The Church of Ireland in Leckpatrick and Dunnalong

This chapter examines the Church of Ireland in Leckpatrick and Dunnalong from the seventeenth century to the present-day. Particular themes that will be covered include the impact of the Reformation in the parish of Leckpatrick, the establishment of the perpetual curacy of Dunnalong, the churches that were built, the effects of disestablishment and the union of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong in 1926.

The Reformation in the parish of Leckpatrick, 1600-99

With northwest Ulster having been reduced to Crown control by 1603, it was now possible for the government to introduce the reformed faith to the region. However, to begin with, it did not have a great deal of success. The earliest known Protestant incumbent of the parish of Leckpatrick was Henry Noble who was rector in 1622. Noble was described by George Downham, the bishop of Derry, as being ‘of competent learning, a good preacher and of good conversation’. Because of the small size of Leckpatrick and also of the neighbouring parish of Camus-juxta-Mourne, Bishop Downham had decided to unite them, hoping that the new church begun in the town of Strabane by the first earl of Abercorn would serve them. However, following the death of the first earl in 1618 the construction of this church had ceased. The union of Leckpatrick and Camus continued only until 1625 when Alexander Spicer was appointed rector of Leckpatrick. Noble continued to be the rector of Camus-juxta-Mourne until 1636. It was later revealed that he had been dismissed from his post on account of ‘professed popery’.

The Reverend Alexander Spicer was a native of Somerset, the son of a clergyman, and was educated at Exeter College, Oxford. For a time he was chaplain to Sir Arthur Chichester, lord deputy of Ireland between 1605 and 1616. In 1617 he published one of his sermons entitled, The Pope in Babylon. According to one source, Spicer was ‘an able scholar and a learned divine.’ When he was appointed to Leckpatrick in 1625 he was also made rector of the parish of Ahoghill in Co. Antrim. His duties further increased in 1628 when he was made dean of Killaloe. In 1636 he was granted as glebe the townland of Coolermoney and the ‘half moiety of Killogrewly’. Coolermony can be identified with the modern townland of that name. However, according to the Civil Survey of the 1650s, Coolermoney formed part of the manor of Cloghogall and so there must have been some rearrangement in the interim period.

In 1634 John Browne, provost of the town of Strabane wrote to the bishop of Derry requesting that the union between the parishes of Leckpatrick and Camus-juxta-Mourne be restored. Browne was writing on behalf of the parishioners of the latter parish and it would appear that the people of Leckpatrick were strongly opposed to any suggestions of amalgation. They would seem to have had their way and Leckpatrick continued as a distinct parish.

Spicer’s successor was William Kingsmill, who, when appointed to Leckpatrick, was actually the incumbent of Camus-juxta-Mourne. However, shortly afterwards he resigned both of these parishes to become rector of Urney. The next rector of Leckpatrick was Richard Wakefield who may have been from Yorkshire, and if so returned there in the 1650s to become vicar of Kildale. He presumably fled from Leckpatrick in the wake of the 1641 Rebellion. During the period known as the Commonwealth, when Oliver Cromwell ruled as Lord Protector, a number of non-conformist clergymen served parishes in Ireland. In 1657 John Adamson was paid £100 as non-conformist minister of Leckpatrick. In 1660, on account of his Presbyterian beliefs, he was ejected from the parish following the restoration of the monarchy and the established church.

In 1660 the parish of Leckpatrick was declared to be vacant, but the following year John Whitworth was appointed rector. Whitworth, who was from Hertfordshire, was also rector of Camus-juxta-Mourne, but soon afterwards was appointed prebendary of Aghadowey. In 1661 the parish clerk was Thomas Simpson, while the churchwardens were Macan Macan and James Carre. He was succeeded in Leckpatrick a little over a year later by John Harwood. At the time Harwood was archdeacon of Glendalough and prebendary of Crosspatrick in the diocese of Ferns. He was rector of Leckpatrick for just under three years before leaving to become, like his predecessor, prebendary of Aghadowey.

