Ros Davies' Co. Down, Northern Ireland Family History Research Site
© Rosalind Davies 2001
Permission granted to reprint research for non-profit use only

Drumgath Parish
sometimes included in Drumballyroney parish

Rathfriland Church of Ireland in Rathfriland Reformed Presbyterian Church, Rathfriland 1st Presbyterian Church, Rathfriland
2nd Presbyterian Church, Rathfriland 3rd Presbyterian, Rathfriland . Rathfriland Catholic Church
  Drumgath Catholic Church Barnmeen Catholic Church  


Rathfriland divided between Drumballyroney & Drumgath parishes but mainly in Drumgath.

There is a large water tower on the top of the hill which can be seen from many kilometres around. The whole town sits on the top of the hill.

Rathfriland was the capital of the ruling Magennis family in ancient times. The ruins (south gable 30ft x 25ft)of an old castle may still be seen on the hill upon which Rathfriland is situated. It was a square building of 3-4 storeys with a stone barrel vault at the first floor level to reduce the risk of fire and was one of the seats of the Magennis's, Lords of Iveagh. This castle was formerly very large but most of it was pulled down by Mr. William Hawkins of London , the first Protestant proprietor here after the rebellion of 1641. It is said to have been destroyed by General Ireton by Cromwell's orders. The stones were used to build the Town Inn (still stands on corner of The Square & Newry Street) and other houses in the town. In 1760 the Market House, which dominates the main square, was built for the linen market by Miss Theodosia McGill. . An old map of 1776 prepared for the Meade Estate shows streets, lanes , tenements and gardens forming the beginning town.

In the centre of town is the main square which has many of the banks, the old market house and 2 churches. The market was held once a month. In 1843, John O'Donovan (renowned Gaelic scholar) wrote that the town had about 30 public houses and there was a high degree of drunkedness. He was impressed by the beauty of the area and the friendliness of the people. In 1846 the population of the town was 2183 people. In 1870 there were 27 spirit and porter dealers in town also 4 blacksmiths , 4 saddlers & 4 surgeons and apothecaries (POD)

Church Square, Rathfriland- the Market House is in the centre with the Church of Ireland just behind it on the left. This photo was kindly sent by Bill Haggan

Newspaper articles from Northern Star;
notice about races 31 Jul 1794; meeting to discuss objection to joining a militia 26 Jun 1793

Newspaper articles from Northern Herald;
Orangemen charged for walking on 12th July 29 Mar 1834; 33rd Regiment of Foot drafted to prevent Orange parades 25 Jul 1835

Newspaper articles from Down Recorder;
failure of potato crop not in Rathfriland area to any great extent 1 Nov 1845*; donation to poor 23 May 1846; distress again 31 Oct 1846: new fair 28 Apr 1849; relief needed for destitute 31 Oct 1846*; *flax seed fair 1 May 1852: Literary Society 28 May 1853; infanticide 25 Feb 1860; fair 21 Jan 1865; riot 25 Mar 1865; several persons shot 24 Aug 1867; opening of new Orange Hall 23 Apr 1870; town description 26 Apr 1879; storng Gaelic Athletics Association club here from 1903 (9/4/28R*)

References;V3 p 11, 12, 14, 15,16, 17, 18;DR; NS; PNNI V6 p 185 & V1 p 126; IPP p 30, 98,99, 112; ORHB p1-20 ; DDPP p110,111


Rathfriland Church of Ireland

St. John's Church of Ireland, Rathfriland
in The Square

The old parish church in Drumgath townland, which was built in 1730 by John and Robert Hawkins Magill, was abandoned for this new church built in Rathfriland in 1818. The rector in 1821 Rev. Henry Boyd & in 1824 was Rev. Davis, the vicar Rev. Hunt Johnston, the curate Rev. Charles Smith and the parish clerk, William Weir. In 1846, the rector was Rev. Hunt Johnston & the curate Rev Richard Archer Agar. This parish church was described in 1836 as a simple building without a steeple but with a belfry, capable of holding 300 people. It became the parish church for Drumballyroney as well when the two parishes where united.

Records available are marriages 1783-1801; no graveyard

References;V3 p 15, 20 OSM; GIPR: GIC; CSO; PNNI V6 p 155; PNNI V1 p 115;ORHB back c


Reformed Presbyterian Church, Rathfriland (Covenanters)
in Castle Lane

This meeting house is tucked away in Castle Lane near the northern end of the Square. This Meeting House was built in 1785 under the supervision of Rev. William Staveley, who stayed until 1790 when Rev. Samuel Aiken took charge of the Reformers in the area. After his deathin 1798 where was a lapse of four years before Rev Hans Boggs was ordaned 27 June 1802. The minister in 1824 was Rev. Thomas Tate. The church was getting too small in 1836 for a congregation of 400 so another one was planned. It was finally rebuilt in 1861.

