THE REV. JAMES RENTOUL -- AN ECCENTRIC
by HUGH R. MOORE
An eccentric is defined as one departing from the
conventional in an odd or amusing way. While the word is not
of the Rev. James Rentoul, minister of Banbridge Road
Presbyterian Church from 1898 to January 1917, it does
describe some aspects of the life of this very unusual,
interesting, strong-minded, highly respected man - for he
was unconventional and he was amusing and often unusual in
the way he related to life and other people. Perhaps he
deserves the word unique".
Very few remember him, but from the stories that have
been handed down one gets a picture of him as an eccentric
held in high esteem by the whole community.
His forebears fled from France at the time of persecution
of the Huguenots. They were Calvinists. His grandfather, who
bore the same name, was the Rev. James Rentoul, Minister of
Ray Congregation, County Donegal.
The grandson, who is our particular interest, came to
Dromore from the congregation of Clough, County Antrim,
where he had ministered for thirteen years. There he married
and his two sons were born. Sadly, his wife died there too.
He came to Dromore with his two sons, who were his pride and
joy. He married again. His wife survived him, and in
September 1921 she unveiled the marble plaque which the
congregation had erected in memory of their beloved
Those who want a much fuller account of his life,
ministry and background, will find three chapters devoted to
him in the book 'A Place of Worship' (pages 14-23 and page
But now to relate some of the things that justify his
uniqueness. He was, it can be claimed, an enthusiastic
gardener, who produced all his own vegetables, as well as
being a lover of flowers, which h grew in abundance. The
manse field, now the site of the new manse, was pathed, with
fruit trees and many varieties of soft fruit bushes in
abundance. He was generous to all who called at the manse.
The Bible Class members were invited up and other groups
from time to time and `let loose' with the admonition `Eat
as much as you like but you must not pocket any.'
The members of the Church Choir were given special
recognition - if they were involved in an extra afternoon
service, the members were given posies of flowers. These
were carefully picked and arranged in a basket at the manse,
and the basket hung on a walking stick which Mr. Rentoul
carried on his shoulder.
You can picture him striding down the road with his
flowers of appreciation.
He was a stickler for punctuality and was known to start
a service over again -'prayer and psalm'- because a few
members were late. On one occasion at a wedding service,
when many of the girls from the local factories had crowded
into the church to see one of their friends being married,
he ordered the doors to be shut and he took the opportunity
to address his captive congregation on the importance of
having suitable head covering when coming to church and on
other matters. The sermon was long and the minister's action
talked about for many a day.
He employed tramps to help him with his gardening. Many
travelled the Belfast/Dublin Road at that time. He was good
to them, but they had to toe his line. Some got the better
of him, but mostly in the skirmishes he was the victor. For
instance, on one occasion a tramp changed into his
Reverence's boots and left his own before going on his way.
Another time he gave a begging tramp a coin and then
followed him down to the town Square, and when the tramp
went into a public house and put the coin on to the counter
Mr. Rentoul lifted it saying: "That is not the purpose I
gave you that for." - The tramp challenged him saying: "If
it were not for that clerical bow you are wearing I would
use these" holding up his clenched fists. Mr. Rentoul is
reputed to have pulled off the bow in a counter challenge,
whereupon the tramp quickly left. It wasn't the first time
he had offered to defend his principles.
As a boy in Ballymoney he was walking with his father one
day when they came across a man abusing his wife and
challenging any passer-by to a fight.
Young James, who was well built, said to his father that
he would like to take up the challenge. His father pointed
out that he was wearing his good suit. James immediately
took off his coat, left it in a shop and in a very short
time the troublesome fellow had had enough and took to his
He was a staunch opponent of the Drink Trade, yet, if he
thought an old person would be helped by a spoonful of
whisky, he would buy a bottle and carry it unwrapped to its
James Rentoul was a man with a big heart and very kind.
On one occasion he took the clothes from his own bed and
gave them to a member in dire need. On another occasion when
a small farmer lost one of his cows - in those days the
death of one animal was a considerable loss - James Rentoul
visited him and before leaving pressed some notes into his
hand; that was practical sympathy.
In the early years of the century it was becoming common
for homes to have an inside toilet. As the outside toilet at
the manse was in poor condition the Church Committee decided
to have one installed in their manse. However the Rev.
