Dromore and District Local Historical Group Journal

Volume 1-1991




An eccentric is defined as one departing from the conventional in an odd or amusing way. While the word is not an exact description of the Rev. James Rentoul, minister of Banbridge Road Presbyterian Church from 1898 to January 1917, it does describe some aspects of the life of this very unusual, interesting, strong-minded, highly respected man - for he was unconventional and he was amusing and often unusual in the way he related to life and other people. Perhaps he deserves the word unique".

Very few remember him, but from the stories that have been handed down one gets a picture of him as an eccentric held in high esteem by the whole community.

His forebears fled from France at the time of persecution of the Huguenots. They were Calvinists. His grandfather, who bore the same name, was the Rev. James Rentoul, Minister of Ray Congregation, County Donegal.

The grandson, who is our particular interest, came to Dromore from the congregation of Clough, County Antrim, where he had ministered for thirteen years. There he married and his two sons were born. Sadly, his wife died there too. He came to Dromore with his two sons, who were his pride and joy. He married again. His wife survived him, and in September 1921 she unveiled the marble plaque which the congregation had erected in memory of their beloved minister.

Those who want a much fuller account of his life, ministry and background, will find three chapters devoted to him in the book 'A Place of Worship' (pages 14-23 and page 93).

But now to relate some of the things that justify his uniqueness. He was, it can be claimed, an enthusiastic gardener, who produced all his own vegetables, as well as being a lover of flowers, which h grew in abundance. The manse field, now the site of the new manse, was pathed, with fruit trees and many varieties of soft fruit bushes in abundance. He was generous to all who called at the manse. The Bible Class members were invited up and other groups from time to time and `let loose' with the admonition `Eat as much as you like but you must not pocket any.'

The members of the Church Choir were given special recognition - if they were involved in an extra afternoon service, the members were given posies of flowers. These were carefully picked and arranged in a basket at the manse, and the basket hung on a walking stick which Mr. Rentoul carried on his shoulder.

You can picture him striding down the road with his flowers of appreciation.

He was a stickler for punctuality and was known to start a service over again -'prayer and psalm'- because a few members were late. On one occasion at a wedding service, when many of the girls from the local factories had crowded into the church to see one of their friends being married, he ordered the doors to be shut and he took the opportunity to address his captive congregation on the importance of having suitable head covering when coming to church and on other matters. The sermon was long and the minister's action talked about for many a day.

He employed tramps to help him with his gardening. Many travelled the Belfast/Dublin Road at that time. He was good to them, but they had to toe his line. Some got the better of him, but mostly in the skirmishes he was the victor. For instance, on one occasion a tramp changed into his Reverence's boots and left his own before going on his way. Another time he gave a begging tramp a coin and then followed him down to the town Square, and when the tramp went into a public house and put the coin on to the counter Mr. Rentoul lifted it saying: "That is not the purpose I gave you that for." - The tramp challenged him saying: "If it were not for that clerical bow you are wearing I would use these" holding up his clenched fists. Mr. Rentoul is reputed to have pulled off the bow in a counter challenge, whereupon the tramp quickly left. It wasn't the first time he had offered to defend his principles.

As a boy in Ballymoney he was walking with his father one day when they came across a man abusing his wife and challenging any passer-by to a fight.

Young James, who was well built, said to his father that he would like to take up the challenge. His father pointed out that he was wearing his good suit. James immediately took off his coat, left it in a shop and in a very short time the troublesome fellow had had enough and took to his heels.

He was a staunch opponent of the Drink Trade, yet, if he thought an old person would be helped by a spoonful of whisky, he would buy a bottle and carry it unwrapped to its destination.

James Rentoul was a man with a big heart and very kind. On one occasion he took the clothes from his own bed and gave them to a member in dire need. On another occasion when a small farmer lost one of his cows - in those days the death of one animal was a considerable loss - James Rentoul visited him and before leaving pressed some notes into his hand; that was practical sympathy.

In the early years of the century it was becoming common for homes to have an inside toilet. As the outside toilet at the manse was in poor condition the Church Committee decided to have one installed in their manse. However the Rev. Rentoul opposed this saying 'it was not hygienic' and so a new out door 'two seater' was erected, Bangor Blue slates and all and was in excellent order up to the mid forties. A room in the manse had been converted into a bathroom in the early twenties. Those who are surprised at it being a 'two seater' should know that many a three and even four seater - was erected to indicate a measure of wealth, it was thought.

