Tullinafruchog Chapel

Tullinafruchog Chapel (the hill of the Blayberry)

Lower Creggan Parish Cullyhanna Co. Armagh

Compiled By Michael McShane

Our thanks to Mr M McShane for permission to re-print this presentation which was delivered by him at the beginning of the Parish Mission in March 2020.

The first Catholic Chapel was erected around the early 1750s, by the then Parish Priest of Creggan Parish Fr. Terence Ignatius Quinn. It was a thatched building and was known as Tullinafruchog Chapel, it was a penal day Chapel. Archbishop Anthony Blake ( a Connaught man)  who was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in 1758, on one of his rare visits to his Archdiocese tried to Divide the Parish of Creggan into two, but met with fierce opposition from both clergy and laity alike and had to abandon his idea. Archbishop Blake died in 1786 and his replacement Archbishop Richard O’ Reilly  1787 – 1818 He was a native of the diocese of Kildare. It was up to Primate O’Rielly to sort out the discord which existed in the diocese. The pious and benevolent prelate founded then a system of concord and practical government and was therefore called the (Angel of Peace).  The Parish of Lower Creggan was established in 1795 when the Parish of Creggan was divided in two, the northern part becoming Lower Creggan (Cullyhanna) and the southern part Upper Creggan  (Crossmaglen). Long before this new parish was formed the people’s needs were served by Mass- Rocks or Mass-houses one of which was in the townland of Tullinvall on land owned by Mrs Mary Mackin and quite close to where St. Patrick’s Gaelic football field now stands. These Mass-houses were little more than hovels and were known in Irish as  bothog (Hut).

  After the separation of Creggan Parish in 1795 Fr. Patrick Quinn was appointed as the first parish priest of Lower Creggan and was assisted by a Dominican friar Fr. Paul McDonough. Fr. Paul returned from the missions in France on the outbreak of the French Revolution, and appears to have ministered to his flock in much the same manner as St. Oliver Plunkett had done over a century earlier – in disguise, living off the countryside and saying Mass in barns and at .mass-rocks.

The United Irishmen were strong in the Cullyhanna area at that time and local tradition has recorded that during the Rising of 1798 a company of Welsh Soldiers were camped on Connell,s Height, it is understood that they stabled their horses in Tullinafruchog Chapel just a few hundred yards from the camp to the annoyance of the local people an clergy alike.

Both Fr. Quinn and Fr. McDonough were arrested on suspicion of being United Irishmen and were imprisoned in Armagh Goal. In 1799 Friar McDonough was sent to the South of Ireland to await transportation to Tasmania, an island on the southern cost of Australia. Friar McDonough somehow escaped and returned to Lower Creggan and continued to serve his Parish Priest until the death of Fr. Quinn in 1801. There is a tradition that Fr. Patrick Quinn was hanged in Camly Barracks for his part in the United Irishmen’s Rising , but the Church Registers and notes by the late Michael Devlin maintain that he died in the parochial house, a large house at the back of, and at right angles to, the house where the late Thomas O’Hanlon lived. Fr Patrick Quinn was buried in Tullinafruchog Chapel.  

Friar McDonough continued as curate to the incoming Parish Priest Fr Patrick Corrigan, he reigned only from 1801 until his death in 1803. Fr. Corrigan is thought to have died in the house of Tom Morris who kept a public house and carman’s inn near Camly Barracks Fr. Corrigan was not buried in Tullinafruchog Chapel, but the Late Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich suggested that he was buried at Port, Co. Louth. He was succeeded as Parish Priest by Fr.John Donnelly and it was in 1807 Fr. John re-roofed  Tullinafruchog Chapel with slates taken from the local slate-quarry, he also carried out other minor repairs at the same time with the help of his curate Friar Paul McDonough.

