PARISH OF ST. MARY'S, CLONALLON
by Michael Keenan
ST. MARY'S, BURREN
Burren Church was originally opened in
1833. It preceded the present churches in Mayobridge and
Warrenpoint and was, for several years, the Parish Church of
The present church in Burren was erected by Rev.
Peter Murphy, Administrator of the Parish of Clonallon, during the years
I829 to 1833. The dedication ceremony was performed by Bishop Michael
Blake. A notable feature of this project was the grant by the Hall
Family (who were not Catholic) of an acre of ground to accommodate the
church and burial ground. A donation of �50 towards expenses was also
made. It was on this occasion that the Administrator wrote to the
Newry Examiner, on I7th. November I830, publicly acknowledging the
gift and thanking the Hall Family. In this same letter it was revealed
that Mass was already being said at Burren in the open air. Various
alterations and decorations were made to the church from time to time,
the most extensive taking place in 1939-40, while Rev. Daniel McAlister
was Administrator of Clonallon.
The 13th. November 1983 was a very special day for
Burren as the people of the district gathered to celebrate the 150th.
Anniversary of the dedication of St. Mary's Church. However, the smell
of incense had barely left St. Mary's before many of this same
congregation returned some nine weeks later for an even bigger and more
significant celebration - certainly one with exciting long-term
A NEW PARISH
Yes, the 25th. January 1984 saw a new beginning as
St. Mary's Parish, Clonallon came into being.
The Diocesan records state: "The new parish erected
in the district of Burren is to be known as St. Mary's Clonallon,
consisting of the townland of Aghavilla, Aughnamoira, Ballydesland,
Ballyrussel, Burren, Carrickmacstay, Clontifleece, Corrags, Donaghaguy,
Lurgancanty, Milltown and the part of Tamnaharry which lies south of a
line joining the point where the townlands of Tamnaharry, Aughnagon and
Milltown meet to the point known as Carnane on Slieve Carnane on the
border of Tamnaharry and Clontifleece townlands."
Simultaneously, the parish of St. Patrick's
Clonallon, in the district of Mayobridge, was also erected. However,
this tripartite division of the former parish of Clonallon was not as
yet complete. The status quo with regard to financial arrangements was
to be maintained to allow for a `settling-down' period of five years.
During this period, projects were to be nominated, agreed and financed
from what was known as `the common fund.'
FR. JAMES WOODS - FIRST PARISH
With these logistical arrangements in place, Fr.
James Woods, who had been curate in Burren since 18th. November, 1977,
was inducted as St. Mary's first parish priest on the 26th. January,
I984. Under his leadership, the final project agreed under `the common
fund' was the construction of a much-needed parochial house. It would
replace the original two-storey building, erected in 1926 under the
direction of Rev. Daniel McAlister, Adm.
As time passed, the fledgling parish grew numerically
and it matched that with a growing confidence. The infrastructure of the
parish was critically examined and a badly-needed car park (on the site
of the original Parochial House and orchard) was provided. The graveyard
was, in due course, almost doubled in size, a new church organ was
installed, the church lighting and sound systems were refurbished and
the church bell was electrified.
Shortly before his retirement, Fr. Woods took the
bold step of setting up a pastoral committee as part of a parish
council. The Pastoral Committee assumed responsibility for innovative
liturgies, while the Finance Committee had a watching brief on
structural, fabric and fiscal matters.
The 20th. June 1988 and I998 were very special days for Very Rev. Fr.
Woods as he joined with family, friends and parishioners to celebrate
the Ruby and Golden Jubilees of his priestly ordination.
However, three years after celebrating his Golden Jubilee, Fr. Woods
tendered his resignation as parish priest to Bishop McAreavey and thus
his pastorate of over 23 years in Burren came to a close. At a function
to mark his retirement, his tangible achievements were recounted. More
importantly, however, the occasion provided an opportunity for his
grateful parishioners to express their gratitude for the many unheralded
moments when he had offered solace and comfort in the midst of family
illness, trauma and tragedy.
Father Woods passed away on May 7th. 2003 in Drumboniff, Cabra. The
parishioners of Burren demonstrated the high esteem in which they held
their former parish priest, by their attendance at the removal of his
remains, the Funeral Mass in St. Mary's Church, Burren, and the
interment afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.
FR. CHARLES BYRNE P.P.