The next rector of Leckpatrick, John Sinclair, left an indelible mark on the parish. He first came to the Strabane area as curate of Urney in 1665 and on 19 February 1666 he was instituted rector of Leckpatrick. In 1669 he also became rector of Camus-juxta-Mourne. A fuller account of his life will be found in the section on the Sinclairs of Holy Hill. A visitation of the parish of Leckpatrick in 1679 found that the church was in good condition. However, the ‘troubles’ of 1688-91 had a devastating effect on the infrastructure of the parish. A visitation of the parish in 1692 found that the church was dilapidated and £5 was granted for its repair. Another visitation of the following year ascribed the damage to the church to ‘King James’ army’ but found that it had been roofed again by the bishop, the rector and the parishioners. Sinclair conducted services there on Sunday afternoons. However, it was the recommendation of the bishop of Derry, William King, that Sinclair provide a curate to Leckpatrick. At the same time he continued with the arrangement whereby Sinclair held both Leckpatrick and Camus-juxta-Mourne simultaneously. The number of Church of Ireland members in Leckpatrick was small at this time with only about forty. The visitation of 1693 noted that the parish clerk and schoolmaster was George Blewort. Blewort was also clerk of Camus-juxta-Mourne in 1693 and was still clerk there in 1718. The churchwardens of Leckpatrick in 1693 were William Lyons and James Hay.

The Church of Ireland in Leckpatrick in the eighteenth century

The Reverend John Sinclair died in 1702 in his 62nd year. His successor as rector of Leckpatrick was James Goodlatt, son of Thomas Goodlatt of Co. Tyrone. He was born about 1667 and was educated by a Mr Morris before entering Trinity College, Dublin, on 16 February 1684, where he gained his B.A. in 1688 and his M.A. in 1691. A visitation of the parish in 1718 found that the clerk was Walter McFarland and the schoolmaster was James McBay. The churchwardens in 1718 were Thomas Cook and Thomas Donnell, while in 1719 they were James Poke and John Kyle. Goodlatt died in 1727 and was buried beneath the communion table in the old church. It was later transferred to the new parish church and is inscribed: ‘Under the Communion Table Lyeth the Body of the Reverd and Worthy Mr James Goodlatt who departed this life on Saturday, the 10th of June, Anno 1727 in the sixtyeth year of his age. Incumbent of this parish.’

Goodlatt was followed by Robert Jenkins, son of the Reverend David Jenkins. Jenkins senior was the rector of the neighbouring parish of Camus-juxta-Mourne and before that he had been the schoolmaster of the Derry Diocesan School, now known as Foyle College. He must have died young as there is no further mention of him after 1730. There followed a very brief incumbency by an Englishman, Philip Downes, who was originally from Budon in Northamptonshire. He was the son of Henry Downes who became bishop of Derry in 1727. Downes junior served the parish of Leckpatrick for a mere seven months before being transferred to the parish of Fahan in Co. Donegal.

In January 1731 Paul Read, son of the Reverend William Read was instituted rector of Leckpatrick. He was another graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, gaining his B.A. in 1728 and his M.A. four years later. He married Elizabeth Hamilton and they had three children, Paul, Anne and Mary. He died on 21 February 1743 and was buried in the old graveyard at Patrick Street, Strabane, where his gravestone still survives. Following his death, his widow remarried, her second husband being John Ferguson, a surgeon. Interestingly this man’s father was a Presbyterian minister, as were two of his brothers, one of whom ministered in Strabane. According to Canon Leslie, one of the former glebe fields in Leckpatrick is known as Read’s Park, having probably been reclaimed by him.

The next rector of Leckpatrick was James Clewlow, a native of the parish of Loughgall, Co. Armagh, and the son of the Reverend James Clewlow. He was ordained in Leighlin on 23 July 1710 and served a number of parishes in Co. Down before being appointed to Leckpatrick in 1743. It seems that he was non-resident though where he actually lived is not clear. The parish was served in his absence by a curate named Christian Walsh who was originally from Co. Kilkenny. Clewlow married Charity, daughter of the Reverend William Major of Ballymore. One of their sons became rector of Bangor parish, Co. Down.