Rentoul opposed this saying 'it was not hygienic' and so a
new out door 'two seater' was erected, Bangor Blue slates
and all and was in excellent order up to the mid forties. A
room in the manse had been converted into a bathroom in the
early twenties. Those who are surprised at it being a 'two seater' should know that many a three and even four seater -
was erected to indicate a measure of wealth, it was thought.
I suppose that the most interesting of all the stories
about this unusual man is the one which concerns the manse.
It was a damp house and it needed whitewashing. He asked the
committee to deal with these two matters. After some months
had passed and nothing had been attempted, he bought a
barrel of tar and with the help of a tramp tarred the
outside of the building. The damp was not cured, but the
colour of the manse was not `whitewashed' but `blackwashed'.
The manse became famous overnight. It was known as the'Black
Manse' and it was said to be the 'talk of Ireland', with
people actually coming some distance to see it. The tarring
of the manse proved a very expensive business for the Church
Committee. For over fifty years successive committies spent
a small fortune trying to get rid of the tar. Every time it
was distempered or painted the tar came through, giving it a
pie-bald effect. That story in itself, no doubt, will live
on as long as Banbridge Road Church.
The Rev. Albert Bickerstaff, who was born in the year
1900 and is still living at the time of writing, as a boy of
15 remembers the Rev. Rentoul and very clearly describes him
as a man of fine physique, about 5' 9" tall with grey
whiskers and a clean-shaven upper lip and chin. It was, he
says, the face off a man who had strength of character.
Mrs. Ellen Cairns who is 88 remembers clearly the Rev.
Rentoul as a very kindly man. She and her school friend Lena
Kerr called at the manse every morning on their way to
school to see if their was anything needed from the town or
letters for posting. They brought back any order or post for
the manse when they were coming home. Lena's eldest sister
worked at the manse and as soon as the girls arrived she was
ordered to provide them with a meal. The Rev. Rentoul saying
'we must see what is in the oven today.' She remembers him
claiming that he was an expert jam maker and did indeed make
all the jam (if those who visited the manse had left any
She also remembers the swing and the Rev. Rentoul
shouting loudly in warning when they went too high. He did
not like swinging on Saturday as he said it disturbed him
preparing for Sunday. Mrs. D. Dickson (Miss Crookshanks of
the Hollow) who now resides in Rostrevor recalls how when
she was a small girl the Rev. Rentoul often left in the pew
little made up packets of Dolly Mixtures for children who
had been bereaved or were back at church after an illness.
Mr. T. Kerr, who is also 88, as a small boy remembers the
Rev. Rentoul clearly. The congregation was proud of him and
rather liked his unusual ways of doing things. He recalls
the Presentation that was made on his Jubilee. As well as a
gift of notes he received a very beautiful illuminated
address in book form. It was a great compliment to the
minister. The volume has in it some lovely views of Dromore
painted by a well known artist of that time Carey. It was
very beautifully produced. He also remembers him striding
round the roads on foot on his visits to his people.
His life and work were summed up at the time of his death
in the following words:
He lived for those who
And for those who knew him
For the future in the
And the good that he could
Address to Rev James Rentoul
In an idyllic
setting by the lagan :
cottages at mill green, lurganbane
COCK CROW KNOWS
by ROY GAMBLE
or six years ago a row of houses at the Cock Crow Knowe in
the townland of Drumbroneth, was demolished. Although over
the years the houses had provided homes for many families,
they had now out-lived their usefulness. Not being content
that their final passing should go un-remarked, Roy Gamble,
who had been born and reared in the area, penned the
FAREWELL TO THE
there was life here,
Ten houses filled with warmth and light
And the piping treble of children's voices.
Now the whole row is down;
The wrecking crews have tumbled all the walls,
And broken slates are scattered
On the front-street cobble stones.
Shabby back-yards lie exposed,
Rusting tin and tattered felt
Flap from the roofs of ruined sheds,
And narrow gardens are overgrown
And clear Spring nights no longer ring
To the chime of graipes against the stones
In lean potato drills.
children ran across these planks
That span the ditches at the bottom of each
Here, in the Summer grass --
Where the slender stream divides the rushy
They acted out their plays of make-believe,
Or in the evening - when brothers returned
From shop and mill - took part
In lengthy football games,
Or make-shift parodies of cricket,
Or lay murmuring, in the scented grass,
Watching the twilight steal across the meadows
And settle on the houses darkening row
And then from each window the sudden glimmer of
FLAX PRODUCTION IN DROMORE
by TREVOR MARTIN
Visitors to the town of Dromore cannot help but notice the
Dromore Mound, an Anglo Norman Motte and Baily constructed
in the 13th Century. For those who choose to climb this
ancient fortification the reward is a splendid view of the
If you look in
the opposite direction, up the Valley and along the river
Lagan you will notice a small collection of red roofed
buildings. These contain another piece of the town's history
for it is here that we find McConville's scutch mill.
