Dunnalong Parish Church

The Church of Ireland Church of St John’s, Dunnalong, is situated in the village of Bready, County Tyrone, on the A5 midway between the historical walled city of Londonderry and the market town of Strabane.

The Church, now a listed building, was built just before Disestablishment and together with the churchyard was consecrated on All Saints Day, 1st November 1866. Built in the Gothic Style following the Gothic revival of 1834 its simple design and distinctive high pitched roof is a fine example of the architecture of the period.

Built with stone acquired locally it follows very closely the architectural thoughts of A.W.N. Pugin (1812-1852) not only by its simple but distinctive design, but also by its visual attraction. Pugin is quoted as saying “Gothic was the only true style of Christian Architecture” and as one travels the A5 and views St John’s by the roadside, one would be compelled to agree.

Designed (the plans agreed on 25th May 1895 are still extant) by Welland and Gillespie, Architects for the Church Commissioners based in Dublin, the Church of St John’s Dunnalong, was built after the parish of Donagheady was divided. It was built to service a large rural community stretching along the banks of the River Foyle. Since then three new housing estates at Magheramason, Newbuildings and Cullion have been built and added to the parish. The Church today is used not only for worship, but for parish meetings, Sunday School and has in the past been used by other denominations.

Dunnalong Church is a distinctive building. It is built of stone with a coloured black trim, and it has a steeply pitched roof. There is a bellcote at the west end. At the east end of the south wall, a transept is now used as a porch with a vestry room and other rooms above it. The transept has a double lattice window with a trefoil light overhead. There is a porch in the south-west corner. In the west wall, there are two windows with opaque lattice glass, and four coloured panes, with geometric tracery above. The first of two windows in the south wall of the nave, has two lights of similar design. The second window has Psalm 150:6 “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord”, and is in memory of Warren Wallace. The three windows in the north wall has lattice panes and four coloured panes each. The east window has three lights and geometric tracery, and the text, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. Jesus is depicted alongside ships and fishing nets. The window commemorates Samuel and Isabel Sherrin, 1989. At the west porch entrance, inside the nave a wooded partition is surmounted by four glass sections. These from right to left are engraved with illustrations and texts, showing the Manger, Golgotha, the Empty tomb and Christ’s promise to be present until the end of age. In the north-west corner, is the baptistery. The font bowl was given in memory of George and Mary Fulton. The pulpit is on the left of the nave, and the prayer desk is to the right. Both are in the chancel, and below the prayer desk is the Lectern.

St John’s Dunnalong underwent extensive renovations in 1998.

The Parish

The parish at the moment comprises of over one hundred and fifty family units. There is also a large Presbyterian community and a much smaller Roman Catholic community within the parish boundary.

History of Dunnalong Church of Ireland

In the early 1830s there was some agitation to have a church built in the lower part of the parish of Donagheady and a deed of 20 June 1832 survives by which the Marquis of Abercorn conveyed to Andrew Dunn of Glennagoorland and James McElhenny of Lisdivin, churchwardens of the parish of Donagheady, an acre of ground in the townland of Drumgauty for a church. Nothing more is known about this proposal. In the early 1860s there were renewed requests for a church to be built in the lower part of the parish of Donagheady. Finally a decision was made to create the perpetual curacy of Dunnalong. The bounds of the perpetual curacy corresponded very closely to the bounds of the manor of Dunnalong. It was also agreed that the perpetual curate of Dunnalong was to be paid a salary of £80 per annum. The Church of St John was built in 1865 in Drumgauty at the junction of the main road and the Dunnalong Road on a plot of land formerly leased by James McGettigan. The cost of building the church was covered by a grant from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and by public subscription. It was designed by Welland and Gillespie, architects for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The church is remarkable for its steeply pitched roof and is one of the landmarks on the main road between Londonderry and Strabane. The first perpetual curate was Frederick James Clark who had previously been curate of Donagheady.

The union of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong

Following the retirement of the Reverend Thomas Sutcliffe in 1921 the perpetual curacy of Dunnalong was cared for by the incumbent of the parish of Camus-juxta-Mourne, Thomas Baird, until 1926.  In that year the Reverend William Rennison of Leckpatrick retired and the parishes of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong were united.  The first rector of the united parishes was Thomas Alexander Hickson Moriarty who was instituted on the 7 December 1926.  He was born at Blennerville, near Tralee in Co. Kerry on 31 January 1880, the youngest son of the Reverend Thomas Moriarty.  He served as curate in a parish in Yorkshire before becoming rector of Learmount in 1909.  He also served as rector of Glendermott (1914-21) and Drumachose (1921-26).  Moriarty retired as rector of the united parishes in 1944 and was succeeded by Ernest Harley Hadden.  The Reverend Hadden was born in Altar Rectory, Co. Cork, the son of the Reverend Robert William Hadden.  In 1956 he was appointed Archdeacon of the Diocese of Derry.  He died on 15 November 1978 and was buried in Leckpatrick.  His successor, Alan Ernest Tilson, served the united parishes for ten years before moving to Bermuda to become the incumbent of the parish of Hamilton.  The Rev David Ferry succeeded the Rev Tilson until his move to Donagheady. His successor was the Rev Garth Bunting, who served the parishes until 2006 when he moved to Belfast. The current rector of Leckpatrick and Dunnalong is the Reverend Irene Lyttle, a native of Londonderry.