I dedicate this booklet to


and the three

whom I love the most and who know me best.


"A Leader is best when he is neither seen nor heard. Not so good when he is admired and glorified. Worst when he is hated and despised.
`Fail to honour people, and they will fail to honour you'. But of a good leader, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
The people will say, `We did this ourselves'."

(Lao Tau)

"We do not need great leaders. We need leaders who will bring out the greatness in all of us."


GEORGE Down and Dromore.I am very pleased to commend this history of the Parish of Dromara, Diocese of Dromore.

One of the strongest parts of our diocesan life over the years has been the deep devotion of clergy and laity in rural parishes. They have through their families and for generations given generously of themselves and of their material resources in loving care for our Church. I have had experience of this when I was Rector for several years of a large rural parish in County Down.

This fine tradition is well illustrated in the parish of Dromara, and in their Rector the Reverend Samuel Ernest Long, with his concern not only for the spiritual needs of his parishioners but also for the community in general. This latter service is evidenced by the honour and the responsibility conferred on him as a Justice of the Peace.

It is good that the Rector has prepared this historical record of the parish and I commend it not only to those who kinow this particular part of the Diocese of Dromore, but also to others whose ministry and mission are set in rural surroundings.

GEORGE Down and Dromore.

June, 1979.


It was such a daunting task to write a brief history of the ancient Parish of Dromara, Co. Down, that in spite of being constantly engaged as a writer I shied away from it. But recent happenings in the Church, and projects like the organ rebuild and the tower renovation, with the persuasion of Lt.-Col. F. M. Cunningham, church secretary to "get on with the job", were pressures not to be resisted.

This then is an attempt to tell the Dromara Parish story. Regrettably I had no help from the past efforts of clergy or people, for no one saw fit to chronicle the events of any period in the life of the parish. That means that the story is uneven, for there are long periods about which I was unable to discover anything from any source. And the imbalance weighs in favour of the period we know at first hand. But because histories are for the future, it is possible that the things of our day, as we write of them, will help others to a better understanding of a picture when seen from their eye level in a diffrent age and time.

I pray that the Church of St. John, Drornara, will ever witness a good confession of the Faith once for all delivered unto the saints. It has had a good past. May its future be bright in service for Christ and for people.


Dromara Rectory,
January, 1979.


St. john's Church Dromara.


The village of Dromara, nestling at the foot of the Dromara Mountains, with Slieve Croob as their highest peak, 1,755 feet, "and from whose northern slopes the River Lagan takes its rise" - the other peaks are Monahoora (1,499), Cratlieve (1,416), Slievenisky (1,408), Slievecarran (1.293), and Slievenaboley (1,069) is a quiet place, not well known to travellers and hardly any better known to the people of Ulster, much less of Ireland as a who!e. That is a shame! For few villages in an island of lovely townships have a more attractive rural setting, and a more tranquil, enjoyable, and convenient geographical situation.

It is near to everywhere. Belfast is within twenty miles, and it is ringed by the thriving towns of Lisburn, Dromore, Banbridge, Rathfriland and Ballynahinch, with Castlewellan over the mountains and Newcastle a few miles beyond. And it is no mean place itself. Residents have little need to travel distances to shop for the necessities of life. True, it has only one factory, a new one in the village employing mostly female labour. Workers commute, happily, to Ballynahinch, Lisburn and Belfast particularly.

The village, and the large area around, has all the evidence of a peaceful. prosperous community, with a standard in new and restored housing which must make it the envy of many who live in other parts of the country. And the people have been most law abiding and peaceable, with none of the sectarian tensions which have affected relationships so adversely elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

The Dromara district has, therefore, blossomed into a community of self-respecting citizens whose concern for the common good made them establish an association which, by the generosity of the populace, gave heart machines to the doctors of the Dromara practice, to lead the way in such an enterprise in the Province. Other tangible evidence of community togetherness proves the contention that people who think differently in religion and politics, even in Ireland, can live together agreeably. And remarkably the strength of religious loyalty is not less than elsewhere. On the contrary, the district is noted for its many places of worship, and for its devotion to denominational needs and aspirations. It is still the case that the lives of the great majority of the people are influenced by Christian commitment and church membership.

In politics, while the several parties have their supporters, there is a quieter-than-usual-in-Ulster approach to party politics. The area is not fully represented by local people for that reason, and this has sometimes been seen as a weakness, for people's representatives in local government are naturally more concerned to speak for those nearest them. Dromara has been affected by being without its full quota of "native" councillors. And for the other reason that the village is unequally divided between the Lisburn Borough and Banbridge District Councils. While the position is better than formerly, when acceptance of responsibility for the area was not properly shared - there is now the Housing Executive for instance - the problem persists, divided responsibility often means weak administration. it is to the credit of the community that such obvious progress has been made in spite of inherent difficulties.

The change from what was to what is has been most marked in the last twenty years. For centuries Dromara was a backwater, poor in communication with the outside world, and peopled by citizens who struggled to live on small. holdings entirely inadequate to provide them with a standard of living similar to their fellows elsewhere in the country. Small farms have been gathered up to make larger viable units, and those which have been retained are held by men who are farmers with other employment.

In lengthy conversations with older residents, one fact emerges, there is no comparison between the hardships of the people in their youth and their descendants of today who are enjoying the benefits of the Welfare State, much improved educational and social amenities, and a far better managed economy. What Harris had to say of the Dromara of 1744 remained the dismal picture until well into the present century. He described it as "rough, bleak, full of rocks and hills, which render access to it troublesome and unpleasant. It is justly complained of by travellers who can only hobble through the narrow and broken causeways."

He went on to say, in pained surprise, perhaps, that in spite of the awfulness of life in the district, it was fully peopled. That there were possibilities for improvement, was recognised when he added the information that the valleys and sides of the hills produce fine crops of oats, flax and rye. Too many people, too many landlords, not enough land!

In 1857 a survey describes the streets of Dromara as dirty, and its cabins in a wretched condition. It gives figures for emigration - many were awakening to the possibilities of making better lives for themselves and their families in the "New World" - twenty five families a year were going overseas.

The village is described by Lewis' Topographical History, in 1837: "Dromeragh (Annesborough or Annesbury) a small village with patent granting a weekly market on Thursday, and a fair for three days in September. The market has been changed to Friday chiefly for the sale of butter and linen yarn. The fairs are now held on the last Friday in February, May, August and November, for farming stock and pedlary." He details it as "a post town and parish, partly in the barony of Kinelearty, partly in that of Lower Iveagh, but chiefly in Upper Iveagh, Co. Down, Ulster." And places it "5 miles E.S.E. of Dromore; 72 miles N by E of Dublin on the road from Banbridge to Ballynahinch, containing with the district of Magherahmlet a population of 10,129. It contains part of the lands granted by patent of Queen Elizabeth in 1585 to Ever MacRorye Magennis, which was forfeited in the war of 1641, and afterwards granted by King Charles II to Colonel Hill. They were included in the manor of Kilwarlin. A Petty Sessions Court is held every fourth Monday. And there is a sub-post office to Dromore and Comber."

The linen industry, so long a basic of Ulster economy, and the source of employment for a large percentage of the working population, had its influence on Dromara. The land, especially suited to the growing of flax, had meant that a flax fibre business at Woodford, on the edge of the village, had been founded. It flourished to the extent that it employed some 200 men in its heyday. Some of the older men in the community easily recall their employment at the mill.

When the linen industry went into decline the mill workers were scattered in all directions. Many of them left the district and the country forever. In the 1960s when the present writer spoke to the Stormont Minister of Commerce, Lord Glentoran, on the attempt then being made to revive the linen industry, he was to be told that the benefit to Dromara would be minimal, for the Ukraine was producing flax at a price with which the Dromara farmers could never compete. In the event a small temporary benefit accrued to Castlewellan, but Dromara had no profit from what proved to be an abortive attempt to rejuvenate an industry which 'had not adapted generally to changing patterns in production and sales or to the development of the man-made fibre industries which were appearing everywhere.



The church has a lengthy history. What is not unusual in Northern Ireland is that such church history is not well documented, and the beginnings, and early continuing of things, are lost in the mists of antiquity. That a Christian settlement was located in Dromara in the early days of the emerging Celtic Church is possible. It has been suggested that the old churchyard, a half circle, was originally a full circle, with the old church in the centre, a "manufactured" mound of good earth of lighter, dryer quality than the native soil.

Be that as it may, the first dates of the Church and Parish are 1427-1440 when Gilbert McInerny was Perpetual Vicar of Drummeragh. The early spelling of the name was Drumbera, and there have been variations on both these spellings until Dromara was finally settled on sometime in the 19th century. McInerny was succeeded by John Armstrong, described as Rector. He had been ordained deacon on 4 February, 1441, priest ten days later, and instituted Incumbent of the parish in the same year. After William O'Rooney, 1460 - ?, there is a gap in clerical succession until 1529 when Peter ()Rooney is named as Prebend of Dromerach, and another until William Massie became Incumbent in 1634.

