by Fr. Andrew McMahon

Having given its name to the modern diocese, the ancient Christian settlement of Dromore and the parish which has grown around it merit a special place in the history of the church in this area. The tradition of St Colman's, involvement with Dromore and his establishment of a religious community there, form the foundation of the area's ecclesiastical significance. Dromore remains, to this day, the largest parish in the diocese, in terms of area covered. Incorporating the parish of Garvaghy, it includes fifty townlands, most of which lie between the River Bann and the River Lagan. A distinctive feature of the local landscape is a ridge of high ground running through the area, roughly parallel with these two rivers, giving the locality its name: `Druim Mor' - the `Great Ridge'.

The parish of Garvaghy lies, in hilly country, south of Dromore and south west of Dromara. Its derives its name from `Garbh Achadh,' meaning `the rough field'. Garvaghy includes the townland of Ballooley, popularly known as 'Ballela', in which descendants of the Magennises of Lower Iveagh lived until the early part of the twentieth century. Garvaghy Parish is mentioned in clergy succession lists in 1422 and is also noted in a diocesan taxation of 1546. We have little other information regarding the Medieval Church within the parish, though a pre-Reformation cemetery existed in the townland of Shanrod.


St. Colman is believed to have made his religious foundation sometime between A.D. 500 and 513. It was located on the north bank of the River Lagan on a site which probably forms a central part of Dromore town today. Colman was either a native of Scotland or of north east Down - an area which formed part of the territory anciently known as `Dal Araidhe'. Colman was born roughly a generation after Patrick's apostolate to Ireland, probably sometime around 470480.

Legends associated with Patrick's missionary journeys in Ireland include one in which Patrick is credited with having prophesied a church in Dromore. According to the tale, Patrick had stopped overnight at a church on a journey from Saul to Armagh. He celebrated Mass there in the morning and later told his host that he had experienced a vision of angels which presaged the founding of a monastery in a valley a few miles east of that place. Legend claims that this Mass was said at Donaghcloney, an early Christian foundation, suggesting Dromore to be the place identified by Patrick's vision.

We believe that Colman was educated at the Monastic foundation of Nendrum, on the shores of Strangford Lough, which had been established by Saint Mochaoi sometime earlier. At Nendrum, Colman was reputed to have been a pupil of St. Coelan who is recorded as Abbot of Nendrum early in the sixth century. A 'Colman's Bay' still exists on nearby Ranish Island. Tradition has it that Coelan was so impressed with Colman's potential as a Christian apostle and with his charism for performing miracles that he sent him to visit various other monasteries of the Celtic world so that he might learn from the religious practices and forms of community life he would encounter there and enjoy the opportunity of more extensive learning, especially in Holy Scripture. While visiting St. Macnissi of Connor around this time, Colman was apparently told of a revelation which his host claimed to have experienced. It indicated the Will of God to be for Colman to establish a religious settlement "within the bounds of Coba plain." Accordingly, Colman set about determining the appropriate location for such a foundation and, in due course, settled on the northern bank of the river we know as the Lagan.

Colman's monastery, founded some time before 514, would have been home and school to many who aspired to a life of holiness and who were prepared to submit themselves to the authority of an abbot and the rigours of an ascetic life. St. Finnian, who later established a monastery at Movilla, about five miles from Bangor, is believed to have been a former monk of Dromore. We do not know how long Colman continued as abbot at Dromore or who his immediate successors were. We do believe, though, that during his lifetime the abbey came to enjoy the status of an Episcopal See and so Colman possibly finished his days not just as Abbot of Dromore, but also as Bishop.

The medieval Irish Church revolved around such monastic foundations and it was the twelfth century before the concept of a diocese would begin to develop. In some places the abbot in a monastic community would have also borne the title of bishop. In other situations the bishop would have been one of the other monks in the community, under the abbot's authority, with few specific functions beyond that of ordaining other members of the community, when necessary.

These, then, are held to be the beginnings of the Church of Dromore and the reasons behind our tradition of venerating Colman as its principal patron. While the year of his death is unknown, Colman probably died around the middle of the sixth century. His Feast Day is celebrated, in the Irish Church Calendar, on 7th. June each year. Colman was most likely buried in the grounds of his Dromore monastery and there is preserved, today, inside the Church of Ireland Cathedral in Dromore town an ancient stone, with a cross engraved, known as `Saint Colman's Pillow'. The stone was presented to the Cathedral early in the last century by Canon H.W. Lett who reported that he had traced it to Lisburn and saved it from being taken to the U.S.A. The stone measures 18 inches long, 12 inches wide and 8 inches thick and, according to Canon Lett, it had previously come to be known as the `Pope of Rome's Stone!' On the outskirts of Dromore town, near to the site of the former residence of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Dromore, is a well which, in the past, was known locally as `St Colman's Well.'


We know little regarding the fortunes of Colman's monastery after his own lifetime. It continued, in some form, into at least the second half of the twelfth century. This, we know, from the names and dates of thirteen successors which are recorded between the years 841 and 1159. Of these, only one is described as bishop and abbot of Dromore, one other as bishop only, three others as abbot only, and the others as either superiors or successors (coarbs) of the founder:

Cellach, Abbot of Druim mor in Ui Eachach
son of Cathgen. "Fell asleep" A.D. 841.
(Annals of Ulster, 1, p.423)

Cormac, Abbot of Dromore, anchorite. Died 903.
Maelmaedhoc, Abbot of Dromore, Died 909.

Maelcothaid, Coarb (successor) of Comgall and Mocholmoc (Colman), son of Lachtnan. Died 953.

Maelbrigid, Bishop and Abbot of Dromore,
son of Cathasaigh. Died 972.

Tuathal, Successor of Finnian and Mocholmog, "a wise man and governor", son of Maolrubha. Died 992. (Annals of the Four Masters, 11, p.729 )

Cennfaoladh, Superior of Dromore of Mocholmog.
Died 1006.

Domnall, Coarb of Finnen and Mocholmog,
son of Maelsechlainn, "rested in Christ" 1019.
(Annals of Ulster, I, p.545 )

Ceallach Ua Cleircein, Coarb of Finnen and Mocholmog. The Annals of Ulster declare that he "fell asleep in peace, A.D. 1043", while the Annals of the Four Masters say that he died while on pilgrimage at Armagh.

Anghen, Successor of Mocholmog and Comghall.
Died 1068. The Annals of Ulster say he was also a

Rigan, According to the Annals of the Four
he was Bishop of Dromore and of `the Fifth
of Ulaidh'.
Died 1101.

Giollcrist, Superior of Dromore, son of Becanagh.
Died 1143.

Angen, Superior of Dromore. He was a signatory to
the Charter of Newry c.1157. Died 1159.

Like most other Irish monasteries, Dromore, in time, would have developed as a place of learning and culture. Monasteries became, in consequence, places of very considerable wealth. When the Vikings or `Northmen' began their plundering adventures from northern Europe to the east coast of Ireland in the ninth and early tenth century, the monasteries were high on their list of targets. Dromore' would have experiences frequent raids throughout this troubled period.

Dromore's High Cross. The inscription on the shaft reads: "The ancient historical cross of Dromore. Erected and restored after many years of neglect by public subscription to which the Board of Public Works were contributors, under the auspices of the Town Commissioners of Dromore, County Down, 21.D.1887."