I suppose that the most interesting of all the stories about this unusual man is the one which concerns the manse. It was a damp house and it needed whitewashing. He asked the committee to deal with these two matters. After some months had passed and nothing had been attempted, he bought a barrel of tar and with the help of a tramp tarred the outside of the building. The damp was not cured, but the colour of the manse was not `whitewashed' but `blackwashed'. The manse became famous overnight. It was known as the'Black Manse' and it was said to be the 'talk of Ireland', with people actually coming some distance to see it. The tarring of the manse proved a very expensive business for the Church Committee. For over fifty years successive committies spent a small fortune trying to get rid of the tar. Every time it was distempered or painted the tar came through, giving it a pie-bald effect. That story in itself, no doubt, will live on as long as Banbridge Road Church.

The Rev. Albert Bickerstaff, who was born in the year 1900 and is still living at the time of writing, as a boy of 15 remembers the Rev. Rentoul and very clearly describes him as a man of fine physique, about 5' 9" tall with grey whiskers and a clean-shaven upper lip and chin. It was, he says, the face off a man who had strength of character.

Mrs. Ellen Cairns who is 88 remembers clearly the Rev. Rentoul as a very kindly man. She and her school friend Lena Kerr called at the manse every morning on their way to school to see if their was anything needed from the town or letters for posting. They brought back any order or post for the manse when they were coming home. Lena's eldest sister worked at the manse and as soon as the girls arrived she was ordered to provide them with a meal. The Rev. Rentoul saying 'we must see what is in the oven today.' She remembers him claiming that he was an expert jam maker and did indeed make all the jam (if those who visited the manse had left any fruit!!)

She also remembers the swing and the Rev. Rentoul shouting loudly in warning when they went too high. He did not like swinging on Saturday as he said it disturbed him preparing for Sunday. Mrs. D. Dickson (Miss Crookshanks of the Hollow) who now resides in Rostrevor recalls how when she was a small girl the Rev. Rentoul often left in the pew little made up packets of Dolly Mixtures for children who had been bereaved or were back at church after an illness.

Mr. T. Kerr, who is also 88, as a small boy remembers the Rev. Rentoul clearly. The congregation was proud of him and rather liked his unusual ways of doing things. He recalls the Presentation that was made on his Jubilee. As well as a gift of notes he received a very beautiful illuminated address in book form. It was a great compliment to the minister. The volume has in it some lovely views of Dromore painted by a well known artist of that time Carey. It was very beautifully produced. He also remembers him striding round the roads on foot on his visits to his people.

His life and work were summed up at the time of his death in the following words:

He lived for those who loved him
And for those who knew him true,
For the future in the distance,
And the good that he could do.


Address to Rev James Rentoul

In an idyllic setting by the lagan :
cottages at mill green, lurganbane


Some five or six years ago a row of houses at the Cock Crow Knowe in the townland of Drumbroneth, was demolished. Although over the years the houses had provided homes for many families, they had now out-lived their usefulness. Not being content that their final passing should go un-remarked, Roy Gamble, who had been born and reared in the area, penned the following elegy:




Once there was life here,
Ten houses filled with warmth and light
And the piping treble of children's voices.
Now the whole row is down;
The wrecking crews have tumbled all the walls,
And broken slates are scattered
On the front-street cobble stones.
Shabby back-yards lie exposed,
Rusting tin and tattered felt
Flap from the roofs of ruined sheds,
And narrow gardens are overgrown
And clear Spring nights no longer ring
To the chime of graipes against the stones
In lean potato drills.
Once laughing children ran across these planks
That span the ditches at the bottom of each garden,
Here, in the Summer grass --
Where the slender stream divides the rushy meadows --
They acted out their plays of make-believe,
Or in the evening - when brothers returned
From shop and mill - took part
In lengthy football games,
Or make-shift parodies of cricket,
Or lay murmuring, in the scented grass,
Watching the twilight steal across the meadows
And settle on the houses darkening row
And then from each window the sudden glimmer of the lamps.