By 1819 Fr. John Donnelly suffered a severe blow by the death of his legendary curate Friar McDonough; Friar McDonough was buried in Tullinafruchog Chapel and to add to the legend tradition recounts how, when in 1891 Fr. Peter Kerley had the remains of 5 priests buried in Tullinafruchog Chapel re-interred under the bell tower of the New St Patrick’s Church. The body of Friar McDonough was instantly recognisable because his long fair hair had been untouched by decay. His hair never suffered the barber’s scissors; he wore neither boots nor headgear. He was regarded as having miraculous powers which were exercised mainly against the oppressors of his flock. Because of these powers, even the local yeomanry feared him and he moved in and out of their barracks with impunity, releasing many of his people from imprisonment and torture. In a highly dramatic incident tradition recalls how he gathered all his catholic people in the area into Newtownhamilton Courthouse and proceeded to say mass at a hastily-erected altar. According to an article by Fr. L. Murray in the Louth Archaeological Journal of 1937.a local Magistrate arrived with the full authority of the law to stop the Catholic service. As he approached the altar, the magistrate ‘’became a raving lunatic and had to be dragged away by those who had come to assist him’’. On another occasion, a party of yeomanry, who had given Friar McDonough chase, was drowned in a bog at Longfield, Nr Mullaghbawn . 

 Fr. John had to retire his ministry in 1830 due to ill health and Fr. Michael Caraher was appointed as Administerator of Lower Creggan.

On the death of Fr. John Donnelly in 1836 his body was buried in Tullinafruchog Chapel and Fr. Michael Caraher was appointed Parish Priest of Lower Creggan. Fr. Caraher was born in the townland of Skeriff  in 1798 the son of Edward and Elizabeth Caragher (farmers). He was educated at Maynooth and was ordained in 1821. His first appointment was in Drogheda where he acted as secretary to Archbishop Curtis. He then served as a curate in Drogheda after which he was elevated to his native parish, first as Administrator in 1830, then Parish Priest in 1836. Fr Caraher lived on a farm known as  Barleyfields, Dorsey, and owned by a family named “ Blacker” where three or four priests grew up to serve the church in America.

Fr. Caragher extended Tullinafruchog Chapel by adding the aisle and gallery and was responsible for building a new parochial house on the site known as McGinn’s which was a short distance from the Chapel on the slate-quarry road.  Fr. Caragher was also responsible along with curate Rev. M Hughes for the building of St. Michael’s Church Newtownhamilton in 1834. Fr. Michael Caragher had many claims to fame, but the one which stands out the most was his eloquence which earned him the title   ‘’The star of the North’’.  He was the chosen preacher at the laying of the foundation stone of Armagh Cathedral on St Patrick’s Day 1840. Fr. Caraher put his talent to good use and when raising funds for the building of St. Michael’s, he preached all over the diocese and beyond. On one occasion he preached in St. Patrick’s Belfast and so impressed was the congregation that they pleaded with the Bishop of Down and Connor to retain him there as their Parish Priest.

During the Famine period we find Fr. Caraher acting on the Newtownhamilton Relief Committee along with the Rector of Newtownhamilton the Rev E. O. Disney. In a memorial to the Lord Lieutenant, Rev Disney relates that there are 1,000 families in the area in destitution according to the returns made by the clergymen of the three principal denominations.

On 1st January 1846, Fr Caraher became ill and his duties of Administrator were undertaken by Fr Patrick Lamb who had been appointed curate to the parish on 1st February 1845. Fr Lamb became Parish Priest on the death of Fr. Caraher which took place in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day 1846, just six years after he had preached so eloquently at the laying of the foundation stone of Armagh Cathedral.

The Fr Patrick Lamb who succeeded Fr. Caraher was another outstanding cleric. Tradition has it that before joining the priesthood Fr. Lamb had been a pedlar and was about to get married. On the eve of his wedding he arranged his good suit in front of the fire to ‘air’ and the next morning found that the suit had fallen into the fire and had been burnt to ashes. He interpreted this as a sign that God did not want him to marry but become a priest!

When he came to the parish as curate in 1845 he lived for a time at  Harrymount Cottage, a derelict building on lands belonging to Michael P. Carragher, Newtownhamilton, and situated opposite the home of Kevin Garvey. He was a native of Mounthill, Crossmaglen and was reared on a farm next to that of Terence McCooey, brother of Art McCooey. Whether or not it was because of his close association with the family of the poet, Fr. Lamb became a noted Gaelic Scholar and friend of the poets of his day who were continuing the tradition of the South Armagh bards.

 After his early local education Fr Lamb went to the Seminary of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary (also known as Picpus) in Paris sometime around 1828 where he was ordained in the early 1830s. In a letter by Fr. Michael Lennon P.P.Upper Creggan to Archbishop Curtis, on 27 May 1828. A letter which has survived in (PRONI) He claimed  Patrick Lambe, as a young man, was “highly esteemed by every person acquainted with him and considered in the event of his promotion to priesthood likely to become a worthy and useful minister of religion.