A valuable relic from this period is Dromore's High Cross which can be seen today encased within the perimeter wall of Dromore Cathedral, just beside the River Lagan. The cross comes from well after the time of Colman and the parts of it which are original are reckoned to be 9th. or 10th. Century. The cross is of granite and may well have been originally enclosed within the grounds of the Dromore monastery. The lower part of the shaft is considered original and bears some fretwork designs framed by interlace panels. The upper part of the shaft is modern, but it supports the cross' ancient head which has an imperforate ring, characteristic of many Celtic crosses of the period. The cross is believed to have formerly stood in the Market Square in Dromore. It may have been removed to facilitate the building of the original Market House in 1732. A part of the original shaft is said to have been used in the construction of the stairway of that Market House. The original base of the cross apparently became a foundation for the infamous Dromore Stocks in the early years of the nineteenth century. The remaining parts of the ancient monument lay neglected at the south west corner of the Market House. The present Market House of Dromore was built in 1886. Following its completion, the remaining parts of the cross were retrieved and reconstructed in their present location in 1887.


The introduction of dioceses to Ireland, which came as part of a process of reorganisation and renewal in the twelfth century, ultimately led to the decline in authority and ecclesiastical importance of monasteries such as Dromore. Successive Archbishops of Canterbury had expressed their concern at the lack of Episcopal organisation in Ireland and a reform party was established within the Irish Church with a view to adapting the Gaelic Church to the structures already in existence throughout much of Europe. A synod, held at Rathbreasail in 1111, divided the country into separate dioceses with a bishop, accountable to Rome, at the head of each. These divisions were refined and altered where necessary at a further synod at Kells in 1152.

Whatever state it was in, the church centred on or emanating from Dromore must not have appeared particularly significant to these medieval reformers as it did not feature in the conclusions of either of these synods and was included for the most part, we presume, in the diocese of Down. Evidence of a distinct diocese emerging for Dromore comes, however, through the inclusion of a certain O'Rooney, described as `Bishop of Iveagh', among the signatories to a charter of St. Malachy, around the year 1190, while the latter was Bishop of Down. The use of the title `Dromore' indicating an actual diocese first occurs, we believe, in 1197 and it is very possible that it was created at a minor synod held by the papal legate, at Dublin, in 1192. The territory which the new diocese comprised would have greatly extended beyond the lands of Dromore monastery. The diocese coincided to a considerable degree with the lands of the Magennis clan, Lords of Iveagh or the ancient kingdom of Ui Eachach Cobha, who rose to power in the later twelfth century. (Hence, presumably, O'Rooney's being described as Bishop of `Iveagh' in 1190). Disputes between the Magennis clan and their local gaelic rivals, the MacArtans, had unsettled the region and likely troubled Dromore monastery for generations. Gradually enjoying an ascendancy in the later medieval period, the Magennis clan established their power centre at Rathfriland and their lands provided a kind of buffer between the powerful O'Neills to their west and Normanized east Down, to their right - diocesan boundaries having to take account of the political realities of the day!

Dromore Diocese, then, came into being as largely Gaelic territory, unpenetrated by the Anglo-Norman incursions of the period. The town which would have grown up around Dromore monastery would have almost been a gateway between the Gaelic arid the Norman worlds of that region. Small wonder, then, that an important Norman defence post was located overlooking Dromore and the lands beyond. The motte and bailey, which followed John de Courcy's successful conquests in east Ulster in the later twelfth century, was among the more significant defence earthworks constructed by the Normans in Ireland and would have housed a permanent garrison. The well preserved remains of this motte and bailey are an attractive historical feature of Dromore town today.

The establishment of dioceses and the gradual movement of power from local abbot to local bishop was not the only process of reform effecting twelfth century Irish Christianity and monasticism. Reform of monastic life itself was also a feature of the European Church of the period. The reformed Cistercian rule of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, on the continent, greatly influenced the Armagh-born St. Malachy, Bishop of Down and Connor and later Archbishop of Armagh. Malachy met St. Bernard in Rome in 1140 and left some of his monks in Bernard's charge, so that they could be trained according to the new Cistercian ways. These in turn, with French assistance, helped to found a great Cistercian abbey at Mellifont in Louth. A monastery previously established at Newry accepted the Cistercan Rule in 1144 and continued to prosper as a daughter house of Mellifont until Reformation times. It was closely associated with the Magennis clan.


The Normans in Ulster were, themselves, enthusiastic about the development of monasticism. De Courcy and his relatives were instrumental in establishing and assisting a number of religious houses within their territories, such as those at Greyabbey (1193) and Comber (1200), both Cistercian. Given the reformed zeal of these new foundations and their often powerful patrons, it would be easy to imagine how older, unrenewed religious houses such as Colman's Dromore could have been eclipsed in the `reformed' Irish Church of the period, and forced into permanent decline. So the monastery of Dromore fell silent, it seems, as the diocese of Dromore took shape. Whatever church succeeded the monastery, in Dromore Parish itself, would have continued to enjoy a prominent position as the Cathedral church within the local diocese. The diocesan bishop, in the reformed arrangement, would have been the official pastor of the parish of Dromore while other clergy, delegated under his authority, would have actually met the day to day pastoral and spiritual needs of the parishioners. A Cathedral Chapter of Dromore is first mentioned in documentation in the 1240s following the death of the then Cistercian bishop of the diocese. A controversy arose as the Cistercian Abbey at Newry claimed to be the Cathedral of the diocese with the right, therefore, to appoint the new bishop. The Chapter of Dromore contested that they were the proper body responsible for episcopal elections. The Primate ruled in favour of Dromore Cathedral Chapter and this decision was, in turn, approved by Rome.


Dromore was one of the smallest, least significant and poorest dioceses in Ireland. Probably because of this, we have little enough information recorded about it in the period between its establishment and the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century - the less `important' generally receiving less attention! While information on the succession of bishops is not complete, we have a fair idea of the character of the Dromore episcopacy towards and throughout the later Middle Ages with its mix of Irish and Anglo-Norman blood. By the fifteenth century, leadership of the diocese had come to be largely in the hands of absentee English ecclesiastics or, for periods of time, apparently vacant altogether. One reason for this may have been an edict issued by England's King John, in 1217, forbidding the promotion, ecclesiastically, of the native Irish. England's insistence that it knew best for Ireland and the Church in Ireland is a regular theme in medieval history and one that appeared to often find a sympathetic audience in Rome. The other obvious reality was the undesirability of Dromore because of its relative poverty. The Archbishop of Armagh, writing to Henry VII in 1487, remarked that the revenues of the Dromore Diocese amounted to a mere forty pounds annually and seemed to suggest that this was the reason why "none would remain upon the bishopric." By the late fifteenth century Dromore, in fact, even had bishops of French and Greek origin! Given this general background, it is hard to imagine that the local church in Dromore reached the era of the Protestant Reformation in a state of either high morale or healthy order.


The Cathedral Church of Christ, the Redeemer, is believed to occupy the site of the pre-Reformation monastery. Within the cathedral an ancient stone is displayed, with a cross engraved on it. It is known as 'St. Colman's Pillow'.