Visitors to the town of Dromore cannot help but notice the Dromore Mound, an Anglo Norman Motte and Baily constructed in the 13th Century. For those who choose to climb this ancient fortification the reward is a splendid view of the town.

If you look in the opposite direction, up the Valley and along the river Lagan you will notice a small collection of red roofed buildings. These contain another piece of the town's history for it is here that we find McConville's scutch mill.

Felix McConville, the grandfather of the present owners, came to Dromore in 1870 from his birthplace in the townland between Annaclone and Rathfriland. He married a lady called Mussen, whose family had been involved in growing flax in the Dromore area for many years, and it was here that the McConville connection began.

The present mill was constructed around the turn of the century with the large mill wheel used to drive the machinery coming from nearby. The wheel, cast in Geoghegan's foundry in Lenaderg, had previously been used to drive a beetling mill on the River Bann. Beetling, the final process in the production of linen, is the smoothing of the cloth by the action of hammers, made of ash planks, falling on the cloth at regular intervals.

The process to produce linen begins many months before however, and in its day was a labour intensive industry providing employment to many people in rural Ulster.

The flax, once harvested, is stored for around fourteen months. After storage, it is taken out and 'retted' i.e. soaked in large pools for about nine days to help separate the fibres from the inner core. Once taken out and dried, it is crimped to make it more pliable, and then placed in the scutch machine.

On opening the sluice gates the water begins to flow bringing the large wheel into life.#By a series of belts and cogs the main spindle, containing sets of spokes, begins to spin. The still hard flax is inserted by hand into the spinning spokes and the transformation occurs. The hard inner core, known as the shives, breaks off leaving the soft and pliable flax behind. The flax now has the same consistency as fine silken hair resulting from the scutching process.

It then began its journey to market and in the early 1900's there was a flax market in the town of Dromore but this was thought to have closed in the 1920's so the flax was taken to Banbridge and Ballynahinch. The main mode of transport would have been the horse and cart and in latter years the lorry, but there was a considerable amount of flax taken to Belfast on the old Newry to Belfast railway.

Richard McConville, Eugene's son, carried the business on from his brother and in the industry's heyday, around 1940, up to 50 people were employed locally. The present owners still have the accounts books for wages, and the names of the mill workers read like a directory of the town. Characters such as Tommy Kernoghan, Fergy McGrath, Oliver Bickerstaff, James Dewart, Ned Fairley, Len Bostan to name but a few. Some of the workers, who were mere boys at the time, still live and work in the town.

The flax industry suffered however in the late 1950's and 60's with the increase in synthetic fibre production and the mill all but closed. There has been, in recent years, a resurgence of linen especially by it's utilisation in the designs of Paul Costelloe and other Irish designers. This brought media attention to the small mill when the BBC programme, the Clothes Show, featured the present owners explaining the flax growing process.
It is, I think, comforting to know that the clothes we see on some of the most fashionable and rich women of the world may have begun life in a small farm in Dromore.

NB. I would like to thank Eugene and Felix McConville for their help and assistance with this article and to point out that this is still a working mill. It may be possible for those interested to see it in action, but it should be arranged in a group, in advance, to respect their privacy.


Some may not know, some may have forgotten but some will remember the Cinema in Dromore many years ago.

The Picture House was located on the top floor of the Town Hall (now occupied by the Library) and operated by Mr. Robert Dale who also ran a Chemist shop in the town.

It would appear that even before Mr. Dale's Cinema there was a picture show in the Orange Hall every Saturday evening run by a Mr. Larmour, thought to have been from the Banbridge area.

Anyone who can remember this Cinema or has any memories of Mr. Dale's Cinema is asked to contact the Historical Group Committee. We hope to publish an article on the cinema in a future issue of the Journal and your help would be greatly appreciated.


One evening last Winter the Historical Group was fortunate to enjoy a very informative and entertaining talk by Mr. Henry Murray on the Jesuit's brief sojourn in the town in the late 1800's. As a result he was requested, and kindly agreed, to write up his notes on the talk with a view to including it in this journal.
We have the pleasure of not only bringing this particular aspect of the town's history to the attention of a wider audience, but of preserving in print the results of Mr. Murray's extensive research on the subject.