There must have been a settled ministry, for in 1546 the church was taxed at seven marks and the vicarage at three marks. In 1609 Dromara was constituted the head of a prebend, Prebenda de Drumerach. "A portion of the parish in the barony of Kinelearty marked Magherahowlett, commonly called Magherahamlet, has been formed into a perpetual curatage. In the patent of 8th of James J to Bishop Todd, it is called the Rectory of Magherahamlagh and seems to have been included in the 15th century in the denomination of Drumerach Cum Capellis." Added is the information, "The ruins of the old church called Templemoyle within the ancient churchyard in the townland of Dunmore, remains measuring 42/24 feet."

(Reeves: "Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Down, Connor and Dromore." 1847)

The association of Magherahamlet and Dromara is of very much longer duration than many believed, for the story persists that Magherahamlet Parish Church was built as the Chapel of Ease of  Dromara Parish by the Rev. H. E. Boyd, as the tale goes, to spite his brother Charles, who was Rector of Magheradroll, Ballynahinch, by catering for the people of this area, as well as for the visitors who came to the Spa to take the curative waters of the lake. Obviously the reference is to the present Magherahamlet Church building which was consecrated 12 May, 1815, by Bishop John Leslie. Leslie was Bishop of Dromore 1812-19, Elphin 1819-54, with Kilmore and Ardagh 1841-54. His son Charles was Bishop of Kilmore for two months until he died while his father was 41 years a bishop.

In 1614 the Church of Dromara was in ruins and the Incumbent had been driven from his parish. The cause of the troubles was the native Irish reaction to the Plantations of Ulster by English and Scottish settlers who had been granted land taken unceremoniously from the Irish people. The Church lay derelict so that at 1641 when the war between the settlers and the natives reached its climax it was included in the list of the many churches ruined in the Dioceses of Down and Dromore.

This was a particularly turbulent period in the history of an island which has always lurched from one violent situation to another.

Elsewhere there is something said about the Church of Ireland and the other churches in the 1600's, suffice to draw attention here to a clergyman named in the Rev. W. G. Glasgow's history of First Dromara Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Mungo Bennett, who came to the Dromara district from Scotland to be its first Presbyterian minister.

Glasgow suggests that since he appeared fifty years before the first Presbyterian Church was founded in 1713, he preached in the Parish Church. We have found no record of him. Later, Glasgow says, he went from Dromara to appear as Rector of Coleraine. Bennett was one of the Presbyterian ministers to submit to Episcopal ordination. By doing so he secured his position as a minister of the Established Church and avoided the tensions and persecutions of a Presbyterianism which had to struggle for its survival in a land which found its form of church order and government very different from what was customary in Ireland.

When the first Presbyterian ministers came to Ulster from Scotland they were received by the Bishops of the Irish Church, and their orders were accepted. Later pressures from England against non-conformity caused the Bishops to suspend, and later to depose them. (cp. John Barkley, "A Short History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland." 1959)

The Parish Church of Dromara was restored in 1744. Harris, historian of County Down, writing in 1744, says a "good part of the walls outbraving the injuries of time were lately repaired and the church rendered fit for service the last Festival of St. Matthew when it was restored." In the years 1641-1744 accommodation for shared worship with other churches was made by clergy and people, and much of the time the old church was used while in very rough state. Those were the days of hardy parishioners, for even well appointed churches then, and for centuries after, made few concessions to creature comforts. Comfort was at the whim of the weather.

In 1794 the church was in need of repairs again. A familiar note was struck when it was said that owing to the high price of materials in wartime, only temporary repairs could be carried out. It was 1811 before the reconstruction was completed. The church was then a rectangular building. The work is described in the Minutes of the Select Vestry. "That the walls be made substantial and raised to a sufficient height, that there be a new slated roof and ceiling with new pillars and windows and that a gallery be made in the West End and the floor raised and flagged with a new chancel, and that there be a belfry built and a bell purchased towards the same."

The bell was to be the gift of the Rev. Francis Burrowes, the Rector, who paid ten guineas for it. The money had been the gift of the parishioners to him in 1808 for the excellence of his leadership in the church and community.

During the time of the Napoleonic Wars, and the early years of the 19th century most of the business of the church had three main items - the Militia; the Raising and Apportioning of Funds; and the support of Paupers and Illegitimate Children. The political and social involvement of the clergy and laity of the time was considerable. Good citizenship demanded commitment to the maintenance of the country in safety and security.

The Militia was a permanent, trained force, for service at home, and liable only for such service. There was a form of conscription in wartime and parishes were compelled to provide men to fill the ranks. If they were reluctant to serve it was possible to obtain substitutes at a price. In hardship cases this was always done. And for this reason, the Militia was predominantly Roman Catholic, while the Volunteers were Protestant.

The money for the Militia "Stand-ins" was raised in the parishes. In 1805 the Dromara quota was nine men, and �24/3/11 was spent in paying for substitutes. In 1807 twelve men were needed. There were doubts as to the ability of the Parish to raise the money to purchase alternatives, for the sum set for volunteers was �10 a head. To raise the money it was decided to collect three farthings from each man liable for military service. This levy raised more than was needed and "The parishioners then present (at a Vestry Meeting, 13 January, 1808) being well pleased with the manner in which the raising of substitutes was executed and willing to justify their grateful acknowledgments to the Rev. Mr. Burrowes (Rector) for his exertions in assisting the parish affairs thereon do vote that the sum of ten guineas be paid to him . . . Mr. Burrowes being not willing to receive any pecuniary compliment for his trouble nor to disoblige the good inclinations of the parishioners declared his intention of expending the said sum on the purchase of a bell for the church."

Rector Burrowes must have been exceptionally popular in the parish for he managed to raise large sums of money, for those days, to obtain militia men while gathering funds for the rebuilding of the church. Like Moses he did not enter into the joys of his labours for by 1810 he had left the parish to become Vicar of Seapatrick, and the Rev. Hannington Elgee Boyd, his successor, saw the dedication of the reconstructed churdh by the Bishop of the Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Thomas Percy, D.D. That work is memorialised in a stone above the West Door with the names of the Bishop and Rector and the date in Roman numerals.

Thomas Percy, Bishop of Dromore, 1782-1811, was a scholar and literary figure of stature. Dr. Samuel Johnston, the lexicographer, wit, and man of letters, wrote James Boswell on Percy, 23 April, 1778, "He is a man very willing to learn and very able to teach; a man out of whose company I never go without learning something. I know that he vexes me sometimes, but I am afraid that it is by making me feel my own ignorance. So much extension of mind, and so much Minute accuracy of enquiry, if you survey your wide circle of acquaintance you will find so scarce, if you find 'it at all, that you will value Percy by comparison . . . Percy's attention to poetry has given grace and splendour to his studies of antiquity."

The Bishop went blind before his death on 30 September, 1811. In Dromore Cathedral there is a tablet which describes him as "residing constantly in his Diocese, and discharging the duties of his sacred office with vigilance and zeal; instructing , the 'ignorant, relieving the necessitous, and comforting the distressed with personal affection; revered for his eminent piety and learning, and beloved for his universal benevolence, by all ranks and 'religious denominations."

The care of illegitimate children was regarded as a church duty. Dromara, now, in an age when illegitimacy is not the matter of family dishonour and personal disgrace it once was, has the same low rate of births outside marriage, common to most of rural Ulster. In those other days conditions made it easy for people to have unfortunate relationships. The number of unmarried mothers was large in the district until about thirty years ago when social patterns changed dramatically. The writer has not filled one baptismal entry with the word's "Single Woman" in twenty-two years, though there are many such insertions in 'the church's registers.

The poor were cared for with gifts of money, and practical assistance. In 1832 the Vestry 'resolved "That the present distressed state of the country requires that some certain and permanent provision shall be made for the relief of the sick, aged and helpless poor." A member was appointed to look after deserted children and provision was made to supply coffins for paupers. That the Vestry was not going to be an easy touch for lay-abouts passing through was made clear in an 1831 resolution, "That the poor of the Parish shall be 'lodged, and that strangers shall not be served 'in future."

The ravages of drunkenness -- so often the poor man's malady in hard times - caused the Select Vestry to deprecate the use of "spiritous liquors" at wakes and funerals, and to ask for its discontinuance throughout the parish. It is highly unlikely that the appeal had universal acceptance. The concern on 'the matter is shown to have been constant over many years by the circulation of "forms for signing" by parishioners. Here is the heading of one found in the minute book of the Parish.


The Humble Petition of Sheweth,

That your Petitioners believe that Drunkenness in Ireland, with all its manifold attendant evils, is largely caused by Sunday Drinking.

That your Petitioners believe that the traffic in Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday in Ireland, is carried on against the wishes of a large majority of all sections of the Irish people.

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray your Honourable House to pass the "Sale of Liquors on Sunday (Ireland) Bill" under the provisions of which the traffic in Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday in Ireland shall be stopped.

And your Petitioners will ever pray."

While the work in Dromara Church of 1811 and 1813 is not detailed in the Minutes, it would appear that what had been promised in the Burrowes incumbency was carried out, for in October 1825 it was proposed to add to the Tower at a cost of �20, and to purchase a clock at �10.