The controversial Arthur Magennis was Bishop of Dromore ( 1540-1573) as the Reformation began to be felt throughout the Irish Church. Magennis' acceptance of a `royal pardon' in 1550 and his swearing that he would hold his bishopric from the English Crown have raised serious questions about the orthodoxy of his later years. The Cathedral at Dromore did, however, fall to the Reformers in this period and a first Anglican Bishop of Dromore was, in turn, appointed in 1606. This bishop, John Todd, was a former Jesuit priest who later resigned his position, in 1611, and committed suicide while imprisoned in London. On Todd's appointment to Dromore, his brother-in-law, William Worseley, built a castle in Dromore for his protection. The remains of this castle can still be seen in Dromore town today. During Bishop Todd's tenure, in 1609, King James I issued a charter changing the title of Dromore Cathedral from `Ecclesia Sancti Colmani' to 'Ecclesia Christi Redemptoris de Dromore', that is from St. Colman's Cathedral to the Cathedral Church of Christ, the Redeemer. This new title is still borne by the Church of Ireland Cathedral in Dromore today. James I endowed the See of Dromore with extensive new properties in the area so as to rapidly enhance its revenues and ordered the reconstruction of the Cathedral. From this evidence, and from what has been remarked earlier, it would seem safe to conclude that whatever edifice had been inherited from the medieval era, Dromore's Cathedral was not in a very solid state by the beginning of the seventeenth century. Bishop Theophilus Buckworth eventually succeeded Bishop Todd and began the reconstruction work in 1613. He commented in 1622 that the Cathedral was "almost new building, covered, glassed and in part furnished with seats." From this it is difficult to determine to what extent any of the older building may have been incorporated into the new. The "almost new building" might suggest some carryover from before. On the other hand, it may be merely referring to an entirely new building project not yet complete. Buckworth went on to undertake the construction of a Bishop's Palace in the vicinity of Dromore but had not yet completed it when rebels struck at Dromore in 1641. The unfinished palace, the rebuilt Cathedral and town of Dromore were heavily damaged as a result of this assault. The Cathedral had to wait for restoration until the episcopacy of the famous Anglican divine Jeremy Taylor. He had it rebuilt between 1661 and 1667 and, following his wishes, his remains were interred within the restored Cathedral. Dromore Cathedral was to have another major renovation and reordering in the 1770s and it was only after further extensions in 1870 and 1899 that it acquired the appearance which it has today. A new Bishop's Palace was begun by Bishop William Beresford in 1781 and completed by his successor Bishop Thomas Percy. It eventually became known as `Dromore House' and was to be used, a century later, as a novitiate by the Society of Jesus.


Following the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century and the subsequent plantation of English and Scottish settlers, the population of the area corresponding to the parishes of Dromore and Garvaghy found itself with a substantial majority of Protestants, within which group Presbyterians were the largest denomination. As the Cathedral Church in Dromore fell to the emerging Anglican communion, so, too, whatever place of Christian worship existed within Garvaghy Parish would also have been given to the new creed. The Catholic people of these parishes, like their co-religionists in so many places, were to experience the consequences of Reformation legislation and, in time, the severities of the Penal Laws.

Three Mass Stations are recorded from penal times in this area. There probably were a number of others. An ancient rath or fort existed on land which later came to be included in the demense of the new Protestant Bishop's Palace. Mass was celebrated here, causing the site to become known locally as `Dromore Mass Forth'. The aforementioned Bishop Percy allowed the celebration of Mass to continue after he moved to live on this estate in the middle of 1782. Later that same year, he granted a site for the erection of a small Catholic Mass House on the edge of the town. It was close to the site of the present St. Colman's Church which, in time, superseded it. Within the townland of Edentrillick, on the Ballynahinch side of Dromore, a Mass Rock is said to have existed. It was located about two and a half miles from the town and was apparently damaged by quarrying operations in the area over a century ago. A `Mass Bush' located in the townland of Ballela is believed to have been cut down early in the last century. It was sited on land belonging to the McAnarney family, about 250 yards from the location of the present cemetery in Ballela.

Within the archives of the Irish Franciscan Province, in Killiney Co. Dublin, there is reference to a foundation in Dromore during the Penal period. It suggests that a Franciscan Religious House or some form of community was established in the area around the year 1690. Evidence of its activity is scant, though the Chapter Acts of Irish Franciscans list `Guardians of Dromore' until the year 1776. These references to the appointment of `Guardians' may simply have been a formality. After Religious Houses were suppressed in Penal times, their Orders or Congregations often continued to appoint superiors officially in the hope of re-establishment in better times. On the other hand, even if an actual Religious House did not exist, or had ceased to exist, the appointment of a superior might have been an acknowledgement that members of a religious community were carrying out some kind of organised ministry in a locality without any obvious structures or public trappings. With regard to the presence of Irish Franciscans at Dromore, either possibility could have been the case. It was held by certain locals, in the past, that a Franciscan House did actually exist in the town on the site later occupied by Dromore railway station.

From the information contained in the Franciscan archives, the following list of `Guardians of Dromore' has been compiled. Because some papers were lost in former times, on their way abroad to Louvain, the list is incomplete. Though the years 1717-51 are not covered here, there is no reason to suggest that `Guardians' were not appointed during these years:

1690, Pater Frater Antonius Magnesius (Magennis)
1693, Paulus O'Brin
1697, Paulus Bern
(perhaps the same as preceding name)
1699, Philip Runy (Rooney)
1700, Dionysius Maghee
1702, Patricius Kiernan
1703, Patricius Kiernan
1705, Paulus Brune
(probably the same as in 1693, 1697)
1706, Jacobus Shiell
1711, Jacobus Shiell
(as in 1706; he became Bishop of Down and Connor in 1717)

1714, Patricius Kiernane (probably the same as in 1702, 1703)
1716, Patricius MacKiernan
(probably the sanie as above)
1717, Jacobus Kennedy
1751, Dionysius Timony
1759, Joannes MacLaughlin
1761, Felix Cullen
1770, Maguire
1772, Peter MacLaughlin
1773, Antonius Dogherty
1776, Joannes Reilly

A John Barton is named as `Guardian of Dromore' in 1785, by Fr. Brendan Jennings O.F.M., in an article in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record of February 1951 .


By the time the Catholic Church began to assert itself more publicly in Ireland, in the second half of the 1700s, significant population shifts and other consequences of plantation and emigration had occurred. This meant that new ecclesiastical structures were needed to address a milieu rather different from the world of the pre-Reformation Irish Church. Medieval parochial boundaries had gradually become blurred and, in Penal times, such priests as managed to minister often did so across a range of local parishes. In the `post-Penal' era, Garvaghy Parish effectively ceased to exist as a separate entity and was united with the much larger parish of Dromore. The seat of the Dromore Diocese transferred to Newry in this period. It was developing as the largest centre of Catholic population within the area covered by the diocese. The new Catholic Cathedral was begun there in 1823 and opened in 1829. Over the following decades, a number of religious houses were established in Newry and a Diocesan College was founded there. Although of considerable historical significance, the town and parish of Dromore no longer played a central role in the life of the diocese.


St. Coleman's Church, Dromore, was built 1871-73. It replaced an earlier Mass House which had been in use since 1782.

The present, majestic Parish Church of Dromore replaced a much smaller Mass House which, as mentioned earlier, had been built on a site granted by the Church of Ireland Bishop Percy, to provide for those who were attending the `Mass Forth' on his demense. The older building was located about thirty yards to the south of the present church. Fr. Edward Greenan P.P. had overseen the building of it in 1782. This church was substantially renovated in 1829 at a cost of �350. The planning of the present Church of Saint Colman began forty years later. The foundation stone was laid by the Dominican Bishop of Dromore, Dr. Leahy, on 27th. October 1871. The sermon was preached on this occasion by the new Irish Primate, Archbishop Daniel McGettigan, who later was responsible for the completion and dedication of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh. Fr. William McCartan, who had been appointed Parish Priest in 1859, directed the building project. He had previously had a new school house erected nearby and was determined that the town of Dromore should have a Catholic church worthy of a place so important in ecclesiactical history. A building fund for the new church was established which, in addition to the contributions of Dromore and Garvaghy parishioners, drew support from among local Protestant people, other Catholic parishes in the Dromore Diocese and Dromore emigrants in the United States and elsewhere. Fr. McCartan himself toured England and Scotland in order to raise funds for the building.