Felix McConville, the grandfather of the
present owners, came to Dromore in 1870 from his birthplace
in the townland between Annaclone and Rathfriland. He
married a lady called Mussen, whose family had been involved
in growing flax in the Dromore area for many years, and it
was here that the McConville connection began.
The present mill was constructed around the
turn of the century with the large mill wheel used to drive
the machinery coming from nearby. The wheel, cast in
Geoghegan's foundry in Lenaderg, had previously been used to
drive a beetling mill on the River Bann. Beetling, the final
process in the production of linen, is the smoothing of the
cloth by the action of hammers, made of ash planks, falling
on the cloth at regular intervals.
process to produce linen begins many months before however,
and in its day was a labour intensive industry providing
employment to many people in rural Ulster.
The flax, once harvested, is stored for
around fourteen months. After storage, it is taken out and
'retted' i.e. soaked in large pools for about nine days to
help separate the fibres from the inner core. Once taken out
and dried, it is crimped to make it more pliable, and then
placed in the scutch machine.
On opening the sluice gates the water begins
to flow bringing the large wheel into life.#By a series of
belts and cogs the main spindle, containing sets of spokes,
begins to spin. The still hard flax is inserted by hand into
the spinning spokes and the transformation occurs. The hard
inner core, known as the shives, breaks off leaving the soft
and pliable flax behind. The flax now has the same
consistency as fine silken hair resulting from the scutching
It then began
its journey to market and in the early 1900's there was a
flax market in the town of Dromore but this was thought to
have closed in the 1920's so the flax was taken to Banbridge
and Ballynahinch. The main mode of transport would have been
the horse and cart and in latter years the lorry, but there
was a considerable amount of flax taken to Belfast on the
old Newry to Belfast railway.
Richard McConville, Eugene's son, carried the
business on from his brother and in the industry's heyday,
around 1940, up to 50 people were employed locally. The
present owners still have the accounts books for wages, and
the names of the mill workers read like a directory of the
town. Characters such as Tommy Kernoghan, Fergy McGrath,
Oliver Bickerstaff, James Dewart, Ned Fairley, Len Bostan to
name but a few. Some of the workers, who were mere boys at
the time, still live and work in the town.
The flax industry suffered however in the
late 1950's and 60's with the increase in synthetic fibre
production and the mill all but closed. There has been, in
recent years, a resurgence of linen especially by it's
utilisation in the designs of Paul Costelloe and other Irish
designers. This brought media attention to the small mill
when the BBC programme, the Clothes Show, featured the
present owners explaining the flax growing process.
It is, I think, comforting to know that the clothes we see
on some of the most fashionable and rich women of the world
may have begun life in a small farm in Dromore.
NB. I would like to thank Eugene and Felix
McConville for their help and assistance with this article
and to point out that this is still a working mill. It may
be possible for those interested to see it in action, but it
should be arranged in a group, in advance, to respect their
Some may not know, some may
have forgotten but some will remember the Cinema
in Dromore many years ago.
The Picture House was located
on the top floor of the Town Hall (now occupied
by the Library) and operated by Mr. Robert Dale
who also ran a Chemist shop in the town.
It would appear that even
before Mr. Dale's Cinema there was a picture
show in the Orange Hall every Saturday evening
run by a Mr. Larmour, thought to have been from
the Banbridge area.
Anyone who can remember this
Cinema or has any memories of Mr. Dale's Cinema
is asked to contact the Historical Group
Committee. We hope to publish an article on the
cinema in a future issue of the Journal and your
help would be greatly appreciated.
One evening last Winter the
Historical Group was fortunate to enjoy a very informative
and entertaining talk by Mr. Henry Murray on the Jesuit's
brief sojourn in the town in the late 1800's. As a result he
was requested, and kindly agreed, to write up his notes on
the talk with a view to including it in this journal.
We have the pleasure of not only bringing this particular
aspect of the town's history to the attention of a wider
audience, but of preserving in print the results of Mr.
Murray's extensive research on the subject.