In 1826 the Tower and the Church was roughcast and whitewashed for �3/2/6 (Irish). The Minute says this on the clock purchase, which had been decided on the year before, in the words of the clocksmiths.

"We hereby engage to construct a clock of the best materials, and to erect the same in the tower of Dromara Church for the sum of �45 (Irish). The dial of the said clock to be four feet four inches with gilt letters, clock to strike with a 7lb. hammer. To be put up in workmanlike manner and we further engage to keep the said clock going that it shall not be attended with any expense to the Parish for seven years.

27th March, 1826.


 Witnesses present:


A small gallery was built in 1828 which with "the lining of the corners and ends of the church with brick" was to cost �31. The Minutes are silent on how access was obtained to the gallery, and how it was constructed. It appears almost impossible to have had a gallery in a building with such a short nave. It went, anyway, probably in 1888 when there is a last reference to it.

Body snatching was apparently a common crime in the early 1800's, though there is no evidence that a watch-house was built in Dromara Churchyard as had been the case elsewhere. The Minutes of a meeting, October 1831, has this, "At a general meeting of parishioners it was unanimously agreed that provision be made for the erection of three buildings, one in each of the public burying grounds in this parish for guarding against any violation of the dead from time to come."

The money for the project was to be raised by an assessment of two pence per acre on each person with burial rights. The Minute continued, "That Mr. Wallace be appointed treasurer, and that the Committee do consist of the three clergymen of the Parish, the Elders of the Presbyterian Church, the Committee of the Roman Catholic Congregation, and the Churchwardens of the Parish."


In 1832 the subject was raised again when the Vestry had a resolution which stated: "It was unanimously resolved that the Ministers and Churchwardens of the Parish be requested to make application to the various landlords soliciting their subscriptions for building a watch house for protecting the church."

And again in 1833, "In consequence of dead bodies having been disinterred from the churchyard the Parishioners had determined on building a watch house for the protection of their friends' graves on that small portion of ground formerly occupied as a passage into the churchyard. Mrs. Black of Woodford having raised objections thereto on the grounds that 'the same old passage belonged to her', in order therefore to prevent any unpleasant occurrence it was resolved that the churchwardens be directed to write to Mr. Reilly requesting that he would be good enough to come over and view the ground in question and decide on the matter as early as might suit his convenience."

Like many another matter raised in the clear and precise language of the time this one is not referred to again. We are left to wonder as to what was Reilly's judgement if he ever made a decision on the question.

By 1862 the church was again in need of major repairs, and the Minutes state, "It was resolved that an application be made to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners with regard to the neglected state of the Church Tower, the walls of which do not keep out the rain, and in consequence of this defect the timbers of the floor are in a state of decay.' It is to be hoped that the appeal met with a goon response, for we have no record of what was the reaction of the E.C.

The Rev. Henry Murphy became Rector of Dromara in 1864. The Preacher's Book has this in its remarks column, "I preached my first sermon in the church here on the first Sunday in November 1864 having been collated to the Benefice (from Dromore) on 31st October 1864. Henry Murphy.

He was Rector of Dromara when the Church of Ireland was disestablished. The Minute of the Vestry Meeting of 1869 has this statement from him. "The Irish Church having been Disestablished and Disendowed by Act of Parliament on 26th July last: I have duly summoned the adult members of the Disestablished Church to meet this day - 23rd August - at 2 o'clock p.m. in order that we may take counsel together as to what is best for us to do NOW; so that when `The Irish Church' is sent adrift on the 1st January, 1871 the congregation in this Parish may be kept together after my official decease - Henry Murphy, A.M., Rector and Prebendary of Dromara."

A committee was set up, the churchwardens ex-officio, and five others, to meet every third month, March, June, September and December, three to form a quorum, to look after the business of the church and to make arrangements for its finances.

At the same time reference is made to a Synod at Belfast to be attended by the Rector and a layman on a one-to-one membership ratio. Dr. Samuel Davison, the local General Practitioner, was elected to represent the Parish. Dr. Davison is mentioned frequently in the life of the church over many years. He chaired vestry meetings on occasion, for the rector often left the chairmanship to his curate or his senior churchwarden. He was absent frequently from such meetings. The doctor was senior warden a number of times.

In June 1870 when the Select Vestry is described as a Committee of Parochial Management, appointments were made of four delegates to the Diocesan Synod, 1891 and 1892, and of three Parochial Nominators. The curate, the Rev. John Frost, was chairman at a meeting on 4 July, 1870, when the following resolution was passed:

"That the meeting has full confidence in the Representative Body of the Irish Church.

"That a subscription list be opened for this parish and that the subscription be forwarded to the Central Fund of the Irish Church.

"That all persons having property in the Parish, who are members of the Church of Ireland be applied to for subscriptions to above fund."

In 1871 at the 7 June meeting reference is made to the refusal of Rector Murphy to make his promised �20 contribution to the Sustentation Fund of the church. And Dr. Davison was asked to write him, and to find out when he could conveniently meet with the churchwardens, to attend on the Marquis of Downshire to ask him for an allocation of a portion of his Donation to the Church Body to the Parish of Dromara. The intention was to use the money to purchase the Dromara Glebe and curtilage.

The relationships of the Rector and the Select Vestry and Parishioners appear to have been strained. Whether he was suffering from some restricting illness is not clear; that he was sometimes ill is apparent, or for some other reason, contact with him was made by letter frequently. At a meeting, 17 January 1872, with the curate, Hanly Ball, in the chair, it was agreed by the Vestry that the Rector be asked to draw out an appeal by letter to the several landlords of the parish to help raise an assessment of �80 made by the Diocesan Council, and to sign it. The churchwardens would add their names. At the same meeting collectors were appointed for an every-member canvass to raise money for the future ministrations of the church.

Another allusion is made to Canon Murphy, 27 January, 1873, when it was decided, "That enquiry be made of the Representative Body whether the Rev. Henry Murphy had the power to dispose of the Glebe lands, and if not to request them to stop the sale on 31st January, 1873". For yet another time we areleft to wonder about the outcome of something important. We know only that there was no sale.

Because Murphy was one of the characters of the Parish, we must say something more about him. In his first year as - incumbent of the church a note in the Preacher's Book has. "Average attendance in morning 100; in the evening (summer) 34, (winter) 123; at the sacrament 30. Rural Dean's return for the year ending 30 April made 9 July 1866." In the year ending 30 April 1867 there is the additional entry "Open Air 1625". The entries are signed Henry Murphy, Rector and Rural Dean.

In June and July 1866 Murphy conducted four churchyard meetings on the prophecies of Daniel 2 and 4. The attendances were 800. 1.200, 2,500, 2,000 on successive Sundays. It is not without interest that the Rev. W. J. Patton was exercising a particularly spiritual ministry in Second Dromara Church. It could be that the parish was still feeling the effects of the 1859 revival in Ulster. The meetings were not repeated in subsequent years. Coincidentally on the evening of 16 September. because of very bad weather, he had the smallest number at service, himself and the sexton. In January 1867 he has this note in the Preacher's Book, "The snow was from six to ten feet deep in places - there was only one person in church (except members of my family), very severe day."

The figures at Morning Prayer are very good in January and February 1868 - 305, 325. 315. 300. 335, 245, 305, 300. There arc some 250's after these till May when figures are more normal. It would appear that Henry Murphy enjoyed a reputation as a preacher and Bible expositor, and attracted congregations from near and far, and of other communions. His evening services averaged 100 persons. Open-air meetings were popular in his ministry. He refers to them being held at Gransha and Moydalgan.

Murphy was Treasurer of Dromore Cathedral, 1863-4, and died at Downpatrick in 1878. His fourth son, the Rev. Edward P. Murphy, died 9 December 1878. aged 23, and his sixth son, the Rev. Robert K. Murphy, died 9 January 1881 aged 24.

In October 1871 it was decided by the Select Vestry "That Robert Keown he appointed Sexton of the Parish Church at the yearly salary of Fifty-Two Shillings. The duties to be performed by him are - keeping the church clean; washing the vestments and communion linen; ringing the bell at the stated times; attendance at Baptisms, Burials and Select Vestry meetings, in addition to Divine Service on Sundays and Holy Days. Also to attend to the heating and lighting of the church, as well as winding the clock. To be paid quarterly and to give and receive a month's notice." A house must have gone with the job, for later on there is need to eject a tenant so that the Parish can gain possession of its property. It may have been sited over the church wall.

There is no reference to schools anywhere in the Vestry books. This could be that the administration of the church schools was a duty of the Rector and not of the Vestry.


In 1872 there is a long minute dealing with the office of Parish Clerk. The man in the job was Hugh Dennison whose pay was set at �7/4/- a year, on condition that he instruct the singing class for one hour on Sundays. Dennison carne and went as clerk over many years. In 1880 an advertisement for a Parish Clerk required that he be organist as well at the increased salary of �8 a year.

In 1873 it was decided to print and circulate the proceedings of the Easter General Vestry.