The architect for St. Colman's Church was Timothy Hevey of Belfast and it was designed after the style of early English Gothic. Built in black stone, with freestone dressings, the walls of the church are externally supported with courses and buttresses. The church consists principally of a nave, with two side aisles and dividing arches. A fine square tower and spire were included in the original building - the main entrance to the church, a recessed door with an impressive hooded moulding, being located at the base of this tower. On approaching the church, a fine rose gable window is to be seen, dedicated to the Sacred Heart and, below it, windows in honour of Our Lady and St. Bernadette. A niche, intended for a statue, rather sadly remains vacant. The original High Altar and sanctuary lamp of St. Colman's were the gift of Charles Devlin of New York, a former Dromore parishioner. Devlin also donated a gold chalice to the new church. Sanctuary windows depict the risen Christ and several of the early Irish saints. Alongside the main sanctuary two side altars are included, originally dedicated to Our Lady and to St. Joseph. Along the higher reaches of the nave are painted images of Saints Patrick, Colman, Columbanus, Finbar, Columcille and Malachy. Latticed windows throughout the church allow it to enjoy what might be called a `shattered light'. A stone tablet, dedicated to the memory of three previous priests of Dromore, was erected just inside the main entrance to the new church on its completion. It recalls two Parish Priests, Fr. Hugh McConville and Fr. John Sharkey and curate Fr. James O'Neill. These priests had previously been honoured by memorials in the old church and their memory was maintained in the new. In later years a memorial was placed in St. Colman's in honour of Monsignor McCartan himself. It declares him to have been "almost 51 years the zealous pastor of Dromore and Garvaghy, beloved by his own, revered and respected by all classes of the community." On his death, on 13th. March 1907, Monsignor McCartan's remains were interred within St. Colman's Church. So he is still recalled in the church he took pride in building.

After a period of two years in construction, St. Colman's Church was completed in the autumn of 1873 at a total cost of almost �17,000. It was officially opened and dedicated on Sunday 28th. September 1873. The ceremony was attended by many of the leading Catholic figur�s of the time including Archbishop McGettigan of Armagh, Bishop Donnelly of Clogher and Bishop Dorrian of Down and Connor. The Bishop of Dromore, Dr. Leahy conducted the Dedication ceremony and the sermon was delivered by Rev. Thomas Burke, a prominent Dominican preacher at that time. The Banbridge Chronicle of October 4th. 1873, offered its readers a flavour of the sermon:

"The Rev. Preacher further referred to the architectural beauties of the building, showed how consonant they are with the spirit of true religion, pointed out how in them also was proved the fulfilment of God's promises to His Church and concluded an eloquent discourse by a sympathetic appeal to the charity of the congregation, in the following words: "I need not say a word to you to stir up your charity and devotion to your good pastor, who has devoted his days and nights to the raising and ornamenting of this beautiful church. I know you will bear him manfully through his difficulties. The Son of God, not complaining, yet observing, said "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man hath no place whereon to lay his head." Arise, ye men of faith, everyone who believes in Jesus Christ, who would be fain to show their love for Him - arise and wipe away that reproach by your action this day. Show to Our Divine Master that it shall no more be said He hath no place where to lay His head."

The music for the ceremony was provided by the choir of Newry Cathedral under the direction of the Cathedral Organist, Mr. John Russell. The master of ceremonies was Very Rev. Dr. Thomas MacGivern, Parish Priest of Drumgath and later Bishop of Dromore. A collection was taken up from the congregation, amounting to �985. A luncheon, following the ceremony, was provided in the adjoining school house.

St. Colman's Church has undergone a variety of renovations and modernisations through the years, especially in 1927 and 1932, and in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. A new set of Stations of the Cross were erected in 1924. They had been donated in memory of Annie Creney who is buried in the cemetery adjoining the church. There were, however, no extensions to the church from 1873 and any work undertaken appears to have respected the original character and design of the building. Of special significance was a partial reordering of the sanctuary undertaken in 1992/93, under the direction of the Parish Priest Fr. Gerard Conway. A new altar, lectern and president's chair were installed using a tasteful mix of stone and marble which echoed the original architect's choice. The side altar in honour of St. Joseph became a baptistry with a new baptismal font. Artwork of coloured glass, encased in copper, adorns the new furnishings in the renovated sanctuary. Striking, still, is the original reredos which holds the tabernacle and depicts some scenes from the Old Testament. Beautifully lit today, it enables St. Colman's Church to maintain a gentle continuity between the old and the new. The church also had its congregational seating renewed.

The beautiful sanctuary of St. Colman's Church, as it is today. The sanctuary was extensively renovated 1992-93. It was restored, again, in 1994 following a second arson attack on the church.

Dromore Church was close to being reopened when it was tragically attacked by arsonists on the night of Monday 6th. January 1993. Following expensive repair and eventual completion of the renovation project, the church was rededicated by Bishop Brooks on Sunday 28th. November 1993. Sadly it was to be attacked again on the night of Sunday 27th. March 1994. This time �30,000 worth of damage was caused after petrol was poured through windows and a fire started. Fortunately the local Methodist Minister, who lived nearby, raised the alarm and helped save the church from being gutted. Fr. Conway, supported by his parishioners, again worked hard to make good the harm that was done. In between the attempted burnings of the church, a fire attack was also made upon the Parochial House in Dromore, in July 1993. Fortunately no injuries resulted and the house was subsequently repaired by Fr Conway. The following year a newly opened church in Ballela was firebombed. Later, in July 1998, the Parochial House in Dromore was attacked again and the garage adjoining it was destroyed by fire.

Sectarian attacks upon the Catholic community and Catholic clergy in Dromore are not a new phenomenon. Back in 1798, a mob attacked the Parish Priest Fr. Andrew Murnin as he made his way through the town one evening. They attempted to hang him from a tree near the Cathedral and he only escaped when a prominent local Protestant, the agent for the Church of Ireland Bishop of Dromore, intervened and cut him free. More recently Fr. John O'Hare, who was

Parish Priest from 1907 until September 1920, had the new Parochial House which he built in 1911 attacked a number of times. Mobs actually drove him out of the house on two occasions and, overwhelmed by it all, he left Dromore for a new parish in 1920.

1920 was a particularly dreadful year of anti-Catholic sentiment in Belfast and other towns in east Ulster. Following the annual Orange demonstrations in July that year, Catholics found themselves frequently evicted from work in mills and factories. Banbridge town saw the funeral on 21st. July of Colonel G.F.Smyth a police divisional commissioner who had been shot dead in Cork a few days earlier. Attacks on Catholic homes and businesses followed his funeral that evening, in both Banbridge and Dromore. Several Catholic families were intimidated from Dromore at this time and, in time, made new homes in Newry and in other areas of south Down.


The former All Saints' Church served the Ballela community from 1822 until 1994.

It is believed that an old Mass House existed at Ballela, from around 1770, on the site of the original All Saints' Church. The construction of this latter church was begun during the pastorate of Fr. Hugh McConville P.P. in the year 1822. Substantial assistance in this building project was given by the local landlord, Roger Magennis of Ballooley House. The building, with a small cemetery to the rear, was further extended, re-roofed and eventually completed during the years 1846-49, under the direction of Fr. John Sharkey P.P. It was dedicated to `All Saints' by Bishop Michael Blake on 20th. May 1849. The Mass of Dedication was celebrated on this occasion by Fr. Patrick McNulty and the special preacher was Fr. Henry O'Loughlin of Belfast.

