St Mary’s Church Convoy

St. Mary’s Old Church Convoy.

Extract taken from “Convoy Village Its People and Townlands.

 By kind permission of Aodh Gallagher (RIP) and Marie Slevin.

convoy old1According to Maguire’s History of the Diocese of Raphoe in 1704, the registered pastor was Edmund Brannigan , dwelling at Killynure, forty four years of age.  His immediate successor was Dominick  Byrne whose name is affixed to the petition of 1737, the next was Terence O. Quinn, a Salamanca student.

The earliest available register, Pigott and Co. represents John Kelly as Parish Priest in 1824, residing in Drumkeen. When Maynooth College however was founded in 1795, John Kelly presents himself among the first batch of candidates in Holy Orders seeking admission to the Halls of Theology and Scripture in order to perfect their professional studies.  His lamented demise at Drumkeen in 1829 is not registered in any Ecclesastical Directory.

Dean Feely was President of the old Seminary in Letterkenny when Fr. Kellys death left a vacancy in the pastorate of Raphoe which he was appointed to fill.  He lived in Drumkeen for many years before he settled South of Convoy in a cottage still associated with his name.  When the Dean was promoted to the pastoral charge of Inver in 1849, the Rev. James McGinley, P.P. Killymard, very cheerfully accepted the preferred succession in Raphoe.  He originally hailed from the Clady district in the Derry Diocese, he was well remembered as a model priest, schools were established and religion flourished under his vigilant guidance.  His death took place in 1862, his remains rest close to Convoy Church beneath a monument bearing the inscription:

In Memoriam, Rev. Jacobi McGinley, Paroch rapotensis qui Per 40 annos, in divessis Paroeciis Pro animorum salute assidue laboravit plenus Meritis, ac Annis migravit ad coronam Sanctis promissam die Feb. 1862 annos 67 nattus.

Leck at first and subsequently Taughboyne as well were entirely dependant on the Clergy of Raphoe for public Mass and the Sacraments, the Government report of 1731 says of Taughboyne:

“The Popish inhabitation’s resort for Mass to the neighbouring Parish of Raphoe but tradition assures us that a priest went each Sunday from Priestown and said Mass in the old Scalan in Hillside”.

 Long before Churches were built, Scalans were used by Priests so that people could have Mass celebrated.  There was one in Killynure just at a corner of a field adjoining the Corchasey Road.  The altar stone is still intact and a number of stones twenty feet away give us an idea of the size of the shelter.  While the Parish Priest had no Church, a priest continued to live in the Killynure area.  It has been said by the older generation but never recorded that there was a thatched Church situated in Killynure, near to what is known as the “Goats Acre” long before the Penal times.

Even in later days, however sparse the Diocesan supply of Priests may have been from time to time, the Old Cathedral Parish was uniformly well equipped.  For close on two hundred years, Scalans supplied the place of the famous Cathedral and through these temporary shelters, which existed in various places, there was always one in Killynure and one in Drumkeen.

 Samuel McSkimin in his Annals of Ulster, gives the following interesting point; during the 1798 Rebellion period reports of the fulfilling of the prophecies of St. Columcille were revived with new and interesting additions.  A report was put out that Roman Catholics were to be evicted by a murderous band called the Black Militia.  The report was without any foundation in fact.  But nevertheless McSkimin says;

 “In the Counties of Derry and Donegal it was reported and commonly believed that the Chapel of Convoy would be nailed up by the Black Militia, such persons as repaired to Glenfin would be safe and on taking a stocking of meal with them for food, it would do them to the end of the wars.  Some weak minded females however not waiting for the nailing of the chapel, repaired to Glenfin with their stockings, but its contents soon became exhausted, in sober sadness they returned to their homes”.

Convoy was by far the oldest of the three Churches in Raphoe Parish.  The first portion of the building was constructed about 1795 but it was not completed until 1820.  The most important renovation since that date was in 1866 when a Chancel, Belfry, Sacristy and High Altar were added.  Dr. Daniel McGettigan solemnly dedicated the Parish Church of Convoy on the 25th March 1866.  He also received two hundred pounds from the people of the Parish, which he presented to Rev. McMenamin for the purpose of the building.  The Church Cemetery dates back to 1779.  The Church was a rendered T Plan Church with a long six bay front to the road, georgian gothic glazed and enlivened  by a big buttressed bellcote in stone added in 1860 in the middle of the long front.

 St. Mary’s Church Convoy (Old and New).

Extract courtesy of Mr. Sean Toner. (RIP)

The old St. Mary’s Church  in Convoy was built in 1795.  The original building had a thatched roof, clay floor and seats or forms placed along the walls until 1820, when it was extended and modernised with the introduction of wooden floors, a slate roof and three galleries.  The new Church was dedicated by Bishop McGettigan on March 25th 1866.  As a Church the building served the people long and well.  In the graveyard as well as having gravestones for some families from Raphoe, there are graves dating as far back as 1700, one such gravestone to “Niall of the Nine Hostages”.  At the time of the Church’s closure, it was the oldest Church in use in Ireland.

convoy new1The new Church was built in 1971-1972 with a design based on a double triangular shape.  The walls both internal and external were built with Irish clay Brick and the exposed roof structure in laminated timber beams. It seats approximately 400 people and has an area set-aside for a private prayer chapel. Bishop Mc Feeley, Fr Britton and Canon Deegan, P.P., blessed and opened the new church in 1972 and in recent years a new graveyard adjoining the church as well as a new car park were constructed.