Canon Murphy having resigned in 1874 he was succeeded by his curate, William Hanly Ball. In February 1874 reference is made to the uncomfortable glebe, with thanks to the Representative Body for some essential repairs to the house. But again worry was voiced at the danger of the glebe being sold, and concern for the welfare of the Rector. There must have been satisfaction in the matter for it is not raised again, though the sale of the Rectory and Glebe lands was to remain a subject of discussion for many years.

At about this time the work and worth of Dr. Davison was appreciated in a Parish presentation to him.

There was deep concern over the finances of the church in 1874 when the Vestry questioned the refusal of money to the Parish by the Diocesan Council from the disposition of the former Rector, Canon Murphy. And yet at the General Easter Vestry of 1875 the members had other things in mind when they produced a resolution "That this Parish urge the necessity of Revision and respectfully call upon the General Synod to adopt such measures as shall effectively remove all erroneous doctrines such as Baptismal Regeneration and the Real Objective Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in or under the forms of the Sacrament of Bread and Wine."

The appointment on 28 February, 1879, of the Rev. Samuel Black, Incumbent of Ballyeaston, as Rector of the Parish is noted in a copy of the deed of election attached to the Minute Book. He was Rector of Dromara for less than a year. He was followed by Joseph Henry Chapman. Incidentally, the Rev. Samuel Scott Frackleton was treasurer of the church in 1881. He was a former Perpetual Curate of Magherahamlet, 1859-1880, and the husband of Elizabeth Baxter, a member of a well known Dromara church family. The Frackletons lived at Woodvale, now the home of Mrs. Tom Ervine. The house can be seen from the Rathfriland Road in the village.

The parishes of Dromara and Garvaghy were grouped in 1885 in a settlement which has worked remarkably well. The arrangement was a return to a partnership which had existed in the period 1661-1734, in the ministries of William Lindsay, Henry Harrison, Leonard and Samuel Hodson, John Wetherby, William Johnston. Joshua Pullein and Gabriel James Maturin. The reason for the grouping then was because Dromara Church was in a bad state and could only be used seasonly. Dromara parishioners were encouraged to worship in Garvaghy Church, which appears to have survived the worst of the 1641 devastation of churches. At 1811 they were linked again with Magherahamlet in the Prebend of Dromara, and in that year separation of the three units was recommended.

The Prebendal system was very different to what pertains today where the association of Dromore Cathedral, Dromara, Garvaghy, and Magherahamlet is made practical in the Rural Deanery of Dromore in which are also the parishes of Annahilt and Magheradroll.

Dromara Church was re-consecrated on Saturday IS February. 1896, and dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, by the Lord Bishop of the Diocese, the Right Rev. W. J. Welland. D.D., when a new chancel, transepts, and pitch pine roof were added at a cost of �400. In 1897 the Pulpit and Prayer Desk were dedicated. The fine marble font was presented and installed in 1903. Engraved on the rim are the words: "One Faith: One Baptism". The brass inscription plate reads:

To the Glory of God
In Memoriam.
Elizabeth Shaw of Derry in this Parish.
28th December 1902.
"The eyes of the blind see."

William Shaw. 12th April 1903.

On 3 May 1899 an exchange was ratified between J. H. Chapman and W. F. Wilkinson, Rector of Castleterre, Co. Cavan, when Mr. Wilkinson was instituted Rector of Dromara and Garvaghy. There has always been a story which accounted for the removal of Mr. Chapman. It has to do with grave plots which were covered over with the building of the transepts, and the annoyance of plot holders.

In 1899 the times of services were 11.30 a.m. and 7.15 p.m. There was one Harvest Festival service each year from 1899, on the Friday before the first Sunday in October. In 1906 the Sunday Harvest Services were started, soon to settle on the second weekend in October, Friday and Sunday. At an Orange Institution service IC July. 1904, 500 attended and Rector Wilkinson preached from the steps of the Vestry Room in the churchyard. There were many other occasions down the years when the weather and the numbers made the same arrangement necessary.

In 1905 there was one Sunday service regularly in Dromara Church at 11.30 a.m. The Garvaghy Church service was held at 3.30 p.m. Alternating services began in the churches in the incumbency of the Rev. James Armstrong, mid-summer 1920, 11.30 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. Sometimes there were evening services in Dromara Church.

In a Rector's notebook there are these statistics for 1905-6 - Dromara and Garvaghy: Baptisms, D9 : G7; Marriages, 0 : 0; Burials, 8 : IS; Communicants, 168 : 187; Christmas, 10 : 8; Easter, 15 : 13; Whit Sunday, 14 : 16; Average, 13 : 14.


In 1906 water heating was installed in the church, and the grand Megahy of Cork pipe organ was purchased and installed in 1907 at a cost of �250, half of the price being met by a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Fund. The service of dedication was on Saturday 25 May. The 1978 rebuilt and restored organ is worth many thousands of pounds to the parish.

The fine brass lectern was given to the Church in 1906. It has the inscription: "To the Glory of God, the gift of Thomas Lavery, Ballykeel, in loving memory of his mother, Eliza Lavery, died 30 July, 1901, aged 68 years; also his father, Edward Lavery, died 16 August 1905, aged 78 years."

In 1914 James Pollock was appointed church organist, a post he held for sixty years. He came to St. John's as a young Presbyterian to become an Anglican of sterling quality. A profile of Mr. Pollock by the present writer was published in the "Mourne Observer", 4 June, 1971.

The townland of Ballykeel was added to Dromara Parish in April 1922.

At a meeting of the Select Vestry, 4 July 1924, there was notification of the Matthew Bailey bequest of �400 to be invested to produce �20 interest per annum, �15 for the Organist and �5 for Sustentation.

The General Vestry of 1929 heard that the financial state of the parishes was such that there must be a meeting with the Diocesan Council on the group's future. Two vestrymen of each parish were to attend to present the case, and to seek some assistance to help solve the financial problems of the churches. Again we have no Vestry minute follow-up on the matter. It would appear that something was done for the situation improved quickly.

Names began to appear of people well remembered and well known - John Alexander, Rodger Hunter, Samuel J. Bailie, John E. Bailey and John Jess. J. E. Bailey's widow and members of the family remain strong supporters of St. John's. Mr. Millar Kenny, treasurer, is a son-in-law, and Mr. John Bailey, organist, is a grandson. Mrs. Kenny, daughter, and Mrs. M. S. Bailey, daughter-in-law, are members of the Select Vestry.

John Edgar Bailey became a magistrate at 27, a councillor, and Member of Parliament for West Down in the Northern Ireland Parliament, and sometime Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture. He died in 1958. His son, Matthew S. Bailey, has followed some distance in his father's footsteps. He is a J.P. and councillor, and was in 1977 chairman of the Banbridge District Council. Mr. John Jess, People's Churchwarden in 1936 - he has held the office again since 1966 - also became secretary to the Select Vestry, a post he held until he was succeeded by Lt. Col. F. M. Cunningham in 1969. Mr. Jess has an unequalled record of selfless service to St. John's Church. He continues to encourage everyone by showing the way rather than pointing it out.

In 1930 Miss Margaret Fee and Miss Rachel Mercer (Mrs. Harte) were thanked for their work with a Sunday evening Bible Class which met in the church. Miss Fee, who was class leader for some years, had worked with the Salvation Army in America and elsewhere. Two of her sisters, the Misses Georgina and Rebekah Fee, are valued members of St. John's. The late William James Moore became sexton in 1935. He retired in 1965 to be succeeded by Mr. Joseph Walker, who had been caretaker of St. John's Hall since its opening in November, 1957.

A 1939 Vestry Minute provides the information that the Advent services were held in a Rectory room because of the difficulty in blacking out the church. This is one of the few intimations to remind us of the war of 1939-45.

In December 1954 Hymnboards were presented to St. John's by Mr. Joseph J. Mercer, U.S.A., in memory of his father, James A. Mercer.

In 1944 the need of a church hall was accepted by the Select Vestry and �75 was donated to start off a building fund. For many years the proposed hall was an inevitable topic of discussion at Vestry meetings. In time, plans were approved, a site was promised, and some money was gathered. But the project only became a reality when the present Rector cleared the size and purchase of the site, through her solicitor, with Mrs. Hunter, Dromara. New plans were prepared by Mr. Samuel Hunter, Builder, Dromara, and the hall was built on an arrangement with the Rector for the supply of materials.

The story of St. John's Hall is an interesting one. The scheme as it was executed owes nothing to the prior plans of other days which envisaged a loan of �3,000, and loans at low or no interest from parishioners willing to lend to the same amount. The new plan took shape when Mr. John Jess and the Rector obtained the sympathy and help of Mr. Jim McCormick, Roads Contractor, Ballynahinch, and then of other suppliers of building materials on a "pay as you can" arrangement.

The site beside the church was cleared by a McCormick digger, and the foundations were laid by a John Jess squad of strongly muscled and willing volunteers, not all of them members of St. John's. The commodious hall with minor hall-cum-gallery and the necessary ancillary accommodations was built, decorated and furnished for �5,000. Then money was raised by Parish collection, and the running of every kind of money-making entertainment suitable to a church hall, so that Mr. McCormick, the last of the creditors by his own insistence, was not kept waiting long for what he was owed. Mr. Millar Kenny's work as treasurer of the special hall fund was very much appreciated. A car park at the hall was made by voluntary labour. An extension to it was made in 1975 by contractor/ members R. & J. Fee, Dromara, with voluntary assistance.



