by Anne Canavan and Patricia Walsh

Constructed in 1834, St. Colman's Church, Shinn has been a landmark for generations on the Newry to Rathfriland road.

The Parish of Saval was formed by Most Rev Dr. Mulhern in 1920. The Newry Telegraph of March 1920 claimed that the new parish was one of the finest in the Diocese of Dromore and of significant historical note in the District of Newry:

"There is a chapel in both Sheeptown and Shinn at which the Masses on Sundays and other occasions are celebrated by the clergy attached to the Newry Cathedral.

The change is a very welcome one for the residents of Shinn and Sheeptown who are at present obliged to travel a long distance on occasions of sick calls. Rev. Thomas McGrath C.C. Newry has been appointed P.P. of the new parish."

The parish covers some 10,470 acres and consists of twenty-three townlands: Ardarragh, Benagh, Carnacally, Castle Enigan, Corcreechy, Crobane, Croreagh, Curley, Derryleckagh, Desert, Edenmore, Finnard, Gransha, Lisnaree, Lisserboy, Loughorne, Ouley, Ryan, Savalmore, Savalbeg, Shinn, Sheeptown and Turmore.

Saval is situated in the south-west of County Down encompassed by the parishes of Newry, Donaghmore, Aghaderg, Annaclone, Drumgath, Mayobridge and Burren. Saval parish takes its name from the two central townlands Savalbeg and Savalmore. Saval from the Irish `Sabhaill' meaning 'barn', and Saval, like Saul, presumably commemorates the usage of a barn in the early days of the church.

The townland Desert also suggests an early Christian church linkage 'An Diseart' may be translated as `The Hermitage' or 'Wilderness'.


The dimensions of an early Celtic settlement may be traced in the graveyard at Templegowran. This graveyard also contains an ancient stone cross, believed to be over 1,000 years old and therefore contemporaneous with the Celtic period.

In 1144, thirteen monks left the Abbey of Mellifont to come to Newry. The district now known as Saval was amongst the lands granted to the Cistercian monks by Maurice Mag Lochlan.

From his Charter we learn that Cistercians lived in the mill at Derryleckagh with a pre-existing group of Celtic monks, whilst building their monastery in Newry. The Abbot of the Celtic Group of monks, Finn O'Gorman, who had been in residence in Templegowran, remained in Derryleckagh until 1148, when he left to become Abbot of Newry. Later, he was appointed Bishop of Kildare.

A second ancient church in the parish, a Chapel of Ease belonging to the Cistercian Monastery, was sited in the townland of Castle Enigan.

The Cistercians laboured in Saval ministering to the spiritual needs of the people and pioneering new methods of husbandry and farming for over four centuries until 1548, when the Abbey was suppressed and lands confiscated. However, it is certain that the monks stayed on in the district for the next 100 years. Nicholas Bagenal was granted the entire monastic lands by the Crown. He was a tolerant landlord and the census of 1659 shows that the population of Saval remained static. The last of the Bagenal family died in 1712, and the new owner, Robert Needham, brought in new landlords who supplanted many of the old families.


Information regarding Mass Rocks or indeed the Catholic Church during Penal times is of necessity quite scarce. However, there are Mass Rocks at Crobane, Castle Enigan, Savalbeg, a Mass Garden at Croreagh and a Mass Rock in Ryan. The stone at Ryan may have come from a monastery which Reverend Hugh Sands maintained was sited in Ryan.

All these Mass Rocks speak of a community determined to keep its Faith. Mass has been celebrated at Crobane every year since 1979.


The gradual relaxation of the Penal Laws at the end of the eighteenth century led to the building of St. Joseph's Chapel, Sheeptown. This church replaced a small Mass-house erected in 1803, midway between Crohill Mass-garden and Sheeptown Church.

Tradition suggests that owing to its sacred association, the people of Sheeptown petitioned the Right Reverend Dr. Derry, Bishop of Dromore, to erect St. Joseph's Church on the site of the Mass-house but that the Most Rev. Dr. Derry prevailed on them to let it be built on the present site which was then on the main road to Rathfriland. Most Reverend Dr. Derry dedicated the Church on October 10th. 1819.

Two weeks later, Dr. Derry died and his remains were interred near the altar in St. Joseph's Church. St. Joseph's was renovated in 1958, and solemnly blessed and re-dedicated by His Lordship, Dr. Eugene O'Doherty, on 25th. January 1959. The sanctuary was renovated in 1973.

In 1995, extensive renovations took place. The sanctuary was remodelled, roof timbers treated and strengthened, new porch and door opened and a Rev. Canon M. O'Hare, P.P. Banbridge representing Most Rev. Dr. F.G. Brooks, performed the rededication ceremony on 21st. January 1996.

