A lot of water has gently flown down the stream under the Bridge at Drumalee, Belturbet, over the past 150 years, as generations of families from the area attended Church services in the local St Patrick’s Church, which was dedicated on September 6, 1868. Since then, the picturesque Hague Church has been a tranquil place of worship and is complimented by a superbly kept graveyard.
Tomorrow (Sunday), September 9, will be a special landmark occasion for the Church and the men, women and children of all ages who worship there every week. As part of the celebrations, designed to mark the 150th anniversary of the Church, Bishop Leo O’Reilly will celebrate a special mass on Sunday at 3pm. He will be joined by numerous priests who have had connections with the Church over the years. A plaque outing the history of the Church will be unveiled on the day and a time capsule will also be buried, which will be lifted in 20 years.
A book has been compiled with lots of photographs depicting family occasions at the Church over the decades, together with a history of the church and special memories of parishioners. Brigid Teevan, Brendan McCann and George Morrissey worked together on the compilation of the book.
The Parish Priest Fr John McTiernan told The Anglo-Celt that it is “a special occasion for the community. It is planned to reflect on what has happened over 150 years and also look forward, to see where we are going as a community”.
“It is a church that was built in difficult times, not very long after the Famine. People stood together and gave of their very best. They financed and built St Patrick’s Church with the help of the priest of the time, Fr James Dunne,” said Fr McTiernan.
Darragh McAvinney, committee chairman said there had been a great reaction from the community and up to 30 people had attended meetings and took on various tasks assigned to them. “The combined skill set of the group had solutions for all questions that arose,” said Darragh, who was complimented for his ability to co-ordinate the project by Fr McTiernan.
Some other committee members recounted their memories of attending Drumalee Church over the years. Grainne O’Reilly, joint secretary, could recall events and priests over numerous decades. “We used to cycle to Drumalee from Leggykelly. There has always been a great community ethos and you would chat to the neighbours after mass – it is a special and peaceful place,” she recalled. Going to Keelan’s Shop was special treat for the papers and minerals and penny bars.
Dolores Cahill, joint secretary, associates a great sense of welcome and warmth when attending Drumalee Church. “I just think it is very homely and it is in the middle of the country – an ideal tranquil location to reflect in peace.”
Don McDonald, vice chairman agreed. “I often take the dog for a walk over the Tunker road to the Church. It is always peaceful, regardless of the time of day. The Church sits in a picturesque setting. It will be a very memorable occasion on Sunday, with parishioners of all ages taking away their own special memories,” he said.
Don fondly recalled the late Fr Micheal Quinn officiating on the day he got married to Marianne McDonald in 1992. It was Fr Micheal’s last wedding in the Parish.
“It is a very nice church for weddings and it is enhanced by very nice grounds and beautifully kept cemetery,” said Fr McTiernan.
Reflecting on history
The architect of St Patrick’s Church was William Hague Jnr, the well-known architect who designed many churches and other buildings in the northern half of the country. He was one of the Gothic Revivalist school, and his churches are among the best and most aesthetically pleasing buildings in the diocese. His father, William Hague, a building contractor, was born not too far from Drumalee, in the townland of Plush.
St Patrick’s Church was built by the McGennis contractors from Tullyvin at a cost of £1,386. Drumalee Church is more the Early English style favoured by Pugin and is much the same style as St Brigid’s Church, Killygarry and St Patrick’s Church, Milltown. Despite the simpler style, Drumalee does have Hague’s trademark multi-coloured brickwork above the doors and windows.
Renovations were carried out on the church in 1953 at a cost of £3,416. The wooden altar was replaced with a marble one and the wooden sanctuary floor was removed. New mahogany seats and central heating were installed in 1968 to mark its centenary.
Extensive restoration work was carried out in 2000 while Fr Sean Mawn was curate and Fr P.J. Corrigan was parish priest. A new sanctuary floor of Carlow limestone and a gothic style Reredos, donated by the Capuchin Community, Church Street, Dublin, were installed.
This beautiful Reredos was the work of James Pearse, father of Padraig Pearse. The Church was rededicated by Bishop Leo O’Reilly on September 17, 2000.
Fr McTiernan explained that the plans for celebratory occasion including mass celebrated by Bishop Leo O’Reilly have been carefully formulated by a dynamic committee under the chairmanship of Darragh McAvinney.
A display of pictures produced by the talented pupils from both St Mary’s Boys National School and the Convent of Mercy, Belturbet will be on show in the church. The pictures reflect the children’s interpretations of what the celebration of the church means to them. The committee also included younger members of the parish in contributing to the occasion. They approached Mrs Maureen Gaffney of the boys school and Mrs Breege Flynn of the Convent of Mercy, who both jumped at the idea and set about the task.
Light refreshments will be available in the Seven Horse Shoes after the ceremony and the local Comhaltas Group will provide musical entertainment.