A service of opening and dedication took place on 7 November, 1957. Taking part were the Bishop of the Diocese, the Right Rev. F. J. Mitchell, D.D., and Mr. John E. Bailey, J.P.. M.P., who opened the hall in the place of the Lord Wakehurst, Governor of Northern Ireland, who had promised to do so, but was prevented through illness. The hall story and a pictorial record of the Opening Ceremony was published in 1958. Titled "One Momentous Year", it was written by the Rector.

Prior to the building of St. John's Hall the Megahy Organ was electrified in the summer of 1957 at a cost of �400 by the Irish Organ Company. Two well-known men of St. John's had been organ blowers, the late Matthew Maguire. 1922-42, and R. J. Rowan, 1942-57.

At the service of re-dedication of the organ, gifts of a Canterbury Chair at the Prayer Desk and a brass alms dish were presented by the Mercer family in memory of their parents, and an Offices book was the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Fee. The Archdeacon of Down. the Ven. G. A. Quin, the present Bishop of the Diocese, dedicated the organ and the gifts. Gifts of linen for the Holy Table were made at other times by Mrs. James Jess, Mr. and Mrs. George Jess, and Mrs. Selina Fee.

From 1945 the times of church services had been a matter of discussion in the Vestries. The arrangement which had existed from 1920, alternating services, was unpopular in Dromara. The St. John's Vestry argued that it was confusing to members of both churches. And it added the plea that a morning service was necessary in a village church where visitors would expect to find one. Dromara suggested 11.30 a.m., Dromara, and 1.30 p.m., Garvaghy, every Sunday, with a financial adjustment of the assessments of the two Parishes. The Garvaghy Vestry would not agree to this suggestion or to others which were made at that time and subsequently. Agreement was reached after some experimentation during the present incumbency when the times were set to begin 2 August, 1959: Garvaghy, 10.45 a.m. and Dromara 12 noon. Sunday evening services are held in St. John's in Lent and Advent, and in Garvaghy Church on the Wednesdays of those church seasons.

In 1964 the baptismal font was moved from its position near the West Door in the Nave, and re-sited at the Vestry door, to allow for the provision of more seating in the church. On the advice of a friend, the Rector approached the Rector of St. Jude's Church, Ballynafeigh, Belfast, with a request to purchase four pews similar to those in St. John's which were no longer needed in St. Jude's, where some reconstruction work had been done. In the event the St. Jude's Select Vestry made a gift of the pews to St. John's, and the Rector, Mr. Robert Thompson, Rector's Churchwarden, and Mr. Sam Elliott, brought them, with the help of a Presbyterian friend and lorry driver, Mr. Angus Kinghan, to Dromara.

The font was moved and the pews installed by Sam Elliott, whose skill as carpenter and builder was always at the disposal of the Parish. At the same time he made safe steps to the Vestry Room from the churchyard - the semi-circular steps were dangerous in frost and damp weather - and he did extensive interior re-building and plastering work in the Tower. Sam's work then and over the years before and after, saved the church many thousands of pounds. He was a most meticulous and dependable workman. Up to a few weeks before his sudden death on 4 May, 1978, his advice was sought by the Rector on building and maintenance matters to do with the church, church hall and rectory.

In June 1966 a beautiful Holy Table in oak was presented to St. John's by the Bell Family, Artana, Dromara, in memory of their parents. The sanctuary carpet was the gift of the Rector, and the flower vases for the Holy Table re-table were presented by Lt.-Col. F. M. and Mrs. Cunningham. The Rt. Rev. F. J, Mitchell, D,D,. dedicated the gifts.

In 1968, 19 May, three special thanksgiving services were held to mark work done in the Parish. The preachers were the Bishop, the Rt. Rev. F. J. Mitchell, Canon John Barry, Hillsborough, and Archdeacon George A. Quin.

The South Transept Window, stained glass, designed and installed by Caldermac Ltd., 1974, was dedicated in memory of Mr. James Pollock, the gift of parishioners and friends in thankfulness for his sixty years as organist of the church. He had died on 28 February, 1972. The Bishop, the Rt. Rev. George A. Quin, M.A., dedicated the window and preached the sermon.

To make for greater comfort in the church oil heating was installed by Johnston Bros, Heating Engineers, Hillsborough, in 1969, and a new lighting system by R. Spence, Electrical Contractors, Dromara, in 1976. The church had been re-roofed in 1968 and the East End exterior wall of the sanctuary re-built by John Smyth, Builder, Gransha, Dromara. The wall job, which appeared originally to be of little consequence - a section of broken plaster on the short gable wall - turned out to be an expensive one when it was found that the wall had no foundation. To secure a sound base on which to build, the area had to be excavated to a depth of eight feet.

All the exterior woodwork was treated by Rentokil in 1970. And replacements of spoutings and gutterings were made in 1975.

At 1977 the state of the exterior of the Tower was such that it had to be cleaned and spot pointed. The work was done by H. L. Stuart Cox & Co. Ltd., Belfast. A collection taken up in the parish with a grant from the Marshall Beresford Fund paid for the work. And a number of special money-making efforts yielded such a sum of money that the Select Vestry was encouraged to put in hand the restoration of the organ.

Johnians have always been noted for their support of worthwhile schemes in the Parish. Their response to the promptings of careful, thoughtful, and yet adventurous leadership over the last twenty years has been excellent and fully justified by results. And the Parish has less than 100 families.

The organ rebuild was by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Smethurst, Belfast. Mr. Smethurst, before his retirement, was the principal in a large organ building firm. His highly professional skill, and Mrs. Smethurst's remarkable knowledge of the organ, ensured a high quality job. And of about equal importance was the removal of the instrument from the chancel where it had always unbalanced it, and because it had put the sanctuary out of sight of many in the congregation. The organ change-over to the North Transept meant that the chancel had to be painted to rhyme with the rest of the church. This work was done by Richard Crothers, Painter and Decorator, Dromara, who has done painting work for St. John's for many years. The chancel floor was carpeted by Stewart & Gibson Ltd., Ballynahinch

At the service of dedication on 3 December, 1978, the Bishop also dedicated a stained glass window to the memory of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Thompson, Ballykeel. The window by C. W. S. Designs, Lisburn, was the gift of their son, William, a member of the Select Vestry. Robert Thompson, who died suddenly on 18 January, 1977, was for more than twenty years Rector's Churchwarden in St. John's. He was one of God's gentlemen, a thoughtful, generous parishioner and friend. Other gifts dedicated were collecting plates from Miss Etta Fairley, in memory of her parents, and carpeting by the Misses Rebekah and Georgina Fee in memory of their parents.

The storm glazing of the memorial windows to James Pollock and Robert Thompson was a parishioner's gift to two most worthy servants of the church.

The Rev. Stanhope Sabine Squires was Rector of Dromara and Garvaghy, 1940-56. His ministry in the war years was marked by concern for those who fled Belfast in the air raids to find a haven in the quiet of the country. A humble, gentle, much respected pastor, his work was greatly appreciated in the grouped parishes. He died suddenly in February 1956 when undergoing an operation in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

The present Rector, from 1956, is the Rev. Samuel Ernest Long, L.Th., J.P. Mr. Long, a magistrate since 1968, has been Rural Dean of Dromore since 1971. A prolific writer, his works have been published widely here and abroad. He serves the wider church as a member of the Diocesan Council and General Synod; secretary of the Down and Dromore and Connor Home Mission Society, the Council of Mission for Ireland, and the Lurgan Clerical Union; member of the Northern Ireland Board of Social Responsibility (and its pamphleteer for many years); the Publications Committee of General Synod; the Down and Dromore and Connor Education Board; and the Management Committee of A.P.C.K. He has represented C. of I. boards at various conferences and seminars. He has also travelled widely as writer and speaker on Orangeism and Unionism.

The officers of St. John's Church are - Churchwardens: Rector's, Ernest Jess; People's, John Jess; Glebe, Howard Jess. Select Vestry: Mesdames M. S. Bailey, M. Kenny, F. M. Cunningham, Messrs R. J. Rowan, E. Sprague H. Silcock W. Jess W. Thompson, J. H. Thompson, P. McKinstry, M. Kenny (treasurer), and Lt. Col. F. M. Cunningham (secretary). Mrs. P. McKinstry is Freewill Offerings secretary/ treasurer. The organist is John Bailey and the sexton, Joseph Walker, 9 Dundrum Road, Dromara.


The old rectory of Dromara, Dromara House, was built in 1821, the lease dating November 1817, from the Marquis of Downshire to the Rev. H. E. Boyd, with a gift of �100. A loan of �1,125 was granted from the Board of First Fruits.

The Vestry Minute Book has no references to the building of the house, but some on the claims of the Parish to lands over and above the twenty-eight acres granted to it. There appears to have been court action on the matter which the Parish lost.