All Saints' Church was thoroughly renovated, raised in height, and the sanctuary reordered by Fr. James Murney P.P. in 1950. The architects were McLean and Forte of Belfast. A simple rectangular edifice, All Saints' Church now had a new High Altar in marble, with a canopy overhead supported by stone columns. An altar to Our Lady occupied one side of the sanctuary while the other, adorned by a large statue of the Sacred Heart, formed a passage to the sacristy area. New sanctuary railings, also in marble, were installed. New Stations of the Cross were erected, very distinctively sculpted, each with gaelic inscriptions below. These were later transferred to the new All Saints' Church, where they can still be seen. The windows were also enlarged in the 1950 work and new seating, heating and lighting were put in place. The renewed church was rededicated and reopened by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty on 24th. September 1950. Solemn High Mass to mark the occasion was celebrated by Fr. Emmet Devlin, the curate in Ballela at that time. The sermon for the reopening was preached by Fr. Edward Campbell, the Administrator of Newry Cathedral. Fr. Campbell referred to the historical associations of the parish and appealed to the congregation to contribute generously towards the reconstruction work. At the end of the ceremony Bishop O'Doherty dedicated the new Stations of the Cross and gave Solemn Benediction.

All Saints' Church served the Ballela area well for 172 years. It needed replacement, however, by the end of the twentieth century and the construction of a new church was undertaken, under the direction of Fr. Gerard Conway P.P., in 1993. The new All Saints' Church enjoys an elevated site overlooking the remains of the old church and the cemetery around it. It has grounds which are impressively landscaped and well maintained. The new church was designed by McClean and Forte, the same architects who had worked on the renovation of the old church in 1950. The builders were McCartan Brothers of Lawrencetown. The church is rather novel in design, its hexagonal and triangular windows being particularly distinctive. The altar, lectern and president's chair are in marble and a fine piece of copper artwork depicts a scene from the ministry of St Patrick. The Stations of the Cross from the old church have been retained. The new church was opened and solemnly dedicated by Bishop Francis Gerard Brooks, on Sunday 8th. May 1994, assisted by Fr. Conway and Canon Patrick Smyth, who was the resident curate in Ballela at the time. Following the opening of this splendid new church the old All Saints' Church was demolished. More recently, in April 2001, within the foundations of the old church the remains of Fr. Seamus Reid were laid to rest. Fr. Reid had served as curate in Ballela from 1977 until 1981 and had later retired there.

Sadly the new church in Ballela also became the object of sectarian attack. It was firebombed just a few months after opening, on the night of Monday 22nd. August 1994. As well as severe smoke and floor damage, the altar of the church was considerably harmed. With the necessary repairs and restoration work carried out, at a cost of �70,000, the church was reopened and a new altar dedicated by Bishop Brooks on the evening of Thursday 8th. December 1994. That same year, not far from Ballela, another rural Catholic church was attacked at Drumnavaddy, close to Banbridge. Attacks on churches, of various denominations, have unfortunately continued to be an aspect of Northern Irish life in recent years, especially at times of communal tension.

The interior of the former Ballela Church. Bishop O'Doherty had rededicated the sanctuary in September 1950.


For about a century after the emergence of the church from Penal days, the various pastors who served in Dromore and Garvaghy, as in other parishes, would have lived in lodgings or temporary type accommodation in the locality. This continued until around the middle of the nineteenth century when substantial Parochial Houses began to appear across the country. A house for priests was built in Dromore town, close to the old Catholic church there, sometime during the period when Fr. John Sharkey was Parish Priest (1844-59). It was superseded by a new Parochial House, on the edge of the grounds of St. Colman's Church, which was built in 1911 while Fr. John O'Hare was Parish Priest. A curate's residence had been built, in the meantime, to the rear of the church at Ballela. It was replaced by a new curate's house, on a site almost opposite the church, in 1927. Fr. Michael O'Hare became the first curate to occupy this new residence, on 7th. July 1928. During his early years in Ballela, he oversaw the erection of a Parochial Hall near to where the new curate's house was built. This hall has served the local community in Ballela throughout the twentieth century. It had a major renovation in 1986 and was reopened on Sunday 8th. March 1987.


The oldest part of the Catholic cemetery in Dromore town is believed to be contemporary with the original church there (1782). A new portion was added and this was blessed by Bishop Blake on 18th. September 1848. The new St. Colman's Church (1873) was built within this cemetery.

At Ballela, the oldest part of the present cemetery is considered to be contemporary with the old church there (1822). The cemetery was extended in 1849 and this new burial ground was blessed by Very Rev. William O'Brien, Parish Priest of Lurgan, on 31st. January 1850. A much older cemetery, used by local Catholics, existed in the nearby townland of Shanrod.


According to Ordnance Survey records, a National School, (forerunner of the primary school), existed at Ballela, in 1837. It was housed in what was described as "a small cottage," with 100 Catholic and 10 Presbyterian pupils. The school was visited by the Parish Priest, Fr. Hugh McConville. Catechism was taught on Saturdays and, apparently, scripture lessons also. The school had been established in December 1834 and the Mistress was a Catholic named Margaret Watson.

In Dromore town, the Parish Priest and the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Minister were visiting the National School in 1837. It was divided into separate accommodation for boys and girls and had been established in 1833. Of the roll in 1837, there were 20 Catholic girls out of a total of 66 and 16 Catholic boys out of a total of 64. The Master and Mistress were both Presbyterian.

A new school was built in the townland of Shanrod in 1858 and opened in 1859. It was extended in 1861. It was to become the Catholic school for the Ballela area for several generations. In Dromore, a new Catholic school was erected in 1862 shortly after Fr.

William McCartan became Parish Priest. It was located within the grounds of the Parish Church, which was soon to be replaced by the present St. Colman's Church. When the new church was opened in 1873, the new school house hosted a reception for guests afterwards. The Dromore town school continued to educate boys and girls separately. Statistics from Dromore Diocesan Religious Education Schools' Inspections, documented from the 1920s onwards, give us a picture of the school population patterns in the parish. In 1926 Dromore had 60 girls and 59 boys in school, while Shanrod had a combined total of 62. By 1939, Shanrod had fallen to 47, while in Dromore town there were 63 boys and 51 girls. By 1951 boys and girls had combined in Dromore town, giving a total of 130 pupils. Shanrod, in that year, had 82 pupils. This gave a total primary school roll within the parish of 212 children, at a time when the overall population of Dromore Parish was slightly in excess of 1200 people.

The 1950s were to herald a new era in education in the North of Ireland. Post-Primary Education for all became a feature of life for young people and as Secondary Intermediate schools came to be built, such as St. Patrick's Banbridge in 1957, so the character and range of primary school education changed as well. Many new purpose-built primary schools began to appear across the country in the 1960s. The old schools at Dromore and Shanrod were replaced at this time. Dromore's new St. Colman's Primary was sited alongside the old school, at the edge of the church grounds. It's architects were McClean and Forte of Belfast and it was built by Grahams of Dromore. It opened on 1st. September 1969. A new school was opened the very same day at Ballela. All Saints' Primary was located between the curate's house and the Parochial Hall. It was also designed by McClean and Forte and was built by Blaney Brothers of Downpatrick. The old school premises in Dromore town were reconstructed as parish function rooms.

Dromore's Catholic Primary School, dedicated to St. Colman (above), and All Saints' Primary School, Ballela, were both opened on 1st. September 1969.


