Sunday, 25th March 2018

Church of the Most Holy Trinity (1860)

Posted on 05. Aug, 2010 in Churches of the Parish

Saturday 7:30 (Vigil)
Sunday: 8:30 am, 10 am, 12:00 noon
Weekdays: 10:00 am
1st Friday: 10:00 am, 7:30 pm



Oliver Hampsey

Confessions: Saturday: 12:30 pm – 1 pm

Baptisms are held fortnightly, on Saturdays at 5pm in Church of The Most Holy Trinity. Please ensure booking is made 3 weeks in advance. Phone the Parish Office on (028) 8676 3293 – Parish Office

Parents and Godparents are asked to attend a short Pre-Baptism meeting to prepare for the Baptism ceremony and complete registration requirements. Parents will be contacted by a member of the Parish Baptism Team who will invite you to attend the meeting.

The Baptism preparation meeting will be held on the Wednesday before the ceremony, and is held in the Parochial Centre at 8 PM

Baptism Team

Eucharistic Adoration

Monday: 10.30 am – 10.00 pm

Wednesday: 10.30 am – 9.00 pm (Divine Mercy Devotions 8.00 pm – 9.00 pm)

Friday: 10.30 am – 10.00 pm: Youth 2000: 8.00 pm – 9.00 pm

(Young adults 16-35 welcome to join a group with others in prayer)

Saturday: 10.30 am – 7.00 pm

Please note that on a Saturday where a Baptism ceremony is due to take place, adoration will finish at 4.30 PM.

History of Holy Trinity Church

According to parish records, Father McConville, Parish Priest of Cookstown in 1855, called a committee meeting on 3 May 1855, and at this meeting it was decided to build a church to be called ‘The Church of The Holy Trinity’. This committee of 54 people was to oversee the work. Father McConville was the Chairman and John Harbinson was appointed secretary. Earlier in June 1854, The Dublin Builder had announced the plan to erect a church at Cookstown, at a probable expenditure of £5,000. Father McConville’s committee set up a sub­committee of 12 to take charge of fund raising at home and in other countries. A ‘weekly penny collection’ was to be organised throughout the parish to raise money for building the new church. This sub-com­mittee of 12 was to report to the General meeting to be held after the last Mass on the first Sunday of each month.

The architect was Mr JJ. McCarthy ARHA. The tender of £2,700 submitted by the building firm of Messrs Charles and Johnston was accepted. The interior fixed carvings were by Messrs Purdy and Authwaite of Dublin, the High Altar was by Mr Fane of Birmingham and Dublin.                           ‘

The laying of the first stone was set for Whit Monday, 28 May 1855. His Grace Most Reverend Dr Dixon preached on this occasion. He was the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. The church was still being built in 1857 and on 3 June 1860 it was consecrated by Reverend Dr. Dixon.

The size of the church is slightly less than originally planned. The plan is a parallelogram. It consists of nave, 80ft x 25ft, aisles, 80ft x 14ft sepa­rated from the nave by an arcade of pointed arches. 23ft 6″ to soffets and springing from circular shafts chancel 32ft deep, tower 12ft 6″ in square, chapels of the Blessed Sacrament and Blessed Virgin, sacristy and vestry. The roofs are of open timber work stained and varnished, arched with ribs over the nave. The chief entrance is through a deeply recessed and moulded arched doorway in the tower, which has a spire on top 175ft high. The two corbel heads at the main door rep­resent St. Patrick and St. Athanasius. There is an inner wooden porch, which protects the interior of the church from draughts and forms the ground work of a beautiful organ gallery.

The original Altar was on Caen stone by Mr Fane of Dublin and Birmingham. It was a magnificent work of art, with a frontal consisting of three panels, enclosing sculptured representations in bold relief, of the Last Supper of Our Lord and typical sacrifices of Melchizedeck and Abel. The panels were separated by shafts and highly polished coloured marble, with moulded bases and foliage.

The big stained glass window at the back of the Altar was erected as an affectionate tribute of respect by the people of Cookstown to the memory of the Reverend Canon McConville, Parish Priest who was responsible for the foundation of the church and died before its completion on 2 August 1858. It has something special and unique about it – the upper panes of glass containing symbols of the Blessed Trinity forming a memorial to the late Canon McConville and the lower panes displaying figures of St. Patrick and canonised bishops of the diocese. The pane of glass under Our Lady has a small black clad figure not as big as the Saint and Glorious Angels. The family of the late Canon McConville said that this small monk has the face of their dear, beloved relative, Canon McConville. Many people have erected stained glass windows in memory of their dear close relatives.