The decreasing value of property, and the increasing cost of labour and maintenance began to effect the attitude of the Parish to the Rectory and its lands from 1945 onwards. The very poor condition of the house and grounds encouraged the Select Vestry to consider selling the property, and building a smaller more suitable house for the Incumbent. To this end application was made to the Diocesan Council for permission to sell. The permission must have been granted, for there are Vestry allusions to offers originally as low as �700 rising in 1951 to �5,000 for house and lands.

The matter became so pressing that the two vestries met on 2 August 1951 to consider the �5,000 offer, only to refuse it. In June 1952 they met again and decided to sell at �7,000 if that sum could be obtained. As there were no takers at that figure, the matter rested until 1958 when after a Parish meeting, a two-vestries meeting, and several meetings of the St. John's Select Vestry, it was decided to sell the 'Rectory and five acres of land to Lt. Col. Cunningham. The decision to sell the part and not the whole was taken after the Rector, with the expert assistance of Mr. H. W. Sherwood, Roads Surveyor, had submitted a plan for the division of the glebe in the conviction that land should be retained by the Parish. The house had been drawing off the parishes' money in maintenance costs which had failed to stay its decline. The Cunninghams have completely restored the house over the years and the grounds are well kept.

The present Rectory, on the glebe land, was built in 1960 by Pharis Carlisle, Builder, Ballycrune, Hillsborough, at a cost of �5,000. It had central heating installed in 1973 through the kindness of Mr. Walter Johnston, Johnston Bros., Hillsborough, who gave the radiators, less one, as a gift which meant that the scheme cost much less than it would have done.

During the fourteen months when the Rectory family was waiting on the house to be built, they lived at Tullyniskey, Dromara, in a delightfully reconstructed house owned by Mr. George Ervine, O.B.E., J.P., the Waringsford miller. On an arrangement with the Rector, the house was loaned for a token sum of very small amount. The Parishes were deeply indebted to Mr. Ervine, a good Presbyterian, for a gift which was typical of the man. We can refer to his benefaction now, for he would not have had such account taken of it in his lifetime. The Ervine family, with Mrs. George Ervine, continue to be very good friends of our churches and of Garvaghy especially.


It must be appropriate in a booklet about St. John's Church and Parish to say something about Garvaghy Church and Parish, for the two have been closely and happily associated.

The first mention of Garvaghy Church was in 1422.

The Garvaghy area - the church is about five miles from Dromara - is entirely rural, hilly, with good quality land. In the Parish at Waringsford is the Ervine grain mill. It is to the great credit of the founder of the firm and his sons, William and George, that the business has long provided good employment for men of the district. The growth of this family firm, when so many of the kind were being sold up or absorbed in giant combines, is a matter of pride to employers, employees and the community at large.

It is just over three miles from Garvaghy to Dromore and six miles to Banbridge. Garvaghy Church is sited on the Garvaghy Church Road which runs parallel to the Waringsford (Gall Bog) Road from Banbridge to Dromara.

Among the items of interest about Garvaghy is the story that in the townland of Shanrod there took place the first public demonstration in Ulster in favour of some redress of the wrongs against tenant farmers from the excesses of some landlords. The infamous Rutherford evictions in the townland of Corbet in 1851 sparked it off. The robbery and brutality of the evictions aroused the fury of a generally quiescent people. Their champions were William Sharman Crawford and James McKnight, LL. D. The effectiveness of this, and other such demonstrations, was proved by the reforms which came later by parliamentary measures. The way was being prepared for the Land Act of 1881 and much fairer treatment of those who lived by their labour on the land.

The heroine of W. G. Lyttle's novel "Betsy Gray and the Hearts of Down", in the opinion of some authorities, was born and raised in the Parish in a house at Waringsford, and baptised in Garvaghy Church.

The Rev. Thomas Beatty, Vicar of Garvaghy, in '98 was highly respected by everybody. "After the Battle of Ballynahinch, when the licentious soldiery and yeomanry were let loose upon a defenceless people, he rode his horse day and night to all the centres of authority, and pledged his honour, his life, and his property for the good conduct of the inhabitants of his parish, with the result that not a soldier or yeoman ever entered it with evil intent." For his work he was presented with a good horse and all the necessary riding gear, a proper present for a "horsey" man.

Garvaghy Church is a small building in the Grecian style. It was built in 1699 and thoroughly renovated in 1780 when the chancel was reconstructed. It was re-roofed in 1895.

Electric lighting was installed in 1955.

The chancel was carpeted and choir chairs were added in 1962 when a memorial to the former Rector, the Rev. S. S. Squires, was dedicated. It was a parish gift of pulpit, prayer desk and lectern in oak. Also dedicated were two oak sanctuary chairs. The furniture was made by R. H. Knox & Co., Belfast And there was a gift of an oil fired heating system by Dr. Mary Cantley in memory of her parents. It was installed by Sam Hunter, Dromara. The dedication was by the Bishop, the Right Rev. F. J. Mitchell.

In 1966 an entrance was built to church and churchyard and a pedestrian gate, "never open, never shut", was fitted. Water was piped to the churchyard. In 1969 the walls of the church paths were remade and a new wall was built on the south side of the churchyard. A car park was made in 1973 on church land re-acquired when the Garvaghy School was returned to the Parish after the pupils had been transferred to Kinallen School. All this work was done by voluntary labour. In 1971 a new Yamaha electronic organ was installed. The 'interior woodwork of the church was treated by Timbercare, Lisburn, in 1974. In 1976 the voluntary workers laid a cement floor in the Vestry room.

The Church with some thirty families has a very good record of loyalty and devotion by people who have a strong commitment to their church.


The house was built in 1820 and had 74 acres of land in its glebe. It cost �800 and was paid for by a �400 gift and �400 borrowed from the Board of First Fruits.

After the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1870, all the glebe lands, which were let in several small tenancies, were sold by the Church Commissioners. In Garvaghy the glebe house with four acres (Irish) was acquired by the Parish for �700. It was sold when the Parish was grouped with Dromara in 1855. Some years later it was purchased by the committee of Garvaghy Presbyterian Church as the manse for its minister and so it remains today.


Dromara is very largely Presbyterian by denomination. The Irish Presbyterian Churches are First and Second Dromara and Garvaghy. There is one of the largest congregations of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, a Baptist Church at Ballykeel, and a Roman Catholic Church at Finnis.

The Presbyterians are from the same source.

The "Big Meeting House" of First Dromara at Artana is a fine example of the barn architecture of the time. A style of building which was meant to illustrate the characteristics of a "no-nonsense" creed, which laid great stress on simplicity in worship and transparency in conduct; honesty and sincerity in man's dealings with his God and his fellowman. The congregation was formed in 1713 and the church was rebuilt in 1820. While extensive renovation work has been done on occasions down the years, the exterior remains much as it was from the beginning. The Rev. A. P. McComb is the minister.

Second Dromara was founded in 1844 to meet the needs of Presbyterians in the area between Artana and Ballynahinch with special concern for the village of Dromara, and because First Church was "bursting at the seams". The congregation there often took turns sitting and standing, at the much longer services which were common to the Presbyterianism of the time. The original intention may have been to build Second Church at Burren, a townland midway between Dromara and Ballynahinch, but it was sited on Begney Hill Road just out of the village. The church was built and in regular use by 1847.

In the ministry of the Rev. W. J. Patton, 1853-94, the old manse and the schoolhouse were built. While the Rev. John Logan, M.A., LL.D., was minister, 1895-1908, extensive renovations were carried out to church property, a minister's room was built and a new pulpit installed. The congregation is presently vacant. The Rev. James Johnston, 1968 1978, was installed minister of Carnlough Church, Co. Antrim, 6 October, 1978.

Garvaghy Presbyterian Church was founded in 1803 when it was finally decided by the strictly orthodox Presbyterians of the area that as they had no taste for the "New Light" preaching of the young ministers, educated at Glasgow University, who were "occupying the pulpit" in First Church in the last years of the pastorate of the Rev. James Jackson Birch, they should form their own cause. Birch, while old and infirm, held on to his position in the hope that his grandson would succeed him. He did.

It seems that the Dromara and Garvaghy Presbyterians never really blended together. From 1798 the breach began to occur on doctrinal grounds. There was another reason, the Garvaghy people wanted a church nearer home. The present church was built in the manse grounds in 1904. Stories still circulate of how the minister, the Rev. Robert Baird, travelled abroad to gather money for the building of the church. The present minister is the Rev. J. A. Todd.

The Reformed (Covenanter) Church came out of the "big split" of 1873 and 1874 when the quarrel over the call of a minister to the vacant congregation of First Dromara produced a situation when the majority who refused to accept the Presbytery's ruling on the case, separated to form a church of the Reformed Presbyterian Communion. The first Reformed Presbyterian minister in Ireland was the Rev. William Martin, who Was settled near Rasharkin, Co. Antrim, in 1757. The first Presbytery was formed in 1763 (Barkley).