Fr. Murtagh O Lawry (O'Lavery), was registered at Downpatrick on July l lth., 1704 as Parish Priest of Magheralin and Dromore. He was previously outlawed by the Williamites in October 1691. He is stated in 1704 to be 53 years old, residing in Magheralin and as having been ordained in 1673 by the Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr. Daniel MacKey. He was said to be a native of Magheralin.

Fr. Hugh Sheile (Shields), was also registered at Downpatrick in 1704 as being Parish Priest of Magherally and Garvaghy. He lived at Corbet, was aged 50, and had also been ordained by Bishop Mac Key in 1674. He had also been outlawed by the Williamites, apparently while Parish Priest of Drumgooland, in October 1691.

A Fr. Downey is described as Parish Priest of Dromore, Magherally, Seapatrick and Garvaghy and Magheralin in 1720.

A Fr. Lavery is mentioned as Parish Priest of Dromore and Magheralin in 1738. He may well have been the Fr. Murtagh O'Lawry mentioned above. He was reputed to be, at this time, a good friend of Lord Moira. He died around 1770, apparently at a great age.

Fr. Edward Greenan, was appointed Parish Priest of Dromore in 1772. He was a native of Clonduff Parish, educated at St. Omer's in France and had been a classmate of Fr. Edmund Derry who later became Bishop of Dromore. He was a friend of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Dromore, Dr. Percy, who gave the site for the old Catholic Church in Dromore. Fr. Greenan would have been responsible for the erection of this church in 1782.

Fr. Andrew Murnin, a native of Clonduff, took an oath of loyalty at Downpatrick on 5th. September 1782 where he described himself as "priest of the Diocese of Dromore." In 1783 he was curate in Dromara and Magheradroll and sometime later that year became Parish Priest of Dromore. In 1793 he is described in the Catholic Qualification Roll as "Titular Rector of Dromoregh" (Dromara). In 1798, Fr. Murnin had a harrowing experience when he was set upon by a mob in the town of Dromore and was suspended, by them, from a tree. Apparently a Mr. Crane Brush, agent for the Church of Ireland Bishop, heard the commotion and ran to his rescue, cutting Fr. Murnin free with a razor with which he had been shaving. He maintained guard until Fr. Murnin could be safely taken away. Fr. Murnin was said to have left the parish shortly after this experience.

A Fr. Michael Morgan appears to have succeeded Fr. Murnin and ministered in Dromore at the turn of the century. He is said to have lived somewhere in the townland of Balleny.

Fr. Arthur McArdle was appointed Parish Priest of Dromore in 1801. Fr. McArdle was a native of Ballyroney in the parish of Annaclone. He was ordained in 1795 and later that year went to the newly established Maynooth College to pursue theological studies. He later studied at Carlow College. Fr. McArdle was a curate in Newry from 1799 to 1801, the year he was appointed to Dromore. He was a regular guest of Bishop Percy's while in Dromore. The Protestant people of Dromore apparently thought highly of Fr. McArdle and presented an address to him, as a tribute, when he left for Aghaderg Parish in 1814. Fr. McArdle later became prominent in diocesan affairs and enjoyed the titles of `Archdeacon' and `Dean' at various stages. He died at Loughbrickland in 1838.

Fr. James Moore was a newly ordained priest when he was appointed Parish Priest of Dromore in 1814. Fr. Moore had been educated at Maynooth College and ordained by the Bishop of Dromore, Dr. Derry, in Newry in 1814. He was sent to Dromore following ordination and remained there until 1821, when he became Parish Priest of Magheradroll. During his pastorate in Magheradroll he resided in a house in the townland of Magheratimpany. He died there in July 1826. Reporting his death at the time, the Belfast News Letter remarked that "His labours were incalculable and he was loved by his flock and respected by every person of different persuasions." His remains were interred in the church in Ballynahinch where a memorial describes him as "the revered Parish Priest of Ballynahinch, Dunmore and Annahilt."

Fr. Hugh McConville was to succeed Fr. Moore as Parish Priest in 1821. A native of Tullylish, he was born in 1782, was ordained in 1809 and studied at Carlow College. He became Parish Priest of Seagoe in 1809 and remained there until his appointment to Dromore. Fr. McConville was responsible for the erection of the old church at Ballela, begun in 1822. He was well regarded in the wider community and addressed a gathering following the installation of a new minister at the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Dromore in 1824. Fr. McConville became Vicar General of the Dromore Diocese in 1836 and later Dean of the diocese. He died on 16th. September 1844 and his remains were interred in the old church in Dromore town. A plaque to his memory was later transferred to the new St. Colman's Church, when it was opened in 1873.

Fr. John Sharkey was appointed Parish Priest on 19th. September 1844. A native of Newry, he was educated at Maynooth and ordained by Bishop Michael Blake, in Newry, in 1833. He was curate and later Administrator at Newry Cathedral, before going to Dromore. He was responsible for the reconstruction of the old church in Dromore town, in 1852, and for the provision nearby of accommodation for the parish priest. Fr. Sharkey had also undertaken the renovation and extension of the original church at Ballela, 1846-9, and the provision of a curate's accommodation there. He died at Dromore on 17th. February 1859 and his remains were interred in the church there.

This memorial in the entrance porch of St. Colman's Church recalls three priests who died in Dromore and whose remains were interred within the former church there.

Fr. William McCartan was appointed Parish Priest of Dromore on 22nd. March 1859. A native of the Parish of Lower Drumgooland, he was born on 15th. August 1830. He was educated first at `Mr. Johnson's Academy' near Castlewellan and later at St. Colman's College, Newry. Owing to ill health his studies were interrupted and he entered the Benedictine College at Douay, Northern France, in 1849 and the Irish College, Paris, in 1850. Apparently, a short time before his ordination, the Bishop of Queensland offered to make him Vicar General of his diocese, but he declined and was ordained for Dromore Diocese, by Bishop Blake, on 22nd. September 1856. Fr. McCartan was appointed to Dromore that year, as curate, and became Administrator in 1857, due to Fr. Sharkey's infirmity. He became Parish Priest after Fr. Sharkey's death. Fr. McCartan's great work was the construction of the new St. Colman's Church in Dromore, opened in 1873. Although this cost around �17,000, because of his fundraising ventures and tours abroad the debt was reduced to �1,500 by 1876. In 1887 he was appointed Vicar Forane and in 1894 Pope Leo XIII made him a Domestic Prelate with the title `Monsignor.' He died suddenly, in Dromore, on 13th. March 1907. Cardinal Logue was a close friend of Monsignor McCartan and Dr. Henry O'Neill, who was Bishop of Dromore at the time of the Monsignor's death, had served Mass for him as a schoolboy in Dromore. In the will of Miss Anne Magennis of Ballooley House, Monsignor McCartan was named as sole beneficiary. Some years later, a law case related to this estate opened in the Four Courts in Dublin, in February 1917. One outcome of this case was the establishment of the Dromore Clerical Provident Society, to help provide for sick and retired diocesan priests.

Fr. John O'Hare, succeeded Monsignor McCartan on 4th. June 1907. He was born at Knockanarney in the parish of Donaghmore, educated at the Irish College, Paris and was ordained by Bishop Leahy in Newry Cathedral on 18th. November 1877. Fr. O'Hare served as curate in Aghaderg 1877-79, Drumgath 1879-91 and Newry 1891-1903. He was appointed Parish Priest of Dromara in January 1903 and came to Dromore four and a half years later. Fr. O'Hare was responsible for the construction of the present Parochial House in Dromore, in 1911. In his later years in Dromore he suffered at the hands of local loyalists and was twice driven from his Parochial House. Fr. O'Hare was transferred to Seagoe as Parish Priest in September 1920. He became a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter in February 1924 and died on 16th. September 1934. Canon O'Hare was buried in Barr Cemetery.

