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19th Century - Tolerence and Progress

Life became more tolerable for Catholics in the early 19th century and some of the restrictions imposed were removed. Fr. O’Kelly availed himself of the opportunity of having a chapel built in Clare on the site of the original Mass House which had earlier been destroyed during a sectarian attack.

In 1801, while Vicar General of the Diocese, Fr. Hugh O' Kelly declined the bishopric but became Dean of Dromore, after Dr. Edmund Derry had become bishop. On 29th. October 1819, Dr. Derry died and, on the 30th. January 1820, Fr. O'Kelly was appointed bishop to succeed him. From the peaceful environment of Hallsmill he travelled to Newry to take up residence in Boat Street, which at the time was the bishop's residence. His successor in Tullylish was Fr. Edmund Magennis, a native of Tullylish Parish, reputedly a relative of Dr. O' Kelly. Dr. O' Kelly's zeal and determination to extend church buildings continued after his appointment in Newry. He is known as the founder of Newry Cathedral. He completed negotiations for the acquisition of land for the Cathedral and obtained legal permission for the work to commence.

The Railway at Hazelbank 1910

Education in 19th Century Tullylish

When Fr. Edmund Magennis was appointed to succeed Dr. O'Kelly, circumstances were generally improving in the parish. It was the eve of Catholic Emancipation when, for the first time in centuries, Catholics could maintain schools, join professions and, if they met the qualifications, vote at parliamentary elections. Faced with the problem of an increasing population both in Tullylish and in the developing town of Banbridge, where no Catholic church existed, Fr. Magennis had a formidable task ahead of him. In addition, there was an attempt by government to organise a system of education embracing all creeds. Though the outcome was unsuccessful, it did involve Fr. Magennis in a schoolbuilding programme.


The Old Bann School in Laurencetown, now known as the Laurencetown, Lenaderg and Tullylish Community Association

Existing schools were located at Knocknagore, Bleary, Ballynagarrick, Moyallon, Gilford, Coose, Ballydugan, Kernan and Ballymacanallan. Only four of these schools had Catholic masters. Moyallon was run in conjunction with the Society of Friends where Francis Campbell was paid £27.7.6 per annum. At Gilford the master was Arthur Geoghegan and he was paid £19.10 per annum. His school was located on Whinney Hill. The school in Coose was run by Edward Geoghegan whose salary was £20 per annum. Hugh Burns organised the only Catholic `hedge school' in the parish.

A typical 'hedge school'

The church at Coose, Laurencetown was extended and completed in 1834. It now accommodated 750 people. Its average attendance was 600 and the total cost of completion - £150 - was raised by subscription. The Catholic population of the ‘parish union’ in 1834 was as follows:

Tullylish  3,205
Donacloney  1,078
Seapatrick 1,424
Magherally   309

These make a grand total of 6,016. Tullylish and Donacloney, with a combined population of 4,629, were served rather inadequately by only two chapels while Seapatrick and Magherally, with a population of 1,733, had no church or chapel at all.

Independence for Seapatrick

In 1834, Fr. Edmund Magennis set about the task of building a chapel in Banbridge. He would have been encouraged, it not entirely influenced, by Most Rev. Dr. Blake who had become Bishop of Dromore in 1833. Financial difficulties disrupted the project and it was temporarily abandoned in 1834 as the Ordnance Survey Memoirs stated:

"A Roman Catholic Chapel at present building at the North end of Dromore St, is a whinstone building: the front of which is corniced and buttressed with granite. The windows arid doorways are Gothic, the arches of which are brick. The building is rectangular, 80 Feet by 40 feet. It has already cost £450. which sum was raised by public subscription. The work is at present at a stop for want of funds, when completed, the accommodation will be for 1,000 persons”.

A dispute arose which caused the bishop to appoint a committee to run the affairs of the parish. Fr. Magennis was removed from his position of Parish Priest. The chapel was still incomplete in 1837 with correspondence of the time stating that money spent to date amounted to £450. However, the chapel was eventually completed and on 21 st. June 184 l it was solemnly opened and dedicated to St. Patrick by Dr. Blake. The special preacher on the occasion was Father Theobald Mathew, the famous apostle of Temperance in Ireland.

So ended an era in the history of Tullylish. Steadfastness and zeal had been the hallmarks of its illustrious history. However, as the combined parishes of Tullylish, Donacloney, Seapatrick and Magherally were about to be divided into their respective parishes of Tullylish and Seapatrick, memories still lingered of the sorry episodes that had temporarily disunited the parishioners, bishop and the parish priest of the time, Fr. Magennis No evidence survives as to what the problem really was but it was eventually 'resolved' rather unamicably by appointing quasi - administrators such as Fr. John Doran in 1836 and Fr. Mooney in 1841 who, incidentally, was the first Catholic Chaplain of Banbridge Workhouse at a salary of £25 per annum, and Fr. John Byrne in 1844.  So, in 1851, the combined parish was subdivided and in its place Tullylish and Seapatrick became separate and distinct, with Laurencetown and Banbridge as their respective administrative centers. Fr. Magennis had been `exiled' to his farm in Knocknagore and took no further part in the administrative affairs of the parish.




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