Clonmany

(History of the church)


Maine feast-day 2nd Sept. - from whom the parish takes it's name, (Cluain Maine) is said to have brought christianity to this part of Inishowen.

Historians are not all agreed where Maine came from but many maintain that he was a disciple of St. Patrick. The most important Maine referred to in early sources was Maine Caol, a relative of Conall of Inish Caol and it is of note that the townland of Crossconell (Cros Chonaill) perpetuates St. Conall's name.

Tradition in Clonmany held that there was a hermitage in Urrismanagh associated with Maine and perhaps this is where his church was built. Maine is also mentioned in connection with Reilig Odhran at Binnion.

The church that Maine established would have been similar to the continental churches of the time. It would have been diocesan in organisation with a bishop and clergy of varying degrees in charge of the several little churches of the diocese. About the middle of the 6th century, or approximately 100 years after Patrick came, the monastic movement began to take shape.

It's beginning is associated with St. Finnian of Clonard (died 549) the tutor of many disciples including St. Colmcille.

Our monasteries were very different from the Benedictine monasteries of the period the early monasteries of Ireland consisted of a cluster of little stone or wooden buildings surrounded by a protective wall; they were modelled on the Ring Fort. The monastic school provided a contact with the community and of course the monks would have an interest in and be involved with the material as well as the spiritual welfare of the people.

This early Irish church was not merely an organisation of pious men and women for it also owned a great deal of land which had to be administered.

The Abbot of the monastery regularly belonged to the ruling group of the territory and so the monasteries acquired much wealth. The lands of the ancient monastery at Straid were said to extend from the white stones at Gaddyduff to Dunaff. The high ranking clergy were treated as equal or superior to kings and the author of the "Crith Gabhala" (an 8th century law text) maintains that the bishop or the abbot was nobler than the king because "The king rises up before him on account of the faith".

The monastery at Straid founded by Colmcille or one of his disciples, was extensive and tradition has it that in it's time there were over two hundred monks there. It was in all probability established on a site used for pagan worship and the Teampeall Deas (a circular mound in a field which originally belonged to the O'Morrisons) was held in superstitious veneration until recent times. Corpses were carried around this mound three times before they were buried and this practice was known as the "Deiseal".

The monastery flourished until the 10th century and it's decline, like other monasteries in the peninsula, could in part be attributed to the Viking raids because these people had established a fortress at Carrickabraghy and in the year 915 the Annals record that the chief of Carrickabraghy was slain by the Norsemen.

After the Synod of Kells in 1152 a new monastic discipline was introduced, - the rules of Sts. Bernard and Benedict replaced the earlier rules of the Celtic Church.

After this Synod the dioceses of the country were clearly defined and by 1300 the parishes of Inishowen were in existence much as they are today.

The most important lay official connected with the monasteries was the Erenagh who looked after it's temporal affairs and after the reforms of the 12th centurv thev retained their positions of influence and power. They lived near the monastery on the church lands allocated to them. The most influential and important Erenagh in Inishowen were the O'Morrisons of Clonmany. Thev lived in Straid and owned the quarterland of Dunally and collected the bishop's dues for the whole of Inishowen. They had another three quarters of land as keepers of the "Miosach". This information is given bv Donagh O'Morrison erenagh of Clonmany to the inquisition at Lifford on 12th Sept. 1609 in the reign of James 1st. (Inish-Owen and Tirconnell by W.J. O'Doherty Pg. 307).

O'Curry says that the Miosach was one of the three insignia of battle which "St. Cairneach of Dulane and Clonleigh appointed to the Cineal-Conall and the Cineal-Eoghan", the other two were the Cathach and the Cloc Phatraic.

Dr. Todd, the antiquarian, who examined the relic in 1853 says that it was contained in a highly decorated box and he continues that an inscription on the box states "Brian Mac Brian O'Muirguissan covered me anno 1534". The inscription is, of course, in Irish. It has been kept at St. Columba's Rathfarnham, Dublin since 1843. (Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy vol.5 Paper by Dr. J.H. Todd).

