by Sr. Dr. Evelyn Kenny

The Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Colman

The Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Colman serves as the parish church for Newry and the mother church of the Dromore Diocese.

Long before Newry became an industrial market town - and, in recent times, a city - it was a place of note due to its topographical and geographical position. Legend associates it with events dating from pre-Christian times such as the renowned "T�in B� Cuailgne" (the cattle raid of Cooley). Its position at the head of Carlingford Bay, which afforded an opening into the very heart of the country, ensured its commercial importance.

The parish of Newry consists of circa 6,500 families and now encompasses the following townlands: Ballyholland (Baile Cholm�in: Colman's townland), Ballynacraig (Baile na Creige: the townland of the rock), Carmeen (Carn M�n: smooth cairn), Carneyhough (Corr na h�tha: the round hill of the ford), Cloughenramer (Cloch�n Reamhar: large causeway), Commons (an English term), Creeve (Craobh: Branch), Damolly (an d� Mhaol: the two bald hills), Derrybeg (Doire Beag: little oak-grove), Derryboy (Doire Buidhe: the yellow oak-grove), Drumcashellone (Droim Caisil Eoin: hill of Owen's stone fort), Grinan (Grian�n: sunny place), Lisdrumgullion (Lios Drom gCuilinn: fort of the holly hill), Lisduff (Lios Dubh: black fort). The parish traces its origin back to the time of St. Patrick, who, on a visit here, according to tradition, planted two yew trees close to the tidal limit. That event was remembered in Newry's former coat of arms which bore the name I�r Cinn Tr� (Iubhair Chinn Tragha: The yew trees at the head of the strand) and depicted a mitred Abbot seated between two yew trees. If this tradition be true, it would indicate that Newry had a Christian community circa 461 A.D.

After the time of St. Patrick, the practice of the monastic life spread. There was a Celtic monastery at Derryleckagh where the monks lived frugally, supplying their needs through their own labour, living in small, simple cells and coming together for worship. As well as inspiring and converting the local inhabitants, the monks, in all probability, set out to spread the Gospel message on the continent of Europe.

The golden age for Newry and its environs ended, however, circa 800 A.D. with the increasingly frequent raids of the Vikings who carried off priceless sacred artefacts - chalices, crosses and the Books of the Gospel. Despite this, the Faith flourished and, in 1144, a Cistercian Abbey was founded, through the influence of St. Malachy, by monks from Mellifont. The monastery, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Patrick and St. Benedict, flourished on account of the patronage of Maurice O'Loughlin. King of Ireland, who granted it a Charter in 1 157 - the only one of its kind still extant - bestowing on the monastery over 6,000 acres, including the townlands of Ballynacraig, Sheeptown, Carnmeen, Comglean, Castle Enigan, Crobane, Croreagh, Corcreeghy, Conlea, Greenan, Turmore, Carnacally, Ballyholland, Derryleckagh, Lisduff, Ryan and Benagh as well as extensive lands in Armagh and Louth. The Abbey's first and most famous Abbot was Finn Mac Gorman, compiler of the famous Book of Leinster. The monastery and the surrounding town thrived commercially. At one stage, a mitred Abbot possessed the Lordships of Newry and Mourne in which he exercised episcopal jurisdiction.

According to a map of Newry dated April 1587, the ancient monastic public Church stood in Abbey Yard. Patrick Keenan, the noted historian, stated: "The great Church of Newry, its walls adorned with precious paintings and sculptures, stood at the head of Hyde Market (now St. Colman's Park) for on this spot in later times human remains were unearthed together with ecclesiastical ornaments worn only by Abbots and Bishops." (Old Newry P.1-2). It is believed that the Abbot's House was situated in what was originally McCann's Bakery in Castle Street. The Abbey Cemetery stood in Abbey Yard and was in existence until the beginning of the 19th. century when it was removed by the Corry family. In 1162, the Abbey, its books and the yew trees planted at the head of the strand, were destroyed by fire, according to the Annals of the Four Masters. It was rebuilt and remained undisturbed for over four centuries.

However, the establishment of the Protestant religion by law had its effect on Newry. John Prowte was Abbot in 1535 when the Abbey of Newry, in compliance with a mandate of Henry VIII, was converted into a Collegiate Church for secular priests with the Abbot as Warden and the monks as Vicars Choral. This change was effected by Arthur Magennis who did homage to Henry at Greenwich in 1542. In a letter to his Irish College, Henry wrote:

"We have made Mguinez (.i. D�nal �g) Knight and to him we give in ready money 100 marks. We have also made Arthur Mguinez Knight and given him �50 in money and also granted his suite that the cell of Newry, as yet unsuppressed, should be converted to a College for secular priests."

For endowment, the College was to have the entire Abbey revenue minus a sum of four marks payable annually to the Crown. This arrangement was obviously a ruse by Arthur Magennis to save the Abbey from suppression, but it did not work. Formal suppression took place by Royal Edict of Edward VI on 21st. May 1548 when the Abbot and his three priests were pensioned off, the Abbot receiving �15 per annum and the priests - Frs. Arthur Mac Gillabuy (McEvoy), D�nal Mac Gillabuy and Eneas O' Sheyll (O'Shiel) - �2 each. An Inquiry reported that clustered around the Abbey were 72 cottages, two salmon weirs and a water mill. On the dissolution of the Abbey, the powers and privileges of the Lord Abbot were given to Sir Nicholas Bagnal (Bagenal) to whom a patent was granted by Edward VI. Sir Nicholas was also given the entire property of the Abbey and it is believed that he took up residence in the Abbot's House in Castle Street.

The confiscation of the Abbey marked the beginning of two centuries of persecution for the Catholics of Newry. However, although the Abbey was officially suppressed, it would appear that the priests stayed with their people as Abbot Crilly was, apparently, the last Abbot of Newry and Fr. Malachy O'Shiel O.Cist (Prior of Newry 1634-42), Fr. Robert O'Shiel and Brother Malachy O'Kea are mentioned in the Annals. Moreover, in a letter to General Leslie dated 13th. May 1642, General Munroe stated that, on taking the town, "we entered into an examination of the townsmen if all were papists; and the indifferent being severed ..from the bad, whereof 60 with two priests were shot and hanged, the indifferent are banished."

(Aphorismical Discovery I. p. 421).

It should be noted in passing that following the diocesan and parochial organisation at the Synod of Rath Breasail (1111) and the Council of Kells (1152)

Dromore remained the administrative seat of the diocese and the ancient Cathedral of St. Colman was the seat of the Bishop until John Todd was appointed the first Protestant Bishop of Dromore by Patent of James I on 16th. March 1606 and, armed with Acts of Parliament, took over the Cathedral at Dromore and other church property.

