in the 17th Century
The parish of Leckpatrick is situated in the
north western part of Tyrone and had for long been closely
associated with the neighbouring parish of Donagheady.
There appears to have been a well established parochial
structure in the area in pre Plantation times and monastic/church
centres at Grange and Donagheady provided the means
for religious observance and for Christian burials.
The Bodley map of 1609 shows church owned land at the
present day Leckpatrick glebe land and Bishop Montgomery’s
survey of the same period lists Cormac O’Cleary
and Aeneas McEneaney as officiating clergy in Leckpatrick
parish while earlier records suggest that John McCallion,
Patrick O’Duffy, Patrick O’Brien and Phelim
O’Carolan were priests in the parish in the years
In Donagheady parish the names of O’Divin, Mc
Colgan, Carolan and O’Hegarty are mentioned as
pre-Plantation clergy. Oral tradition tells of an abbey
foundation in the Leckpatrick area, located near Artigarvan,
and the district was seen as a refuge area for Catholics
in the Plantation period, due largely to the patronage
of the local landowner, Sir George Hamilton, himself
a practicing Catholic. Names like James Farrell, Andrew
Hadaway and Robert Angeo were reported to government
in the 1620s as Scottish settlers who gave active support
to native Catholics in the area around Strabane
Active Persecution of Catholic Clergy
Despite the period of active persecution from mid 17th
century onwards Leckpatrick parish retained a Catholic
clerical presence and government reports from 1696 and
1704 show a Tagh O’Luinsechan (possibly Lynch)
as the parish priest. In 1681 there was a government
clamp down on Catholic clergy and priests like James
Devine of Donagheady, James O’Kelly of Ardstraw
and James McConnolly of Badoney were being hunted by
A letter was sent from Strabane gaol in 1695 by a number
of priests seeking release from prison, with the names
of John McNally, Badoney, James O’Hegarty of Fahan,
Tagh O’Luinsechan of Leckpatrick and James McConnolly
signing the appeal. A government list of 1704 suggests
that Fr O’Luinseachan was living in Fyfin and
parish priest of Leckpatrick while a Bryan O’Hegarty
was registered for Donagheady and living at Aughafad.
A further report in 1766 suggests that an old priest,
possibly Fr Hegarty, was in charge of the combined parishes
of Leckpatrick and Donagheady, with a younger priest,
probably a curate, located in the Donagheady part.
In this period of the Penal Laws there was no distinct
church building but again tradition talks of Mass and
church services at Mass Rocks in Glenmornan and at Cloughcor.
Local tradition also talks of a Fr Nugent being killed
during the penal period, but with some differences over
the actual location of the death: certainly the century
from 1640 to 1750 was a dangerous time for Catholic
clergy and those found celebrating Mass were liable
to face imprisonment if not death.
Building Cloughcor Chapel
Land had to be acquired and this was eventually provided
by Lord Aberdeen, guardian for the young Earl of Abercorn.
Equally important, however, was the issue of finance
and it must have been a daunting task for a relatively
impoverished population to raise the necessary money
to build the chapel. In an age when there were very
few people with surplus income after basic living costs
there must have been major sacrifices made by the local
population in the quest to build the church.
Tenant farmers, weavers, labourers and cottiers made
up the bulk of the population and much depended on the
very few prosperous merchants of the parish. One such
person was linen merchant, Francis O’Neill, and
in later years tribute was paid to his generosity in
supporting the new church and ensuring its erection
A recently unearthed biographical account suggest that
Michael Kavanagh, lock-keeper at Greenlaw and a leading
corn merchant in the area until the 1860s, was also
a major supporter of the developments at Cloughcor and
other names mentioned in this report were Mc Shane,
Phillips and McGettigan.
Renovation work in 1895/6
There are no extant records of further work at Cloughcor
chapel in the post Famine period and the next major
landmark appears in the period 1895/96 when major renovation
work was carried out under the promptings of the recently
appointed parish priest, Fr Sam Connolly.