Clewlow probably died in 1751 and his successor was James Ingram, son of Malcolm Ingram, a farmer from Co. Limerick. He served Leckpatrick for fourteen years before being transferred to the parish of Tamlaght O’Crilly, Co. Londonderry. When he died he was brought to Strabane for burial, which implies that other members of his family were already buried there. In 1765 it was found that there were 89 Church of Ireland families in the parish. However, members of the Established Church were very much in the minority given that there were 180 Presbyterian families and 200 Roman Catholic families in Leckpatrick at this time.

Richard Leslie, son of Charles Leslie of Kincraige Castle, Co. Donegal, succeeded Ingram as rector of Leckpatrick in 1765. An inquiry into the state of the parish in 1768 found that the church was in good repair, but there was no glebe house. Instead, Leslie lived in Strabane and so, according to the report of the 1768 inquiry, could ‘be almost said to be resident - the Parish Church being contiguous to Strabane’. Leslie’s curate was William McGhee who afterwards became the rector of Badoney Upper. Leslie married Anne Dent, but died without heir in 1788, by which time he had succeeded to the Kincraige estate.

Jocelyn Ingram, who succeeded Leslie as rector of Leckpatrick, was the son of James Ingram, who as we have already noted served the parish between 1751 and 1765. Before moving to Leckpatrick Jocelyn Ingram had been curate in Urney. In 1783, following the death of one of the burgesses in Strabane, Ingram was suggested as a possible replacement by James Hamilton, the earl of Abercorn’s agent, who believed him to be ‘a man who could be depended on’. During his incumbency a new glebe house was built in the parish. Although no longer used as the parish rectory, it still stands and was described by the architectural historian, Alistair Rowan as having ‘more pretensions to architecture than many.’ Rowan went on to describe the house in the following terms: ‘Five-bay two-storey front, with a central canted bay opening into a circular hall. The rooms on either side have segmental bow ends. Front door with a round-headed stone frame set at the top of a flight of semicircular steps.’ The bow ends mentioned above were typical of many houses built at this time, and can also be seen on the rectory in Kildress parish, Co. Tyrone. Unfortunately, we have no information on who the architect of Leckpatrick glebe house was, nor how much it cost. However, its construction was assisted by a grant of £92 by the Board of First Fruits.

Ingram died on 2 September 1793 and was buried in Strabane. His successor was Alexander Clotworthy Downing, the son of John Downing Esq. of Co. Londonderry. He began his career in the church as curate of the parish of Maghera, Co. Londonderry in 1785. This was fully twenty-four years after receiving his M.A. from Trinity College, Dublin. What he did in this intervening period is not known. In 1793 he became rector of Leckpatrick and continued to minister there until his death on 10 April 1812. He was buried in Bellaghy. ‘Downing’s Road’ at the back gate of the glebe was made during his time in Leckpatrick. His son, John Downing Nesbitt, was high sheriff of Co. Kildare in 1807.

The 1804 visitation of the parish of Leckpatrick

In 1804 a detailed investigation was carried out into the state of the Church of Ireland in Leckpatrick. It was found that while the rector lived in the glebe house the curate lived in Strabane. The parish clerk was James Hamilton who was paid a yearly salary of six guineas. The churchwardens in 1804 were William Donnell and George Knox. The church building was found to be in a generally satisfactory condition. The ceiling, walls and plastering were found to be good, while the gallery was found to be ‘new and very good’. However, it was pointed out that the pews needed repairing and painting. The floor of the church, the books and the churchyard were all described as indifferent. It was reckoned that about £40 would put the church and churchyard in complete order ‘ if a new roof upon examination were necessary’.

The church cess was estimated to be between fifteen and forty pounds annually. At the previous Easter vestry meeting the sums laid on included £11 7s. 6d. for building a porch, £3 8s. 3d. for repairing the schoolhouse, and another £3 8s. 3d. for a poor orphan. The number of children usually attending to be catechised was twenty, but there had not been a confirmation for more than twenty years. In response to the question on whether marriages were usually solemnised in the church the answer was ‘not usually’. The number of Church of Ireland families in the parish in 1804 was 103. On whether the number of families was increasing or decreasing the answer given was ‘rather increasing among the Calvinists’. Communion was celebrated four times in the year: at Easter, Whitsunday, Michaelmas and Christmas. There had been 62 communicants at the previous Christmas communion and 70 at the last Easter communion. Methodism was on the increase in the parish and there were about twelve Methodist families in Leckpatrick in 1804.