From 1642 until 1704, there is no record of the Catholic clergy who ministered in the parish of Newry. it was during this period, apparently, that the Mass Rock at Ballyholland and the altar in the `reilig' (graveyard) at Grinan were used for the celebration of Mass. Early in the 18th. century it was reported to the government that there were only two Mass Houses in the whole diocese viz. in Grinan and Ballyroney. At a General Sessions of the Peace held at Lurgan on l0th. July 1704, Patrick Donnelly was registered as Parish Priest of Newry. This was Dr. Patrick Donnelly, the 'Bard of Armagh,' who lived in hiding in the neighbourhood of Newry. He was jailed twice for lengthy periods under suspicion of being a bishop, but his accusers could not prove it. When he died in 1716, it was considered unsafe for a bishop to live in Newry. In 1747, when Dr. Anthony O'Garvey became Bishop of Dromore (1747-66) with Newry as his mensal parish, he came to live in Aughnagun and he established Newry as the administrative seat of the diocese. Since then, successive bishops have resided in various areas of the town: Chapel Street (17801801), 15-17 Boat Street (1801-1825), a residence on the Northern side of Abbey Yard (1826-35), the 'Bishop's House' attached to Violet Hill College (1835-1900), 'Ardmaine' on the Fullerton Road (1903-1932) and since then in the completed 'Bishop's House' in its own extensive grounds on the Armagh Road.

� St. Mary's Church at the close of the 19th. century. 'The Old Chapel' effectively served as a `pro-Cathedral' for the diocese for forty years.

There are several indications that the Penal Laws were not harshly enforced around Newry towards the end of the eighteenth century. Circa 1740, a plain Mass House was built in the middle of what is now St. Mary's Cemetery in Chapel Street. Then in 1789, Dr. Matthew Lerman (1780-1801) erected St. Mary's Chapel in Chapel Street, which served as a Cathedral for thirty five years. St. Mary's, however, soon became inadequate for the large numbers of Catholics as is evident from the following extract from The Newry Telegraph, written by a Protestant sympathiser:

"Catholics have suffered the most extreme inconvenience for want of sufficient space in their present house of worship, now totally inadequate to contain their congregation of which at least one third is obliged to kneel outside the house, exposed to the inclemency of the weather".

Moreover, under the Penal Laws, the only legal schools in the country were non-Catholic institutions. In 1792, the Irish Parliament granted Catholics permission "to publicly teach school.... (and) instruct youths in learning in any private Popish school" on condition that the Oath of Allegiance was taken and permission was granted by the Protestant Bishop of the diocese. Most Rev. Dr. Edmund Derry (18011819) was quick to avail of this opportunity and, under his supervision, Rev. William McMullan, a priest of the diocese of Down and Connor, conducted a seminary called "The Newry School" at No.6 Hill Street from March 1804 until November 1805 when he returned to his native diocese and the seminary closed.

In order to alleviate the overcrowding in St. Mary's, Most Rev. Dr. Hugh O'Kelly (1820-1825), who succeeded Dr. Derry, inaugurated plans for the building of the Cathedral. The Marquis of Downshire was approached and, after two and a half years, a site was purchased. The original lease shows that a grant of the "swamp beside the Mill Race, known as Seymour's Green" was purchased on behalf of the parish on the 20th. September 1823. To secure a solid foundation for the massive structure, the builders, James Clarke of Newry, were obliged to penetrate through tidal deposit down to twenty five feet below the surface. The foundations rest on solid oak trees driven into the swamp. The foundation stone was laid by Most Rev. Dr. Hugh O' Kelly on the 8th. June 1825 and, although Dr. O' Kelly died in 1826, work progressed between 1825 and 1829 under the direction of Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Kelly and the architect, Thomas J. Duff, and received the generous support of all sections of the community. This was to fulfil an agreement made earlier in the century arising from an Act of Parliament in 1811 which authorised a five-year levy - later extended to nine years - on Protestants and Catholics alike throughout the district towards the erection of St. Mary's Protestant Church, to which Catholics agreed to withdraw all opposition on the understanding that the Protestant community would co-operate in the erection of the Catholic Cathedral in the near future. The dedication ceremony of the Pro-Cathedral of St. Patrick, as it was then called, was performed on the 6th. May 1829 by Dr. Curtis, Archbishop of Armagh, assisted by the Bishops of Dromore, Dublin, Derry, Kilmore, Raphoe and Down and Connor, with Dr. James Doyle (JKL), Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, as preacher.

Although Dr. O'Kelly did not live to see the opening of his Cathedral, he had the satisfaction of seeing another of his dreams realised. Under his direct supervision, the Diocesan School of Dromore, conducted by Rev. John Sproule Keenan, a second cousin of William Carleton, was opened in Lower William Street on the 12th. May 1823 where, according to an advertisement, "Young gentlemen will be carefully instructed in the courses best calculated to fit them for College and for business. Besides the branches of general instruction, declamation and composition in the learned and polite languages will be particularly practised...." The seminary served as a boarding and day school with fees ranging from twenty eight guineas per annum for boarders to one guinea per quarter for day students, with no holidays for any students. The curriculum for the seminary in its early years included English, Grammar, Arithmetic, French, Geography, Mathematics, Ancient and Modern History. Care was also taken to "inculcate religion and form a taste for virtue and purity of manners". Music and dancing were taught as extra subjects.

Dr. Kelly rented the Violet Hill buildings as a seminary in 1929. There, boarders of the Diocesan School of Dromore - which was by this time located at 6, Courtenay Hill, where the "parlour boarders" were also accommodated - lived under the supervision of a Cistercian Brother named Barbour, where they paid �10 per annum. In an attempt to improve educational facilities for girls, Dr. Kelly brought the Poor Clare nuns to Newry in 1830, the first religious order to settle north of the Boyne for three hundred years.

The Cathedral in its early years lacked the rich mosaic decoration for which it became renowned. The transepts and bell tower were added 1888-90.

The Cathedral in its early years lacked the rich mosaic decoration for which it became renowned. The transepts and bell tower were added 1888-90.

Newry Cathedral is unique in that it was completed before the passing of Catholic Emancipation in Ireland and also because its dedication was the first ceremony of its kind in Ireland following the Roman Catholic Relief Act. Indeed, it provoked a discussion in the English House of Commons. It was visited by `The Liberator,' Daniel O'Connell, in 1829, 1831 and 1839.

In its original form, the Cathedral was far from the imposing edifice that we treasure today, its total length when completed in 1829 being one hundred and twenty feet long by seventy feet wide, standing back almost sixty feet from Hill Street. The interior was not decorated due to lack of funds. By 1836, it had cost �8,000, raised by subscription by people of all denominations. In 1851, Most Rev. Dr. Michael Blake who was the first Bishop to be consecrated in the Cathedral - on the 17th. March 1833 - decorated the interior, while his successor, Most Rev. Dr. John Pius Leahy O.P., purchased the massive bell. That same year, Dr. Blake was instrumental in bringing the Christian Brothers to Newry and, in 1855, the Sisters of Mercy. He also secured the Violet Hill property for the diocese in that on the 6th. June 1834, the property was sold to James Magill and Roger Marley for �200. It would appear that they were acting on behalf of the Bishop as, on the 21st. September 1834, they, by deed of conveyance, transferred the property to the Bishop for the nominal sum of ten shillings.

In 1871, in answer to repeated requests by the parishioners of Newry, Dr. Leahy invited the Dominicans to set up a foundation in the town.

Between 1888 and 1890, the second phase of the Cathedral building, costing �12,000, was completed by Most Rev. Dr. Thomas McGivern who was appointed Co-Adjutor in 1886 and consecrated Bishop on the 6th. March 1887. The Papal Envoy to Ireland, Archbishop Persico of Damietta, told Dr. Leahy that the Cathedral was not in keeping with the dignity of the diocese. He charged Dr. McGivern with the task of enhancing the building.