The split is well documented in the histories of First Dromara written by W. G. Glasgow (1913) and Aiken McClelland (1963). It is necessary here only to add that relations between the two congregations have been very good following the early years of a separation which had affected catastrophically a closely-knit community Over the years the Reformed Church has developed an ethos of its own. Its way of worship and its involvements in the denomination make it recognisably different to its neighbour. The minister is the Rev. Robert Hanna.

The Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, at Massford, Dromara, began to be built in 1825 in the ministry of the Rev. Francis Reavy, and was finished in 1833 when the Rev. Michael McCartan was in charge. The dedication was delayed until a new bishop was appointed. It took place in 1835. The parish meets the needs of an extensive Roman Catholic population in the townlands of the risings of the Dromara Mountains and the Dromara area generally. The Parish Priest is the Rev. Bernard Treanor.

The Irish Baptist Church at Ballykeel was founded in 1891. The church was built in 1897 and the congregation is drawn from a wide geographical area. The witness at Ballykeel overflowed to found churches of the denomination at Dromore, Ballynahinch and Lisburn, "a fruitful bough whose branches ran over the wall." From 1891-7 the congregation met first in the house of a member, Mr. Thomas Weir, Ballykeel, and later in a loft belonging to Mr. Samuel Hamilton, at Ballykeel cross-roads. Pastor J. R. Grant shares his ministry at Ballykeel Church with the post of Secretary of the Irish Baptist Union.

There are two Christian Workers Union Halls in the Parish. These are inter-denominational meeting places. The organisation was founded by converts of the Rev. W. P. Nicholson's missions of the twenties. "W.P." was born in Bangor, Co. Down, and he became the best known Ulster evangelist. His work in the Ulster of "The Troubles" of the 1920's made a very large contribution to the religious and social life of the country. His converts made an impact on the churches in Ireland and on missionary enterprise abroad.

Writing on Nicholson, the present writer titled his article "The Rude Evangelist" ("The Church of Ireland Gazette", 18 August, 1967) for the man had a deliberately cultivated crude use of language which produced the affect he wanted. The life, work and influence of W. P. Nicholson deserves a depth of research and appreciation which it has not yet received. He had a following in Dromara and the two C.W.U. Halls in the Parish are at Dromara Village and Kinallen. The workers in the halls are members of the churches of the district.

Methodism came to Dromara when a church of the Primitive Society was opened in the village on 13 September, 1835. The building of the church was almost literally the work of one man named Hill, of "deep piety and liberal spirit." Undaunted in his resolve to build a place of worship, "He laboured with his own hands and prayed and laboured, night and day, until, without having one shilling to assist him, the object of his prayerful solicitude was accomplished." Such a man deserves more than this fleeting mention.

The Methodist cause survived for some 70 years.

After services were discontinued the building remained in the care of the Dromore Church. After several uses, and as a Technical School for a time, it was purchased by the Dromara Apprentice Boys in 1969. They rebuilt and modernised it to make it an attractive meeting place. It is used occasionally for evangelistic services. (See "Dromore Methodism : A Short History. 1779-1979", by J. Lennox Booth.)

Relationships among the denominations in the Parish have always been very good. There is an amount of sharing among clergy and people which shows a proper appreciation of the value of Christian togetherness.

In youth organisations there is sharing, most markedly in the First Dromara Company: The Boys' Brigade, which was founded by the Rector in 1957 and re-formed in 1963 as a four-churches company with Mr. Nelson Andrews, an officer of the Banbridge Road, Dromore, Company, as Captain. The story of the Company is one of service to the churches and the community. Many young men are grateful for the time they spent in its ranks. While St. John's brought the Girls' Brigade to the Parish and district, the Company has not been active for some years. The girls of the church have been made welcome in the Companies of the other churches. Many of them have brought credit to St. John's by their membership.

And there has always been sharing in Indoor Bowls, where all ages enjoy a game which remains remarkably popular with the church people of the Parish. St. John's had the distinction of introducing the game to the area in January 1958.

It was a St. John's appeal backed by the other Dromara churches which produced the day-a-week centre for senior citizens at St. John's Hall. It 'is open to everyone in the category. Social welfare is responsible for the funding and running of it and through it provision is made for other needs of the people who attend. Out of the day centre came meals on wheels. In both ventures voluntary help is provided by ladies of the churches. And church people work together in several committees for various charities and charitable objects.


We have dropped names in this booklet of people who were extraordinary among their fellows. Every community in every age has those who were not the same as everybody else. They are those who give variety to our humanity. That Dromara has had its quota is as certain as Slieve Croob. But remarkably we have no long list of favourite sons and daughters. Those who have impressed us for the most part are those who have come to reside here, not native to the Parish. They are clergymen whose calling brought them to the heart of Down, and to experiences and friendships which satisfied some of them, and prepared others for larger ministries elsewhere.

It is passing strange that the two men of the cloth who have most impressed me, the one by his writing and evangelistic zeal, his hooks "How to Live the Christian Life" and "Pardon and Assurance"; the other by his zeal for the Gospel and his enthusiasm for the Christian ministry, were clergymen of another communion the ministers of Second Dromara, W. J. Patton and W. J. Gregg.

I shall never forget Mr. Gregg's kindness to me as a young student struggling to master Greek and Latin constructions. I met him when he was minister of Argyle Place Church, Belfast. And I wrote of him as "My Most Unforgettable Character". ("The Church of Ireland Gazette", 1968.) He was a saint and a scholar who earned a recognition which he received only from sensitive people, often unimportant, who like Simeon and Anna, realised quality instinctively and with a spiritual perceptiveness which is not always possessed by religious leaders. W. J. Gregg is still remembered in the Parish for his open-air lectures when the "magic lantern" pictures were projected on to gable walls at Dromara Village, Ballykeel, cross-roads and elsewhere in an area of some miles around.

And there was Hannington Elgee Boyd, for 54 years Rector of Dromara, 1810-1864, a magistrate and community leader. His younger brother, Charles, was 55 years rector of Magheradroll. They were sons of Henry Boyd, Vicar of Drumgath, Rathfriland, and the translator of Dante. H. E. died at 94 and Charles at 97. Regrettably they were reputed to be most unbrotherly in their relationships. The Rev. George Bellett, curate of Magherahamlet. 1821, in his "Life" speaks of the Rev. Charles Boyd, of Ballynahinch, brother of the Rev. H. E. Boyd, but not on speaking terms with him.

The memorial tablet in St. John's Church is inscribed:

In Memory of
Mary Mortimer Boyd.
Born 1798. Died 1862.
She was the wife of Hannington Elgee Boyd, A.M.

And in memory of
Margaret Gillespie, their daughter,
who died at Heidelburg in the 26th year of her age.
"They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they are not divided."

The Rev. H. E. Boyd, A.M., J.P.
Fell Asleep, 29th July 1864.
Aged 94 years.
For 54 years Vicar of this Parish.

Among the Dromara born men who have become famous is the. Rev. Hugh Hanna, the Presbyterian minister of Berry Street and St. Enoch's churches in Belfast. He became one of the best known preacher/politicians of a Belfast often embroiled in sectarian strife.

Sybil E. Baker in "Orange and Green, Belfast 1832-1912" (1973) says: "A line of Protestant demagogis politician/preachers ensured that the defence of Protestant liberty would be a clarion call in nineteenth century Belfast. The grandiloquent oratory of the Rev. Dr. Henry Cooke nursed the infant Conservative Party and defied O'Connell. The energy and sectarian intolerance of the Rev. Dr. Drew sustained mid-century Orangeism. The Rev. Hugh Hanna carried the pulpit battle into the streets. The Rev. Dr. Kane welded the Orange Order into the constituency machinery of the Unionist Party. They preached violence and deplored its outcome. 'They could lead a mob' it was said of Kane and Hanna in 1886, but not control one'."

This judgement on Hanna was not that of many of his contemporaries who regarded him as one of the greatest Presbyterian divines in an age of great men in the ministry of the church. He had a well earned reputation as pastor and preacher. "As a preacher, lecturer, and educationalist he had few equals." ("Presbyterianism in Belfast") He restored the old Berry Street Church in 1852 and gathered such a large congregation that the new church of St. Enoch's at Carlisle Circus was built for him in 1872. That he was highly esteemed by his denomination is illustrated in the fact that he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the Presbyterian Theological Faculty in 1885. Later he had the degrees D.C.L. and LL.B. conferred on him by American universities.

Hanna was born in Dromara on 25 February, 1821, the son of Peter Hanna and Ellen Finiston and baptised 3 March 1821 by the Rev. James B. Black, First Dromara. He was reared by his grandfather, John Hanna, in the townland of Derry, Dromara. when his parents left to make their home in Belfast. On the death of his grandmother, he joined his parents and May Street Presbyterian Church in the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Henry Cooke, the famous apologist for Presbyterian orthodoxy and Tory politics.

Three men influenced Hanna greatly, his grandfather, Cooke, and the Rev. Josias Wilson, of Townsend Street Church, who became his friend and mentor. Hanna died much mourned on 3 February. 1892, and was buried in Balmoral Cemetery, Belfast. A bronze statue was erected to his memory in Carlisle Circus. It depicted him in pulpit robes, with a Bible in his left hand and his right hand pointing heavenwards. The statue was destroyed by bombers on 1 March, 1970.