"THE JESUITS IN DROMORE - 1884-1888"
by HENRY MURRAY
honoured at being afforded the privilege to speak to this
Dromore and District Local Historical Group on "The Jesuits
in Dromore" and this for the following reasons:
(1) In the late 1950s and
early 1960s, I was fortunate to have been introduced to, and
to have attended, various periods of "Retreat" conducted by
the members of the Society of Jesus (otherwise known as the
Jesuits) at their Retreat House at Milltown Park, Dublin. A
"Retreat", as you may be aware, is a period, long or short,
spent in silence, prayer and reflection on the moral issues
of life - the conversion from sin, the increase in
spirituality in one's relations with oneself, one's
neighbour, but most especially with God Himself, and the
ultimate salvation of one's soul. The "Retreats" which I
attended were geared mainly for professional and business
men (the Jesuits probably thought that they were the people
who needed salvation most) and were therefore an important
beacon to me in my business relationships with my clients,
etc. as reflected by the teaching of the gospel and as
applied by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the
Founder of the Jesuits; So, this lecture is in a way an
expression of gratitude by me to the Jesuits for the
spiritual benefits obtained through those Retreats.
(2) In the year just ended, 1990, the Jesuits
celebrated the 450th Anniversary of the Foundation of their
Society. On a local level, the Anniversary was celebrated
here in the North of Ireland by a series of seven Lectures
entitled "Jesuits - Yesterday and To-Day" under the auspices
of the Institute of Continuing Education at Queens
University, Belfast, from 25th October, 1990, to 6th
December, 1990. (Appendix I which is a copy of the Lecture
Programme illustrates how ecumenical the series was).
Regrettably, I was only able to be present at four of these
lectures, but even from these, I acquired a fund of
knowledge about the Society which I might not otherwise have
obtained. I am happy to say that these lecture occasions
were truly ecumenical and were a salutary example of what
can be done on an ecumenical level in spite of the violence
and hatred which surrounds us at the present time and which
is a threat to all God-fearing people, irrespective of their
(3) In this present year, 1991, the Jesuits celebrate the
500th Anniversary of the birth of St. Ignatius Loyola, the
Founder of the Jesuits.
For much of the content of this Lecture, I am
indebted to Father Senan Timoney, a member of the Jesuit
Community in Portadown. He has done some considerable
research on this subject and he has been most generous in
affording me all the data which he has accumulated.
I am grateful to Mr. William Patterson, Church Street,
Dromore, for sight of the Lease of the property on which his
dwelling-house is situated, and to Mr. Robert Topping,
Ballynaris Lane, Dromore, for the loan of the horse-brass, a
copy of which is in Appendix III.
Who are the Jesuits?
Ignatius of Loyola was born in Loyola, N.W.
Spain, in 1491. Fighting as a soldier against the French at
the Battle of Pamplona, his leg was shattered by a canon
ball and he had to endure a long convalescence. He was much
given to worldly books of fiction, but in the house where he
was recovering, there were no such books available and he
was given instead a Life of Christ and The Lives of the
Saints, as a result of which he had a complete conversion of
heart and his only desire thereafter was to follow Christ as
the Saints had done. As soon as he could walk again, he set
out as a pilgrim and chose a small cave in Manresa, near the
river Cardonner. Through long hours of prayer, he became
fascinated by the person of Jesus and offered his life to
Christ absolutely. Later he wrote the Spiritual Exercises
which have been a great source of Spiritual enhancement to
thousands of souls throughout the world. Ignatius gathered
around him young men of like vision and they formed
themselves into a Society, the Society of Jesus, which was
officially approved by Pope Paul III on 27th September,
The first Jesuits
came to Ireland from Scotland in 1542 despite the warning of
the Cardinal Archbishop of Scotland that "the Irish are a
wild and undisciplined lot". They only stayed a few weeks
and returned to Rome to report their findings to the Pope.
The second mission to Ireland was from 1561 to 1586 during
which time Edmund Daniel, S. J., in 1572, was arrested,
hanged, drawn and quartered and was the first Jesuit Martyr
in Europe. The third Jesuit mission to Ireland was in 1596
during which time, in 1602, Brother Dominic Collins, S. J.,
was martyred at Youghal.
This mission continued up to 1773 when the
entire Society of Jesus was suppressed. From 1774 to 1814,
Jesuit priests continued to work in Ireland as secular
priests. When the Society was re-established in 1814, the
Irish mission was formally re-founded. In the same year
Clongowes Wood College, near Naas, in Co. Kildare was
established by Fr. Peter Kenny.