Two transepts were erected, a new sacristy was added to the rear and a new porch was built to the front. By 1890, the new bell tower - in which new joybells were installed in 1898 - was practically complete. In 1891, a High Altar was erected as a memorial to Dr. Leahy (1.10.1854 - 6.9.1890) and the former altar was moved to St. Mary's Chapel. An organ, donated by General Needham, M.P. for Newry, which was formerly in the Old Chapel, was also installed in 1891.

The third phase of the building of the Cathedral began in 1904, during the episcopate of Most Rev. Dr. Henry O'Neill, with G.C. Ashlin, Dublin, as architect and Denis Neary as building contractor. When the work was completed in 1909, the nave had been extended forty feet towards the main street and an addition of thirty feet to the rear made way for the new elevated sanctuary. The sacristy was removed and rebuilt. The side chapels of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph and their altars, the new tubular organ-installed in 1907, largely through a donation of Andrew Carnegie - the heating, electrical systems and general church furnishings were included in this major reconstruction work from 1904-1909.

The Cathedral was extended in length during renovations 1904-1909. This photograph, from 1891, shows an earlier frontage. Note the short distance from the main entrance to the bell tower.

Dr. O'Neill was also responsible for the interior decoration of the Cathedral which exhibits some of the finest work of ecclesiastical art in that the mosaic artists have produced works not only of liturgical and artistic value, but also of permanence and inestimable worth. The mosaics and marbles were begun in 1904 and the stained glass windows in the Sanctuary and Side Chapels were executed by Messrs. Oppenheimer, Manchester, during the years 1908-1914. It is interesting that St. Th�r�se of Lisieux is portrayed in the lower portion of one of the windows many years before her canonisation. Unfortunately, several of the stained glass windows were shattered on the 20th. July 1972 when a bomb exploded outside the General Post Office. When a large flour mill south of the Cathedral was destroyed by fire, Dr. O'Neill purchased the site which is now the Cathedral garden.

Bishop Henry O'Neill, to the left in this photograph. gives a blessing to the congregation at the end of a Mass to begin Forty Hours' Adoration in the new Cathedral Sanctuary. 1909.

Although �30,000 had been raised for the renovation project under Dr. O'Neill, a considerable debt still remained. By 1918, Most Rev. Dr. Edward Mulhern, who was consecrated Bishop in the Cathedral on the 30th. April 1916, had the debt cleared. At the request of Dr. Mulhern, His Holiness Pope Benedict XV restored the Cathedral Chapter by a Decree dated 25th. April 1918. At this stage, the Cathedral ranked canonically as a Pro-Cathedral and was called St. Patrick's. Dr. Mulhern appealed to Rome and by a Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites dated 7th. March 1919, the Pro-Cathedral was raised to the rank and dignity of a Cathedral. By the same decree, the name of St. Colman was added to St. Patrick as joint titular "aeque principalis".

In 1920, Dr. Mulhern established the new Parish of Saval by cutting off the following twenty-three townlands, hitherto annexed to Newry: Ardarragh, Benagh, Carnacally, Castle Enigan, Corcreeghy, Crobane, Croreagh, Curley, Derryleckagh, Desert, Edenmore, Finnard, Gransha, Lisnaree, Lisserboy, Loughorne, Ouley, Ryan, Savalmore, Savalbeg, Shinn, Sheeptown and Turnmore.

The Cathedral of St. Patrick and St. Colman is one of the few Irish Churches to be privileged with solemn Consecration. With all debts cleared and the purchase of the ground rents ultimately secured, Dr. Mulhern solemnly consecrated the building on Tuesday 21st. July 1925 in which eighteen bishops, representative of all five continents, participated.

When Dr. Mulhern died on the 12th. August 1943, he was succeeded by Most Rev. Dr. Eugene O'Doherty who was consecrated bishop on Pentecost Sunday 1944. He warmly welcomed the 1947 Education Act which was to give an opportunity of free secondary education to many who hitherto could not �afford it. During his episcopate, two secondary schools and a new primary school were purpose-built in the parish and a new grammar school was provided by the Christian Brothers. A temporary Chapel-of-Ease at Rooney's Meadow was blessed and opened by Dr. O'Doherty on the 21st. December 1958 to serve the growing population of the large post-war housing estates in the vicinity. This was replaced by St. Brigid's Church which was formally opened by him on the 18th. October 1970. Dr. O'Doherty was also responsible for implementing the liturgical changes advocated by the Second Vatican Council. On Monday the 16th. September 1959, the new parochial hall at Trevor Hill, built at a cost of approximately �100,000, was opened and blessed by him as was also the massive new extension to St. Colman's College, under the presidency of Dr. F. G. Brooks, on 7th. June 1972.

On the 22nd. November 1975, Dr. O'Doherty's retirement and the appointment of Dr. F. G. Brooks as his successor were announced. On the 24th. March 1979, Dr. O'Doherty died.

On the 25th. January 1976, Most Rev. Dr. Brooks was ordained Bishop of Dromore by His Eminence Cardinal William Conway, His Excellency Most Rev. Gaetano Alibrandi, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, and Most Rev. Dr. Eugene O'Doherty. Shortly after becoming Bishop, Dr. Brooks set up seven commissions within the diocese to advise him on various aspects of diocesan affairs. On the 18th. September 1977, a new headquarters for the South Dromore Curia of the Legion of Mary at 72, Canal Street, Newry was blessed and formally opened by Dr. Brooks. He also blessed and opened the new Children's Home - Orana - in Kilmorey Street, (built at a cost of �240,000), on the 24th. October 1977. A special diocesan commission on ecumenism was set up by him in 1977. The Dromore Historical Society, which was formally launched in October 1977, was his brain-child. Dr. Brooks was also very involved in the events organised to celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral, which lasted from the 29th. April 1979 until the 6th. May 1979. The Chapter Rooms at the rear of the Cathedral were opened and blessed by Trim on the 1st. April 1985 and on the 2nd. December 1985, the new Sacred Heart Grammar School was opened, at a cost of �3,000,000. New premises for Cana House at Newry Parochial Hall were opened on the 16th. January 1987. The new Hospice for Newry was blessed on the 17th. November 1989, followed by the new Parish Community Hall at Boat Street on the 18th. March 1990. The renovated Orana House was opened on the 29th. September that year.

However, the outstanding event which crowns the episcopate of Dr. Brooks is the restoration of the Cathedral which took place in 1989-1990. This tasteful, prayerful adaptation of the entire sanctuary area has been acknowledged in eminent architectural journals. While most of the past splendour has been retained, it has been blended beautifully with the more modern additions, most of which were done by Domus Dei of Rome. The prayerful intimacy of the Cathedral has been retained while the changes made it possible for greater participation by the people through good visibility, excellent sound, clear lighting and more space for movement. The Baptismal Font was moved to St. Joseph's Chapel. The mosaics on all the walls were washed, the granite pillars of the nave and the sandstone arches over the entrance to the Sanctuary and on both sides of it were cleaned, the fine vaulted ceilings in the nave and transepts and the arches between the pillars were painted and the pitch-pine floors were sanded, sealed and polished.