I am honoured at being afforded the privilege to speak to this Dromore and District Local Historical Group on "The Jesuits in Dromore" and this for the following reasons:

(1) In the late 1950s and early 1960s, I was fortunate to have been introduced to, and to have attended, various periods of "Retreat" conducted by the members of the Society of Jesus (otherwise known as the Jesuits) at their Retreat House at Milltown Park, Dublin. A "Retreat", as you may be aware, is a period, long or short, spent in silence, prayer and reflection on the moral issues of life - the conversion from sin, the increase in spirituality in one's relations with oneself, one's neighbour, but most especially with God Himself, and the ultimate salvation of one's soul. The "Retreats" which I attended were geared mainly for professional and business men (the Jesuits probably thought that they were the people who needed salvation most) and were therefore an important beacon to me in my business relationships with my clients, etc. as reflected by the teaching of the gospel and as applied by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the Founder of the Jesuits; So, this lecture is in a way an expression of gratitude by me to the Jesuits for the spiritual benefits obtained through those Retreats.

(2) In the year just ended, 1990, the Jesuits celebrated the 450th Anniversary of the Foundation of their Society. On a local level, the Anniversary was celebrated here in the North of Ireland by a series of seven Lectures entitled "Jesuits - Yesterday and To-Day" under the auspices of the Institute of Continuing Education at Queens University, Belfast, from 25th October, 1990, to 6th December, 1990. (Appendix I which is a copy of the Lecture Programme illustrates how ecumenical the series was).
Regrettably, I was only able to be present at four of these lectures, but even from these, I acquired a fund of knowledge about the Society which I might not otherwise have obtained. I am happy to say that these lecture occasions were truly ecumenical and were a salutary example of what can be done on an ecumenical level in spite of the violence and hatred which surrounds us at the present time and which is a threat to all God-fearing people, irrespective of their religious persuasion.

(3) In this present year, 1991, the Jesuits celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the birth of St. Ignatius Loyola, the Founder of the Jesuits.


For much of the content of this Lecture, I am indebted to Father Senan Timoney, a member of the Jesuit Community in Portadown. He has done some considerable research on this subject and he has been most generous in affording me all the data which he has accumulated.
I am grateful to Mr. William Patterson, Church Street, Dromore, for sight of the Lease of the property on which his dwelling-house is situated, and to Mr. Robert Topping, Ballynaris Lane, Dromore, for the loan of the horse-brass, a copy of which is in Appendix III.

Who are the Jesuits?

Ignatius of Loyola was born in Loyola, N.W. Spain, in 1491. Fighting as a soldier against the French at the Battle of Pamplona, his leg was shattered by a canon ball and he had to endure a long convalescence. He was much given to worldly books of fiction, but in the house where he was recovering, there were no such books available and he was given instead a Life of Christ and The Lives of the Saints, as a result of which he had a complete conversion of heart and his only desire thereafter was to follow Christ as the Saints had done. As soon as he could walk again, he set out as a pilgrim and chose a small cave in Manresa, near the river Cardonner. Through long hours of prayer, he became fascinated by the person of Jesus and offered his life to Christ absolutely. Later he wrote the Spiritual Exercises which have been a great source of Spiritual enhancement to thousands of souls throughout the world. Ignatius gathered around him young men of like vision and they formed themselves into a Society, the Society of Jesus, which was officially approved by Pope Paul III on 27th September, 1540.

The first Jesuits came to Ireland from Scotland in 1542 despite the warning of the Cardinal Archbishop of Scotland that "the Irish are a wild and undisciplined lot". They only stayed a few weeks and returned to Rome to report their findings to the Pope. The second mission to Ireland was from 1561 to 1586 during which time Edmund Daniel, S. J., in 1572, was arrested, hanged, drawn and quartered and was the first Jesuit Martyr in Europe. The third Jesuit mission to Ireland was in 1596 during which time, in 1602, Brother Dominic Collins, S. J., was martyred at Youghal.

This mission continued up to 1773 when the entire Society of Jesus was suppressed. From 1774 to 1814, Jesuit priests continued to work in Ireland as secular priests. When the Society was re-established in 1814, the Irish mission was formally re-founded. In the same year Clongowes Wood College, near Naas, in Co. Kildare was established by Fr. Peter Kenny.