Despite Fr. Woods' achievements, his successor, Fr. Charles Byrne,
found pressing problems on his arrival in September 2001 and got to work
without delay. At his first meeting with the Finance Committee the
condition of the church was discussed. Within a month, a firm of
architects had been appointed and plans for a major refurbishment were
discussed and eventually approved by the Parish Council. Remarkably
then, only two years after Fr. Byrne's arrival, with the loan negotiated
and a contract for over �700,000 signed, St. Mary's closed its doors to
its parishioners on September 1st. 2003 to await a total renovation. In
the interim, Carrick Primary School became the venue for weekend Masses,
while weekday Mass was celebrated in the Parochial House. Despite
certain reservations beforehand, it could be observed in retrospect that
deprivation and inconvenience can sometimes have a fortifying influence
on the faithful.
A major renovation project
culminated in the rededication of St. Mary's Church,
by Bishop McAreavey, in May 2004. The refurbished
sanctuary is shown here.
Be that true or not, exhilaration and a sense of parish pride were
very much in evidence on Sunday May 9th. 2004 when His Lordship Dr. John
McAreavey, blessed and rededicated the beautifully restored St. Mary's.
And so, twenty years after the formation of the parish, Burren has
cleverly retained, restored and, at the same time, tastefully modernised
a house of God appropriate for the third millennium.
In the last twenty years the parish population has almost trebled,
now comprising approximately six-hundred families. This places Burren as
the fastest growing parish in the Dromore Diocese and this demographic
trend seems set to continue. Consequently, the pastoral challenge to Fr.
Byrne and his parish is to ensure that these new families are welcomed
and absorbed into the Christian family that is Burren Parish.
Clontifleece Primary School
When the parish of St. Mary's was erected, Clontifleece Primary
School was in its one hundred and forty-fifth year, having been
established by Narcissus Batt Esq. in I839 as Clontifleece National
School. In 1984, the school was in sound health, numerically, with 84
pupils enrolled. However, due to several factors, ten years later the
enrolled numbers had plummeted below the Department of Education's
viability threshold. A notice of intention to close was, consequently,
issued to the Board of Governors in November 1994.
The Board of Governors discussed the notice and decided to disclose
its contents to the parents. An open meeting of parents was urgently
convened and Mr. Eddie McGrady M.P. was subsequently consulted. On his
advice, a parents committee was formed and representatives of this
committee accompanied Mr. McGrady to a meeting with Mr. Michael Ancram,
the then Minister of Education.
As a result, the decision to close was rescinded in June 1995 and a
new era dawned for Clontifleece School. Happily, today, Clontifleece's
viability is secure with 64 pupils currently enrolled and there has been
more good news for the school recently. In April 2003 the Department of
Education approved a two-classroom extension, to replace two existing
mobiles, and some other minor improvements to the school. This work is
currently in progress.
Clontifleece School began in 1839.
It continues to serve its rural hinterland and is
currently undergoing a significant extension.
Carrick Primary School
If Clontifleece Primary School experienced difficulties (albeit
temporary) in enrolment, the same could certainly not be said of Carrick
School. When Burren became a parish, there were approximately 175 pupils
and six teachers in Carrick. Today, reflecting the phenomenal growth in
the population of its catchment area, there are 330 pupils and fourteen
teachers. However, half the school population are housed in mobile
classrooms. Due to accommodation pressures, the library, over the past
few years, had taken on many roles. Happily, it is now restored to its
true function and was dedicated, on the 16th. April 2003, to the memory
of former principal Mr. Patsy McArdle.
Ironically, just as the renovation of the
chapel was being completed and feverish preparations were being made for
the reopening, good news arrived from the Department of Education. On
Tuesday 27th. April 2004, Barry Gardiner, Minister for Education,
announced the capital building programme of �222 million for schools in
Northern Ireland. Carrick Primary School, Burren, will receive �3.4
million for a new school on an adjacent site. The good news is a result
of the Board of Governors' application to DENI a number of years ago.
Due to the growing enrolment in the school, DENI acknowledged the
request by carrying out a feasibility study. The study endorsed the need
for a new school and a project manager was appointed to assist the
governors in selecting a design team. `Isherwood and Ellis' were
selected and they drew up a number of options for DENI to consider. A
new school, on an adjacent site, was the preferred option and this was
approved by DENI. The governors, staff and pupils of Carrick Primary
School look forward to opening the doors to their new school in the
At the centre of Burren is Carrick
Primary School. The school, which opened in 1939, is
looking forward to a complete new building.