Among the many changes which were entrusted
to the Jesuits was the University College Dublin which was
established in 1883 and which became part of the National
University of Ireland in 1908. And it was to this University
that Fr. Gerard Manley
Hopkins, S. J., the famous English Jesuit poet was appointed
Professor of Classics in 1883.
The foundation at Dromore
lasted from 1884 to 1888, and will be the main subject of
this evening's talk.
In 1980 the Jesuits came to Portadown.
In 1988, the Jesuits came to Belfast.
When Ignatius died in 1556, i.e. 16 years after the
foundation of the Society, there were 1,000 members in 100
houses in 12 different provinces. In 1989, there were 24,618
members in 86 provinces.
The curiosity which the Protestant people of
Dromore of the present day must have as to how and why the
Jesuits, of all people, ever came to be in Dromore is
exceeded only by the bewilderment of Catholics on the same
Apart from the Jesuits themselves, the main dramatis persona
in this short Jesuit epoch was the then Parish Priest of
Dromore, Monsignor William McCartan. Not only was Monsignor
McCartan a very eminent preacher in his day, but he was also
a man of singular
charisma not only in relation to his ecclesiastical office,
but also as a financial administrator.
Monsignor McCartan had been ordained priest
in 1856 and was appointed as Curate in Dromore in the same
year. In 1859, he was appointed parish Priest of Dromore,
which office he held until his death in 1907.
There is a letter in the Jesuit Archives in
Dublin dated 1906 from Monsignor McCartan to Father Ronan,
S. J., (the founder of Mungret College in Limerick) in which
he says he bought Loyola House (i.e. the property otherwise
known as Bishopscourt) and set up the Jesuits there to give
"learning and sanctify" to the North. It is not clear from
the letter whether Monsignor McCartan bought the property
out of his own funds, or whether he was merely acting as
agent for the Society of Jesus. What is important is that it
was through the good offices of Monsignor McCartan that the
property was acquired. The chief reasons for purchasing
Dromore in 1883 as a Novitiate were (a) the necessity of
moving the University College Jesuit Students from Temple
Street Dublin to Milltown Park to the buildings occupied by
the novices, and (b) the offer of the Ballela Property by
Bishopscourt, as the people of Dromore know
only too well, was the former residence of the Church of
Ireland Bishops of Dromore before that Diocese was linked to
the Dioceses of Down and Connor in 1842.
Thereafter, the house was no longer required
as a bishop's residence. The building of the Bishop's Palace
had been started by Bishop Beresford in 1781, and was
completed by his successor Bishop Percy who lived from 1729
to 1811 and who had been Bishop of Dromore from 1782 for
almost thirty years.
The property, which consisted of a demesne of
211 statute acres, was pur chased from the Church
Temporalities Commissioners by Messrs Edward and James Quinn
whose remains are entombed in the Cathedral Churchyard.
Irrespective of who paid for the property, it was purchased
for or by the Jesuits in 1883 from the Executors of the
Quinn estate for �8,200 and there was a mortgage of �1,200
to the Church Temporalities Commission. It was opened as a
House of formation, or a Novitiate in the following year.
The first novices arrived on 4th May, 1884.
The Novitiate is where Jesuit aspirants spend their first
two years of training or formation. This would be a period
of formation in prayer, study and manual work, strictly
disciplined, during which time the students would get to
know whether they were suited to the Jesuit way of life and
The Jesuit Catalogues of 1885, 1886, 1887 and
1888 all refer to the "Domus Probationis Dromorensis", (The
House of Formation at Dromore) of which the first Rector was
Rev. William O'Farrell who was appointed on 4th May, 1884
and whose assistant was Rev. John Colgan. Fr. Colgan is
described in the Catalogues of 1886, 1887, and 1888 as
Vice-Rector whose appointment was on 15th September, 1885.
During his period in charge, there is no mention of a
Rector. In the Catalogue of 1889, the "Domus Probationis
Dromorensis" is no longer mentioned, but in its place is "Domus
Probationis et Studiorum Tulliolana", (The House of
Formation and Studies at Tullamore), St. Stanislaus College,
Tullamore, King's County (now Offaly), of which Rev. John
Colgan was appointed Rector on 2nd September, 1888.
St. Stanislaus College, Tullamore, a most successful
boarding school, had been amalgamated to Clongowes Wood
College in 1886.
