St Patrick founded his first stone Church in Ireland on the site now occupied by St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, known as Sally Hill, in the year 445. But the hill where the twin-spired Catholic Cathedral now stands is not without Patrician associations. The Book of Armagh, relates a beautiful tradition which is also depicted in the lower portion of the Cathedral’s great east window (See floor plan of cathedral n. 17).
When St Patrick took possession of Sally Hill a deer with her fawn allegedly leaped from the bushes. His companions wanted to catch and kill the fawn but the Saint would not allow them. He himself took the animal on his shoulders and carried it, followed by its mother, to Tealach na Licci (Sandy Hill), the site of the present Catholic Cathedral. The incident has been fondly construed as a prophetic reference by Patrick to the building of another Cathedral in his honour 1400 years later.
Armagh Parish archives contain rather scant records regarding the building of this Church of St Malachy. Aside from a few newspaper accounts of the solemn opening of the church there are only a few papers together with a little notebook (detailing building costs, fund-raising and the various contractors engaged in the work) which belonged to Monsignor Eugene O’Callaghan, Administrator of the Parish when the church was built. When appointed Administrator in 1933 he was only too well aware that the days of the Old Chapel of St Malachy in Chapel Lane (erected in 1752) were numbered. On one occasion during Sunday Mass the leg of a parishioner in the gallery broke through the floor of her pew and caused a cascade of plaster and dust to fall on the heads of the congregation beneath. Despite pleas from the celebrant, Fr Joseph Pentony, CC, there was an irreverent and undecorous scramble for the door. Such incidents made it obvious to all that it was time for a change and so the decision was made to build a new more spacious church.
Since Old Testament times the People of God have marked Jubilees as a sacred duty. Jubilee is a time of remembering in gratitude the favours of the Lord and recalling our history in the faith, so that more effectively in the present and into the future we might sing the praises of God. In our own time, it is also a time of remembering those gone before us, marked with the sign of faith, who have bequeathed so much to us. By their story and example we are encouraged and inspired.
Though Ireland and the world have changed much in the past fifty years, St Colmcille’s Church continues to be a clarion call for us all to come to the Lord. He is unchanged, and unchanging. May St Colmcille’s continue to be a sure anchor for the people of the Grange.
The Golden Jubilee of this church has providentially afforded this generation the privilege of being able lovingly to restore what earlier generations have bequeathed to us, so that we might hand on something precious, a symbol of our values and ultimate concerns, to those who come after us. What began as a simple interior painting project expanded to include some necessary spouting, guttering, and roofing work, and also external church cleaning.
The Tullysaran District of Armagh Parish extends from Lisadian and Tullygarron in the East to Ballymacully and Corr-Aughatarra in the West; from Aughrafin in the South to Tullymore Otra in the North. This territory has been part of the Parish of Armagh for a few hundred years, although it was a separate parish in the Middle Ages known by a variety of names such as Clanawle, Eglish, or Glenaul. This district consists of 52 townlands. These were sub-divisions of two ancient precincts, Clenaul and Tuaghy, which had been largely Primatial lands. Certain clans had immemorial rights as tenants. In the rentals of 400 years ago some septs are spoken of as having lived on their lands from the very earliest times. Wars came, confiscation and famine, but it is of interest that the same families can still be found in Toaghy and Glenaul today.