Fr. George McCorry, succeeded Fr. O'Hare as Parish Priest of Dromore on 23rd. September 1920. A native of Seagoe, Fr. McCorry was educated at Maynooth and ordained there on 6th. July 1884. He served as curate in Dromore Parish, based at Ballela, until August 1887. He was later curate in Upper Drumgooland 1887-89, in Annaclone 1889-98, Lurgan 1898-1904 and Clonduff 1904-20. On appointment to Dromore as P.P., he became a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter. Canon McCorry died in Dromore on 19th. January 1925 and is buried in Dromore Cemetery.

Fr. Patrick Greenan, was appointed Parish Priest of Dromore on 28th. January 1925. A native of Clonduff Parish, he was educated at the Irish College, Rome and ordained in the Lateran Basilica, Rome on 21st. February 1892. Fr. Greenan served as curate in Magheradroll 1892-1903, Annaclone 1903-5, Drumgath 1905-13, Seapatrick 1913-17 and Lower Drumgooland 1917-25. Fr. Greenan was responsible for the construction of the new Parochial House at Ballela in 1927. He was prominent in the Gaelic Revival Movement. Fr. Greenan died at Dromore on 22nd. April 1931 and is buried in Dromore Cemetery.

Fr. Michael Francis Gallogly, succeeded Fr. Greenan on 1st. May 1931. A native of Newry, he was educated at the Irish College, Paris and ordained by Bishop O'Neill in Newry Cathedral on 2nd. December, 1902. Fr. Gallogly was on the staff of St. Colman's College, Newry 1903-21. A man of great learning, he was elected a `Fellow of the Chemical Society of Ireland' in 1912. Fr. Gallogly was a curate in Banbridge 1921-30 and in Clonduff 1930-31. Owing to failing eyesight, he retired from Dromore Parish on 25th. February 1941.

Fr. James Murney, became Parish Priest the day 1-r. Gallogly retired. He was a native of Killowen, in Kilbroney Parish, where he was born in 1890. He was educated at Maynooth College and ordained there by Archbishop Harty of Cashel on 18th. June 1916. Fr. Murney served as curate in Aghaderg 1916-20, Clonduff 1920-24 and 1932-41 and Drumgath 192432. In 1950 Fr. Murney was responsible for the significant renovation and extension of the old church at Ballela. He was appointed to the Cathedral Chapter in August 1951. Canon Murney left Dromore on 11th. November 1952 and returned to Clonduff as Parish Priest. He died there on 7th. January 1960 and was buried in Hilltown.

Dr. Michael O'Hare, was appointed to Dromore on 11th. November 1952. A native of Donaghmore Parish he was born on 18th. September 1887. He was educated at the Irish College, Rome. where he was awarded a Doctorate in Divinity. On 5th. January 1913, Dr. O'Hare was ordained in the Church of St. Apolinaris in Rome. He served as curate in Upper Drumgooland 1913-16, Kilbroney 1916-17, Annaclone 1917-23, Seagoe 1923-25, Mayobridge 1925-33 and Lurgan 1933-37. Dr. O'Hare was appointed Parish Priest of Lower Drumgooland in February 1937. In April 1951 he became Parish Priest of Clonduff. The following year he was transferred to Dromore. Dr. O'Hare retired from Dromore on 8th. June 1964 and went to live in Belfast where he carried out duties as chaplain to a convent for several years. He died in the St. John of God Nursing Home, Newry on 14th. May 1974 and was buried in Dromore Cemetery.

Fr. Joseph O'Hagan, was appointed Parish Priest on 15th. June 1974. A native of Glasgow, he was educated at St. Colman's College, Newry and at the Irish College, Rome. He was ordained at the Lateran Basilica in Rome on 7th. March 1936. Fr. O'Hagan ministered in Glasgow 1936-39, in Ballynahinch 1939-40, Warrenpoint 1940-41, Aghaderg 1941, Lurgan 1941-55 and Ballynahinch 1955-64. He became a member of the Cathedral Chapter in February 1972. Canon O'Hagan celebrated the happy occasion of his Golden Jubilee as a priest with Mass in Dromore Church on 7th. March 1986. He retired from Dromore on 30th. August 1987. Canon O'Hagan has continued, in his retirement, to serve as a curate at Cabra, in the parish of Clonduff.

Fr. Malachy Finegan, served for a short period as Parish Priest of Dromore, from August 1987 until January 1988. A native of Newry, Fr. Finegan was educated at St. Colman's College and at Maynooth. He was ordained in Maynooth College by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin on 21st. June 1953. He served temporarily in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, at Mountmellick Co. Laois, 1953-56. He returned to the diocese and had appointments to Warrenpoint 1956-59, Derrymacash 1959-67, St. Colman's College 1967-71 and Newry 1971-73. Fr. Finegan returned to the staff of St. Colman's College in the autumn of 1973 and became College President in January 1976. He came to Dromore eleven and a half years later. Fr. Finegan was transferred to Clonduff as Parish Priest on 17th. January 1988. He retired in September 1995 and died in Newry on 15th. January 2002. Fr. Finegan was buried in Warrenpoint.

The imposing Parochial House at Dromore. It was built in 1911 while Fr. John O'Hare was Parish Priest.

Fr. Cathal Jordan, was appointed to Dromore as Parish Priest on 17th. January 1988. A native of Scariff, Co. Clare, he was educated at the Irish College, Rome and was ordained in Rome in March 1959. He was appointed to Seagoe in 1959, Saval 1959-65, Newry 1965-66, Magheralin 1966-68, Newry 1968-81 and Lurgan 1981-88. Fr. Jordan ministered in Dromore until 15th. August 1990, when he was transferred to Seagoe as Parish Priest. He became a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter in June 2000.

Fr. Gerard Conway, was appointed Parish Priest of Dromore on 15th. August 1990, in succession to Fr. Jordan. A native of Killeavy, Co. Armagh, he was educated at St. Colman's College, Newry and at St. Kieran's College, Kilkenny. He was ordained in 1956 and went to work in Scotland, in the archdiocese of Edinburgh. Fr. Conway was appointed to Newry in 1962, Magheralin 1963-66, Gilford 1966-75, Moyraverty 1975-80, Clonduff 1980-82, Ballela 1982 and Seagoe 1982-90. During his time in Dromore, Fr. Conway has undertaken a major renovation and the reordering of the sanctuary of St. Colman's Church. It was rededicated in November 1993. He was also responsible for the construction of an impressive new church at Ballela, opened in May 1994.