A new church for Leckpatrick

Son of William Brownlow M.P., Francis Brownlow was instituted rector of Leckpatrick on 26 June 1812. He received his education in both Dublin and Oxford, and between 1806 and 1812 he was simultaneously rector of Ematris parish in Clogher diocese and Cumber Lower parish in Derry diocese. On 17 February 1814 Sir John James Burgoyne wrote to the marquis of Abercorn informing him that he had just had a visit from the Reverend Brownlow who had told him that a new church was going to be built in the parish of Leckpatrick. Brownlow requested that the parish be allowed to quarry stones for the church in Andrew Austin’s farm in Ballymagorry. The marquis would appear to have responded favourably to this request and the following month Burgoyne, who was Abercorn’s agent, visited Ballymagorry to inspect the quarry. He wrote to Abercorn that there was ‘the appearance of a good quarry along the river which could be opened without doing much damage, and if carefully filled up might be of service’. There is no further mention of the church in Burgoyne’s subsequent letters.

According to a parliamentary inquiry into ecclesiastical revenues, the church was built with the assistance of £533 loaned by the Board of First Fruits. The new church was completed in 1815-6 and consecrated in 1821. In 1824 the church was enlarged, again with help from the Board of First Fruits which loaned £277. This raised its capacity to 600 persons. Externally the T-shaped church is rather plain. On the south side there are four large, round-headed windows, which until recently featured Gothic glazing bars. At the west end of the church is a small porch. While the exterior of the church is uninspiring the interior is of immense interest. Leckpatrick is one of the very few churches in the British Isles where the original box pews and two decker pulpit have been retained. Of the old church, nothing now remains though it is still possible to trace where it would once have stood in the turf of Old Leckpatrick burial ground. It was possibly taken down to provide building material for the new church.

In 1817 Sir John James Burgoyne reported to Abercorn a tithe dispute involving the Reverend Brownlow and one of his parishioners, a man by the name of Wright. Burgoyne gave the following account of the dispute:

Wright’s tithe was at first settled by arbitration at £2 10s. a year, and he afterwards noticed Mr Brownlow last year to draw his tithe, and on his going to look at it had his ditches built up. The person who served the first citation could not read and therefore was not a competent witness and in consequence Mr Brownlow was obliged to lose the first cost and cite him again. He appeared very fair in the entire transaction and Wright, who is very litigious, has been very troublesome to him, besides owing a balance of former tithe of £4 6s.

In 1823 the Tithe Composition Act was passed which stipulated that all tithes were henceforth to be paid in money rather than in kind as they previously could have been. This necessitated a complete valuation of all titheable land in Ireland, the results of which have survived in the tithe applotment books, one of which covers the parish of Leckpatrick. The tithe composition for the parish of Leckpatrick was £646. This, together with the glebe which was valued at £242, meant that the entire income of the Church of Ireland in the parish was £888. George Mansfield in his 1821 report on the parish of Leckpatrick was full of praise for Brownlow’s attempts to introduce a better mode of agriculture to the glebelands. In particular he employed an efficient irrigation system to water his meadows and successfully grew turnips. Brownlow resigned Leckpatrick in 1830 to become prebendary of Cumber.

Brownlow’s successor was Samuel Law Montgomery, son of Samuel Montgomery, a Londonderry merchant. He had served the church for some forty years before coming to Leckpatrick, his previous parishes being Templemore, Muff and Lower Moville. His incumbency was short and he died on 19 May 1832. A monument to his memory was erected in the Church of Ireland in the town of Moville, Co. Donegal. He married Susanna Maria McClintock, daughter of John McClintock of Trintagh, Co. Donegal, and widow of the Reverend Monsey Alexander. One of their sons, Sir Robert Alexander Montgomery K.C.B., K.G.C.S.I., was governor-general of the Punjab, now part of India, during the mutiny of 1857. For his services to the crown he was honoured with the thanks of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords and a statue in his memory was erected in St Paul’s Cathedral.