The personnel in the house over the period was as follows:
|| BROTHER NOVICES
Included in the Novices were some priests. These would
generally have been secular priests attached to one diocese
or another in the country who had decided to test their
vocation in the religious life. In 1885, there was one
priest-novice; in 1886, 2; in 1887 2 and in 1888 2. Of the
names listed as novices, Fr. Timoney, whom I mentioned in my
acknowledgment, tells me that he knew four of them in his
lifetime - Fr. Edmund Downing who entered the Novitiate on
19th September, 1887, and who died in Galway on 7th April,
1933; Fr. James Rabbittee of the Archdiocese of Tuam who
entered the Novitiate on 8th September, 1885, and who died
in Galway on 2nd August, 1940; Brother Edward Mordaunt who
entered the Novitiate on 27th April, 1885, and who died in
Tullabeg on 13th February, 1957, and Fr. Lambert McKenna who
entered the Novitiate on 13th September, 1886, and died in
Dublin on 26th December, 1956.
It is sometimes alleged that the Jesuits had very little
influence on Dromore and its environs during their short
period there. The nature of the Novitiate is inward-looking
rather than outward-looking and for this reason, the Jesuit
house in Dromore would not have had too much contact with
the surrounding district. Only the priests or brothers in
charge of administration would have had contact with the
The novices day would have begun at 5.30 a.m. and ended at
9.30 p.m. Much of the day would have been spent in silence -
silent prayer, silence at all meals except on certain feast
days and holidays. There would have been a fair amount of
manual work - indoors in the morning and outdoors on
afternoons. A long walk once per week; an occasional game of
football within the confines of the ground; long periods of
silent prayer and reading, especially the Scriptures, live
of saints and ascetical works; talks on the Constitutions of
the Society. The Novitiate would have had a life of its own
with novices providing their own entertainment and
companionship. Since the Novitiate lasted two years only,
there was an on-going change of population with some novices
leaving the Novitiate for good at various times throughout
the year. Whilst novices wrote home regularly, they did not
go home for holidays and they would have had visits from
home only twice in the year. There would also have been the
occasional periods of Retreat according to the Spiritual
Exercises of St. Ignatius. Possibly their only exit from the
confines of the grounds would have been to visit people in
the nearest work-house or to teach Catechism in a local
school, or to go on walks. Thus the nature of the Dromore
House was such that instead of the people of the locality
coming under the influence of the inmates, there would have
been a certain aura of curiosity among the native population
as to what these odd people who rarely appeared in public
were up to.
In those days, after the two-year Novitiate, the aspirant
took his First Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience which
made a novice a Jesuit Scholastic. Thereafter, the
Scholastic spent three years at University obtaining a
Degree, three years studying Philosophy, at least three
years Regency (i.e. either teaching or going abroad to learn
a foreign language and three years Theology, a total of not
less than 14 years, at the end of which he was ordained
priest. Nowadays, the period of training has been reduced to
Reasons for Leaving Dromore
Many spurious stories have been put forward by way of
explanation for the departure of the Jesuits from Dromore
after such a short sojourn. One story is that Monsignor
McCartan, having bought the premises and brought the Jesuits
to Dromore, and being so influential in so many other
spheres, felt that he could coerce the Jesuits to do exactly
what he wanted done. You remember that his reason for
bringing the Jesuits to Dromore was to bring "learning and
sanctity to the North". It is alleged that he wanted the
Jesuits to start a new school which they (the Jesuits) saw
would conflict with the Junior Diocesan Seminary at St.
Coleman's College in Newry, and that rather than get
involved in internal clerical conflicts within the Diocese,
they opted out and departed.
Another theory is that they were in conflict with the then
Catholic Bishop of the Diocese. Those of us who may have had
an opportunity to study theology at any time would be aware
of the alleged psychological warfare which is ongoing
between Jesuits and Domini cans on theological
interpretation. As it so happened, the Bishop of Dromore at
that time was Dr. Pius Leahy, who was a Dominican. If there
had been an internecine feud between the Bishop and the
Jesuits at that time, it would most certainly have been
recorded in the Diocesan Archives. No such record exists.
Perhaps the most amusing explanation for the departure of
the Jesuits was that, on the particular week-day on which
the novices took their walk along Purgatory Lane (the name
for the particular road which was in existence before the
Jesuits came and is still extant and which can not therefore
be blamed on the Jesuits because of the Catholic Church's
theological doctrine of Purgatory), the young ladies of
Dromore used to foregather at a particular vantage point to
cast their eyes on the attractive young novices. Their
Superiors decided to transport the novices elsewhere away
The most likely reason why they left Dromore was that St.
