Development is an ongoing process and parish buildings
have to be constantly maintained. Earlier this year
substantial remedial work was done on the Sacred Heart
Church at Derry Road and the car park resurfaced. The
other major project was the restoration work at St Mary’s
Cloughcor and this is now well under way.
This is one of the oldest churches in the Derry Diocese
and the latest renovation work has uncovered evidence
of earlier substantial modifications to the building.
A door and window on the North wall had been built up
and a further door on the east side had also been removed.
An arched window on the south gable had been built up
and the present porch added to the building.. In the
present work the structure of the building is being
left untouched and work is mainly concentrated on remedying
waterproofing defects and prolonging the life of the
church for another hundred years.
A major fund raising programme has been undertaken
to allow the renovation work to proceed and a grant
from the Heritage Lottery Fund has been very important
in the renovation process. Parishioners and their friends
have been very generous in their support of the parish
draws and other fund raising events and it is hoped
that such generosity will continue. A monthly Draw helps
to bring in much needed funds and this is continuing
until next May when the current draw is due to be completed.
At present an innovative fund raiser, Buy a Slate, is
under way to enable families and their friends to contribute
to the development programme. Contributions to the fund
are priced at £10 per slate and there are spaces
for ten contributions per card. Other fund raising programmes
will be developed throughout 2006 and all possible support
For details of events or about donations to the fund,
contact the parish office, either through the email
address or by telephoning Rita at 028 718 822 74. All
contributions will be acknowledged in accordance with
In addition to the work at the church at Cloghcour,
extensive work is also being done at the car park, steps
leading to the church and entrance, all with the aim
of making St Mary’s as accessible as possible.
Other work on the adjoining cemetery is planned when
funds become available.
A school was also erected at Cloughcor at the same time
as the church and it later became Cloughcor National
School, with James Mc Davitt (Devitt?) as the schoolmaster.
This same James McDavitt was parish treasurer in the
1840s when money was being raised to complete the work
at the chapel, with the building of a vestry room and
the erection of an altar being the main items of expenditure.
Another benefactor of the period seems to have been
Michael Kavanagh, lock keeper on the canal at Greenlaw
and also a mill owner and corn merchant in the period.
His biographer also mentions local families like Kelly,
McGettigan, Phillips, Donaghey and Mc Shane as being
involved in the building at Cloughcor and it is likely
that oral tradition among those families could shed
further light on this period when money was very scarce
and contributions had to counted in pennies not pounds
for many people.
Substantial renovation work was subsequently carried
out at the chapel in the years 1895-96 when newly appointed
PP of the separate parish of Leckpatrick, Fr Sam Connolly,
organised a major fund raising programme to help restore
the crumbling church and further work was done in the
1950s to help preserve the building. We are now embarked
on another stage in preserving this historic building,
built as the fulfilment of a dream by our ancestors.
Snippets from the past
St. Mary’s Cloughcor is one of the oldest surviving
churches in the Derry Diocese, built in 1823 by the
then parish priest of the combined parishes of Leckpatrick
and Donagheady, Fr William O’Kane. He had been
appointed in 1817 as successor to Fr William McCafferty
who had served in the parish from 1805 and was then
transferred to Donaghmore.
It seems likely that the preparatory work for the building
of the chapel at Cloughcor was undertaken by Fr Mc Cafferty
and this would have necessitated seeking the approval
of the Abercorn family for the land on which to build.
Local tradition tells of Mass being celebrated at an
open air mass site under an oak tree beside the existing
chapel and there is written reference to a mass house
being in use in the 1780s when the Earl of Abercorn
was petitioned for a grant of land on which to build
a permanent church.
The reply was that the time then was not opportune and
it was another forty years before the dream became reality.
A recently uncovered plaque in the south wall of the
church pays tribute to the organisational work of Fr
O’Kane and also to another local benefactor, Francis
O’Neill, a linen bleacher and merchant who lived
at Mount Pleasant, near Burndennet. It appears from
later testimony that O’Neill loaned a substantial
part of the money needed for the building and was a
driving force behind the development.
It is significant that he later became a major benefactor
in the development of the Convent of Mercy in Strabane
and was buried there; his will had provided for the
erection of a memorial to him in Cloughcor but this
does not appear to have been carried through.