On the 3rd. November 1991, a new statue of St. Colman, executed by Rev. Henry Flanagan O.P., placed at the side of the door of the Cathedral, was blessed by Dr. Brooks. He also blessed the new Our Lady's Grammar School, costing �6,000,000 on the 21st. November 1992. The new technology wing at St. Colman's was opened on the 10th. June 1994, followed by St. Ronan's new Primary School on the 18th. October 1994. St. Mary's Church, Chapel Street was dedicated on the 24th. March 1996, following the installation of a new altar and renovation of the whole sanctuary area. A new science and technology block at the Sacred Heart Grammar School was opened on the 23rd. June 1997, and in 1999, a new nursery unit was opened on the 27th. May at St. Patrick's Primary School.

On Friday 4th. June 1999, it was announced that Dr. Brooks was retiring and would be succeeded by Most Rev. Dr. John McAreavey. Apart from the tremendous leadership he has shown, Dr. Brooks will be remembered with deep affection as a man of prayer with a very keen interest in youth and education and, particularly, for his tremendous kindness and care for the sick and disadvantaged.

Dominican priest, Fr. Henry Flanagan executed this striking granite statue of St. Colman. He is pictured here with Bishop Brooks at the statue's unveiling, 3rd. November 1991.

Most Rev. Dr. John McAreavey was ordained Bishop on Sunday 19th. September 1999 in Newry Cathedral by Most Rev. Dr. Se�n Brady, Most Rev. Dr. F. G. Brooks and Most Rev. Dr. John Magee. Early in his episcopate, Dr. McAreavey had the Bishop's House renovated and extended. He launched the new Parish Development Plan in Newry on the 8th. October 2000. The relics of St. Th�r�se of the Child Jesus were formally received by him in Newry Cathedral on the 23rd. May 2001, and a series of events were organised by the various schools in the parish to celebrate this event. Dr. McAreavey also instigated the annual parish and diocesan pilgrimage to Knock in June 2001. He also arranged `Listening' meetings in the parish - and throughout the diocese - assuring parishioners that their ideas and issues raised would receive urgent attention. On the 17th. July 2003, a formal relationship was formed between the Diocese of Dromore and the Diocese of Lodwar in North Kenya which was celebrated at a concelebrated Mass in Newry Cathedral.


The Cathedral of St. Patrick and St. Colman

Situated in the centre of the city of Newry, the stately Gothic Cathedral of St. Patrick and St. Colman which graces the main street is proudly regarded by all sections of the community as Newry's finest building and stands as a silent witness to a century of hard struggle and considerable sacrifice.

The original building was designed by Thomas J. Duff, a native of Newry, and the renovation undertaken during the episcopate of Most Rev. Dr. Henry O'Neill, was designed by G. C. Ashlin (Ashlin and Coleman, Dublin) with Denis Neary as builder. The latest renovation undertaken during the episcopate of Most Rev. Dr. F.G. Brooks, in order to bring the Cathedral in line with the liturgical reforms promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, was designed by Felix Forte of McLean and Forte, Belfast. It extended the Sanctuary towards the congregation where the altar would be in the best possible view from all parts of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is an architectural gem. Cruciform in plan, the whole structure possesses an architectural unity. It is built entirely of Newry granite with a graceful well-proportioned facade with a Norman arched doorway and octagonal twin Norman turrets. The square sculptured granite tower over the northern transept is entirely the work of local sculptors. An expansive terrace of granite steps leads into it.

The Cathedral of St. Patrick and St. Colman

The sanctuary of the Cathedral today. Bishop Brooks guided the project of renovation and reordering, 1989-90. The new altar was dedicated on 25th. November, 1990, the Feast of Christ the King.

As one enters the Cathedral, one's eyes are immediately drawn to the magnificent Sanctuary with its steps in Botticino marble, carpeted in an Irish hand-woven burgundy-shade carpet with a Celtic design border matching the mosaic of the main aisle, opening up the Sanctuary on three sides to the people. The tabernacle rests on a plinth of white marble with panels of Breccia Pernice between columns of Rosso Verona marble. The door, of handsome wrought gold beset with coloured jewels, is covered with a golden dome and sides. The two fine panels of the former reredos rest on plinths matching that of the tabernacle. They are mainly of Carrara and statuary marble, relieved by columns in Siena and Verde Alpi marble and by small panels in Porta Santa. They stand at angles to the tabernacle, the left carrying a beautiful sculpture of the Nativity and the right, a sculpture of Christ commissioning the Apostles. On either side is a marble seraph carrying a torch. In the front of the altar is a fine representation of Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper" sculptured in Sicilian marble which was formerly in front of the High Altar erected in 1891 as a memorial to Dr. Leahy.

The beautiful pulpit in white statuary marble with a front panel depicting the Sermon on the Mount was erected by Most Rev. Dr. McGivern in the 1888-90 building scheme and now forms part of the Sanctuary as it did then. The "Cathedra" or Bishop's chair is of white statuary marble blending in with the carved Carrara marble screens which divide the Sanctuary from the side chapels of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph which are also erected in Carrara marble with mosaics and marbles. A marble panel with the arms of the diocese, the Blessed Virgin crowned and holding the child Jesus, with the words "Monstra esse to matrem, matrem ecclesiae Dromoren" (show yourself to be a Mother, the Mother of the Church of Dromore) is on the back of the throne.

The Sanctuary columns are of polished stone, Newry grey and Balmoral red - and were polished during the latest renovation. The exquisite silver Sanctuary lamp above the main altar was the gift of Mr. John McAreavey. The Sanctuary lamps in the side chapels were the gifts of the Children of Mary Sodality (Our Lady) and James Fleming (St. Joseph) respectively. The Sacred Heart Shrine was erected by the Sacred Heart Fraternity and the magnificent stained glass window, depicting scenes in the life of the Holy Family, originally over the High Altar in 1880, was presented by the Holy Family Fraternity.

The Cathedral walls from floor to ceiling, the Sanctuary floor and the passages in the nave, are entirely in mosaics, showing a variety of designs including Celtic, fleur-de-lys and rose, which were washed during the latest renovation. Set into the communion passage are three symbols signifying the Blessed Eucharist the Chi Rho, the Fish and the Pelican. In front of the altar is a large panel in mosaic of Newry granite depicting a Celtic Cross with the letters SPC (Saints Patrick and Colman). The Sanctuary and side chapels are adorned with magnificent stained glass windows.

The marble piet�, now placed in its own niche at the side entrance, was a gift from the Boyd family. The bell of the Cathedral, cast by the Dublin foundry of Sheridan in 1862, was melted down and recast in 1987. Two new joy bells were added to the peal and the inscription now reads:- "This bell was recast in year I987 and named Colman. When I call, hear my voice and come to the Sacred Mysteries."

Thus, built in local granite and mainly the work of local craftsmen, our Cathedral is an edifice that is imposing in its architectural dimensions, inspiring and prayerful in its wealth of artistic interior decoration and eminently suitable for its prime function. It stands as a fitting tribute to God and to the outstanding generosity of successive generations of the people of Newry.

The Church of the Sacred Heart and
St. Catherine of Siena

Standing majestically above ground level, this beautiful Church, conducted by the Dominican Fathers, caters for those who live around Ballybot, Dominic Street, Dominic Court, Francis Street, Peter's Place, Thomas Street, Michael Mallon Park, John Martin Street, John Martin Place, Kiln Street, James Connolly Park and also the many Catholics around Newry who are affectionately known as the "Dominican Catholics."