St. Cairneach who presented the Miosach had a hermitage at Both Chairnigh and the townland still bears his name The church in Clonmany flourished until the rebellion of Cahir O'Doherty, the last Chief of Inishowen, who was defeated in 1608. Arthur Chichester, who was Lord Deputy of Ireland since 1605, was granted all the land of Inishowen except the church lands which went to the protestant bishop of Derry and now the Reformation, which was being enforced in the south of Ireland from the middle of the previous century, came to Clonmany. The church lands were leased to various undertakers and the Ulster Visitation Book gives John Sterne as the first protestant minister in the parish in 1622. He was succeeded by John Bunbury in 1655.

Domhnall Gorm McLaughlin however, is the protestant minister that is most spoken of. His brother, Peader was serving as Catholic priest at the same time. They were sons of Eoghan, son of Domhnall son of Brian Og McLaughlin of Garren ne nGall (Whitecastle) the traditional erenaghs of Cooley.

As youths they had been sent to France to be educated as priests but were shipwrecked on the coast of England and were saved and offered hospitality by an English family. This family proposed that the boys stay with them, adopt the protestant faith and complete their education at an English University. Domhnall agreed but Peadar continued his journey to France where he continued his studies and became a catholic priest. After his ordination he returned to Inishowen and was appointed to serve in Clonmany where his brother was now protestant minister.

Domhnall built a mansion at Dresden, married Elizabeth Skipton. and conducted the services in the church at Straid which had been commandeered from the catholic congregation. A new protestant church was built at Straid in 1801. The ruins of this church are still standing.

Peader lived in a bothog in Crossconnell and said Mass at any of the Mass rocks in the parish, though by the middle of the 18th century Mass for the entire parish was celebrated at the Scalan (a rough shelter) in Gaddyduff. Domhnall Gorm died in 1711 and Peadar survived him by a few years.

Two wandering Friars, Fr. McEgan and Fr. McLaughlin served the spiritual needs of the people in the early I 800s and a Fr. Maginn is reported to have said Mass on Sundays in Gleann Aoibhinn during penal times.

The Scalan at Gaddyduff continued to be used till Fr. Sheils came from Malin in 1795. The people wanted the church built in Andy Porter's field where the Scalan was situated but the present site was considered more suitable. Fr. Sheils died in 1829 and the church was enlarged in the same year. The bell tower was added in 1843 by Fr. O'Donnell - the Waterloo priest and according to Charles McGlinchey the bell was rung for the first time on the 9th of April 1845, the first since the Reforrnation.

Fr. William O'Donnell, the Waterloo priest was born at Cockhill in 1779. He attended the hedge schools of the McColgans at Cleagh and Craigamullan and went to Maynooth in 1802. He left Maynooth before completing his studies and got a commission in the army from General Hart of Kilderry. After the Battle of Waterloo he left the British army and re-entered Maynooth and was ordained in 1818. He was appointed parish priest of Clonmany in 1829. In 1839 he was arrested for arrears of tithes and sent to Lifford jail. According to tradition, the Harts of Kilderry informed the British Authorities that an ex officer who had served with distinction at Waterloo was in jail and he was released immediately. He died in 1856 aged 77yrs. John O'Donovan, the distinguished Celtic scholar and historian, visited Clonmany in 1835 in connection with the Ordnance Survey which was taking place at that time and wrote the following in a letter concerning the parish from Buncrana on 23rd August of that year:-

"Clonmany is the most Irish parish I have yet visited the men only who go to markets or fairs speak a little English the women and children speak Irish only. This arises from their distance from villages or towns and from their being completely environed by mountains which form a gigantic barrier between them and the less civil inhabitants of the lower country.
I never heard Irish better spoken, nor experienced more natural civility and innocence than in that very secluded and wild parish".

Conall Byrne


  St.Mary's Church Refurbishment

  Bishop's Introduction
  Acknowledgement and Thanks - Priests of Clonmany
  Clonmany (History of the Church)
  Architect's Account
  Refurbishment Team
  Parish Priests
  Curates

  "St.Patrick" Stained Glass Window
  "Ave Maria" Stained Glass Window


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