James O'Neill, 1814
Matthew McLernon, c.1818-19
Richard Whelan, 1824
Michael Murphy, 1830
John Kelly, 1830-32
Peter Byrne, 1832-35
James O'Neill, 1835-41
Patrick Rooney, 1841-43
Patrick Mac Key, 1843-44
John Mooney, September-December 1844
Bernard Hughes, 1844-47
Charles Kenny, 1848-56
William MacCartan, 1856-59
William MacCartan,  (nephew of preceding) 1859-60
Felix MacLaughlin, 1860-63
Thomas Henry O'Brien, 1963-65
James Owens, 1865-67
Cornelius Woods, May-October 1867
Patrick MacCartan, 1867-70
Thomas Gallery, 1870-74
Michael McConville, 1874-77
John Cowan, 1875-76
Andrew Lowry, 1877-79
Stephen MacNulty, 1879-80
John Rooney, 1880-84
Joseph Doyle, 1884-86
George McCorry, 1886-87
Peter McEvoy, 1887-1903
John Joseph Burns, 1898-1903
John Carr, 1903-7
Patrick Fitzpatrick, 1904-9
James Dargan, 1912-23
James McCorry, 1922-25
Michael J. O'Hare, 1923-32
John Joseph McParland, 1932-36
John Joseph Branagan, 1936-41
James P. McEvoy, 1941-43
Emmet Devlin, 1943-55
Patrick Rooney, 1955-61
Albert McGovern, 1961-68
Seamus Laverty, 1968-70
Arthur Bradley, 1970-75
Oliver Mooney, 1975-77
Seamus Reid, 1977-81
Gerard Conway, 1981-82
Patrick Kelly, 1982-85
Michael Hackett, 1985-88
Seamus Reid,


1988-93 (his remains are interred within the old church walls at Ballela)
Patrick Smyth, 1993-97 (died 27/6/98)


The presence of a Jesuit community at Dromore (1884-88) is quietly remembered by this gravestone in St. Colman's Cemetery.

We earlier mentioned the building of a new Episcopal Palace by the Church of Ireland Bishops William Beresford and Thomas Percy in 1781/82. Bishop Percy ensured, during his years there (17821811), that the grounds close to the palace were richly planted and developed. The palace was occupied afterwards by Bishop George Hall (1811-12), Bishop John Leslie (1812-19) and Bishop James Saurin (1819-42). Following Bishop Saurin's death in 1842, the See of Dromore in the Church of Ireland was united with Down and Connor. The palace became redundant and it and the demense were sold by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The demense of 211 acres is said to have previously been the property of the Magennis Family of Ballooley House. The whole property was bought in 1846 by brothers Edward and James Quinn. James, who served as a Justice of the Peace, occupied the mansion for many years. It became known during this time as `Dromore House'. James Quinn died on 1st. March 1883, according to a memorial in his honour at the base of the tower of Dromore Cathedral. Later that year `Dromore House' and the demense were sold by executors of the Quinn estate and came into the possession of the Irish Province of the Jesuit Order. How exactly this was achieved is uncertain. The Parish Priest of Dromore at the time Monsignor William McCartan, was an enterprising, widely known and well connected cleric. He claims, in a letter dated 1906 to the renowned Fr. William Ronan S.J. (held in the Jesuit archives in Dublin), that he bought the property and brought the Jesuits there, to bring "learning and sanctity" to the North. Whether he bought the property out of his resources or simply on behalf of the Order, with their resources, is unclear. (We noted, above, his apparently substantial inheritance under the will of Anne Magennis of Ballooley House.) Neither do we know whether he was directly involved in the transactions or whether another party acted for him, or for the Jesuits. What we can say is that the property was acquired at a cost of �8,200 in 1883, with a mortgage of �1,200 to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The following year, 1884, it was opened as a House of Formation by the Irish Jesuits on 3rd. May. The first group of novices arrived the next day.

Jesuit records of the years 1885-88 refer to the house as "Domus Probationis Dromorensis" (the House of Formation at Dromore). After occupying it, they changed the name from `Dromore House' to `Loyola House,' after the Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola. The first Rector of the House was Fr. William O'Farrell why, was appointed on 4th. May 1884. He was assisted by Fr. John Colgan who was appointed Vice-Rector on 15th. September 1885. Assisting him on the staff, in 1888, were Fr. Denis Manning and Fr. John Hughes. Fr. Hughes was reputed to be a gifted horticulturalist and a prizewinner at important local shows. As it happened, he died at Dromore on 11th. April 1888 and is buried in the cemetery adjoining St. Colman's Church. According to records available, in 1885 there was a total community of 20 at Loyola House. In 1886 the community totalled 23. It rose to 30 in 1887 and was 29 in 1888. The majority of the community over these years would have been novices - prospective Jesuits in the very early stages of training. They would have been accompanied by a small complement of staff who would have been responsible for guiding them in their time of discernment at the novitiate and directing their training. The period of novitiate was two years, after which the candidate would take his First Vows and then usually leave for university to undertake a primary degree course. A small number of the novices at Dromore were priests, already ordained, who were attempting, to discern if they were now being called from their chosen ministry to become,Jesuits. In the novitiate, time would have been shared between silent prayer, community prayer and liturgy, spiritual reading and reflection, study, manual labour, recreation and rest. A long walk, undertaken as a group, would have occurred each week. One local story recalls how, at the time of this weekly exercise, young ladies from the neighbourhood would gather at a particular vantage point to eye the novices as they walked along a path named `Purgatory Lane.'

Among those who were novices at Dromore over the years 1884-88 were Fr. Edmund Downing, who entered Dromore on 19th. September 1887. He died in Galway in 1933. Fr. James Rabbitte entered Dromore on 8th. September 1885. He died in Galway in 1940. Fr. Lambert McKenna entered on 13th. September, 1886. He died in Dublin in 1956. Br. Edward Mordaunt entered Dromore on 27th. April 1885. He died in Tullabeg in 1957. At least one novice died during his course of training at Dromore. Elias Seaver, a scholastic, departed this life on 28th. June 1886 and was buried in St. Colman's Cemetery, alongside Fr. Hughes.

The celebrated Jesuit priest-poet Gerard Manley Hopkins visited Dromore on at least one occasion while the Jesuits were there. Two of his sonnets `Tom's Garland' and `Harry Ploughman' were signed by him "Dromore, 1887", indicating that he composed them while staying at Loyola House sometime that year.

The Jesuit's stay at Dromore was to be, as it turned out, rather short. By 1889, the Dromore novitiate is no longer mentioned in the Jesuit Catalogue and a House of Studies and Formation is listed at Tullamore, in King's County (Offaly). The aforementioned Fr. John Colgan had been appointed its Rector on 2nd. September 1888. It would be safe to presume that the Dromore novitiate ceased to function around the summer of 1888. Why the Jesuits left Dromore so soon is not clear. One strong suggestion is that they needed to occupy their large property at Tullamore, as a boarding school previously operating there had amalgamated with Clongowes Wood College in 1886 and had moved to its premises in Kildare. With Jesuit properties in Kildare and in the Dublin area, it may have seemed more practical to have the novitiate in the southern half of the country. Whatever the reasons, Loyola House became vacant and the Jesuit presence on the edge of Dromore town came to an end.

The property at Dromore was, however, maintained by the Jesuits for some years afterwards and the land continued to be farmed there. Why they maintained the property for thirty years after their departure is unclear. Perhaps they were glad to be able to accrue revenue from it, over those years, while the land was being farmed. A valuation was done in 1909 in which the valuer is said to have claimed it to be the best farm he had ever inspected. Perhaps the Jesuits intended to. make a return to Dromore, when circumstances were favourable, and develop it as a base for ministry in the north of the country. No return ever came to pass, however, and the house and lands were eventually sold to the Wallace Family, on 22nd. January 1918, for the sum of �8,840. Captain Thomas Herbert Wallace M.C., J.P, LL.B., his wife and two daughters were the last residents of the original mansion. In their day, it became known as `Bishopscourt'. After they left it, the house became vacant for many years and fell into serious disrepair. It was eventually demolished, some time after the Second World War. The avenue to the house, from Upper Church Street on the edge of Dromore town, was truncated by a new bypass road in the early 1970s.

(Sincere thanks to Mr. Henry Murray, Lurgan, for the above information on the Jesuits in Dromore.)

The new All Saints' Church was built at Ballela, 1993-94. Inside one can see `Stations of the Cross' transferred from the former church, with their distinctive gaelic inscriptions.