St. Joseph's Church replaced an earlier Mass House' in Sheeptown.


This church was erected by Most Rev. Dr. Blake in 1834 and was dedicated by him on 5th. April 1835. The preacher was Rev. Michael Kieran C.C., Drogheda, who subsequently became Archbishop of Armagh. Tickets of admission were one shilling and, as the building was somewhat in debt, there was a collection after the sermon.

In 1865, the gallery was constructed, Reverend Thomas McGrath had the bell erected in 1923 and, in 1929, he had the marble rails and side altars installed. Reverend Michael McClorey had the church redecorated in 1934. The sanctuary was remodelled in preparation for the Ordination of Fr. Jim Poland in 1973. This was the only Ordination to take place in the church.

Canon Pat McAnuff had a new stained glass window installed in 1996, in memory of his brother, Canon John McAnuff, P.P. who died in 1995.

In 2000, Fr. Boyle had the roof restored, the gallery strengthened and re-seated. The Baptismal Font was relocated to the front of the church, the church bell was electrified and a new door and porch added. The Ceremony of Rededication took place on Sunday 28th. January 2001 and was performed by Most Rev. Dr. John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore.


The foundation-stone for the Parochial house was laid by Most Rev. Dr. Mulhern on 14th. November 1920. The house was built by parishioners under the direction of Fr. Thomas McGrath. P.P.


The Carmelite Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Therese, Glenvale, was formerly the property of the Glenny family. The Glenny family was one of the families brought into Saval in 1750 by Robert Needham. The Nuns from Delgany, Wicklow, purchased the 60-70 acres including the house on 28th. March 1929. On the 1st. July 1929, Mother M. Francis Xavier Gavin, first Superior of the monastery, and her community entered their new house which had meanwhile undergone numerous repairs. On 2nd. July, Reverend Thomas Pettit, B.D., St. Colman's College, Newry, celebrated the first Mass in the monastery in the temporary oratory. The Ceremony of Enclosure in the monastery took place on Tuesday 17th. December 1929.

On 21st. November 1955, Dr. Eugene O'Doherty solemnly blessed the chapel in the new monastery. On Wednesday 8th. September 1965, Most Rev. Dr. O'Doherty solemnly blessed the monastery and enclosure. The sermon was preached by Right Rev Bernard J. Mooney P.P. Derrymacash. The new building has 21 cells.

Glenvale Convent has enjoyed two notable events in recent years. In September 1990, a `Festival of Flowers' to mark the centenary of the religious profession of St. Th�r�se of Lisieux attracted thousands of devotees of St. Th�r�se. On 23rd.-24th. May 2001, Glenvale welcomed the relics of St. Th�r�se when tens of thousands joined with the Glenvale community in celebrating this momentous occasion.

This chronological and statistical data cannot however adequately express the way the Carmelite Nuns have woven themselves into the fabric of Saval Parish.



The graveyard is to the east and south of the church. The oldest date of death recorded is 1837 and all pre-1900 memorials have been recorded.

At the north edge of the graveyard there is a very rough old granite cross inscribed as follows:-

This stone was erected by Owen Quinn in memory
of his beloved father John Quinn
late of Castle Enigan who departed this life
7th. December 1837 aged 67 years.
My children dear my life is past I loved you all
while it did last
Let love and peace with you remain
Until that we do meet again


The graveyard lies to east-west and south of the church. The church was built in 1803 but the oldest gravestone dates from 1824 and reads:-

This stone was erected to the memory of
John Cunningham of Crowban who departed this
life the 13th. day of July 1824 aged 64 years.


Templegowran is an isolated and deserted graveyard overlooking Derryleckagh Lake. This graveyard was the property of Celtic monks, followed by the Cistercians. There are only two visible stones in the graveyard, the older dating from 1837. Local tradition states that the graveyard was once much larger but that the outer part was ploughed up.


In the townland of Ouley there is a well and an old graveyard, which is a rath, surrounded by a bank and ditch and named locally Toberdoney. This is most likely a Patrician site as there was always a desire to be buried in 'Holy Ground.' The graveyard is situated within the rath and, as well as the unmarked graves, there are three headstones of relatively recent origin, the oldest dating from 1809.

Sheeptown Chapel experienced a major renovation in 1995. The Sanctuary was re-dedicated in January 1996.


In the townland of Lisserboy there is another graveyard known locally as Traymount. There are only three stones marked, although there are a great number of mounds and unmarked stones. The Harshaw Diaries record that victims of the Famine were buried here.


1920-1930 Very Reverend Thomas McGrath,(later P.P. Clonduff).
1930-1938 Very Reverend Michael McClorey.
1938-1955 Very Reverend James Dargan.
1955-1956 Very Reverend Daniel Fegan.
1956-1960 Very Reverend Bernard Mooney, (later Dean).
1960-1970 Very Reverend James Canon Murtagh.
1970-1995 Very Reverend John Canon McAnuff.
1995- Very Reverend Francis Boyle.