Stanislaus College at Tullamore had been transferred to
Clongowes Wood in Co. Kildare and rather than leave this
vast building unoccupied, it was decided to make it St.
Stanislaus College the Society's Novitiate.
Whilst the short stay and sudden departure of the Jesuits
has given rise to much speculative folklore, what is even
more surprising is the fact that the Dromore Property was
still held by the Society up to 1918. In 1909, there was a
valuation done in which the valuer stated that it was the
best farm he had ever inspected. The valuer also stated that
the vendors (the Jesuits) "wish to sell if the price is
right, but they will resist to the utmost the offer of
�4,500". This information was gleaned from notes in the
Jesuit Archives. The Archivist suggests that the Estate
Commissioners were making ominous noises with a view to land
purchase. However, another reason has come to light why a
valuation was done in 1909. (See Appendix II).
In 1917, negotiations were in progress towards the sale of
the property, and the sale to Wallace was completed on 22nd
January, 1918 for the sum of �8,840.2s.2d.
In view of the fact that, in the early sixties, Fr. Tom
Counihan, S. J., asked me personally if I would explore with
the then Bishop of the Diocese, the late Dr. Eugene
O'Doherty, the possibility of the Jesuits returning to the
Dromore Diocese, it is possible that the Jesuits regretted
having sold the Dromore Property? And is it possible that
they hoped to return to Dromore again when they held on to
the property for 30 years after their departure? Due to the
lack of documentary evidence on this point, I fear we shall
have to wait till we enter eternity before we get the true
REV. JOHN HUGHES
The Jesuit Catalogues of 1887 and 1888 to which I have
previously referred include, among the priests who were
responsible for the administration of the household the name
of Fr. John Hughes. His responsibilities in the household
were Bursar, Consultor of the House,
Confessor and admonitor to the Vice-Rector. It is said that,
during his short period at Dromore, he was an exhibitor and
prizewinner at the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society Shows.
I have contacted the Society and have been referred to the
Public Records Office in Belfast. However, the time
requirement to investigate this matter proved prohibitive.
Nevertheless, I have been able to confirm this from another
source. A priest friend of mine, Monsignor Edmund O'Neill,
Vicar General of the Diocese of Sacramento in California has
told me that his late father who lived in Dromore as a boy,
often spoke of the prizes won by Fr. Hughes at horticultural
REV. GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS
The famous English Jesuit Poet, Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins,
was Professor of Classics at University College, Dublin from
1884 until his premature death at the age of 44 on 8th June,
1889 during which time he was a visitor to Loyola House in
Dromore. Two of his
sonnets, "Tom's Garland" and "Harry Ploughman" were signed
"Dromore, 1887". Since they were obviously written in
Dromore it is highly likely that Hopkins got his inspiration
from the Dromore locality. "Tom's Garland" had a sub-title
"Upon the Unemployed" and of the unemployed Hopkins said
"the curse of our times is that many (the unemployed, are
outcasts and have neither security nor splendour; that they
share care with the high and obscurity with the low, but
wealth or comfort with neither". Have things changed in 100
Of "Harry Ploughman" Hopkins said "I want Harry Ploughman to
be a vivid figure before the mind's eye; if he is not that,
the sonnet fails". Brother Mordaunt told a fellow Jesuit
that he watched Hopkins looking over a fence watching a
plough-man as he worked.
Jesuits still in Dromore
The history of any human institution has invariably a
melancholy note, and the short sojourn of the Jesuits in
Dromore is no exception. The Jesuits still in Dromore are
clothed in the stillness of death. In the cemetery attached
to St. Colman's Catholic Church here in the town, two former
members of the Jesuit Community in Dromore are laid to rest.
One is Elias Seaver, a scholastic, who entered the Society
on 22nd October, 1883, and who died on 28th June, 1886, and
the aforementioned Fr. John Hughes who died on 11th April,
1888. In the still silence of death and Dromore they await a
If my presentation this evening is brief, that is mainly
because the period of history with which I have been dealing
was brief. However, I trust that the paper has been
interesting to you and that, perhaps, it will engender in
someone more erudite than me a desire to delve further into
the history of the Jesuits in Dromore. Who knows? Even
someone may discover, this side of eternity, why the Jesuits
held on to the property for thirty years after their
I am indebted to you, once again, for your invitation to me
to speak on this interesting subject, and I gratefully
appreciate your rapt attention.