Among the many changes which were entrusted to the Jesuits was the University College Dublin which was established in 1883 and which became part of the National University of Ireland in 1908. And it was to this University that Fr. Gerard Manley
Hopkins, S. J., the famous English Jesuit poet was appointed Professor of Classics in 1883.

The foundation at Dromore lasted from 1884 to 1888, and will be the main subject of this evening's talk.

In 1980 the Jesuits came to Portadown.
In 1988, the Jesuits came to Belfast.

When Ignatius died in 1556, i.e. 16 years after the foundation of the Society, there were 1,000 members in 100 houses in 12 different provinces. In 1989, there were 24,618 members in 86 provinces.

Why Dromore?

The curiosity which the Protestant people of Dromore of the present day must have as to how and why the Jesuits, of all people, ever came to be in Dromore is exceeded only by the bewilderment of Catholics on the same subject.

Apart from the Jesuits themselves, the main dramatis persona in this short Jesuit epoch was the then Parish Priest of Dromore, Monsignor William McCartan. Not only was Monsignor McCartan a very eminent preacher in his day, but he was also a man of singular
charisma not only in relation to his ecclesiastical office, but also as a financial administrator.

Monsignor McCartan had been ordained priest in 1856 and was appointed as Curate in Dromore in the same year. In 1859, he was appointed parish Priest of Dromore, which office he held until his death in 1907.

There is a letter in the Jesuit Archives in Dublin dated 1906 from Monsignor McCartan to Father Ronan, S. J., (the founder of Mungret College in Limerick) in which he says he bought Loyola House (i.e. the property otherwise known as Bishopscourt) and set up the Jesuits there to give "learning and sanctify" to the North. It is not clear from the letter whether Monsignor McCartan bought the property out of his own funds, or whether he was merely acting as agent for the Society of Jesus. What is important is that it was through the good offices of Monsignor McCartan that the property was acquired. The chief reasons for purchasing Dromore in 1883 as a Novitiate were (a) the necessity of moving the University College Jesuit Students from Temple Street Dublin to Milltown Park to the buildings occupied by the novices, and (b) the offer of the Ballela Property by Father McCartan.

The Property:

Bishopscourt, as the people of Dromore know only too well, was the former residence of the Church of Ireland Bishops of Dromore before that Diocese was linked to the Dioceses of Down and Connor in 1842.

Thereafter, the house was no longer required as a bishop's residence. The building of the Bishop's Palace had been started by Bishop Beresford in 1781, and was completed by his successor Bishop Percy who lived from 1729 to 1811 and who had been Bishop of Dromore from 1782 for almost thirty years.

The property, which consisted of a demesne of 211 statute acres, was pur chased from the Church
Temporalities Commissioners by Messrs Edward and James Quinn whose remains are entombed in the Cathedral Churchyard.
Irrespective of who paid for the property, it was purchased for or by the Jesuits in 1883 from the Executors of the Quinn estate for �8,200 and there was a mortgage of �1,200 to the Church Temporalities Commission. It was opened as a House of formation, or a Novitiate in the following year.

The Novitiate

The first novices arrived on 4th May, 1884. The Novitiate is where Jesuit aspirants spend their first two years of training or formation. This would be a period of formation in prayer, study and manual work, strictly disciplined, during which time the students would get to know whether they were suited to the Jesuit way of life and vice versa.

The Jesuit Catalogues of 1885, 1886, 1887 and 1888 all refer to the "Domus Probationis Dromorensis", (The House of Formation at Dromore) of which the first Rector was Rev. William O'Farrell who was appointed on 4th May, 1884 and whose assistant was Rev. John Colgan. Fr. Colgan is described in the Catalogues of 1886, 1887, and 1888 as Vice-Rector whose appointment was on 15th September, 1885. During his period in charge, there is no mention of a Rector. In the Catalogue of 1889, the "Domus Probationis Dromorensis" is no longer mentioned, but in its place is "Domus Probationis et Studiorum Tulliolana", (The House of Formation and Studies at Tullamore), St. Stanislaus College, Tullamore, King's County (now Offaly), of which Rev. John Colgan was appointed Rector on 2nd September, 1888. St. Stanislaus College, Tullamore, a most successful boarding school, had been amalgamated to Clongowes Wood College in 1886.