Outside, in the church grounds is the grave of Reverend Canon Rice PP VF who died on 9 March 1915, and there are three graves inside the church, one in each aisle. Down the centre aisle a tiled cross marks the grave of Canon McConville, tiled crosses on each of the side aisles also mark the graves of parish priests.

There are two holy water fronts in the front porch. One is erected as a tribute of respect to the memory of Thomas Canon Rice PP VF, who died in March 1915. On the other font is inscribed the thoughtful words ‘Pray for the soul of Reverend Patrick Brennan CC who died 28 December 1908 RIP’. The side porch has also two holy water fonts. One is dedicated to John Richard JA who died on 27 April 1906, RIP and the other one is dedicated to John’s wife, Anne Richard who died on 11 January 1946. Many past and present parishioners would have been christened in the baptismal font. This water font is dedicated to Ada Cunning Moore of Coolnafranky Park who died in 1910. The Stations of the Cross are dedicated to the past and present parishioners erected by the following; Station 1: Sisters of Mercy; Station 2: Patrick Mooney; Station 3: Margaret Collins in memory of her husband and children; Station 4: Ada Cunning Moore; Station 5: In memory of the priests of this parish; Station 6: John Richard, senior, in mem­ory of his parents; Station 7: Elizabeth A. Harbison in memory of her parents and children; Station 8: Thomas J.S. Harbinson in memory of his parents and sister; Station 9: Mathilda T. Harbison in memory of her parents and brother Joseph; Station 10: James and Alice McVeigh in memory of their relations.; Station 11: Catherine Burnett in memory of her parents; Station 12: Left empty; Station 13: In memory of John Doris VS and family; Station 14: JJ. Brennan in mem­ory of his parents.

Some changes were made to the sanctuary in 1977-78. The table of the Altar was brought forward and the Altar rails were removed. The main Altar was replaced by one of the side altars. The front of this altar depicts the death of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Carpet and seating were brought into the sanctuary. Spiral stairs used to lead up to the pulpit, where the organ is now. A statue of Our Lady was erected and a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was also placed over the candle table. A new stained glass window in honour of the Sacred Heart was placed in the sanctuary of the church. The ceiling was painted at this time. Canon Hughes was responsible for these renovations and for other work to the church. Since March 1987 a new porch has been built. Steeplejacks were called in to clean the stone and a new hedge was plant­ed in the church grounds. A tarmacadam surface was put on the church car park and in 1985 the roof was fixed.

It is interesting to note that one of the contributors to the church, who has been mentioned already, was buried in the Convent of Mercy graveyard – Ada Cunning Moore. Ada was the first person that was buried there. Her burial place is marked by a cross inscribed with the words Ada Marie Caroline wife of J.B. Cunning JP of Coolnafranky Park who died 1 November 1910 RIP”. Ada was a good friend of the nuns at that time and made a request to be buried there. Ada owned Coolnafranky Park Cookstown.

Thomas Canon Rice PP VF died on 9 March 1915 RIP. On his grave, in the church grounds, is inscribed the thoughtful words ‘The Convent Schools, The Presbytery and many other works are monuments of his zeal during the 33 years he had charge of this parish. They that instruct many to justice shall shine as stars for all eternity, erected by his grateful flock’. One of his great works was taking the Mercy Sisters to the Convent beside the Chapel; before this they lived in 80 Chapel Street. The Mercy nuns have been 100 years in our parish on 4 May 1987.

ACKNOLWEDGEMENTS: Fr. John Fox; Mr George Campbell; Mr Jim Devlin; Sister Assumpta; Sister Brigid; Sister Ita; Mr John Mitchell; Mrs McBride.

A talk given to the interchurch forum – February 9th, 2009.

History of the Church of the Holy Trinity

I 9th February 2009 Inter Chuch Forum I

The Catholic Parish of Desertcreat and Derryloran has four churches, one at Rock, another at Slatequarry and two in Cookstown. My task tonight is to speak about the history of this Church of the Holy Trinity, in order to examine this history, it is first necessary to take a backward glance at the building that served the Catholic Community before the erection of this church. That building or at least a portion of it still stands in the old graveyard, Chapel Hill Cemetery on Westland Road South. It was for many years known as the old chapel and in more recent years as Saint LÚARÁN’s.

