The parish of Donaghmore is one of the oldest and most historic in Ireland. The foundation of the parish by St Patrick is recounted in “The Tripartite Life of St Patrick” (c. 890AD), where it is told that he came to Donaghmore (then called the “Fir Imchlair”) and baptised and blessed the people, leaving them the priest Columb, and Patrick’s prayer-book and bell. No historical records of these early centuries exist, but what is known is that Donaghmore (which translates literally into English as ‘The Great Church’) because a monastic settlement connected to the great monastery of Armagh. ‘The Annals of the Four Masters’ refers to its destruction in 1195 and its importance is indicated by the fact that this was considered a great loss. The only surviving relic of this period is the famous Celtic Cross which now stands at the top end of the village.
From Patrician times until the Seventeenth Century the church was situated the area of what is now known as the ‘Old Graveyard’, and the residence of the priests of the parish was the adjoining house at Mullygruen (the present Convent building). During the 1641 rebellion both the Church and Glebe House were destroyed, and the church was never rebuilt on the original site. Instead William Caulfeild, the Second Viscount Charlemont, moved the site of the parish church to Castlecaulfield, where he built the church adjacent to his residence for his own personal convenience. Some of the corner stones and carvings were removed from the church in Donaghmore, along with the great east window, and were incorporated into St Michael & All Angels’ Church, which was completed in 1685 and still possesses the original communion silver given by the Caulfeild family in the early 1680s.
In 1674 the Revd George Walker (Junior) succeeded his father (Revd George Walker Senior) as rector of the parish of Donaghmore. He was a soldier/priest who helped form a regiment of troops in 1689 under Lord Charlemont and became joint Governor of the City of Derry during the siege. He was killed at the Battle of the Boyne in 1691, and some years later his remains were exhumed and buried in what is now the South Transept of St Michael’s. The magnificent east window was installed in 1968 by the Apprentice Boys of Derry as a memorial to the Rev’d Walker. The four principal characters in this window are the four evangelists, and these are surmounted by six shields, illustrating the life of George Walker.
St Michael’s was enlarged and extended in 1860 by the addition of two transepts, a sanctuary and vestry, leaving the building cruciform in shape. The main windows in each transept are slightly later, and each depict a triptych of biblical scenes. The window in the South Transept is from 1875 and commemorates Eleanor, wife of Robert Evans, depicting The Good Samaritan, The Sacrifice of Isaac, The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter. The window in the north transept dates from 1877 and is in memory of Robert Evans, showing The Garden of Gethsemane, The Ascension, The Resurrection. The organ dates from 1893, and is the only instrument built by the firm Wilkinson of Kendel on the island of Ireland. It was installed as a memorial to the Rev’d Benjamin White-Spunner.
The Church was completely re-ordered by the Burgess family of Parkanaur in 1909, when the pews were moved to open up a central aisle and close the original side aisles. In the sanctuary the current pulpit and prayer desk were installed, along with the marble steps, the wood panelling, the brass altar rail and the tiled floor. The original pulpit (Walker’s pulpit) was removed at this time, to the Methodist Church in the Village. In St Michael’s it stood on long legs, but these being superflous in the Methodist building they were removed by the Orangemen of the village and used to construct a chair for the Worshipful Master. Both the chair and also the pulpit are now in the Black Hall in the village. The font in the baptistry was also installed at this time, replacing the original font which is discarded in the graveyard, but restored to the west porch some 30 years later. The small window in the South Transept (‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock’) dates from this re-ordering. The corresponding window in the north transept (The Annunciation) was installed in 1966 by the Frizelle Family.
Major rennovations were undertaken in 2005, commemorated by the tiled panel in the aisle, leaving the church in magnificent condition.
The Glebe House at Mullygruen was rebuilt by George Walker in 1683-4. The old house which he replaced must itself have been a considerable mansion, for in Archbishop Ussher’s manuscript on the state of the diocese in 1622 it was valued at £70. This house was destroyed in the Jacobite wars and rebuilt around 1707 by George Walker’s son John, who lived there for some years. The details of the ownership of the house are unknown for many years. At the beginning of the 1800s it was owned by the family of Blackall, and the permanent tenant was Alexander Mackenzie, who owned the famous Donaghmore brewery. He married into the Lyle family, and it was due to his efforts that a Chapel-of-ease was built in the village of Donaghmore, and consecrated as St Patrick’s Church on 3rd September 1842.
The original building was a plain rectangle, with the Altar at the end now occupied by the porch and entrance doors. In anticipation of the necessity of enlarging the church at a later date, brick arches were built into each side wall so that a cruciform church could be made without demolishing entire walls. However, this alteration was never carried out. Instead the Mackenzie-Lyle family extended the church by the addition of a semi-circular chancel containing some fine stained glass, the vestry, tower and bell in 1867. The centre widows depict ‘The Good Shepherd’, ‘The Resurrection’, and ‘The Sower’. The interior aspect of the building was reversed, with the altar at what had been the ‘West’ end, and the entrance porch at the original ‘East’ end.