Montgomery was followed in Leckpatrick by Robert Hume who had first come to the diocese as the chaplain to Richard Ponsonby, bishop of Derry between 1831 and 1853. Hume appeared as a witness before the parliamentary commission appointed in 1835 to investigate the condition of the poorer classes in Ireland at that time. His answers to this inquiry are quite revealing about the man and his perception of the parish. His views on emigration and the general condition of the poorer classes have been noted elsewhere in this book. He considered many of the houses of the poor to be ‘very filthy’ and little better than pig-sties. On the subject of public houses in the parish, he believed the number to be ‘frightful’ and that ‘drunkeness [was] universal among males and females’. He paid his own labourers 10d. per day in winter and 11d. in summer without diet, which he believed was more than other labourers received. In addition, some of his labourers had their houses rent free and all of them received free milk. Not long after this Hume resigned his charge to become rector of Urney. His successor, George Smithwick, a native of Tipperary, had also been brought north by Bishop Ponsonby. He had briefly served the parishes of Badoney Upper and Camus-juxta-Mourne before being appointed to Leckpatrick.

A visitation of the parish in 1838 found that the church building was ‘in excellent order, newly slated and ceiled - the walls are being coloured, the entire church, windows etc. painted’. At this time there was only one Bible in the church and two old prayer books, though there had been ‘four new ones just sent down by the commissioners’. The average attendance at services, which were held at 12 noon and during the summer at 5 o’clock in the evening, was between two and three hundred. By 1838 the sacrament was being administered on a monthly basis, with the average attendance being about fifty, though at Christmas and Easter this figure increased to 150. This represents a significant increase on the figures given in the 1804 visitation.

On 30 November 1841 the Reverend Smithwick was appointed Protestant chaplain of the recently completed workhouse in Strabane. It was initially decided that he was to be paid an annual salary of £40 but it this was subsequently reduced to £30 to keep it in line with the salaries of chaplains in other Poor Law Unions. In 1850 it was reported that he had been not four days absent from the parish in the last four years. At this time there were 726 members of the Church of Ireland in Leckpatrick. The average morning attendance was about two hundred, though in the evening it was only from twenty to forty. He died on 30 March 1853 and was buried in Old Leckpatrick graveyard.

Exactly one month after his death Charlton Maxwell, a Cambridge graduate, was instituted rector of the parish. He was born in 1821, the son of the Reverend William Charlton Maxwell, and married in 1852 Emily Augusta Grace, one of Bishop Ponsonby’s daughters. She suffered from ill-health and the Reverend Maxwell was absent from the parish for six months in 1855-6 on account of this. In 1856 the average attendance was 163 - down by a fifth on the 1850 figure. However, somewhat surprisingly, the number of members of the Church of Ireland in the parish of Leckpatrick had risen to 870, an increase of one fifth. He resigned his charge in 1872.

Disestablishment and the parish of Leckpatrick

It was during the Reverend Maxwell’s incumbency that one of the most significant events in the history of the Church of Ireland took place - disestablishment. The Irish Church Act which formally disestablished the Church of Ireland was passed on 26 July 1869, but did not come into force until 1 January 1871. On disestablishment the property of the Church of Ireland was transferred to the Commissioners of Church Temporalities in Ireland, formerly called the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The Commissioners were responsible for many things, one of the most important of which was the sale of church lands. Each of the 11,000 tenants of the church lands was given the opportunity to buy his holding at a price set by the Commissioners. One quarter of the asking price was to be paid up front and the rest by instalment mortgages.

The deed covering the transfer of a farm in Leckpatrick Glebe from the Commissioners to its tenant, Thomas Lowry, has survived. The price agreed for Lowry’s farm of of 59 acres was £1501. Lowry initially paid £378 9s. 2d. and the Commissioners agreed to credit him with £1,122 10s. 10d. This sum was to be repaid in half yearly instalments of £31 5s. In 1885 it was arranged that Lowry’s half yearly instalments were to be reduced to £20 4s. 9d. All church buildings then in use were vested in the Representative Church Body, together with all schoolhouses. The care of old burial grounds was taken over by the guardians of the Poor Law Unions.