"The Jesuits Yesterday and Today" is a series of lectures to
commemorate two historic events: the formal inauguration of
the Jesuit Order 450 years ago in 1540 and the birth of its
founder, Ignatius Loyola, 500 years ago in 1491.
Enrolment for the lectures on "The Jesuits Yesterday and
Today" is by application to the Institute of Continuing
Education and payment of a fee of �8.50 for the full series
(�5.50 for OAPs �4.50 for QUB students and those on State
benefits) or of �1.50 (without any concessions) for
Enquiries to Institute of Continuing Education, The Queen's
University of Belfast, Belfast BT7 INN, Telephone 245133.
A SERIES OF SEVEN LECTURES
Institute of Continuing Education The Queen's
University of Belfast
Thursdays at 8.00pm 25
October 1990 - 6 December 1990
THE JESUITS YESTERDAY AND TODAY
25 October The Jesuits and Ireland Professor J.A Bossy,
University of York.
Guest Chairperson Dr Gordan S.G. Beveridge, Vice-Chancellor
Speaker Very Rev. Ambrose Macaulay, P.P.
1 November-The Jesuits and Ireland Rev. Fergus O'Donoghue,
SJ, Lecturer in Church History, Milltown Institute, Dublin.
Guest Chairperson Dr Maurice Hayes, Ombudsman.
Speaker The Right Rev. Principal R.F.G. Holmes, Moderator of
General Assembly, Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
8 November -The Jesuits and Education Rev. Paul Andrews, SJ,
Director, St Declan's School, Dublin.
Guest Chairperson Sr Claire O'Brien, OP, Deputy Principal,
St Mary's College of Education, Belfast.
Speaker Mr Richard Bennett, BA, Dip. Ed, Headmaster Portora
Royal School, Enniskillen.
15 November -The Jesuits and Prayer Rev. Herbert Dargan, SJ,
Jesuit Community Belfast, formerly Hong Kong and Rome.
Guest ChairpersonThe Most Rev. Cahal Daly, Bishop of Down
Speaker Sr Phyllis, CSF, Anglican Franciscan, Chairperson
Religious Together Down and Connor.
22 November-The Jesuits and Socio-Political Action Rev.
Michael Campbell-Johnston, SJ, Provincial British Province.
Speaker Mrs Margaret Watson, LLB, BL.
29 November -The Jesuits and Modem Theology Rev. Gerard
O'Hanlon, SJ, Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Milltown
Guest Chairperson The Most Rev. Anthony Farquhar, DD,
Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor.
Speaker The Rev. W. Dennis D. Cooke, BA, BD, MTh, PhD,
Principal Edgehill Theological College.
6 December-The Jesuits and Protestants Today Rev. Michael
Hurley SJ, Irish School of Ecumenics and Columbanus
Chairperson Rev. R.D. Eric Gallagher, CBE, MA, BD, DD,
formerly President Methodist Church in Ireland.
Speaker Dr David Stevens, Associate Secretary, Irish Council
At The Institute of Continuing Education, The Queen's
University of Belfast, Thursdays as above at 8pm.
In the course of questions and comments after the Lecture in
January, Mr. William Patterson of Church Street, Dromore,
proferred the suggestion that the 1909 valuation might have
been done in connection with the purchase by Robert Smyth
Wallace of the site adjacent to the entry gates to Loyola
House on which the house in which he, Mr. Patterson, now
resides, was built by the aforementioned Robert Smyth
(Photostat copy of the first page of the Lease of the site
This is a photocopy of the horse-brass lent to me by Mr.
Robert Topping, which he found when walking through the
grounds of the former Loyola House. There never was, at any
time, any religious connection between the Good Shepherd
Convent at Ballynafeigh, Belfast and The Society of Jesus at
Loyola House, Dromore.
One possible explanation is that some item of farm machinery
or horse saddlery which had previously been owned by the
Good Shepherd Convent and which was subsequently acquired by
the Jesuits at Loyola House had this horse-brass attached.
Attached is a photocopy of the extract from the Jesuit
catalogue of 1888. The names of novices enclosed in small
brackets were attached to the house at Dromore but were
studying at either Dublin or Truncienne in Belguim. Novices
with a P before the name were diocesan priests who had
joined the Society.