The personnel in the house over the period was as follows:

1885 2 2 14  2 20
1886 2 2 14 5  23
1887 3 1  22 4 30
1888 3  3 21 2 29

Included in the Novices were some priests. These would generally have been secular priests attached to one diocese or another in the country who had decided to test their vocation in the religious life. In 1885, there was one priest-novice; in 1886, 2; in 1887 2 and in 1888 2. Of the names listed as novices, Fr. Timoney, whom I mentioned in my acknowledgment, tells me that he knew four of them in his lifetime - Fr. Edmund Downing who entered the Novitiate on 19th September, 1887, and who died in Galway on 7th April, 1933; Fr. James Rabbittee of the Archdiocese of Tuam who entered the Novitiate on 8th September, 1885, and who died in Galway on 2nd August, 1940; Brother Edward Mordaunt who entered the Novitiate on 27th April, 1885, and who died in Tullabeg on 13th February, 1957, and Fr. Lambert McKenna who entered the Novitiate on 13th September, 1886, and died in Dublin on 26th December, 1956.

It is sometimes alleged that the Jesuits had very little influence on Dromore and its environs during their short period there. The nature of the Novitiate is inward-looking rather than outward-looking and for this reason, the Jesuit house in Dromore would not have had too much contact with the surrounding district. Only the priests or brothers in charge of administration would have had contact with the outside world.

The novices day would have begun at 5.30 a.m. and ended at 9.30 p.m. Much of the day would have been spent in silence - silent prayer, silence at all meals except on certain feast days and holidays. There would have been a fair amount of manual work - indoors in the morning and outdoors on afternoons. A long walk once per week; an occasional game of football within the confines of the ground; long periods of silent prayer and reading, especially the Scriptures, live of saints and ascetical works; talks on the Constitutions of the Society. The Novitiate would have had a life of its own with novices providing their own entertainment and companionship. Since the Novitiate lasted two years only, there was an on-going change of population with some novices leaving the Novitiate for good at various times throughout the year. Whilst novices wrote home regularly, they did not go home for holidays and they would have had visits from home only twice in the year. There would also have been the occasional periods of Retreat according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Possibly their only exit from the confines of the grounds would have been to visit people in the nearest work-house or to teach Catechism in a local school, or to go on walks. Thus the nature of the Dromore House was such that instead of the people of the locality coming under the influence of the inmates, there would have been a certain aura of curiosity among the native population as to what these odd people who rarely appeared in public were up to.

In those days, after the two-year Novitiate, the aspirant took his First Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience which made a novice a Jesuit Scholastic. Thereafter, the Scholastic spent three years at University obtaining a Degree, three years studying Philosophy, at least three years Regency (i.e. either teaching or going abroad to learn a foreign language and three years Theology, a total of not less than 14 years, at the end of which he was ordained priest. Nowadays, the period of training has been reduced to 13 years!

Reasons for Leaving Dromore

Many spurious stories have been put forward by way of explanation for the departure of the Jesuits from Dromore after such a short sojourn. One story is that Monsignor McCartan, having bought the premises and brought the Jesuits to Dromore, and being so influential in so many other spheres, felt that he could coerce the Jesuits to do exactly what he wanted done. You remember that his reason for bringing the Jesuits to Dromore was to bring "learning and sanctity to the North". It is alleged that he wanted the Jesuits to start a new school which they (the Jesuits) saw would conflict with the Junior Diocesan Seminary at St. Coleman's College in Newry, and that rather than get involved in internal clerical conflicts within the Diocese, they opted out and departed.

Another theory is that they were in conflict with the then Catholic Bishop of the Diocese. Those of us who may have had an opportunity to study theology at any time would be aware of the alleged psychological warfare which is ongoing between Jesuits and Domini cans on theological interpretation. As it so happened, the Bishop of Dromore at that time was Dr. Pius Leahy, who was a Dominican. If there had been an internecine feud between the Bishop and the Jesuits at that time, it would most certainly have been recorded in the Diocesan Archives. No such record exists.

Perhaps the most amusing explanation for the departure of the Jesuits was that, on the particular week-day on which the novices took their walk along Purgatory Lane (the name for the particular road which was in existence before the Jesuits came and is still extant and which can not therefore be blamed on the Jesuits because of the Catholic Church's theological doctrine of Purgatory), the young ladies of Dromore used to foregather at a particular vantage point to cast their eyes on the attractive young novices. Their Superiors decided to transport the novices elsewhere away from temptation.