A son of a First Dromore minister, the Rev. J. R. McCleery, was the Right Hon. Sir William McCleery, M.P., Minister of Commerce in Stormont, and later a Grand Master of the Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland.


Not many of us know much about our antecedents.

Few of us bother to try o trace our origins back further than a handful of generations.

It is different with the churches. They are generally very conscious of their history or most conscious of their lack of history.

The Church of Ireland has a long history. It is the Church of St. Patrick. It can trace its lineage to the Patron Saint of Ireland.

Until the 12th century it was an autonomous church without a tie stronger than friendship with the Church of England and the Church of Rome.

The English conquest of Ireland by King Henry II of England. and the influence of the English Church, then bearing allegiance to Rome, changed that position until the Reformation of the Church in the 16th century. The fact of history is that the Church of Ireland's allegiance to Rome came through the connection with England, politically and religiously, 1172-1542, when, like the Church of England, it was in full communion with the Church of Rome, though not subject to it.

Following the pattern of much of Western Europe the Church of Ireland embraced the Reformation, its faith and practice - reformation was much needed in Ireland, too - and it was the most revolutionary happening in Christianity for centuries. It changed the form, and route, of Christendom. The first step towards Reformation was taken in May 1537 when the Irish Parliament threw off the authority of the Pope and declared the King, Henry VIII, supreme head on earth of the Church of Ireland.

Unfortunately for the progress of the Reformation in Ireland the people were Irish-speaking, and the English of the new liturgy which sounded strange in their ears was distasteful to them. And the ritual of the Roman Church was nearer to that of the old Irish Church than the Reformed Liturgy. The determination of the Bishops, who were mostly Englishmen, to compel acceptance of the new way, when seen beside the cruel English rule of the time, produced a determined refusal to accept this English thing and these English ways.

The Reformed Church was crippled by the absence of an Irish Prayer Book and Bible. Those circumstances allowed the Roman Church, at first slow to react against the Reformed Church, for there was the belief that it would return to the Roman allegiance, to come back to Ireland. Roman emissaries were sent in with Irish catechisms, and books of devotion, when it was clear that the Irish Church was not going to retrace its steps, to persuade people to leave their churches and to attend the "Mass Houses" which began to appear in many places.

It was a short time until Titular Bishops appeared. These were often Italian nominees of the Papacy and absentees from Ireland.

The early years of the 17th century saw the founding of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland as presently constituted.

The progress of the Reformation was affected, too, by the appearance of Scottish Presbyterians from 1611 who because they were a new element in the religious struggle, weakened the position of the Reformed Church of Ireland.

The Plantations of Ulster in the 17th century 'is a story well documented and frequently alluded to in the continuing drama of Ulster, which since 1968 has been a society under terrorist attack, and where the two philosophies, Unionism and Nationalism, confront one another. Other philosophies are making loud noises, too, after ten years of trouble in which many have lost their lives and very many have been injured in body and mind. like Independence for Northern Ireland and Federalism for all Ireland.

The Church of Ireland is self governed. It is a member of the world-wide Anglican Communion. The headquarters are in Dublin at Church of Ireland House, Church Avenue, Rathmines 6. The office of the Diocese of Down and Dromore is in Church of Ireland House. 12 Talbot Street, Belfast BT1 2QH

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References to the Reformation in Ireland and to the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland may encourage some readers to study further in these subjects. Here are some booklets which are a useful introduction to the subjects.

"History of the Church of Ireland" - Henry E. Patton (1943).
"The Church of St. Patrick" - John Barry (1961).
"No New Church" - H. R. McAdoo (1945?).
"Being an Anglican" - H. R. McAdoo (1977).
"How the Church of Ireland was Disestablished" - Hugh Shearman (1970).
"`The Church of Ireland - Why Conservative?" - W. G. Wilson (1970).
The Church of Ireland Commemorative Booklets (1932).

Changes at APCK and an appeal by the Publications Committee of the General Synod could mean that much needed literature on and for the Church of Ireland will be published fairly soon.




1427 Gilbert Mclnerny (13)
1441 John Armstrong (19)
1460 William O'Rooney
1529 Peter O'Rooney
1634 William Massie (27)
1661 William Lindsay (3)
1664 Henry Harrison (9)
1673 Leonard Hodson (6)
1679 Samuel Hodson (7)
1686 John Wetherby (8)
1694 William Johnston (22)
1716 Joshua Pullein (12)
1728 Gabriel James Maturin (6)
1734 William Pountney (18)
1752 Thomas Paul (14)
1766 Arthur Clark (26)
1792 William Campbell (12)
1804 Francis Burrowes (6)


1810 Hannington Elgee Boyd (54)
1864 Henry Murphy (7)
1871 William Hanly Ball (8)
1879 Samuel Black (1)
1880 Joseph Henry Chapman  



1629 John Death (5)
1634 Patrick Dunkin (27)
1661 William Lindsay (12)
1673 Leonard Hodson (6)
1679 Samuel Hodson (7)
1686 John Wetherby (8)
1694 William Johnston (22)
1716 Joshua Pullein (12)
1728 Gabriel James Maturin (6)
1734 Joseph Hanna (7)
1741 Thomas Waring (2)
1743 James Brush (11)
1754 James Dickson (23)
1777 John Beatty (16)
1793 Thomas Beatty (20)
1813 Charles Hamilton (15)
1828 Hugh S. Hamilton (30)
1858 William Mortimer (14)
1872 Abraham Smyth King (2)
1874-6 Francis Graham
1878 James Blackwood (7)

N.B.: Joseph Hanna and Thomas Waring exchanged Garvaghy and Magheradroll, 1741. Charles Hamilton and Thomas Beatty exchanged Tullylish and Garvaghy, 1813. Beatty was a magistrate since 1797. James Dickson was Dean of Down, 1768-87. His son, William, became Bishop of Down and Connor, 1783-1804, and another son, John, was Archdeacon of Down, 1790-1814. Joshua Pullein became Chancellor of Dromore. He was the son of Tobias Pullein, Bishop of Dromore, 1695-1713. His great grandfather was Samuel Pullein, Archbishop of Tuam.


1885 J. H. Chapman


1899 William Doran Falkiner Wilkinson


1919 James Armstrong


1940 Stanhope Sabine Squires


1956 Samuel Ernest Long


N.B.: H. H. Woodhouse, Trinity College, Dublin, was in charge of the parishes, 1939-40. The Rev. James Armstrong died 21 February, 1974.


1673, Robert Logy; 1713, Samuel Redman; 1724, Jeremiah Workman: 1729, William Rowan; 1737, Thomas Waring; 1746, Stephen McMullan; 1785, William Campbell; 1807, William McDowell Johnston; 1808, James Forde; 1811, Skeffington Thompson; 1815, George Clarke; 1833, Alexander Browne; 1835, James Perkins Garrett; 1844. Frederick Cassidy; 1853-60, Frederick Barber; 1861, John McGrorty


1742-3, James Dickson; 1828, John Bredin; 1841, James Silcock; 1848-64, John Williams; 1865, Abraham Smyth King; 1868, William Metge.

In this appreciation of an old Church and Parish T have been anxious to highlight matters of interest to me and, hopefully, to anyone who will read me. It has had to do with the tangible things of a fellowship like ours. But the intangibles are the things which really matter to the Christian Church. I have no way of assessing the effects of the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments of the Gospel in the Parish, or of valuing the benefits of Christian friendship and fellowship, work and witness over the centuries. How can we value the spread of St. John's influence in the world? We can say only that the Gospel has been preached faithfully, and sometimes powerfully, and that the Sacraments have been administered effectively by successive pastors. People have been taught and shown the Faith by those who were fully committed to it. And the testimony to the truth of God in Jesus Christ continues by word and deed.

Most Christian people have come to recognise that the Church often does its best work quietly, almost imperceptively, in moulding the lives of people.

This is not to deny that the Church has a constant expectation of quick change by the Gospel. That is what conversation is about, and of quickly awakened social consciousness.

It is in the ordinary, unexciting, ways of the Church's life that we are impressed by the sincerity and loyalty of our committed people.

We are constantly being reminded that it is easier to be an enthusiast in the crowd than with the few. It is easier to go with the current than against it. Honesty and decency often dictate to sensitive people the necessity of standing for truth and goodness when it would he more fashionable to accept untruth and sinfulness.

As Church people we are required often to take our stand for what is no longer fashionable in a permissive, secular, society; that is faith in God and devotion to Christian moral standards.

Every time we go to public worship we give testimony to the faith that is in us.

We have to accept the inevitables of smallness and restricted opportunities. Coming to grips with our situation means that we shall always do the best we can with what we have. May that be our determination for the way ahead.

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Because inevitably all rural churches lose members by the "emigration" of young people by marriage or career, their influence is spread in all directions. St. John's is happy when it retains the interest of former members, and their families. We hope that a use of this booklet will be to reach such people to remind them of the old Church and to encourage them to renew their interest in us by making the contact which will keep us in touch with them.

Copyright S. E. Long.