REMEMBERING THE PAST - A PLACE OF
This brief history of the Burren Parish began with
the Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the 150th anniversary of the dedication
of St. Mary's Church. It is appropriate then to conclude with a
reference to a darker chapter in the faith formation of the area now
known as Burren Parish.
It was a chapter that entailed poverty, privation and
persecution. Yet it was one that evoked resistance, resolution and
resilience among a threatened people -a people to whom the church of
today owes an inestimable debt. Relics of that historic epoch provide us
with, not only a place of pilgrimage in Burren, but also a treasured
artefact used during the Mass of Celebration to mark the 150th.
Anniversary, in November 1983.
In 1641 the church at Clonallon was destroyed. The
view subsequently, from Irwin's Ring (Plantation Hill) was a horrific
vista of destruction, as the surrounding lands were "put to the torch."
The physical pressure on the local inhabitants inevitably took its toll
- but there was insidious pressure too!
With Clonallon Church rebuilt in the early 1700s,
those who accepted the Reformation doctrines worshipped under its roof.
Those who resolutely refused had to withstand the snow, hail, wind and
rain to attend Mass at the local Mass Stations at Bullock Hill and
The Mass Station at Lisnahoney still survives and
pilgrimages to Mass there have been organised, in recent years, to mark
special occasions. It is situated on Thomas Treanor's land, close to the
entrance to Tamnaharry House. Not only does the station survive but so,
too, does a chalice used in those Masses of almost 300 years ago. This
seventeenth century pewter chalice known as `The Lisnahoney Chalice', is
an historic relic and is preserved in the Bishop's House, Newry. It was
brought to Burren for the Mass to mark the 150th Anniversary of the
dedication of St. Mary's Church.
The people of Burren gathered in large
numbers for this Mass at Lisnahoney on 5th. October
1980. The celebration was led by (L. to R.), Archdeacon
Hugh Esler, Fr. Frank Treanor and Fr. Bernard Treanor.
In the year 1927, Tamnaharry Park became a convent
when the (Irish) Dominican Sisters of South Africa purchased the
property from a Mrs. Bradley. The new Convent Chapel of Our Lady of the
Assumption was dedicated, and its High Altar consecrated, by Bishop
Mulhern on 24th. May, 1939. Very Rev. Dr. P. Clery O.P., Dublin,
preached the dedication sermon. By 1945, the Sisters had acquired a new
novitiate in Co. Kildare and, in that year, they were succeeded in
Tamnaharry by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. This
congregation of nuns was founded in
France, by Saint Emilie de Vislar, about the middle
of the 19th. Century. The Sisters had several houses in England, where
they specialized in nursing and in the care of the aged. They were also
to be found at their work of nursing and teaching on all five continents
- in Australia, America, Asia (in Burma, Syria and Palestine), Africa,
and in France (where their Motherhouse was situated in Marseilles). At
Tamnaharry, postulants were received and spent some time before going to
the Novitiate in Liverpool. The aged were also a special care of the
Sisters, and many an elderly lady found a real "home from home" at
Tamnaharry. The house remained in religious hands until 1969, when the
Morton Family of Banbridge bought it. In October, 1980, Tamnaharry was
sold on to Mr. J. O'Neill, a haulage contractor. To-day, the magnificent
old house and grounds belong to the Downey Family, owners of several
restaurants and club businesses in Newry.
These children had gathered for the May Procession at
Tamnaharry Convent in 1954. Present, that day, were these
Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. Members of their
Order resided at Tamnaharry from 1945 until 1969.
CURATES RESIDENT IN BURREN
Fr. John Carr resided at Tamnaharry Park during the
years 1925-27. He ministered in the Burren area. The need for a
presbytery for Burren was being pursued by Clonallon Parish at this
The foundation stone of the old presbytery at Burren was
laid by Dr. Mulhern on February 23rd., 1926.
The Rev. Henry Doran was the first curate resident in
this presbytery, from 1927 until 1932. He was succeeded by:
||1932 - 1941
Patrick Francis Boyd
||1941 - 1951
Daniel Joseph Fegan
||1951 - 1955
||1955 - 1959
||1959 - 1963
||1964 - 1968
||1968 - 1975
||1977 - 1984
The old presbytery was replaced, during the pastorate of Fr. Woods,