The most likely reason why they left Dromore was that St. Stanislaus College at Tullamore had been transferred to Clongowes Wood in Co. Kildare and rather than leave this vast building unoccupied, it was decided to make it St. Stanislaus College the Society's Novitiate.

Whilst the short stay and sudden departure of the Jesuits has given rise to much speculative folklore, what is even more surprising is the fact that the Dromore Property was still held by the Society up to 1918. In 1909, there was a valuation done in which the valuer stated that it was the best farm he had ever inspected. The valuer also stated that the vendors (the Jesuits) "wish to sell if the price is right, but they will resist to the utmost the offer of �4,500". This information was gleaned from notes in the Jesuit Archives. The Archivist suggests that the Estate Commissioners were making ominous noises with a view to land purchase. However, another reason has come to light why a valuation was done in 1909. (See Appendix II).

In 1917, negotiations were in progress towards the sale of the property, and the sale to Wallace was completed on 22nd January, 1918 for the sum of �8,840.2s.2d.

In view of the fact that, in the early sixties, Fr. Tom Counihan, S. J., asked me personally if I would explore with the then Bishop of the Diocese, the late Dr. Eugene O'Doherty, the possibility of the Jesuits returning to the Dromore Diocese, it is possible that the Jesuits regretted having sold the Dromore Property? And is it possible that they hoped to return to Dromore again when they held on to the property for 30 years after their departure? Due to the lack of documentary evidence on this point, I fear we shall have to wait till we enter eternity before we get the true explanation.



The Jesuit Catalogues of 1887 and 1888 to which I have previously referred include, among the priests who were responsible for the administration of the household the name of Fr. John Hughes. His responsibilities in the household were Bursar, Consultor of the House,
Confessor and admonitor to the Vice-Rector. It is said that, during his short period at Dromore, he was an exhibitor and prizewinner at the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society Shows. I have contacted the Society and have been referred to the Public Records Office in Belfast. However, the time requirement to investigate this matter proved prohibitive. Nevertheless, I have been able to confirm this from another source. A priest friend of mine, Monsignor Edmund O'Neill, Vicar General of the Diocese of Sacramento in California has told me that his late father who lived in Dromore as a boy, often spoke of the prizes won by Fr. Hughes at horticultural shows.


The famous English Jesuit Poet, Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, was Professor of Classics at University College, Dublin from 1884 until his premature death at the age of 44 on 8th June, 1889 during which time he was a visitor to Loyola House in Dromore. Two of his
sonnets, "Tom's Garland" and "Harry Ploughman" were signed "Dromore, 1887". Since they were obviously written in Dromore it is highly likely that Hopkins got his inspiration from the Dromore locality. "Tom's Garland" had a sub-title "Upon the Unemployed" and of the unemployed Hopkins said "the curse of our times is that many (the unemployed, are outcasts and have neither security nor splendour; that they share care with the high and obscurity with the low, but wealth or comfort with neither". Have things changed in 100 years?

Of "Harry Ploughman" Hopkins said "I want Harry Ploughman to be a vivid figure before the mind's eye; if he is not that, the sonnet fails". Brother Mordaunt told a fellow Jesuit that he watched Hopkins looking over a fence watching a plough-man as he worked.

Jesuits still in Dromore

The history of any human institution has invariably a melancholy note, and the short sojourn of the Jesuits in Dromore is no exception. The Jesuits still in Dromore are clothed in the stillness of death. In the cemetery attached to St. Colman's Catholic Church here in the town, two former members of the Jesuit Community in Dromore are laid to rest. One is Elias Seaver, a scholastic, who entered the Society on 22nd October, 1883, and who died on 28th June, 1886, and the aforementioned Fr. John Hughes who died on 11th April, 1888. In the still silence of death and Dromore they await a glorious ressurection!


If my presentation this evening is brief, that is mainly because the period of history with which I have been dealing was brief. However, I trust that the paper has been interesting to you and that, perhaps, it will engender in someone more erudite than me a desire to delve further into the history of the Jesuits in Dromore. Who knows? Even someone may discover, this side of eternity, why the Jesuits held on to the property for thirty years after their departure.