The Church of the Sacred Heart and St. Catherine of Siena

The Church of the Sacred Heart and St. Catherine of Siena was solemnly dedicated on 17th. October, 1875. The Dominican', as it is popularly known, is served by a small community of the Order of Preachers who reside at the attached priory.

The foundation stone was blessed and laid by Most Rev. Dr. John Pius Leahy on the 23rd. May 1873, the cost of building up to dry-course level being the gift of a wealthy Cork tanner. In Autumn 1875, the Church was completed and the Holy Name Society organised the town into districts and carried out a weekly collection, thereby clearing the outstanding debt in a few years. The Church was solemnly dedicated on the 17th. October 1875 at a Mass concelebrated by Dr. Leahy and twenty priests. The

sermon on the occasion was preached by the famous Dr. Croke of Cashel and the Holy Family band supplied much of the music.

In 1885, the Quinn sisters presented a high altar costing �1,240. The altar, executed in Sicilian and white Carrara marble, is twenty-five feet high with the reredos rising to six feet. The canopy and pinnacle were hewn from a single block, weighing over one and a half tons. The altar was consecrated by Most Rev. Dr. P.V. Flood O.P., Archbishop of Port of Spain. Then, on Saturday, 4th. August 1906, the Church was consecrated by Most Rev. Dr. Henry O'Neill when the Misses Quinn gave the rights of freehold forever to the Dominicans. The Quinn family also donated the Altar of the Queen of the Rosary and the first organ as well as having the apse adorned in mosaic and the entire building decorated.

The Church of the Sacred Heart and St. Catherine is beloved by Newry parishioners because of its warm, prayerful atmosphere and its vibrant faith community.

St. Mary's Church

St. Mary's, affectionately known by all Newry parishioners as "The Old Chapel", was erected in 1789 by public subscription at a cost of � 1,800. It replaced the smaller Mass House which stood towards the north-west of the adjoining cemetery which had served the community until Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Lennan became Bishop.

The Church which was erected 40 years before Catholic Emancipation served as a Cathedral for 35 years and as a Dominican Church from 1871 until 1875.

The plain granite building was erected in the shape of a Greek Cross, minus one of its arms. The Chapel was enhanced by three galleries which were entered from the outside. The gallery opposite the altar housed a fine pipe organ, donated by General Needham, brother of Lord Kilmorey, which was dismantled in the 1950s and replaced by a smaller one. The Church was calculated to accommodate two thousand people, with no seats of any kind on the ground floor.

In the 1950s, during the episcopate of Dr. Eugene O'Doherty, many renovations took place. New seating was installed, providing seating for a thousand people. The two large statues of the Sacred Heart and St. Joseph were removed from plinths flanking the altar to niches under the organ gallery.

In 1954, the beautiful statue of Our Lady at the side gate was erected from money collected by the local people. In 1956, Rev. Aengus Buckley O.P. was commissioned to paint the Stations of the Cross which were blessed and solemnly erected on the 2nd. December 1956 by Dr. O'Doherty. That year also, a

replica of Calvary was erected at the southern end of the cemetery.

Further renovations took place in 1995-1996 when the entire sanctuary area was revamped and a magnificent new altar installed which was dedicated on the 24th. March 1996 by Most Rev. Dr. Brooks. The entire Church was also repainted. The graceful illuminated statue of Our Lady on the exterior of the building serves as a beacon of hope and protection to those who pass by.

St. Mary's, beloved of all Newry parishioners, with its beautiful rose windows and prayerful intimacy, gives eloquent testimony to the sacrifices of the Newry community and their unswerving loyalty to the faith of their forebearers.

St. Mary's Church

The beautifully appointed sanctuary of St. Mary's Church. A major renovation of the Church took place 1995-96. It was re-dedicated on 24th. March 1996.

St. Brigid's Church

St. Brigid's Church, situated on a mound of high ground overlooking the whole Newry valley with the Camlough Road to the west and the Armagh Road to the east, serves the parishioners of Rooney's Meadow, Derrybeg and the Armagh Road.

St. Brigid's Church, Rooney's Meadow, has the largest seating capacity of any church in the Dromore Diocese. It was built 1968-70 to serve the 'Meadow' district of Newry which had expanded rapidly in the 1950s and 60s.

The Church, which was built at a cost of �200,000 and caters for 1,200 people, replaced a temporary Chapel-of-Ease at Rooney's Meadow which served the people of the area since the 21st. December 1958. The site of the new Church was blessed and the foundation stone laid by Most Rev. Dr. Eugene O'Doherty on Thursday, 13th. June 1968, and was opened for Sunday Mass on Sunday, 14th. June 1970. The Church was formally opened by Dr. O'Doherty on the 18th. October 1970 at a concelebrated Mass by Dr. O'Doherty and ten native Newry priests, which was presided over by His Eminence, Cardinal William Conway, and was attended by Most Rev. Dr. William Philbin, Bishop of Down and Connor, representatives of other Christian denominations in Newry, and Catholic clergy from the Dromore and Armagh dioceses.

The large Sanctuary area with its freestanding altar of unpolished Newry granite which is the unobstructed focal point of the Church, is floored with golden travertine marble and white and golden brown mosaics. The Baptismal Font of Newry granite has been placed near the Sanctuary area. The four evangelists in symbolic form, carved by Mr. John Haugh, overlook the Sanctuary area.

Four confessionals, simply designed in mahogany.. are placed on the sides of the Church, recessed from the aisles. The Stations of the Cross are of Italian design with figures in cast aluminium and crosses in natural mahogany.

The front entrances are deliberately prominent and significant. Each is 15ft. gins. wide by 23ft. high and contains double doorways. These wide-open doors, reflecting the Irish tradition of hospitality and with an unobstructed view of the Sanctuary area, offer a warm welcome to parishioners summoned to prayer by the mellifluous tone of the Church bell.

Mass Rocks in the Parish of Newry

During the Penal era, when Catholics were forcibly dispossessed of their Church property by oppressive laws, debarred from preserving records and forced to practise their religion in secret, the people of Newry, as elsewhere, selected Mass Rocks where the Mass could be celebrated in relative safety. These Mass Rocks were frequently selected at a spot where a suitable slab of rock served the purpose of a natural altar while simultaneously affording some safety and a good view of the surrounding countryside. Sometimes, it was secluded and sheltered by growth but, more frequently, it was a hollow spot on an eminence. From the surrounding fringes of this hollow, a good view of the adjoining countryside was generally afforded, while the assembled congregation could only be visible from above.

In a hollow space on top of Ballyholland Hill in the townland of Ballyholland Upper, a rock forming a natural altar is situated, known as the Ballyholland Mass Rock, which was in use for some time before 1750. A memorial cross was erected over the altar in 1918 and a new altar in natural stone was blessed by Most Rev. Dr. Francis Gerard Brooks on the 19th. June 1988.

The first procession to the Ballyholland Mass Rock was conducted by Rev. T. McGrath C.C. on the 1st. August 1909, under the auspices of the P.T.A.A. An elaborate wooden altar was constructed for the occasion. In 1932, on the 19th. June, there was an international flavour when, for the first time since the Penal Times, Pontifical High Mass, attended by at least four bishops, was sung. In 1950, to celebrate the Holy Year, Mass was again offered by Most Rev. Dr. Eugene O'Doherty who also celebrated Mass there in 1954 to celebrate the Marian Year. Since then, Mass has been celebrated by the Bishop at the annual Mass Rock pilgrimage.