William Macklin Edwards, who was instituted rector of Leckpatrick on 19 December 1872, stands out as a figure of some renown in the history of the diocese of Derry. He was born in Dublin about 1820, the son of William Edwards. After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, he was successively curate of Clare Abbey, Roscrea, Castleconnell and Killaloe before becoming rector of Lateragh in 1849-50. He came to the diocese of Derry as secretary and domestic chaplain to Bishop Higgin and in 1857 was appointed rector of Langfield Lower parish. In 1860 he was transferred to Clonleigh and, finally, in 1872 was appointed to Leckpatrick.

He married Annabella Elizabeth, youngest daughter of Bishop Higgin, and they had four children, including Isabella who married Alfred Sinclair of Holy Hill in 1878. Edwards died on 10 May 1883 and was buried in Bishop Higgin’s vault in Derry cathedral churchyard. His estate at his death was valued at £15,516. Not surprisingly, Canon Leslie described him as a skilled financier. There are memorials to his name at both Clonleigh and Leckpatrick. The latter describes him as ‘Faithful Counsellor, Grave Preacher, True Pastor. From a Bishop whom he wisely advised, Clergy to whom he was trusty friend, Laymen of a diocese to which he rendered services beyond price in the time of their Church’s heavy trial.’ The wording of this memorial is said to have been the work of Dr William Alexander, then bishop of Derry.

Edwards was followed in Leckpatrick by Alexander George Stuart, who retired after only three years service in the parish. He had previously served a number of parishes in the diocese of Raphoe. After a retirement of nearly thirty years he died at Bogay House, Co. Donegal, on 20 August 1917. His two sons fought in World War I. The elder, Lt-Col. Alexander Stuart, served with the Indian Infantry and was killed in action on 4 June 1916. The next rector of Leckpatrick was Robert Burroughs, a native of Co. Carlow. He had previously served as curate in the parishes of Cumber Lower, Camus-juxta-Mourne, and Bovevagh, and was rector of Carrick between 1873 and 1886. He died on 18 March 1897 and was the first person to be buried in the churchyard surrounding the present parish church of Leckpatrick. The last rector of Leckpatrick before the parish was united to Dunnalong was William George Rennison. He was born in Co. Galway and served a number of parishes in both Ireland and England before coming to Leckpatrick.

The Church of St John, Dunnalong

It was suggested as far back as 1693 that a church should be built at Grange to serve the needs of the people living along the River Foyle in the parish of Donagheady. However, nothing was done about this proposal. In the early 1830s there would seem to have been some agitation to have a church built in the lower part of the parish and a deed of 20 June 1832 survives by which the marquis of Abercorn conveyed to Andrew Dunn of Glennagoorland and James McElhenny of Lisdivin, churchwardens of the parish of Donagheady, an acre of ground in the townland of Drumgauty for a church. The map drawn by James Deery in May 1832, which accompanies this deed, shows that the church was to have been built right in the middle of Peter McShane’s large field immediately to the left of the main road when travelling towards Strabane. Nothing more is known about this proposal; the vestry book of the parish of Donagheady contains no references to it.

In the early 1860s there were renewed requests for a church to be built in the lower part of the parish of Donagheady. Finally a decision was made to create the perpetual curacy of Dunnalong. The instrument creating the perpetual curacy was dated 24 June 1864 and contained the following reasons why this was necessary:

And whereas the parish of Donagheady being a benefice with cure of souls is of large extent and the mother church of said parish not being sufficient to accommodate the number of inhabitants that might resort thereto for Divine worship it is intended with the assistance of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for Ireland to erect a new church at Drumgauty within the said parish of Donagheady in a convenient place for the ease and accommodation of the inhabitants of said parish who reside at a distance from the said mother church and a suitable site has been fixed upon and agreed to be appropriated and set apart for such new church.