I am indebted to you, once again, for your invitation to me to speak on this interesting subject, and I gratefully appreciate your rapt attention.

Appendix I

"The Jesuits Yesterday and Today" is a series of lectures to commemorate two historic events: the formal inauguration of the Jesuit Order 450 years ago in 1540 and the birth of its founder, Ignatius Loyola, 500 years ago in 1491.

Enrolment for the lectures on "The Jesuits Yesterday and Today" is by application to the Institute of Continuing Education and payment of a fee of �8.50 for the full series (�5.50 for OAPs �4.50 for QUB students and those on State benefits) or of �1.50 (without any concessions) for individual lectures.

Enquiries to Institute of Continuing Education, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast BT7 INN, Telephone 245133.


Institute of Continuing Education The Queen's University of Belfast

Thursdays at 8.00pm 25 October 1990 - 6 December 1990


25 October The Jesuits and Ireland Professor J.A Bossy, University of York.
Guest Chairperson Dr Gordan S.G. Beveridge, Vice-Chancellor QUB.
Speaker Very Rev. Ambrose Macaulay, P.P.

1 November-The Jesuits and Ireland Rev. Fergus O'Donoghue, SJ, Lecturer in Church History, Milltown Institute, Dublin.
Guest Chairperson Dr Maurice Hayes, Ombudsman.
Speaker The Right Rev. Principal R.F.G. Holmes, Moderator of General Assembly, Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

8 November -The Jesuits and Education Rev. Paul Andrews, SJ, Director, St Declan's School, Dublin.
Guest Chairperson Sr Claire O'Brien, OP, Deputy Principal, St Mary's College of Education, Belfast.
Speaker Mr Richard Bennett, BA, Dip. Ed, Headmaster Portora Royal School, Enniskillen.

15 November -The Jesuits and Prayer Rev. Herbert Dargan, SJ, Jesuit Community Belfast, formerly Hong Kong and Rome.
Guest ChairpersonThe Most Rev. Cahal Daly, Bishop of Down and Connor.
Speaker Sr Phyllis, CSF, Anglican Franciscan, Chairperson Religious Together Down and Connor.

22 November-The Jesuits and Socio-Political Action Rev. Michael Campbell-Johnston, SJ, Provincial British Province.
Speaker Mrs Margaret Watson, LLB, BL.

29 November -The Jesuits and Modem Theology Rev. Gerard O'Hanlon, SJ, Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Milltown Institute, Dublin.
Guest Chairperson The Most Rev. Anthony Farquhar, DD, Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor.
Speaker The Rev. W. Dennis D. Cooke, BA, BD, MTh, PhD, Principal Edgehill Theological College.

6 December-The Jesuits and Protestants Today Rev. Michael Hurley SJ, Irish School of Ecumenics and Columbanus Community. Guest
Chairperson Rev. R.D. Eric Gallagher, CBE, MA, BD, DD, formerly President Methodist Church in Ireland.
Speaker Dr David Stevens, Associate Secretary, Irish Council of Churches.

At The Institute of Continuing Education, The Queen's University of Belfast, Thursdays as above at 8pm.

Appendix II
In the course of questions and comments after the Lecture in January, Mr. William Patterson of Church Street, Dromore, proferred the suggestion that the 1909 valuation might have been done in connection with the purchase by Robert Smyth Wallace of the site adjacent to the entry gates to Loyola House on which the house in which he, Mr. Patterson, now resides, was built by the aforementioned Robert Smyth Wallace.
(Photostat copy of the first page of the Lease of the site attached.)


Appendix III
This is a photocopy of the horse-brass lent to me by Mr. Robert Topping, which he found when walking through the grounds of the former Loyola House. There never was, at any time, any religious connection between the Good Shepherd Convent at Ballynafeigh, Belfast and The Society of Jesus at Loyola House, Dromore.

One possible explanation is that some item of farm machinery or horse saddlery which had previously been owned by the Good Shepherd Convent and which was subsequently acquired by the Jesuits at Loyola House had this horse-brass attached. Another mystery!

Appendix IV
Attached is a photocopy of the extract from the Jesuit catalogue of 1888. The names of novices enclosed in small brackets were attached to the house at Dromore but were studying at either Dublin or Truncienne in Belguim. Novices with a P before the name were diocesan priests who had joined the Society.