Also in Aughnagun was another school; Teacher: Terence McAleavey, salary �2.10.0, with house and 31/2 acres of land rent free. School: a cabin (poor), costing �4.0.0. Both Catholic and Protestant returns record 16 Catholics on the rolls, 10 boys and 6 girls. Authorised Version of the Scriptures were read. Roger Hall, of Narrow Water, had given land rent-free and tithe free.

In Croan, the teacher was Hugh Grant; his salary was �16. The school was "a badly-thatched cabin," costing about �3. Both Catholic and Protestant returns record 41 Catholics, 10 Presbyterians and 2 others on rolls, 36 boys and 17 girls.

In Mayo, the teacher was Edward Grant; his salary was �12. The school was a "wretched cabin," costing about �3.0.0. Catholic and Protestant return 37 Catholics 32 boys and 5 girls. No Bible was read.

The Ordnance Survey Memoirs mention that, in 1834, there was in the townland . of Ballydulaney: "One small school, average 40 scholars," with a footnote: "The inhabitants would be very willing to send their children if they could get any encouragement from the government."

The Ordnance Survey Memoirs of 1835 state that a National School was situated near Mayo Chapel (now the Parochial Hall). It was a small slated cottage established by the National Board of Education in November 1832. The income from the National Board was �10 per annum and one shilling per pupil. The books used were those furnished by The National Board and the moral education was such as allowed by the Board.

In September I836, the attendance at Mayo School was 103 boys and 48 girls, the Master was Owen Fegan.

As far as is known, that building later became the band room for the Sacred Heart Flute Band and, later still, it became a dance hall and then a dinner hall. Although these schools are the first we have written evidence about, there must have been other schools in the area long before that.

Dr. Anthony Garvey was a graduate from the University of Paris, so we may assume he got the foundation of his education at a hedge school.

According to the Report on the State of Popery in Dromore Diocese, submitted to the House of Lords in November 1731, "The papists of this county were of the lowest rank, yet papists they still are, under the unbounded guidance of their Priests who have their private and public meetings as they think proper." Dean Pulleine, who came from this area, wrote a catechism in Irish in the early 1700s and The Imitation of Christ was translated from Latin to Irish in Drumnaquoile about 1762. It is likely therefore that the Greek and Latin classics, and possibly continental languages, were being taught in humble cabins all round the country a hundred and more years before schools were officially known.

From 1832, up until the present school was built, the band room and, after I862, the present parochial hall served as locations for Mayo National Schools. The condition of the band room especially, gave cause for concern. An Inspection Report of 24th. April I91I, after commenting on how the Girls' School was run, stated "A new school house is badly needed". In the early 1920s, Masters O'Hagan and McGlinchey had classes in the band room. Pierce Fegan and later Sr. Mary Bonaventure taught in the Parochial Hall. In 1912, the Inspectors' report commented, regarding the Girls' School, "Work is carried out in this school under unfavourable conditions, as the house is very old and hardly suitable.... The tone is fairly good and on the whole, the pupils are making fair progress. Needlework shows some improvement.... Equipment for manual instruction still inadequate."

The 1914 report stated something similar.

In 1923 there were 120 children attending the schools in Mayobridge and there were plenty of complaints regarding the state of the buildings. In September of that year Canon McGinnis wrote to Newry No. 1 Rural District Council stating that the schools were far from satisfactory and that he hoped to get work started soon on building a new school.

The new school was built, and officially opened on 20th. May 1927. It took, therefore, nearly four years from inception until completion. The plans were prepared by R.A. Smyth, Belfast, and the contractors were M/s Harding & Harding, Belfast. M/s Salmon & Cooke, assistant architects, supervised the construction work and P. McGivern, Warrenpoint, was Clerk of Works.

The Frontier Sentinel stated that the new building gave utmost satisfaction to Canon McAlister, (who had succeeded Canon McGinnis), the local curate Dr. O'Hare, the Poor Clare nuns, and Mr. P.D. McEvoy and Miss Marianne Flynn - the principals of the boys' and girls' schools. The Bishop, Dr. Mulhern, and several visiting clergy processed from St. Patrick's Church to the schools, with the schoolchildren singing hymns along the route.

The school remained unchanged until the late 1940s when a new toilet block was built outside. In 1960, two new classrooms were built. In 1984, the school was further enlarged and now comprises ten classrooms, two resource areas, an assembly/dininghall, two offices, a library, a play room and a large staff room, together with an extensive school meals' kitchen. There are three playgrounds and a playing field.

Mayobridge has always been fortunate in the quality of the teaching staff attracted to the school. Names like Masters Fegan, Master McGlinchey, Master O'Hagan, Miss Flynn, Master McEvoy, Mother Josephine, Mother Philomena, Mother Evangalista spring to mind.

The boys' and girls' schools were amalgamated about 1960.

The first roll comprised 151 pupils. A century later, the number remained 150 approximately. Now, 280 pupils are in attendance. The Scheme of Education in the early part of the century placed great emphasis on Reading, Composition, History, Geography and Arithmetic. For girls. Needlework was an essential part of the school curriculum. In 1920, the inspection report commented that the children had a good knowledge of a play by Shakespeare. Miss Hogan taught Cookery, Laundry and Needlework. Master McEvoy introduced us to Algebra at school. He talked about foreign countries, describing life in Canada, the United States and Africa in his own unique way. We looked forward to the singing lessons when he brought down the fiddle and we sang `An English Country Garden.'

Over the years the school has developed to keep up with changing times. There is now a teaching staff of twelve. There are three classroom assistants and eighteen additional staff. The present curriculum includes English, Maths, Science and Technology, Religious Education, Environmental studies, Speech and Drama, Computer Education, Arts and Crafts, Music and P.E.

Education in this small community has grown by leaps and bounds from its humble beginnings in Aughnagun, Ballydulaney, Croan and Mayo - where children and teachers huddled round a cold, dark thatched cabin - to the magnificent school we have today.


A curate of Clonallon Parish had lived in the Mayobridge area since 1859. This was the year when work began on building the present St. Patrick's Church. The curates originally lived in accommodation located on the main Newry to Hilltown Road. A new presbytery was, in due course, erected on a site opposite the church. This property was completed in 1885 and was first occupied by Fr. Edward MacCartan C.C. The need for a replacement of it was addressed shortly after the erection of the new Mayobridge Parish. A new bungalow was contructed soon afterwards and Fr. Tom McConville became its first occupant, in July 1985.

Fr. McConville continued as Parish Priest until the summer of 2000. He retired, at that point, after eighteen years of dedicated service to the Mayobridge people. The highly respected pastor has continued to serve, in his retirement, in the neighbouring parish of Drumgath. Fr. John Joseph Cunningham succeeded as Parish Priest in July 2000. Fr. Cunningham, a native of Kilcoo, was ordained in 1972. He served on the staff of St. Colman's College in the years following his Ordination and later spent several years as a popular curate in Warrenpoint and in Drumaness. Fr. Cunningham has led, since coming to Mayobridge, a refurbishment of the sanctuary and interior of St. Patrick's Church. The project was undertaken, following a fire, between March and June 2003.

Mayobridge has a proud record in Catholic Primary Education. St. Patrick's Primary School continues to thrive, at the heart of the parish.

This grotto, in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes, was constructed by the parishioners of Mayobridge to commemorate the Marian Year, 1987.

The striking interior of Mayobridge Church. The sanctuary was renovated in 2003, The altar tableau originally belonged to St. Mary's Church, Burren and was brought to Mayobridge c.1940.