According to tradition, the old cemetery in Grinan, known as Clonlea, was used for the celebration of Mass until the end of the eighteenth century. An ancient Cross in plain granite, said to date back to the time of St. Patrick, is still to be seen in the cemetery. The adjoining part of the townland to the northwest is known as "The Priest's Quarter." In 1794, Rev. Dominic McEvoy, the registered parish priest of Newry, resided in this locality.

A small Mass House, sixty by thirty feet, was erected in St. Mary's Cemetery in Newry, circa 1730, and served the people until St. Mary's Church was built.

A Franciscan priest delivers his sermon (above), at Mass Rock Sunday in Ballyholland, in the 1950s. Bishop Eugene O'Doherty (below), leads the Rosary on the same occasion.


St. Patrick's Primary School

On Tuesday 17th. March 1959, Most Rev. Dr. Eugene O'Doherty laid the memorial stone of St. Patrick's Primary School, Rooney's Meadow. The ten-classroom school, accommodating 384 pupils, cost approximately �60,000 and was blessed and officially opened by Dr. O' Doherty on Monday 11th. January 1960. Circa 1964, the school was further extended to become an eighteen-room school and on the 27th. May 1999, a new nursery unit was opened.

St. Ronan's Primary School

St. Ronan's co-educational Primary School, situated in Ashgrove, Newry, was the first Catholic school to benefit from full government funding. Costing � 1,250,000 and owned by the Parish, St. Ronan's was officially opened and blessed by Most Rev. Dr. Francis Gerard Brooks on the 18th. October 1994. Currently catering for 385 pupils ranging from PI - P7 with a two stream entry, it has fourteen fully-equipped classrooms and a special-needs' room and is staffed by 14 full-time and one part-time teacher.

St. Clare's Primary School

After their arrival in High Street on the 2nd. June 1830, the Sisters of St. Clare directed their attention towards the building of a school. Consequently, on the 12th. August 1830, the foundation stone was laid. This was an attempt to enhance the career prospects of the poor as there was much poverty in the Newry area in the early 1800s. By 1831, there were 400 pupils in attendance and, by 1853, the building was completed with 500 pupils in attendance. A local newspaper praised the Sisters for 'their instruction of poor ,female children in the ways of virtue and for rescuing the orphans. " The older girls were taught embroidery and lace-making. The pupils became so adept at this task that, in the 1850s, they won prizes at the International Industrial Exhibition in London. As for their academic ability, a National Education Board Inspector wrote in 1852: "All the classes must be highly commended on their proficiency in reading, writing, arithmetic and geography. Their answering evinced a readiness and proficiency quite astonishing in ones so young."

In 1894, a two-storey building was erected which catered for girls and boys up to the age of nine years initially and, later, seven years of age, when they transferred to the Abbey Primary School. Since then the school has had an admirable record for catering for the spiritual and academic needs of its pupils.

At present, the existing buildings urgently need to be replaced and the school is moving towards an amalgamation with the boys of St. Colman's Abbey School.

Ballyholland Primary School

Ballyholland Primary School

Records and folklore recall a hedge school near Grinan. In general, however, attendance was poor as Ballyholland and its environs was a relatively poor locality, densely populated, surviving on subsistence agriculture, where pupils had to pay the teacher. Even when, by 1902, elementary education was free and attendance at school was compulsory up to the age of twelve years, attendance remained sporadic.

Ballyholland was served by two schools, Grinan and the Commons. Many children also attended both the Christian Brothers' and Poor Clares' Primary Schools. However, when Grinan was in danger of closing due to lack of finance during World War I, the local families withdrew their children from Newry - and, in some instances, from the Commons - and sent them to Grinan.

However, the need for a larger school soon became apparent. A site near Ballyholland cross-roads was obtained and work began in 1920 on a large stone building with three classrooms, all modernly furnished.

In 1965, the school underwent its first renovation which provided four new classrooms. In 1983, an extension was built providing four extra classes and a large dining/assembly hall. Today, there are three new mobile classrooms due to an expansion in the number of pupils - an obvious testament to the quality and commitment of the staff!

St. Joseph's Convent Primary School

The first Primary School opened by the Sisters of Mercy was in Canal Street in 1865. In 1876, an Orange Lodge was purchased beside the Primary School where young boys up to the age of seven years were taught.

However, as numbers increased and as Our Lady's Grammar School needed more space, the Sisters began looking for an alternative site. In February 1926, property in Edward Street adjacent to the Convent was purchased. The Infant School, consisting of six large rooms, divided by folding doors, two cloakrooms and two toilet blocks, was blessed and opened by Most Rev. Dr. Edward Mulhern on the 27th. October 1927. In 1934, further classrooms were built in Edward Street on the site of an old foundry. This red-brick building, now known as the Junior School, was designed to accommodate between 300 and 400 pupils. On Thursday 25th. April Ballyholland Public Elementary School was opened in 1921. Situated on the border of Upper Ballyholland and Grinan townlands, the school was extended in 1965 and, again, in 1983.

1935, Dr. Mulhern blessed and opened the school. During the Principalship of Sr. M. Cecilia O'Doherty (1947 -1957) as the number of pupils had increased, the existing Sodality rooms were converted into two extra classrooms.

When St. Patrick's School, Rooney's Meadow, opened, the boys attending St. Joseph's School were requested to enrol in the new school, thus leaving St. Joseph's an all-girls' school. During the Principalship of Sr. M. Angela Rafferty (1957-1966), the Sisters bought land adjacent to the school bit by bit, and in 1967, a spacious new playground was made available for the children, partly financed by the Department of Education.

As the student population increased, additional temporary classrooms were erected and the entire school was equipped with modern facilities for every subject. In 1983, a much needed fire-escape was erected and fire-alarms and fire-doors were installed throughout the school.

During the early 1980s, the enrolment declined and in 1988, two classrooms underwent extensive renovations to become a diagnostic unit. In 1992 and 1993, two extra mobile classrooms were added to the school to reduce numbers in some classes and to enable the staff to deliver the ever-changing curriculum more efficiently. A nursery unit opened on the 24th. September 1997, and on the 1st. September 1999, boys were admitted to Primary 1, and thus St. Joseph's has become once again a co-educational school, catering for all aspects of Primary education.

St. Colman's Abbey Primary School

The Christian Brothers began their teaching career in Newry in Upper Chapel Street in 1851 where there was a Lancasterian-type school under the care of Master Gorman. They then functioned in Kilmorey Street, the Free Trade Hall in Castle Street, the

`Carstands' at the corner of Lower Margaret Street and the Mall and in Abbey House in Castle Street and Abbey Yard. � During the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century, the Brothers in Newry had no teaching income but depended on the parish and other means of support as they refused to operate the National School system which was very pro-British and which restricted the use of religious emblems and practices! Times were not easy in the 1930s as Newry was beset with problems associated with endemic unemployment. Therefore, it was a far-reaching and far-seeing decision for the Brothers to build a new Primary School in the Abbey grounds. Nevertheless, they took that decision, planning to accommodate all of their primary pupils - circa 800 boys - in one building comprising 15 classrooms, 2 special subject rooms and an Assembly Hall with an immense basement under the classrooms to be utilised as a recreation ground in wet weather. The cost of �25,000 was to be borne equally by the Ministry of Education and the townspeople.