The townlands assigned to the perpetual curacy of Dunnalong were Magheramason, Dunnalong, Coolmaghery, Tamnabryan, Altrest, Moyagh, Gloudstown, Milltown, Magherareagh, Tamnabrady, Lisdivin Upper, Gortmellan, Menagh Hill, Tamnaclare, Creaghcor, Cloghboy, Gortavea, Gortmessan, Drumgauty, Grange Foyle, Drummeny Big, Drummeny Little, Tamnakeery, Cloghogle, Sollus, Ballybeeny, Eden, Dullerton, Gortmonly, Ardmore, Cullion, Ballynabwee, Mountcastle, Lisdivin Lower, and Sandville. The bounds of the perpetual curacy corresponded very closely to the bounds of the manor of Dunnalong. It was also agreed that the perpetual curate of Dunnalong was to be paid a salary of £80 per annum.

The Church of St John was built in 1865 in Drumgauty at the junction of the main road and the Dunnalong Road on a plot of land formerly leased by James McGettigan. The cost of building the church was covered by a grant from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and by public subscription. It was designed by Welland and Gillespie, architects for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who were based in Dublin. Built of stone in the Gothic style it features plate tracery with polychrome brick trim and a small bellcote. The church is remarkable for its steeply pitched roof and is one of the landmarks on the main road between Derry and Strabane. The first perpetual curate was Frederick James Clark who had previously been curate of Donagheady. The church was consecrated on 1 November 1866. The petition to the bishop of Derry to separate the ‘church from all common and profane uses and to consecrate and dedicate it’ was signed by the incumbent, Frederick Clark, the two churchwardens, William McCrea and Alexander Boden, and the following parishioners: William McClements, Archibald Baird, George White, James Rolleston and Thomas Rolleston.

Clark resigned Dunnalong in 1871 to become the rector of Donagheady. He was succeeded in Dunnalong by Marshall Robert Clark, a native of Co. Tipperary. He resigned in 1875 to become the incumbent of Mountfield, near Omagh. The next curate of Dunnalong was Samuel Robert Rankin, the son of Robert Rankin, a farmer near St Johnstown in Co. Donegal. He was educated at Foyle College and Trinity College, Dublin, and had been a cleric for fifteen years before being appointed to Dunnalong. He retired in 1900 and was succeeded the following year by Thomas Sutcliffe.

The union of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong

Following the retirement of the Reverend Thomas Sutcliffe in 1921 the perpetual curacy of Dunnalong was cared for by the incumbent of the parish of Camus-juxta-Mourne, Thomas Baird, until 1926. In that year the Reverend William Rennison of Leckpatrick retired and the parishes of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong were united. The first rector of the united parishes was Thomas Alexander Hickson Moriarty who was instituted on the 7 December 1926. He was born at Blennerville, near Tralee in Co. Kerry on 31 January 1880, the youngest son of the Reverend Thomas Moriarty. He had served as curate in a parish in Yorkshire before becoming rector of Learmount in 1909. He had also served as rector of Glendermott (1914-21) and Drumachose (1921-26). Moriarty retired as rector of the united parishes in 1944 and was succeeded by Ernest Harley Hadden.

The Reverend Hadden was born in Altar Rectory, Co. Cork, the son of the Reverend Robert William Hadden. In 1956 he was appointed archdeacon of the diocese of Derry. He died on 15 November 1978 and was buried in Leckpatrick. His successor, Alan Ernest Tilson, served the united parishes for ten years before moving to Bermuda to become the incumbent of the parish of Hamilton. The current rector of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong is the Reverend David Ferry, a native of Dungannon, who was previously the curate in St Macartan’s Cathedral in Enniskillen.


The biographical material contained in Leslie’s, Derry clergy and parishes (Enniskillen, 1937) was of immense value in the writing of this chapter. Other sources used include the Abercorn papers (D.623), the diocesan visitation books (DIO/4), and the papers of the Commissioners of the Church Temporalities (FIN/10/10), all of which are available in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Architectural information was derived from A. Rowan, North West Ulster (Harmondsworth, 1979).

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