The Parish of Derriaghy at one time included most of the City of Belfast and indeed it still remains, in area and in population, one of the largest parishes in the Diocese of Down & Connor. The Parish is continuing to grow thanks to much recent building in the Derriaghy area.

Derriaghy Parish lies between Colin Mountain, Black Mountain and the River Lagan in an area which seems in medieval times to have had a number of Churches; the place names lead us to this conclusion. Lambeg comes from the Welsh Gaelic ‘Lann Beag’ – a little Church – and the ‘Cill’ in the names of Kilmakee, Killeaton indicates that Churches of some kind existed in those areas.

There are some references to the Church at ‘Dirar Achaid’ during Medieval times but very little is known of events during the 16th and 17th centuries the period of the reformation. It was in the early 18th century that the small Church of St Patrick was built to serve the needs of the few Catholics in the area.

The first Parish Priest of whom we have a record is Father Phelomy O’Hamill who was ordained in 1667 by St Oliver Plunkett. He was placed in Belfast Jail in 1707 by George McCartney, Sovereign of Belfast. Quite a number of his Protestant neighbours offered to stand bail for him to secure his release but the authorities in Dublin refused to grant their request with the words “Let him continue for the present where he is.” He is buried in the Parish in the graveyard of the Church of Ireland Church in Lambeg.

A very precious relic of those times is the little Church of St Patrick on Barnfield Road which was built in the early 1700s. It was destroyed in a sectarian attack in 1745 and again in 1798. As recently as 1985 an attempt was made to set it alight.

Father Hugh O’Donnell who was Parish Priest of Derriaghy and Belfast was responsible for opening St Mary’s Church in Chapel Lane in 1784 and from that time onwards the Church in Belfast and Derriaghy continued to grow. Churches were built to cope with the increase of population all during the 19th century.

At the turn of the century, the parish of Derriaghy extended from Milltown Cemetery to Lisburn and from the mountains to the River Lagan. From the Parish of Derriaghy, St Anne’s Oratory was opened in 1948 and the parishes of St Anne’s, St Teresa’s, St Agnes’, Hannahstown, St Michael the Archangel, Holy Trinity, St Oliver Plunkett and more recently St Luke’s Twinbrook and the Parish of the Nativity, Poleglass, Our Lady Queen of Peace, Kilwee and Christ the Redeemer Parish, Lagmore, have emerged.

Canon Patrick Boyle was appointed Parish Priest of Derriaghy and remained so until his death in 1955. In 1957 the original Church of St Colman at Lambeg was and dedicated by Bishop Mageean. It had to be almost completely rebuilt after a bomb attack in 1987 and is now used as the Parish Centre. St Anne’s Church was opened in 1982 and on September 8, 1991, St Colman’s new Church was opened. With the completion of this Church, the parish plant at St Colman’s consists of a Church, a Parish Centre, a parochial house and St Colman’s Primary School. St Colman’s school was opened in 1968 to accommodate the children of the parish (although an earlier parish school had existed, set up by The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary in 1949, it closed after St Anne’s Primary School opened in 1956). The new Church of St Colman which was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Patrick J. Walsh.

It is the people of God in the Parish of Derriaghy who have raised this holy place to the glory of God it is testimony in stone to their faith and to the fidelity of those who in past generations kept that faith alive. It is our earnest hope that this beautiful Church will be a centre of true devotion where the name of God will be glorified in the years to come.

Priests Who Served in the Parish of Derriaghy

Our present records go back only to Father Phelomy O’Hamill who died in prison in Belfast about 1710 and is buried with his relatives in the Church of Ireland Cemetery in Hilden.

Father Hugh O’Donnell was the Parish Priest responsible for the building of St Mary’s Church in Chapel Lane, the Mother Church of the City of Belfast. In this project he had the assistance not only of members of his own flock but also of members of the Protestant community in the city. The Irish Volunteers paraded at the opening ceremony on 30th May 1784.

Canon Patrick Boyle held the office of Parish Priest of Derriaghy longer than any of his predecessors or successors (1907 – 1956).

Father James Kelly, Father Michael Kelly and Father John McCarroll were in charge of the Parish during its period of rapid growth and they had the assistance of Canon Brendan McGee, Father Malachy Murphy, Father Joseph Kavanagh (Diocese of Ferns) Father Donal McKeown (now Bishop of Derry) and Father John Murray.

Monsignor Bartley was appointed to the Parish on the Feast of the Epiphany 1985 and shortly afterwards Father Brian Brady and Father Hubert Rooney were appointed as curates. The present curates are Father Dermot McCaughan, Father Colum Curran and Father Peter Carlin.

Parish Priests of Derriaghy

Rev Phelomy O’Hamill 1704 – 1709
Rev Magee 1709 – 1733
Rev John O’Mullan 1733 – 1772
Rev Hugh O’Donnell 1772 – 1812
Rev Denis Magreevey 1812 – 1824
Rev Charles Hendron 1824 – 1827
Rev Hugh McCartan 1827 – 1830
Rev Peter McGlew 1830 – 1832
Rev Peter McCann 1832 – 1838
Rev Edward Mullan 1838 – 1844
Rev William MacMullan 1845 – 1848
Rev Michael McCartan 1848 – 1855
Rev James O’Hara 1855 – 1869
Rev George Conway 1869 – 1889
Rev Bernard McCartan 1889 – 1901
Rev Richard Storey 1901 – 1907
Rev Patrick Boyle 1907 – 1955
Rev John McCarroll (Adm.) 1955 – 1960
Rev Michael Kelly 1960 – 1966
Rev James Kelly 1966 – 1984
Rev Thomas Bartley 1985-


St Colman of Dromore

St Colman was the first Bishop of the diocese of Dromore. He was born in the second part of the fifth century about the time of St Patrick’s death.