On the 17th. March 1937, Most Rev. Dr. Edward Mulhern blessed and laid the foundation of the new St. Colman's Abbey Public Elementary School. The following year, on the 7th. June, the imposing building was opened by Dr. Mulhern. The Brothers contributed �2,400 plus the site and their extensive recreation field while the people of Newry contributed �8,000. In November 1958, work on the new dining hall began and in June 1964, St. Colman's began to take in infant boys. Three temporary classrooms were erected in August 1964 at a cost of � 1,360, and the following year, the classrooms in the old Grammar School building were utilised by the re-organised Primary School classes. By September 1969 there were 938 pupils attending the school and, in August 1972, when the Brothers took up residence in the new Monastery, the old Monastery was used to accommodate some Primary School classes.

In keeping with their commitment to the disadvantaged, the Brothers opened a special unit for the physically handicapped in December 1976 and six pupils were admitted. Due to an increase in numbers, a second unit was provided. The unit now contains two classrooms, each adapted to facilitate the needs of disabled students. Children aged 4-11 years are taught in the Primary class while, in the Senior class, students aged I 1-19 years are taught. Therapists attend the unit each week.

By 1996, the Brothers had ceased their teaching apostolate in St. Colman's Abbey Primary School, but their legacy lives on. As educators, they ensured that the post-war generation of Catholics in Newry took full advantage of the new educational opportunities available and they gave their students the sense of self-esteem which is an essential prerequisite for educational advancement.

The school is now set to link up with St. Clare's Primary School to form a new co-educational Primary School where the legacy of both these great Orders will, without doubt, survive.

St. Mary's High School

Built on an elevated site purchased from the Magennis family and commanding a very beautiful view of the whole Newry district extending to the entrance of Carlingford Lough, St. Mary's High School has built up a tradition for Christian living and excellent academic achievement of which the parish community can be justly proud.

On Monday 4th. September 1961, the school was blessed and opened by Most Rev. Dr. Eugene O'Doherty. Under the joint care of the Sisters of St. Clare and the Sisters of Mercy, the school opened with 644 pupils at a cost of �175,000 and caters for the spiritual, intellectual and physical formation of each pupil in a warm, caring atmosphere.

Adapting to the changes in education, a large extension costing �270,000 and consisting of seven classrooms, three Domestic Science rooms, two Science rooms and a dining hall cum servery was blessed and opened by Most Rev. Dr. Francis Gerard Brooks on Wednesday, 7th. January 1976. A new Technology Suite and a Science Block were added later. At present, the school is introducing A-level vocational subjects to the curriculum.

The school is a Catholic maintained school with a current enrolment of 535 pupils, aged 11-17 years, and a staff of 35 who strive to enhance the learning opportunities for each pupil as well as devising strategies to motivate them. This commitment, together with the progressive vision, management and curriculum of the school, is responsible for the high academic achievement and the mature outlook of its students.

St. Joseph's High School

St. Joseph's, the first Voluntary Intermediate or High School in the Diocese of Dromore, can be extremely proud of a host of past-pupils and staff who have had a major impact in many spheres of life - business, sport, academia, religious, drama and public life/politics.

On Monday 19th. March 1956, Most Rev. Dr. Eugene O'Doherty laid the foundation stone of St. Joseph's Catholic Boys' Intermediate School on the Armagh Road, Newry, and two years later, on Monday 6th. January 1958, officially opened it. The school, designed by McLean & Forte, Belfast, cost approximately � 180,000, and had accommodation for 500 pupils.

Since then, the school has served the parish of Newry well. Composed of thirty-seven rooms, staffed by twenty-eight teachers with a current student population of 471, the school provides an excellent education for pupils of all ability.

It has an excellent pastoral dimension, a rich and diverse curriculum and a dedicated staff, all of which enable its pupils to achieve their potential and to take their place confidently as responsible citizens and leaders in today's society.

The Christian Brothers began their long association with education in Newry when they started teaching in Upper Chapel Street in 1851. Almost a century later they opened St. Colman's Public Elementary School, in the grounds of their monastery, in June 1937. The late 1950s saw the building of several new secondary modern schools within the Dromore Diocese. St. Mary's Girls' High School, situated in Upper Chapel Street, belongs to this period. It was officially opened on 4th. September 1961.

The Abbey Grammar School

When the Christian Brothers took possession of the Abbey House and grounds on the 1st. April 1903, they resided in the "Master's House" where, nearby, they had reasonable accommodation for their Secondary School pupils in the Castle Street and Abbey Yard areas. Secondary level education had to be more or less self-financing until the 1947 Act, but the Brothers did not exclude any student whose parents were unable to pay the small basic fee.

The old Abbey Secondary School had a woodwork room, a science room and a gym. However, the work progressed and as the number of students increased, the facilities also improved and the academic excellence of the pupils was widely recognised. In the early 1960s, it became apparent that the existing school could no longer cater for the number of students and it was decided to build a new school.

On Wednesday 28th. September 1966, the new building, built on the site of the old Cistercian Monastery and costing circa �260,000, was blessed and officially opened by Most Rev. Dr. Eugene O' Doherty.

In February 2003, the Abbey Grammar School -now in lay hands - secured �12.23 million from the Department of Education to build a new school which will no doubt, continue to maintain the highest academic standards and the spirit of Christian concern which has always permeated the Newry schools managed by the Christian Brothers.

Sacred Heart Grammar School

As a result of the development of the educational system and recognising the need for higher education, the Sisters of St. Clare decided to open a Secondary School. This they did in 1925 in the Primary School building. In 1925, they bought a plot of ground in Castle Street and commenced building a new school in 1928. In August 1930, the new building was opened with an initial enrolment of 70 pupils and 4 lay staff.

As numbers increased, various other buildings and mobile classrooms were introduced and the Principalship passed into the hands of the Sisters. Major developments in the field of education and ever-increasing numbers of students rendered the original site in High Street and Castle Street inadequate and on the 2nd. December 1985, the present Grammar School at Ashgrove, a magnificent purpose-built complex, costing �3,000,000, set in extensive grounds with scenic views of Newry and the surrounding countryside, was officially opened. A further extensive new Science and Technology Block was opened on the 23rd. June 1997.

At present the school has an enrolment of 875 pupils with 54 full-time staff. The school offers a framework in which every girl has the opportunity to develop a caring, self-confident, well-informed and balanced outlook as well as providing a first class academic education in a caring, christian environment.

Our Lady's Grammar School

Monday 21st. November 1887, was an eventful day for the Sisters of Mercy in Newry and for nine young students who made history when Our Lady's Intermediate School, as it was then called, opened its doors for the first time with Sr. M. Philip Magennis as Headmistress.

Some time previously, Most Rev. Dr. Thomas McGivern, Co-Adjutor Bishop of Dromore, had asked Rev. Mother Emmanuel Russell, sister of Lord Charles Russell of Killowen, the first Catholic ever to become Lord Chief Justice of England, to open an Intermediate School for the Catholic girls of Newry which was then a very thriving port and commercial centre with good canal and railway systems. With a population of 15,590 and with steamers arriving daily at the Albert Basin, Newry was quite cosmopolitan and had consuls for the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, France and Italy. Hence the need for a Catholic Intermediate School to complement the Protestant one on the Downshire Road.