1929-1933 Reverend Alexander McMullan, (later Canon, in 1963).

Reverend Edward McRory.


Reverend Hugh Ester, (later Archdeacon, Adm. in Clonallon).

Carmelite Sisters have lived their rule at Glenvale since 1929. Their new monastery was completed in 1965.

1937-1941 Reverend Aloysius Sweeney.
1941-1949 James McCorry (later Canon in 1957).
1949-1952 Reverend Joseph Pettit, (later Canon, P.P Seagoe).
1952-1955 Reverend Edward Moore.
1955-1956 Reverend Thomas McConville, (later P.P. St. Patrick's Clonallon, now retired).
1956-1959 Reverend Matthew O'Hare, (later P.P. Seapatrick, now retired).
1959-1965 Reverend Cathal Jordan, (now P.P. Derrymacash).
1976-1983 Reverend John Kearney, (now Canon, P.P. St. Peter's Clonallon).
1984 - Reverend Michael Maginn, (now P.P. Magheralin).
Reverend Sean McCaughley.
Reverend Feidhlimidh Magennis. (lecturer in St. Mary's University College, Belfast).
Reverend Charles Byrne (now P.P. St. Mary's, Clonallon).
Reverend Martin McAlinden, (now P.P. Moyraverty).


Michael John McCartan - P.P. Dromara 1829-36.

Hugh P. Sands - Maynooth Mission to China. Born June 1Oth. 1896. Eldest son of Patrick Sands, Ryan. Educated Violet Hill College, Dalgan Park and Galway. Ordained in Galway 18th. December 1927. Left Ireland for China, October 12th. 1928. Taken prisoner by Chinese bandits and held captive for several months till May 11th. 1932. Was ordered rest-cure by the Holy Father himself. Visited Rome on way home and had private audience with Pope. At his own request, Fr. Sands returned to Hanyang towards the end of 1933. After further successful missionary labours in the Far East returned home to rest 1946-7. He returned to China on November 8th. 1947, but was expelled by the Red Government six years later.

Michael McConville - Born 1905, in Loughorne. Educated Violet Hill College and Salamanca, Spain. Served in Ballynahinch, Derrymacash, Aghaderg and Clonduff Parishes. Died 30th. December, 1987.

Francis Benedict Sands - Born 1st. July 1916, in Ryan. Youngest son of Patrick and Mary A. Sands and brother of Fr. Hugh. Educated Violet Hill 1931-6. Entered the S.M.A. Probationary House, Kilcolgan, Co. Galway, September 1936. Entered Theological College, Dromantine, September, 1939. Ordained by Dr. Mulhern, Newry Cathedral, December 1941. Departed for Nigeria, March 11th. 1943; returned to Ireland July, 1947 and returned to Africa, July 1948. Died of malaria at the Mission station of Kwa, Prefecture of Jos. October 19th. 1949 and interred there.

Seamus Brennan - Born in Ryan, son of John Brennan. Educated Violet Hill College and St. John's College, Waterford. Ordained by Dr. Cohalan, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, in Waterford Cathedral, June 12th. 1952. Died 6th. November 2002 and is interred in Sheeptown.

James Poland - Born Savalbeg, son of Patrick and Kathleen Poland. Educated St. Joseph's High School, Newry, 1959-64, Mount Mellary, Waterford and St. Peter's Wexford. Ordained in St. Colman's Church, Shinn, on Sunday, 3rd. June 1973. Now P.P. Drumgath.


Hedge schools flourished in the Saval area. Hugh Grant who taught in Croreagh left a manuscript 4 detailing the advanced mathematics that he taught there. Land Surveying and Navigation were also on the curriculum. Records show that there were also stf schools in Ardarragh, Crowreagh, Loughorne, Ryan, ap Shinn, Crobane, Sheeptown, Gransha, Carnacally and Crohill.

Loughorne Primary School

Loughorne Primary School, which was opened in 1905, replaced a schoolhouse situated at the roadside about 100 yards east of the present school building. Established in 1824, the original school, which measured fifty-one feet long, sixteen feet wide and eleven feet high, contained the teacher's residence. It was the desire of the founder of the school, John Martin, father of `Honest John Martin,' that the school should be maintained for the instruction of children of all religious denominations. Local patriot, John Martin (Junior), also took a keen interest in the educational welfare of the local children and applied to the educational authorities in 1840 for grant aid towards the payment of the teacher's salary and the supply of books to Loughorne School. After the old schoolhouse fell into disrepair, a new parochial school was opened in 1905.