At an early age he was sent to study at Nendrum in County Down. Afterwards he spent some time at Emly but later returned to Nendrum. St Colman was friendly with St Mac Nissi, the patron of the Diocese of Connor, and it was on his advice that he founded a monastic school at Dromore. No trace remains of the monastery at Dromore but the remains of the monastery at Nendrum are still extant.

St Colman’s name was added to that of St Patrick as joint titular of the Cathedral Church of Dromore in Newry by permission of Pope Benedict XV in 1919.

St Colman’s Church – Architect’s Description

The Pastoral Directory on Church Building which in various Editions followed the Council of Vatican Il indicates clearly the aims to be followed by the Church Architect.

“The corporate dimension of the renewed liturgy, should be expressed by a concept of unity within the building particularly a unity between the assembly of the people and the Altar of Celebration”.

Perhaps a more poetic description has been given by the Polish writer and architect Joseph Rykwert:

So the Church must be a temple, because it is a place where in the Catholic Tradition the Christians witness and perform a sacrifice, the sacrifice of Calvary. Secondly, it must be a dining hall centred on a table because the liturgy is a meal shared by the Christian Community. Again as the Christian Community considers itself the Mystical Body of Christ so the Church building in which it is gathered must give countenance to this belief; must in some way represent the complete human being.

The Church Design

The architects in the design for the Church of St Colman have attempted to provide a building which meets the criteria set down by the Pastoral Directory and in this regard consider the plan of the Church to be the most important part of the whole design. This approach seeks to achieve a total integration of priest and people in the liturgy and envisages a totality of worship space.

Post Vatican II Church Planning generally attempted to involve active participation of the people but in the main the sanctuary spaces were still facing the people, in a variety of plan shapes (Fan etc.,) forming the enclosure. At St Colman’s the nave, sanctuary and aisles are considered to be contained in a single envelope (the Drum) with the sanctuary area placed in the central spine where all liturgical activity takes place. In addition, the Baptistery and Tabernacle where the eucharist is reserved, are also part of the totality of space although defined at a different level from the sanctuary floor and distinguished by different detail.

The whole area is, therefore, a worship space; a “dining hall” where the sacrifice of Calvary can take place and is naturally lit from a large central glazed domelight giving a dominant light source to the central area. As the Pastoral Directory States “the importance of light is a christian symbol cannot be over-estimated” and so this light source principle is repeated for evening use by artificial lighting around the domelight.

The brief called for a main seating area of 400 with an additional multi-purpose space seating 30-40 people for use during mid week masses when the congregations are generally smaller. All ancillary rooms, sacristies etc., are planned outside the main worship space to avoid a preponderance of doors. A final unifying element is the placing of 4 stained glass panels by Belfast Artist Neil Shawcross representing non figurative interpretations of the liturgy suggested by Monsignor Bartley. The panels represent A Son is Born, Christ has Died, Christ is Risen, Christ Will Come Again. They also form emergency exists and are strategically placed at the 4 “corners” of the main worship space where the drum of the Church meets the straight walls of the ancillary accommodation in order to express internally and externally the actual shape of the main space.

The Church pews are in a light coloured ash with all doors in a matching wood. A buff coloured carpet again unites the Church with only a subtle difference of colour in the sanctuary area. The heating of the Church is by means of a low pressure boiler installation serving vertical radiators recessed into the ribbed concrete block work. Artificial lighting consists of a combination of recessed downlighters and spotlights and a series of uplights accentuate the ceiling. The building is also floodlit externally.

The siting of the New Church recognises that the existing Church Hall will revert to that use and consequently is sited to form a third element in a composition which consists of Hall, School and New Church.

Working in close co-operation with the then Parish Priest Monsignor Thomas Bartley and the Dublin artist Ray Carroll who designed the sanctuary fittings the architects arranged the various liturgical elements, of Altar, Ambo and Presidential Chair, within the sanctuary giving equal prominence to the Altar of Sacrifice where the Liturgy of the Eucharist takes place and to the Liturgy of the Word which occurs at the Ambo or Lectern.

The priest presides from time to time over the whole assembly while seated at the Presidential Chair. The congregation is seated in two areas facing across the sanctuary and the seating is ramped in order to give a greater contact with the sanctuary, with no seat being further away than 7 metres.

The unity of the internal worship space has been considered in some detail by the architects. The central space is column free with the structure located around the perimeter forming an ambulatory or rear aisle giving easy access to the seating. The circular walls also unit the internal space and by way of further emphasis are constructed in white concrete blocks echoing the external construction of the building.

The complete ceiling is in textured plaster unpainted and matching the colour of the concrete walls, the intention being to have no colour distraction which might disturb the close contact between priest and people.

Car parking has been carefully sited and landscaped to avoid any conflict with the Church and sufficient space has been left around the Church for the proposed landscaping to grow and mature. A paved forecourt links all three buildings with a symbolic “Oak Tree” acting as a fulcrum. The Parish name of Derriaghy means the “Oak Wood Field” in Irish.

Design work for the New Church began in early 1989 with building work starting on site in May 1990. The contractor’s programme was extended due to bad weather and a delay in carpet delivery and the building was completed in August 1991. The cost of the building was just over £600,000 including most fixtures and fittings.