The union with Donagheady parish had been ended in 1891
on the death of long time pastor, Rev. Bernard Mc Kenna,
at his residence at Cloughcor, and his forty four year
service as parish priest is commemorated in the plaque
inside the current St Mary’s church. His successor
was Monsignor Bernard Mc Laughlin but he remained only
until 1893 when he was replaced by Fr Samuel Connolly
who remained in charge of Leckpatrick until his death
A newspaper report for October 1895 describes the commencement
of fund raising for the renovations to Cloughcor church
and suggested that the building was in a very dilapidated
state and urgently in need of major repairs.
Fr Connolly on this occasion paid tribute to the support
and generosity of the people of Strabane in helping
to raise the funds and also extended his thanks to his
Protestant and Presbyterian friends for their generous
assistance. The church was rededicated and opened in
1896 and the repair work must have proved effective
since the church has remained until the present with
little further major structural renovations.
Relaxation of the Penal Laws
The laws were relaxed from the 1750s onwards
and the mass rocks gave way to mass houses: the Abercorn
letters of 1785 record a petition from Cloughcor Catholics
to the Earl of Abercorn seeking help in the provision
of accommodation and access for a center for worship.
Abercorn promised support when feasible but other factors
clearly intervened since nothing was done until the
It seems likely that in this period the Catholics of
Clochcor attended service in some sort of Mass House
or converted barn and this would have been a major advance
from the open air church at “the Old Altar Green”,
adjacent to the present Clochcor church, sheltered by
a holly bush under an ancient oak tree, according to
Church Building begins
From the early 18th century the parishes of Leckpatrick
and Donagheady had been administered jointly and by
the early years of the 19th century it was felt that
every effort should be made to ensure that proper churches
were erected in the most populated areas of the district.
Glenmornan chapel had been built in 1793 but it was
always more difficult to get approval to build in areas
nearer to towns and prosperous farming areas.
It is likely that Fr Rogan had been responsible for
the building of the Glenmornan chapel but little else
is known of his work and he died in 1804. Fr William
Mc Cafferty being appointed as successor and he later
moved to Donaghmore.
He was followed by Father William O’Kane in 1817
and it is Fr O’Kane who appears to have been the
driving force in the erection of Clochcor chapel.
This extract from a William Petty Map of Tyrone was
produced in 1685 and provides detail on many of the
townland names that were in existence at that time.
Some of the spelling of placenames have changed over
the centuries as have some of the actual names. Thus
an area like Hollyhill was then known as Balliborne
while Konkill appears to be modern day Woodend. Ballyskeagh
was then shortened to B.skith while Cavanraak on the
map would seem to represent present day Owenreagh. Clearly
not all townlands are recorded but some of the names
are still recognisable
Additions in the 1840s
Evidence suggests, however, that the church was
only partially completed by this stage and we can assume
that lack of finance prevented any adornment of the
An account book of the next parish priest, Father William
Mc Laughlin, appointed in 1836 on the death of Father
O’Kane, itemises the accounts in 1843/44 for the
erection of an altar in Clochcor church and the building
of a vestry room there. A stone cross, at a cost of
£1-5-0, was also provided in this period and it
would be likely that seating and other interior arrangements
would have come even later.
It is clear that raising the necessary finances for
church building was a laborious process and very likely
a staged and gradualist approach to completion of the
church was adopted.
Heating Installed 1950's
Considerable internal work was carried out in the 1950s
when heating was installed and the ceilings repaired
while further work was done in the late 1960s and early
1970s in changing the layout of the altar and refurnishing
the interior with carpeting and new seating.
The church has remained in regular usage and the weekly
Sunday mass is supplemented by the celebration of the
sacraments of baptism, confirmation, first communion
and marriage, as well as frequent funeral services.
The congregation has declined somewhat in the past twenty
years, due to some extent to the availability of Mass
at other times in other churches in the parish, but
the local community and the parishioners in general
are determined that the St Mary’s church at Cloughcor
should be retained as a vibrant center of religious
worship and a living link to the sacrifices and commitments
of previous generations.