Crohill School

In 1841, a parish school was erected at Crohill. According to Department of Education records, this was a granite building 35 foot long, 12 foot wide and 8 foot high with 10 desks, each 9 foot long. The oldest register available for the school indicates that Rose Anne Gallagher, aged 5, of Benagh, was the first person registered, and she started school on the 22nd. July 1872, and Rose Haughey of Crobane, aged 5, was the second person registered.

A new school was built in Crohill in 1934, and opened on 2nd. January 1935, at a cost of � 13,000. A dining hall, kitchen and an extra classroom were added in 1969. Later, it was decided to amalgamate the Loughorne and Sheeptown schools on the Sheeptown site. Building began and the Minister for Education, Martin Magennis, officially opened the impressive new St. Colman's Primary School, Saval, in September 2001. Most Reverend Dr. John McAreavey, Most Reverend Dr. F.G. Brooks, members of the S.E.L.B. and members of the C.C.M.S. were in attendance.

The new school, which cost �1.5 million, contains five classrooms and employs five full-time and one part-time teacher as well as several ancillary staff. There are 120 pupils on the roll. Educational facilities for the children of Saval have certainly progressed since the days of the Hedge Schools.

Saval Sports & Leisure Complex

The Saval GAA club was founded in 1950 under the stewardship of Rev. Fr. Joseph Pettit who had been appointed curate of Saval in July 1949. Fr. Pettit's idea was for a united parish team organised by the people of Saval.

Whilst success on the pitch has been limited, Saval GAA Club has united the people from the different townlands into a cohesive unit and this has been its real achievement. This unity is best symbolised in the new Sports and Leisure complex which was built by the entire community giving voluntarily of their time and efforts.

On 10th. June 1994, the complex was officially opened by An tUachtaran Cumann Lutchchleas Gael, Mr. Jack Boothman.

Further development work has seen the opening of two new handball courts, dressing rooms and a full sized stage in the main hall.

The �400,000 `State of the Art' Saval Sports and Leisure Complex was unveiled at a Gala Opening on Saturday 28th. August, 1999.


Sacred Heart Sodality

The Sodality was introduced by Fr. McGrath when he became first parish priest of Saval in 1920. On the First Friday of the month there was Rosary and Benediction. This was followed on the First Sunday by Mass with the seats in the church sectioned off by staves topped with small metal banners. `Apostleship of Prayer' leaflets were handed out and red ribbons with medals attached were worn. Parishioners travelled distances to attend once a month.

Legion of Mary

Fr. Fitzpatrick formed the Legion of Mary in 1965 with a Senior Ladies Praesidium in Shinn and a Junior Girls' Praesidium in Sheeptown. The members visited the old in their homes and the sick in hospital, cleaned the churches and dressed the altars, distributed Catholic literature and organised social events in the parish. The Legion ceased to function in 1972 when other youth organisations took over.

Lourdes Committee

Fr. Fitzpatrick started the first Lourdes Committee in March 1972. It grew and flourished under Fr. Kearney's direction and continues to do so in 2004 as part of the Dromore Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes.

St. Joseph's Young Priests Society

The St. Joseph's Young Priests Society held its first meeting in September 1985. It was presided over by Mrs. Josephine O'Hare and there were 16 members present. The Society, now comprising 6-8 members, meets for Mass, Rosary and Prayer for Vocations' on the first Tuesday of each month. They continue to send an average of �800 - �1,000 annually to Dublin for the education of young priests.


The Pioneer Association has been in existence since the foundation of the parish under Fr. McGrath. The grouping remains active in the parish and has, at present, 80/90 members.


Today, the parish contains two extensively renovated churches and a newly refurbished parochial house. The building works began in 1995 and, culminating in the re-opening of St. Colman's Shinn in 2001, generated considerable debt. The total expenditure for the work came to �644,275.

Shinn Church merited a grant of �100,000 from the Heritage Fund. An increase in the Offertory Promise collection and a generous weekly grant from the local GAA Club have reduced the substantial debt to manageable proportions.

At present, the number of Catholic homes is 450 - an increase of 85 since 1990, making the Catholic population 1,200, approximately.

In common with other rural parishes bordering large towns - in our case, Newry City - the once largely agricultural character of the area has changed with a large number of the population being either business or professional people, commuting daily. These changes have broadened and enhanced parish life, bringing fresh ideas to bear on how the parish is run. We welcome the new families who have elected to build new homes and rear their children in Saval. Many of these new units are extended members of old established families. The future vibrancy of our parish is assured and we look forward to a bright and productive future.

St. Colman's, Shinn was extensively renovated in the Jubilee Year 2000.

The new parish primary school, dedicated to St. Colman, was officially opened by the Minister of Education in September 2001.