On his return to Ireland he served in (LIslea) Lower Killeavy  until 1st July 1845 when he was moved to  Lower Creggan. He acted as Administrator during Fr. Carager’s  illness and succeeded him as Parish Priest in 1846. He was particularly friendly with Art Bennett of Ballykeel, Mullaghbawn,  ( A well known poet and scribe) who in a well known poem ‘O Gentle Patrick’ commiserated with him on his transfer from Lower Killeavy to Cullyhanna “where the Lamb would lie with the lions” and where he would have to “try and to please a most unruly people . Fr. Lamb stresses the fiery disposition of his friend Art and wrote that he was very fond of his own opinion and it is true that many of his friendships ended in disputes. In 1846 Art Bennett was engaged to build the New Church of St. Laurence O’ Toole in the village of Belleeks in the neighbouring parish of Loughilly, he was a stone mason by trade, and two of his daughters Katie and Allie laboured to him on the project. This was around the time Fr. Lamb became Parish Priest  in Lower Creggan.  

Fr Patrick Lamb was a fluent Irish speaker and “preached in Irish on alternate Sundays in Tullinafruchog Chapel”. The Sundays he preached in Irish were marked by an increased attendance by the people of the east of the parish i.e. Dorsey. He collected the works of the South Ulster poets. An ardent Nationalist, he read to his congregation extracts from “The Nation”, the newspaper founded by Thomas Davis. This scholarly priest served the the parish of Lower Creggan from 1845 until his death on Low Sunday 1860. He died in the parochial house (McGinn’s) but requested to be buried with his parents in Crossmaglen.

Fr. James McParland, who had been curate in Newtownhamilton since 1849 was appointed Parish Priest on the death of Fr. Lamb. A native of Loughgilly parish, Fr. McParland must have been an able orator in the mould of Fr. Michael Caraher, the Star of the North. During his curacy in Newtownhamilton he was appointed official collector for Ireland of the Armagh Cathedral Fund. Indeed, he may have travelled further afield for we find him in the USA from 1854 until 1855, his position being filled temporarily by a Fr. Moses Fitzpatrick. Fr. James McParland served Lower Creggan as Parish Priest from 1860 until his death on 11th December 1871. And his body laid to rest here in the confines of Tullinafruchog Chapel the last Parish Priest of Lower Creggan to be interned here.

The next parish Priest was Fr. Arthur O Toole, a native of Ballymacnab, who had been curate in ( Aughnacloy). He records in the Church Registers that… “I Purchased Fr.McParland’s house and place for £595 and I came to live in the house on 29th January 1872.” He then goes on to Complain that the high price paid was due to the “interference” of a parishioner who obviously had bid against him .

Fr. O’ Toole exhibited a keen sense of history for it was he who built up a record of the parish priests from the establishment of the parish in1795 to his own appointment. Fr. O’ Toole was assisted in the administration of the parish by his curate Fr. Michael McGurk, who built Cregganduff School. In November 1882 (Which is now closed); a newspaper reports recounts an attempt on Fr. McGurk’s life in the townland of Carrickagallogy just outside Belleecks on the road to Newtownhamilton..” The Newry Reporter” of 11th November 1882, however, pours scorn on these reports and tells the true story. Fr. McGurk had been thrown from his Phaeton when it came into contact with fallen telegraph wires. Fr. McGurk was seriously injured but recovered to serve as curate until 1888, the year in which Fr Peter Kerley was appointed as Administrator to Fr. O’Toole. Fr. O’ Toole died in 1891 after a long illness and is buried in Newtownhamilton.

Shortly after his appointment as Parish Priest on the 1st April 1891 Fr. Peter Kerley organised a mission to be held in the old Tullinafruchog Chapel in the village centre but so great was the congregation and so dangerous was the state of the old building that the closing of the mission had to be held on McGinn’s hill, opposite the entrance to Tullinavall Road. This prompted Fr. Kerley immediately to set about the building of a new church, and the Parish of Lower Creggan entered a period of unparalleled expansion with the building of the new Church, schools, parochial house, under the energetic leadership of Fr. Peter Kerley.

The 19th century closes on the parish of Lower Creggan, which had survived Tithe Wars, Famine, agrarian feuds and many forms of oppression, with its people filled with a new confidence and prepared to contribute generously to the erection of a New Church.