The graveyard was consecrated on 6th December 1865. At the time of disestablishment (1871) the Church became a parish in its own right, with the title of Donaghmore Upper
On 22nd December 1890, during the shortest days of the year, it was decided to provide two lamps for the reading desk, two for the pulpit, and also a lamp for the bottom of the church ‘if found necessary’. In 1894 the introduction of a pipe organ was agreed upon, and ‘a slight alteration to the position of the pulpit, rendered necessary by the erection of the organ’. In 1907 the Select Vestry considered prices and estimates for heating the Church with hot water (previously it had been heated by hot air), and it was agreed to accept the estimate of £56-10-00
In 1921 the finances of the parish, which had been precarious from the time of disestablishment, necessitated the union of another parish with Donaghmore Upper, but the proposal to amalgamate with Pomeroy (Crossdernott) was not effected until 1930. As the Rectory at Thornhill was a superior residence, the rector moved to it on the union of the parishes, and in 1934 the Rectory at the lower end of Main Street was sold. Sunday morning services alternated weekly between 11.00 and 12.30 in each church
In 1937 the contract for the installation of electric light in the church was given to Mr Moore of Dungannon, his tender of £45 being the lowest. The parish branch of the Mothers Union was founded in 1949 by Mrs Mayes, wife of the then rector. The branch celebrated their 60th anniversary in November 2009.
In recent years Donaghmore rectors seem to have a fad about changing the pulpit. In 1950 Rev Gilbert Mayes purchased a pulpit from Louth Church and the Vestry agreed to its installation and the removal of the older pulpit. However, on further inspection it was found that the base of the Louth pulpit was decayed, and so nothing was done. The same year a Lectern Bible was purchased in memory of the late Revd Henry Egerton, and the trees and soil between the tower and the church door were removed to make the first car park at the church.
On the resignation of the Revd Gilbert Mayes in 1952, at the behest of the Diocesan Synod’s decision, the parishes of Donaghmore Upper and Pomeroy were separated, and Donaghmore Upper was once again reunited with its mother parish, Donaghmore (Castlecaulfield), the rector of St Michael’s, the Revd R B Blackwell-Smyth, taking on the additional responsibility of a second parish. Service times were changed to 10.30am and 6.00pm each Sunday.
Extensive repairs to the church, costing £1,745, were undertaken in 1959, and in 1961 the carpark was extended due to the increasing number of cars. A new central heating system, costing £1,300, was installed in 1962, and in 1964 the paths in the graveyard and around the back of the church were concreted, and the laneway and car park tarmacadamed.
In 1966 the Revd W G H Williams obtained a good pulpit for the church from a disused church in Dublin, and brought it to Parkanaur for repair and renovation. It transpired that it was too large to come through the church door, and so, once more the ‘old’ pulpit escaped its destruction. In 1969 a brass eagle Lectern, two silver chalices & a flagon, and two chancel chairs were dedicated. A toilet was first provided in 1970.
In 1984 four parish readers were trained and licensed to assist the rector in the conduct of divine worship: Anne and Christine Kelly, Keith Livingstone and Alex Caldwell. The church was redecorated in 1986 at a cost of £2,500, and roof timbers were treated for woodworm and dry rot. In 1991 £8,000 was spent on replacing the wooden floor through the nave of the church, which had been attacked by wet rot. A special service was held in September 1992 to mark the 150th anniversary of the church, and a history of the parish was published by Alex Caldwell. In recent years two new stained glass windows have been donated to the church. The ‘Good Samaritan’ was dedicated in 2004 in memory of members of the Davidson family, and in 2006 the second widow, depicting Jesus teaching from a boat was dedicated in memory of Alex Caldwell. Also in 2006 three further parish readers were commissioned for the group, Elizabeth Burrows, Maxie Trimble & Alan Williamson.
St Patrick’s was completely rennovated and refurbished in 2009-2010, when the building was re-roofed. New rainwater goods were provided, and a new archway constructed around the west door. The toilet and boiler-house were also re-roofed and refurbished. Internally the church was completely re-wired with new lighting and a new sound system provided. The building was painted and the pews and wooden furnishings varnished, and new carpets were laid throughout. The concrete floor in the presbytery was re-laid with a new dampcourse, as were the original tiles in the sanctuary, each tile first being individually cleaned and polished. Many gifts were donated, including a red altar frontal, green and purple panels; white, red, purple and green pulpit and prayer desk falls, veils and burses; and a lectern bible. The cost of these improvements was almost £200,000. The building was re-hallowed by the Primate, the Most Rev’d Alan Harper OBE at a Eucharist of Thanksgiving on Sunday 6th February, and the Archbishop-elect of Dublin, the Most Rev’d Dr Michael Jackson was the preacher at the Festal Evensong that day.