Classes were conducted in the lower floor of the Convent at first, but as numbers increased, the need for a permanent school became apparent. Thus in 1894, Our Lady's School was begun and the first pupils moved in after the Summer holidays of 1895. The new school, adjoining the National School, was at the bottom of the Convent garden and consisted of one large room (fifty feet by thirty feet) called Our Lady's Room with a smaller room used for music lessons.

The curriculum was quite varied - English, French, German, Latin, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Singing, History and Historical Geography were studied by all pupils, while Drawing, Painting and Instrumental Music were optional. Religious Education was taught for half an hour every day and those preparing for the Civil Service were introduced to shorthand. Irish and Irish dancing were introduced into the curriculum at a later stage. The students sat the examinations of the Intermediate Board, Dublin. One student, Marguerite Magennis, became a University graduate having completed all her University course at Our Lady's!

As the numbers increased, additional classrooms were added and when the National School moved to Edward Street, Our Lady's acquired their premises. Our Lady of Lourdes Boarding School was flourishing by this time, having opened in 1918 in response to a request by Most Rev. Dr. Edward Mulhern. This boarding school, housing at one stage 74 boarders, flourished until June 1971 when, due to improved public transport and lack of space for the ever-expanding school, it was closed on the recommendation of Most Rev. Dr. Eugene O'Doherty and Our Lady's occupied the premises.

As the school and curriculum expanded, the need for new premises became more urgent and negotiations began in the early 1960s with the Department of Education. However, it was riot until the 1987-88 academic year that government approval for the new school was obtained.

The site in Chequer Hill, which had been bought by the Sisters several years beforehand, was blessed by Most Rev. Dr. F.G. Brooks on the 21st. November 1988 and work commenced. Then, in September 1992, the whole school community moved into the modern, architecturally beautiful, spacious building. The magnificent, multi-storeyed complex was blessed by Most Rev. Dr. F.G. Brooks and officially opened on the 21st. November 1992.

Happy pupils at St. Ronan's Primary School. St. Ronan's, located at Ashgrove Avenue, was the first Catholic school in the Dromore Diocese to benefit from full government funding. It opened in 1994.

The next big milestone in the history of Our Lady's occurred on the 31st. August 1997 when Sr. M. Perpetua McArdle retired as Principal and the first lay Principal, Ms. Geraldine Pettigrew, a native of Newry and a past pupil of the school, was appointed to succeed her.

Students are encouraged to develop themselves spiritually, emotionally and academically, and the importance of spiritual values and concern for others is woven into the fabric of everyday school life. Every effort is made by a dedicated Principal and staff to provide a warm, caring atmosphere and to equip the students to become confident, competent, professional, compassionate adults who are ready to play their part in shaping the future of society.

St. Colman's College

Due to the Penal Code, a determined attempt was being made to crush the priesthood out of existence and to keep Catholics in general poor, socially degraded and politically impotent through non-availability of Catholic education. Hence, Catholic education assumed an acute and vital importance.

Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Lerman (1780-1801) and Most Rev. Dr. Edmund Derry (1801-1819) were both deeply interested in the question of Catholic Primary School needs, but also in the educational training of aspirants to the priesthood. The former left a bequest for educational purposes in his will while the latter, as we have seen, was responsible for the foundation of the diocesan seminary called "The Newry School." This was followed by the foundation of the Diocesan Seminary by Most Rev. Dr. Hugh O'Kelly, which was conducted by Rev. John Sproule Keenan.

The Diocesan Seminary, or "School of Dromore" as it was originally known, was opened in William Street in May 1823, and is the oldest existing diocesan seminary in Ulster. When Dr. O'Kelly rented the house in William Street, he had in mind both the training of candidates to the priesthood and also the education of the sons of the Catholic middle-class and relatively wealthy land-owners. Newry was an excellent choice at this period as it was an important river port and manufacturing town. It was also on the main coach road between Dublin and the North. It had a large Catholic population with a Catholic hinterland and had become an Episcopal seat.

The presidency of Fr. Keenan in the Diocesan School of Dromore was to herald the inauguration of St. Colman's College as we know it today. In May 1829, the school transferred to premises on the northern side of Courtenay Hill. Although the oldest part of the present St. Colman's was rented in 1829, classes continued in Courtenay Hill until 1866, except for a brief period in 1837 when the house in William Street was again in use.

St. Colman's College in 1922

St. Colman's College in 1922. The College began its life at premises it Newry's William Street in May 1823. It is the oldest existing diocesar seminary in Ulster.

Most Rev. Dr. Michael Blake purchased the land of Violet Hill, consisting of eighteen statute acres, on the 23rd. September 1834. Extra land was bought bit by bit and by the 30th. December 1937, the College had almost fifty statute acres. Following the purchase of Violet Hill and its grounds, Dr. Blake and Fr. Keenan set about extending the College. The eastern front, in which the Bishop's residence was situated, was built in 1835. Fr. Keenan left the College in the Summer of 1835, his greatest achievement being the great impetus he gave to the higher education of Catholics. Fr. Mark Murphy succeeded Fr. Keenan as President from 1835 until November 1837 when Dr. Blake separated the lay and clerical facilities and made each an independent institution. His intention was that the Seminary - under the title of "St. Colman's Ecclesiastical Seminary" - should be run on continental lines., He himself and advanced ecclesiastical students superintended the seminary. There was a flat rate of � 17 per annum for all boarders which was increased to �20 per annum circa 1850. Two notable developments took place during Dr. Blake's stewardship: the students began to get holidays in the 1840s and the numbers went down drastically.

When Most Rev. Dr. John Pius Leahy O.P. succeeded Dr. Blake (1860-1890), the two institutions were reunited in 1864 as "St. Colman's Diocesan and Catholic Day School" under the presidency of Fr. Arthur Finnegan and the numbers increased once more. Two years later, in 1866, the town house was abolished and all the work of the institution took place in Violet Hill. The tower was erected in 1876.

The appointment of Rev. Henry O'Neill as President (1869-1890) marked the beginning of a new era of advancement in the history of the seminary with large-scale extensions to the College buildings - a magnificent building from the front door to the college tower was completed in 1879 - and the introduction of the Intermediate system of education in 1879. He built up a competent staff, including Michael Cusack - who later founded the Gaelic Athletic Association - and changed the name of the College to "St. Colman's Diocesan College." The new entrance to the College and the college library were built in 1880.

Further renovations during the episcopate of Most Rev. Dr. Edward Mulhern included a temporary Chapel, study hall, dormitory, a new laboratory and a geography hall. Then, in 1936, the new College Chapel was begun on the 9th. December through the beneficence of Mr. Henry McEvoy, Lenish, Clonduff, who paid for the entire fabric with the request that it be dedicated to Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God. It was formally opened by Dr. Mulhern on Wednesday 26th. October 1938.

During the years 1958-1961, the wing to the east end of the College front was built, providing much needed classrooms, Assembly Hall and dormitories. Further large extensions took place in 1972 and 1994, providing state-of-the-art facilities for the College.

The College reflects the changing times in its styles of architecture which are, however, harmoniously blended together creating a large, unified building complex which has its main focus in the new central quadrangle. The College has grown from strength to strength, striving to educate the complete man through all his faculties - spiritual, ethical, physical and intellectual - and to prepare its students to play a leading role in all spheres of society.