Newspaper article from Down Recorder;
opened in Rathfriland 13 Dec 1862;

Records from 1763, graveyard attached

References;V3 p 15, 17 OSM; ASWT p5-7; GIC; GIPR


1St Presbyterian Rathfriland

1st Presbyterian Church in Rathfriland-Auld Kirk
at 30 Newry St., Rathfriland

The congregation dates from 1662. The minister in 1679 was Rev. Alexander Gordon. This congregation split into Rathfriland & Ballyroney in 1708 . Rev. Robert Gordon was minister 1711-1762 then Rev. Samuel Barber 1763 -1811 ( Moderator of the General Assembly in 1790) . He was imprisoned in Downpatrick Gaol for 2 years for alleged complicity in 1798 Rebellion. This meeting house is capable of holding 200 people. The minister 1813-18236 was Rev. John White . He was suceeded by Rev. William Rossborough 1837- 1858 then Rev, Genry Osborne 1859-1862 then Rev. James Wilson from 1863.

Records from 1804 in PRONI MIC 1p/168B/3 & 1852-1864; marriages on Yahoo Co. Down newsgroup site ; modern graveyard

This photo was kindly sent to me by Terry Kennedy .

References;HCPCI p225; V3 p 11, 15 OSM; GIPR: GIC


Rathfriland 2nd Presbyterian Church

2nd Presbyterian Church in Rathfriland- Seceders
at the foot of Newry St., Rathfriland

This Seceding Meeting House was built in 1779-1805 and paid for by subscription. at a cost of £75. The subscriptions were slow in coming in so it took the builders Michael & Thomas Kennedy several years to build it. It can accommodate about 200 people . The minister in 1824 was Rev. John Stuart.

Records from 1834 in PRONI; modern graveyard

This photo was kindly sent to me by Terry Kennedy whose ancestors built the church.

References; V3 p15 OSM; church records; GIPR: GIC


3rd Presbyterian,Rathfriland

3rd Presbyterian Church, Rathfriland
Newry St, Rathfriland

The minister in 1853 was Rev. Joseph Dickie.

I don't have any information about this church. PRONI (Public Records, Belfast) has records

References; MC


Rathfriland Catholic Church- St.Mary's

This chapel , on the Newry Road, was built in 1832 by Rev. Laughlin Morgan, at a cost of £250 which was paid for by subscription. It is capable of holding 400 people. The priest in 1846 was Rev Thomas Brady & the curate was Rev. Bernard Maginn.

For a list of parish priests see under St. Colman's Barnmeen has registers to view 1837-1882; PRONI, NLI & LDS have baptisms 1829-1880, marriages & burials 1837-1880 ; graveyard attached , gravestones UHF Vol 19

References;V3 p 11, 15, 17 OSM; GIC; TIA;DDPP p112


St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Drumgath

St. Patrick's Catholic Church

in Drumgath Townland
near Lurgancahone

This chapel was built on the site of an ancient rath/fort. It was built in 1833 by Rev. Arthur Polin. In 1836 it was described as capable of holding 300 people. A nave was added in 1865 and the building completely restored in 2000.

For a list of parish priests see under St. Colman's Barnmeen

Graveyard attached

References;V3 p20 OSM; GIC; DDPP p 112


Barnmeen Catholic Church

Barnmeen Catholic Church- St. Colman's
on the Rathfriland to Newry road

This is the oldest Catholic church still in use in Dromore Diocese. Built in 1760 by Rev. Thomas Digenan with financial assistance of Capt. Kerr of Rathfriland -seneschal. In 1764, Peggy McGivern found an ancient hand bell near the old graveyard. It was given to Isaac Glenny of Glenvale in 1820 and is now in Downpatrick Museum. The side aisles were added in 1820 by Rev. Fergus Rooney. This chapel was described in 1836 as capable of holding 600 people . A stained glass window of 1880 commemorates the Barnmeen Martyrs, who were hanged in 1820. The freestanding iron bell tower was added 1914.

List of parish priests; Rev. Bryan O'Fegan 1691; Rev. Mines 1731-1745; Rev. Thomas Digenan 1745-1785; Rev. Fergus Rooney 1785-1822; Rev. Patrick McAvoy 1822-1831; Rev. Laughlin Morgan 1831;Rev. Arthur Polin 1831-1840; Rev. Thomas Brady 1840-1864; Rev Patrick O'Neill 1864; Rev. Patrick McKey 1864-1872; Rev. Thomas McGivern 1872-1887; Rev. Thomas Gallery 1887-1932; Rev. James Fitzpatrick 1932-1949; Rev.James McCorry 1949-1972; Rev. James McEvoy 1972-1985; Rev. Patrick J. McAnuff 1985- 1994; Rev. Aidan Hamill 1994-1998; Rev. Gerard Powell 1998-2001; Rev. James Poland 2001-

graveyard purchased mid 19th century; prior burials in old graveyard

Catholic records for the parish start at 13 Apr 1829 - 10 Dec 1880 for baptisms; 6 Jul 1837- 14 Nov 1880 for marriages & 5 May 1837- 24 Nov 1880 for burials; available in , & LDS

References;V3 p 20 OSM; GIPR;DDPP p111,113

by Ros Davies