Rectors of the Parish of Donaghmore
According to Archdall’s “Monasticon Hibernicum,” Eoch was Abbot in 1064 (Annal Ulton) and in 1205 Syrvreagh O’Dermod, Archdean of the Abbey, died (Annal anon.)
Prior to the early 17th century the records are somewhat incomplete. Dates given are those where records appear, and not necessarily dates of appointment.
Thomas O’Lucheran 1389
John O’Lucheran deprived of the rectory in 1414
Denis O’Culean appointed in 1414
John O’Lucheran (again) died in 1421
Donatus O’Lucheran 1421-1427
Nellanus O’Lucheran 1428-1430
Dionisius O’Culean held the rectory with the Deanery in 1430
William O’Lucheran binds himself for the firstfruits in 1430
Denis O’Culean the Dean (again?) instituted in 1441
Geoffrey O’Luchan claimed the Incumbency in 1441. An inquiry was held.
Cristinus O’Lucherean vicar from 1436? binds himself for the firstfruits in 1444
Bernard O’Luchron binds himself for the firstfruits, May 6 1534
Vicars of the Parish of Donaghmore
Nemeas O’Luchran 1411
Patrick O’Lucheran was deprived of the Vicarage in 1427, but re-appointed Nov 24th
Cristinus O’Lucheran 1436 (see rectors above)
William O’Loucheran first reference 1440, still living in 1463
Donat O’Loucheran 1483
Malachy y’Donylie deprived in 1543
Patrick O’Lucaren instituted September 18 1543
The Vicarage and Rectory were united soon afterwards
John Mony (1612-1624)
George Madder (1624-5); also called Mather
George Synge DD (1625-1628)
John Madder MA (1628-1641). Murdered during the rebellion of 1641
Thomas Kennedy (1646-1662); Commonwealth Minister. Ejected for Nonconformity.
George Walker (Senior) DD, (1662-1674)
George Walker (Junior) DD, (1674-1690)
William Nelson MA (1690-1)
Richard Crump MA (1691-1699)
Edmund Arwaker MA (1699-1712)
Thomas Wadman BD (1712-20)
Nathaniel Whaley MA (1720-30)
Richard Vincent BA (1730-1774)
George Evans MA (1775-1807); formerly rector of Killyman
William Bisset MA (1807-1812); formerly chaplain to the Marquis of Wellesley, Perpetual Curate of Ballymakenny, Rector and Prebendry of Loughgall, subsequently rector of Loughgilly, of Kilmore, and finally Bishop of Raphoe. He held appointment (including the Archdeaconry) in the diocese of Ross concurrently with his appointments in Armagh.
Alexander Staples MA (1812-1824); formerly curate and rector of Donaghendry, chaplain to the Lord Lieutenant, rector of Termonmaguirke and of Derrynoose.
Thomas Carpendale MA (1824-1865); formerly Vicar Choral in Armagh Cathedral, Vicar of Carlingford and rector of Killyman.
Benjamin Wade MA (1865-1887); formerly curate of Kilmore, of Armagh, and rector of Armagh, subsequently Keeper of Armagh Public Library. Chancellor of Armagh Cathedral.
Benjamin Nicholson White-Spunner MA (1887-1892); formerly curate of Clonenagh (Leighlin), St John Malone (Connor), St Luke (Belfast) and Loughgall. He bequeathed to the Church the sum of £800 on condition that a weekly celebration of the Eucharist is maintained. The pipe organ, by Wilkinson of Kendall, was installed in 1893 as his memorial.
Forde Tichborne MA, DD (1892-1900); formerly curate of St Patrick (Newry) and St James (Dublin), subsequently Rector of Tynan, Dean of Armagh and Bishop of Ossory, Ferns and Leighlin
John Robert Sides MA (1900-1928); formerly curate of Glenavy and rector of Clogherny. Prebendry of Tynan in Armagh Cathedral.
Richard Bertram Blackwell-Smyth (see below)
Curates of the Parish of Donaghmore
Danyell Bacanus (1622)
Richard Vincent MA (appointed curate 1720, see rectors above)
Lindesay Dobbin BA (ordained August 17th 1747)
William Smith (1795-1812)
Charles Wolfe BA (1818-1821). He resigned due to failing health and died of consumption at Cobh, Co Cork, Feb 21st 1823. He is remembered particularly for his ode “On the Burial of Sir John Moore” who was killed at Corunna in 1809. This was first published in the Newry Telegraph of April 19th 1817.
