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St. John's Church

The Church of St. John the Evangelist

Church of St. John the Evangelist, Gilford

The Church is situated on an elevated site on Castle Hill, It faces east, in the townland of Loughans, 'Little Lakes; on a plot of two rood and twenty three perches of ground donated by Mr. Hugh Dunbar, one of the then Gilford Linen Mill owners, on 11th August, 1846 at a nominal rent of one penny half-yearly.

An unusual clause was stated in the deed of transfer of the land: "It is hereby declared and agreed by and between the parties to these present respectively that neither the said Michael Blake, John Byrne, and Benjamin Thomas Parks or any of them or their survivors of any of them or any trustee or trustees to be hereafter appointed shall permit any part of said premises to be used as burying ground."

This is indeed the case for all four plots of ground donated by the mill owners for purposes of denominational church building. As a result of this stipulation all subsequent Catholic interments take place in either of the parish sister churches of Laurencetown or Clare graveyards.
So in 1846 this landmark in the district, on the land acquired was made ready and building commenced. It was of simple Gothic architecture, and very much perpendicular in character and built of local stone. On the 5th May, 1850, The Right Rev. Doctor Blake, Catholic Bishop of Dromore, dedicated the building to the worship of God.

The Church didn’t have a tower or belfry but thanks to generosity of a former parishioner, Mr Patrick Reilly, a former parishioner now living in Baltimore, USA, a bell was presented as a gift to the parish in memory of his mother. The bell weighs about one ton and is cast of ore from Lake Superior.

Another feature of the interior of St. John's is the two valuable stained-glass windows on either side of the high altar. One of these was donated by William H, Gourley, Paterson, New Jersey, and erected in 1923. The second is likely to have been donated by the same family as the inscription bears the same family names. Both are believed to have been by the famous stained-glass designer and manufacturer, Harry Clarke Studios in Dublin. A recent survey of the windows, from the present studio owner, confirmed this as fact and commented that the two windows are: "Part of our National Heritage, and should be preserved".

In keeping with the generosity of parishioners and their respect for the Church two more families donated religious objects, Mrs. Margaret Byrne of Castle Hill donated a set of Stations-of-the-Cross, in memory of her husband, John and their son Charles, in 1930. Following renovations to the interior of the Church, a more ornate altar from the parish of Clonallon replaced the original high altar and was consecrated in 1933.

In the church grounds, a tall crucifix dated 1934, stands in memory of members of the Boyle family both teachers at the first school and donated by the family. This school, dated 1878, was situated in the same grounds as the church. In September 1957, a larger replacement school building was opened on a new site on the opposite side of the same road. The original still stands.

Throughout the 150 years of its establishment the Church has served the people's religious rites from their coming into the world to leaving the earth as the people have served the Church through their generosity and general support.

With the years taking its toll, extensive repair work to the roof began in September 2005 and a re-design of the sanctuary area was carried out at the same time. The church should be re-opened in the summer of 2006.

Some photos of the renovation work 2006





On-going work to St. John's Church



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