According to local tradition the Catholic congregation had for many years, met and celebrated mass in the loft of a beetling mill belonging to the Cook family (no relation of Allen Cook, the founder of Cookstown) which was located somewhere in the vicinity of the present Greenvale Hotel. One Sunday as the congregation prayed, the floor of the loft gave way flinging the entire gathering to the floor below, killing some people outright and inflicting terrible injuries on others. Colonel Stewart of Killymoon was extremely distressed when he was informed of the incident. He later gave the congregation a plot of land, where they could build a church and it is also said that he paid for the erection of a temporary wooden structure where mass was celebrated until the church was completed. It is very difficult to pinpoint the exact years when these events occurred but we are certain of the year when the church was extended for there was an inscription on the outside wall of the old chapel which read “This addition erected by Rev. A. Me Kenna 1824” The extension was needed, as the church was becoming much too small for a swelling congregation. We know from the census returns of 182l and 1831 that the population of Cookstown was growing rapidly, in 1821 there were 963 people living in the town and ten years later in 1831 this number had grown to 2883.

This chapel with its 1824 extension was the place of worship until this building was erected. Again it was most likely an increasing congregation and perhaps a desire to be closer to the centre of the town that led to this church being built. Father Me Conville, Parish Priest of Cookstown lived at Loy or Chapel Street, as we now know it, in the 1840s and early 1850s. The story is told that he considered his garden was the ideal site for a new church. So plans to this effect were set in motion. In June 1854 an

announcement was made in the Dublin Builder of the plan to build a new Catholic Church at Cookstown at the probable cost of £5,000. On May 23rd 1855 Father Me Conville called a committee meeting of 54 parishioners to oversee the work. I am proud to say that two of my great grandfathers were in this group. Father Me Conville was selected as chairman and John Harbinson who had a thriving business in William Street was appointed secretary. On their first meeting the committee passed a proposal that

“We build a church to be called the Church of the Holy Trinity according to the plans and specifications of J.J. McCarthy Esq. M.R.I.A. now lying before us.”

A weekly penny collection was to be organised throughout the parish to raise money and friends of the parish were also to be approached for financial help. Father Me Conville, John Harbinson and a sub committee of twelve were to oversee the fundraising and all business in connection with the new church. They were to report to the general committee each month. The tender of £2,700 submitted by the building firm, Charles and Johnson was approved. The committee members were apprehensive that sufficient money would be raised and so they passed a motion that if their funds failed to pay the contractors they would join in security to the Ulster Bank for £500. This was a brave act for many of them were tenants of small farms and money was scarce.

It difficult for us today even in these times of the credit crunch to appreciate how hard life was for some of Cookstown’s inhabitants at this time. Doctor James Mullan, who was born in Chapel Street in 1846, only a short distance from this spot, wrote about the hardship he experienced in his early life. In his book, ‘ The Story of a Toiler’s Life’ he recalled how he lived with his mother in a two-room thatched cottage. He and his mother occupied the kitchen while the room was let to a family at ten pence a week. His mother, a widow laboured in the fields of local farms during the summer and autumn months. She was paid six to eight pence for a twelve-hour day. In the winter months she used to spin flax and wind thread on reels for use in the weaving factory. The staple food he recalled with great distaste was potatoes.

“Potatoes morning, noon and night unvarying as the rising and setting of the sun for breakfast, dinner and supper washed down with mouthfuls of sour buttermilk or flavoured with a pinch of salt


Nettle broth was the Sunday treat especially when accompanied by an oatmeal dumpling.

He considered that he was very fortunate to have attended school where he learned to read and write, an opportunity many of his contemporaries did not have. He went to school, barefoot dressed in second-hand clothing purchased from clothes-dealers who brought the clothes from Glasgow. He began his working life at the early age of eleven, weeding crops of flax, oats and potatoes and working in the harvest fields. Life was tough and long hours of hard work were almost everyone’s lot.

The laying the first stone of the new church took place on Whit Monday 28th May 1855. Doctor Dixon, Archbishop of Armagh preached at the ceremony. The building was completed by 1858 and a lease dated 1st May 1859 was agreed between the landlords James Gunning and James Moore on one hand and Primate Dixon and the parish priest on the other. The duration of the lease was 999 years and the yearly rent of £25 pounds was reduced to £3. James Gunning and his brother-in-law James Moore, linen industrialists bought the townland of Loy and numerous other townlands including that of Cookstown in 1851. This sale occurred shortly after the death of Colonel William Stewart and it brought to an end the long, close association of the Stewarts of Killymoon with our town. Mr. Gunning and Mr. Moore also contributed £10 to the church building fund.