Cornelius Marshall BA (1819-21)
Edward Michael Stewart MA (1822-3)
Savage Hall MA (Jan-May 1823)
Ambrose Smith BA (1823-8)
Robert Fraser BA (1825-42)
Sir John William Molyneux BA (1842-3)
Richard Johnston MA (1843)
John Thomas Paul BA (1844-6)
Robert Hamilton MA (1846-65)
James McNeece MA (1864-7) subsequently Perpetual Curate of Donaghmore Chapel-of-Ease
Francis Wingfield King (1873-4). In 1876 he was inhibited in the Diocese of Armagh and Clogher for preaching in a Methodist Church, and subsequently ministered in England until his death.
Edward Whitty BA (1875-8)
Richard James Merrin MA (1889-91)
Perpetual Curates of Donaghmore Chapel-of-Ease
Michael Kearney BA, (1844-1850); formerly curate of Aghalow and of Caledon, subsequently of Brackaville (Coalisland) and of Omeath, Co Louth. His three surviving sons entered the ministry of the church.
Joseph Henry MA, DD (1850-1852), formerly curate of Charlestown, subsequently of Desertlyn (Moneymore), of Keady, of Westport (Mayo), and finally British Chaplain in Lima.
Thomas Rudd MA, (1852-62), formerly curate of Gortin, subsequently served in Cleenish, Lisbellaw, Enniskeen and Kildallon (Co Cavan)
Benjamin Braddel Arthur Newcombe BA, (1862-4), formerly curate of Pomeroy and of Drogheda, died at Donaghmore aged 39, leaving eight children and a pregnant wife, who died shortly afterwards in childbirth. Four of his daughters served as missionaries in China, one subsequently becoming a Carmelite nun; one of his sons was ordained in the Church of Ireland.
James McNeece MA, (1864-72), formerly curate of Arboe and of Donaghmore, subsequently rector of Clonfeacle (Benburb)
Rectors of the Parish of Donaghmore Upper
John Matthew Young BA, (1872-4), formerly curate of Clogher and of Devenish, subsequently rector of Ballyclog and of Kildress. He invented and patented “a hill-climbing device for cycles”, and an easy reference filing system.
John Radcliffe MA, (1874-6), previously rector of Kilcolley (Cashel) and Innishmagrath (Kilmore).
Robert Wilson Brown MA (1876-1909), previously curate of Pomeroy and Derrygortreavy.
Henry Egerton BA (1909-1948), formerly curate of Urney (Co Cavan), of Cootehill (Cavan), of Ballymore (Tandragee), and of Donaghmore Upper (1908-9). During his incumbency the parish was amalgamated with Pomeroy (Crossdernott).
Gilbert Mayes MA, (1948-52), formerly curate of Armagh and Head Master of the Cathedral School, Armagh; subsequently rector of Dundalk, Dean of Lismore, and Secretary of the Liturgical Advisory Committee.
Rectors of Donaghmore & Donaghmore Upper
Richard Bertram Blackwell-Smyth MA (1952-1960), formerly curate of Omagh, St James Dublin, Portadown, Drumshambo and incumbent of Clogherney. Appointed rector of Donaghmore (Castlecaulfield) in 1928, and undertook responsibility for Donaghmore Upper in 1952. Subsequently rector of Kilsaran and Canon of Armagh Cathedral.
Walter George Herbert Williams MA (1961-1983), formerly curate of Derryloran (Cookstown) and of Armagh, and incumbent of Caledon with Brantry. Canon of Armagh Cathedral 1979-83.
Francis Kenneth Livingstone MA (1983-1992), formerly curate of Santry (Dublin), and of St George (Dublin), rector of Castledernot (Wicklow), curate of Armagh, and rector of St Saviour, Portadown. Vicar Choral in Armagh Cathedral (1966-83) and Canon in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (1985-92).
Ronald David Lawrenson GOE, (1993-8), formerly curate of Banbridge, of Down Cathedral, Vicar Choral in Belfast Cathedral and Bishop’s Curate of Tynan and Middletown with Aghavilly. Vicar Choral in Armagh Cathedral (1990-98), retired due to ill health.
Thomas Shane Forster BA, BTh, MPhil (1999-2006), formerly curate of Drumglass (Dungannon), and subsequently rector of Ballymore (Tandragee), Archbishop’s Chaplain and Assistant Provincial and Diocesan Registrar. Vicar Choral in Armagh Cathedral.
Peter Alrick Thompson BA, MPhil, DMin, FLCM, FGCM, ARIAM (2006-), formerly curate in All Saints’, Clooney (Derry). Succentor & Assistant Organist in Armagh Cathedral and Diocesan Liturgical Officer.