The Catholic inhabitants of Lower Creggan would have suffered along with their co-religionist throughout Ireland all the persecutions and petty annoyances that were part and parcel of the life of the Irish people in penal times (1691 – 1760). The homogeneity of the local population had largely been unaffected by the Ulster Plantation or Cromwellian settlements. Although landownership had been transferred from the O’Neill chieftains of the Fews to the family of a Cromwellian soldier Lt Thomas Ball, no great influx of protestant settlers had arrived in the 17th century. For the Parish of Lower Creggan however this situation changed dramatically in the middle of the 18th century with the arrival of a considerable Presbyterian population who settled mainly in the north of the parish  around the Newtownhamilton area. These people mainly came from Scotland. And the area was known as Scotch Country.  As might be expected religious antagonisms were not long in springing up as a rising population saw greater competition for scarce land resources.

The area was, like many another remote rural parish, an impoverished one with small farmers attempting to eke out a living on a rocky and generally poor quality land.

In an article on the history of Newtownhamilton in the “Frontier Sentinel” of January 1907 Fr Patrick Mackin, in recounting the stories of some of the Catholic clergy who were natives of that locality, drew attention to the high number of vocations that had sprung from the ranks of the South Armagh faithful, he writes, ‘the parish of Lower Creggan has been remarkable for the number of its children who have been within the sanctuary. A few years ago no less than thirty-eight priests, natives of this parish, could be counted serving on the foreign and home missions but death has, in recent years, done its part in diminishing this extraordinary number. That this large number of vocations to the priesthood was considered exceptional was also remarked upon in a newspaper report of the funeral of Monsignor Patrick Garvey in Philadelphia in 1908 when the local newspaper referredto the parish of Lower Creggan as being ‘remarkable for the number of its children who have become priests though the parish contains but six hundred families or thereabouts’.

For most of our early nineteenth century clergy what education they received was in local hedge school except perhaps for a privileged few whose parents or clerical relatives might have been well enough off to have them sent to the continent for their second level education. A survey in 1824 showed that there were 9,300 hedge schools in Ireland with about 400.00 pupils. After 1831 when the National School system was introduced most of these hedge schools disappeared as the State-run system spread throughout the country.

Later in the century as diocesan colleges such as St. Patrick’s Armagh were established students’ intent on the priesthood would have been educated in these institutions following initial education in the local national school. But again the cost involved would still have been prohibitive for many families.

Some knowledge of Latin and Greek was essential for admission to any seminary. No doubt a few of the ordinary teachers in the hedge schools or the later national schools might have been able to supply this, in some cases the local parish clergy may have been the educators of promising pupils. Many areas were however fortunate enough to have so called classical teachers who had some proficiency in the classics and ran private schools presumably from their own homes or after hours in their school houses if they were also attached to the local formal education establishment. We know of at least two classical teachers who were active in the mid-nineteenth century within the parish of Lower Creggan. These were Brian O,Neill from the townland of Cullyhanna Little (Oldtown) and Joseph Mackin (known as’ Big Joe the Latiner’) who was born in 1817 either in the townland of Dorsey or Tullynavall. The latter is credited with educating no less than seventeen of the pupils who entered All Hallows between the years of 1856-66. Undoubtedly he also helped with the education of those  who entered Maynooth or who then went abroad (mainly to the USA) to complete their intermediate level of education. We know that Joseph Mackin was appointed in 1852 to the position of National school teacher ( salary £11) in the recently built school at Dorsey Macdonald ( Carrickrovaddy). He had no formal qualifications so it must be assumed that he acquired his Latin and Greek at the feet of a previous classical schoolmaster in the area.

Joseph MACKIN  died on 3rd February 1865 aged 48 years. There is no doubt that his death would have been a serious loss to students contemplating a clerical career although as the century progressed many students seemed to be able to afford entry to the increasingly popular grammar schools in Armagh, Newry and Dundalk.

The presence of a man like Joseph Mackin in the parish these years did much to enable young men to enter the ministry. Of course many parishes in Ireland would have similar classical teachers in their midst yet, in most cases, did not produce the quantity of clergy known to have originated in Lower Creggan. We may therefore never really be able to understand why this flowering of vocations occurred in the parish. We can say with a degree of certainty that once a few pioneering clergy became established they seem in many cases to have helped family members to follow a similar path to themselves. If there is one thing notable about the clerical families of Lower Creggan parish, it is the way in which so many of them seem to be related to each other. Nephews followed uncles and cousins followed cousins in a familiar pattern from early nineteenth century until well into the twentieth century. It is common to see pairs of brothers going forward to be priests while the Garveys of Ummerinvore along with the Devines of Newtownhamilton had the distinction of seeing no less than three members of one generation elevated to the sacred ministry.