On 3rd June 1860 the primate Doctor Dixon consecrated the church. Parishioners and the many friends of the parish, who contributed very generously to the building fund, attended the ceremony. A special train, leaving Belfast at half past eight in the morning and returning at half past seven in the evening was organised for those who were travelling. Sadly, Father Me Conville did not survive to witness the consecration. He died in 1858 and was buried inside the church. A tiled cross in the central aisle marks his grave.

This was a time when many other changes were taking place in Cookstown. In 1856 the terminus was built for the extension to Cookstown of the Belfast and Ballymena Railway. The Methodist Church, a short distance away from this church was completed in 1858. hi 1861 the Church of Ireland parish church of Derryloran was rebuilt, retaining its Nash tower. The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory of 1854 recorded that gas had lately been introduced in the town and also that a new factory was being built by Mr. Moore and Smith at the north end of the town, for weaving by steam power. The 1858 edition of the same directory reported that the factory was employing 150 operatives.

Modern descriptions of our church often speak of the soaring spire, which is 175 feet high. The spire however was not built for many years after the consecration. My father tells the story, passed on to him by his parents of a curate who was transferred to another parish. On his departure he is reputed to have gazed at the church and exclaimed, ” You are a moile! You are a long time wanting a horn!” Moile comes from the Irish word maol meaning bald. A moile is a native Irish breed of cattle that unlike the majority of other breeds do not grow horns. Today, we are accustomed to cattle without horns because they have been removed but at the time when this remark was made most cattle had horns. The church without the spire was the moile and the departing priest was expressing his dismay that the spire had not been built. I have been unable to discover exactly when the spire was built. The Irish Builder of August 1894 has a sketch of the church with its spire but there is no information included. I have been told that an Italian firm scaffolded the spire and an Irish firm built it. It is said to have cost £5,000.

JJ Mc Carthy was a prolific and talented architect and there many churches, convents and cathedrals scattered throughout Ireland, built to his design. This church was one of his earlier works when he was still very much influenced by the English architect A.W.N. Pugin. Pugin was a leader in the Gothic Revival movement in architecture and he is best remembered for his work on churches and the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. This church is built in the early English style and has a 5 bay nave. Alistair Rowan in his book ‘The Buildings of North West Ulster’ describes it as “wonderfully impressive in an obvious kind of way” and describes the interior as unusually lofty.

Behind the altar there is a large stained glass window, designed and manufactured by Hardman of Birmingham. The people of Cookstown erected this as a tribute to Father Me Conville. There are three rosettes in wheels above five narrow pointed panes. The lower panes display figures of Saint Patrick and other saints of the diocese around a representation of Mary crowned in glory. If you look carefully at the bottom of the middle pane you will see a small black clad figure. Father Me Conville’s relatives claimed that this figure bore his likeness.

Some people erected stain glass windows in memory of their relatives and many of the Stations of the Cross on the church walls are also dedicated to family members. At the main entrance there are two holy water fonts one of which was erected in memory of Canon Rice, Parish

Priest of Cookstown for 33 years, who died in 1915 and lies buried in the grounds behind the church. He is remembered for bringing the Sisters of Mercy to the nearby convent, which is now sadly vacant. The inscription on the other font reads “Pray for the soul of Reverend Patrick Brennan c.c. Who died 28th December 1908″.

Father Brennan was a very popular curate who was caught in a very severe snowstorm as he cycled back to Cookstown after attending a clerical conference in Dungannon. Suffering from cold and exhaustion he collapsed and died in the vicinity of Killymoon Street, much to the great sadness of his parishioners.

Over the years there have been changes in the church; gas lighting giving way to electricity, central heating and a new tiled floor added in the 1920s but the biggest changes were made in 1977-78 in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. The altar table was moved forward and the original ornate high altar was replaced by one of the side altars. The marble altar rails and carved pulpit with its spiral staircase were also removed. Seating was placed in the area where the side altars had been.

Since 1987 a new side porch has been added, the car park extended and surfaced and vehicle and pedestrian access separated. Major repairs and refurbishment are about to be undertaken in the very near future. As these take place, I am certain that our thoughts will often stray to the parishioners and friends of the parish who worked so hard to have our beautiful church completed and especially to those who in times of hardship contributed to the penny collection.

Acknowledgement is given to Ellen Doris for her research and efforts in producing this document.

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