Of the young men who left their South Armagh parish homes in the nineteenth century to join the church many were to achieve distinction in its ranks. None more so than John Murphy Farley (Newtownhamilton) who went on to become Archbishop of New York in 1902 and was elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals in 1911. Many of his fellow parishioners also went on to distinguish themselves both at home and abroad. Of the earlier clergymen, Fr James Byrne (born in the townland of Skerriff) had the distinction of being the last non-Episcopal Parish Priest of Armagh; he was a contemporary of the above mention Fr Michael Caraher.

Canon Michael Lennon born in the townland of Cullyhanna Big, as well as undertaking the building of Crossmaglen church, was prominent in church affairs being raised to the position of Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Armagh and at one time being considered a possible candidate for the position of Archbishop itself. In his pastoral life he was a strong advocate of agrarian reform, was very active in the political arena and also gave evidence to number of government commissions.

Of the priests who ministered abroad the gentle Fr. Thomas Donaghy became a much loved Dean of Melbourne. Dean Donaghy was born in the townland of Lisleitrim.   

There is two articles published in the Creggan Journals on Dean Thomas Donaghy if anyone wishes to read more about him and his work. Journal No.15 (2011 – 2012) and Journal  No.17.(2015-2016),

Before I finish I would like to hop from the 19th century into the 20th century and remember our very own and dearly beloved Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich, born in the townland of Anamar here in the parish of Lower Creggan on the 3rd November 1923, Ordained Priest 6th June 1948, Ordained Bishop 2nd October 1977, Created Cardinal 30th June 1979 and Died May 8th 1990. The Cardinal’s Motto “Fratres In Unum” (Brothers Together was taken from Psalm 133 (132) – “How good, how delightful it is for all to live together like brothers” It expresses the Cardinal’s intentions to work for peace, fraternity and friendship among all Irishmen and among his fellow human beings everywhere. The elevation of Tomás  Fiaich to the College of Cardinals in 1979 makes Lower Creggan one of the few, if not the only parish, in Ireland to give birth to two Cardinals.

John Farley was born in Newtownhamilton  (townland of Tullyvallen) on 20th April 1842 the son of Philip Farrelly and Catherine Murphy. In 1854 when aged only 12 John Farley found himself an  orphan after the death of his parents. He then went to live presumably with his mother’s family . He was sent to St. Macartan’s College Monaghan where he was sponsored by a USA based uncle. He immigrated to the United States 1864 and studied at St. John’s College, Fordham New York and St. Joseph’s Seminary, Troy. He went to Rome where he completed his studies at the American College. He was ordained a priest in Rome on 11th  June, 1870. Fr. Farley served as curate in St. Peter’s, Staten Island from 1870-72. He was then appointed secretary to Archbishop McColskey in 1872 and served in that position until 1884 when he was promoted a Monsignor and appointed pastor of St. Gabriel’s East 37 Street. Monsignor Farley was created Auxiliary Bishop of New York  on 18th November 1895 and was then elevated to the position  of Archbishop of New York on 15th September 1902. He was raised to the Sacred College of Cardinals on 27th November 1911. Cardinal Farley visited his Newtownhamilton birth place on 21st August 1906 He died in New York on 17th September 1918 and was interred in St Patrick’s Cathedral New York.

In 1893 when the new St. Patrick’s Church was completed on the Tullinavall Road, the old Tullinafruchog Chapel was demolished and re-built with the same materials to become the new national school and opened its doors to the children of Cullyhanna and surrounding district. This school remained in use right up until 1972 when the new St. Patrick’s primary school on the Tullinavall Road, one hundred yards from St. Patrick’s Church, opened its doors to receive the children of the district for their education. The old school building was then used as a community centre and held many functions for the local community. One event took place – a variety concert –

in October 1977 in honour of the new Archbishop of Armagh, one who was a native of the parish of Lower Creggan  Tomás Ó Fiaich; Just over two years later the centre as burned down owing to an electrical fault. In 1994/95 as part of a larger project Áras an Chardineil Ó Fiaich was built on the site of Tullinafruchog Chapel.