The parish of Donaghmore has a rich Christian heritage and also an important industrial history. The first mention of Donaghmore comes in the 5th century with the visit of St. Patrick to the area, his conversion of the local clan to Christianity, his establishment of a church, and the leaving of a priest called Colum Cruither in charge. A monastery developed in the area of the old graveyard, and it lasted from about the 6th century until the year 1197, when Rory McDonleavy sacked and burned it. The days of monasteries were coming to an end and the parochial and diocesan system of church organization had already begun. The only relic of the monastery is the old Celtic cross in the village. It dates from about the 9th century and the panels on the east side show scenes from the New Testament and the panels on the west side show scenes from the Old Testament. The scenes on the cross were used by the monks to teach local people about their Christian faith.
After the end of the monastic age, the church in Donaghmore area was
looked after by the O’Loughrans, the Erenagh family until the time of
the Reformation, when a lot of the churches in Tyrone were unroofed
by Shane O’Neill to keep Queen Elizabeth 1st from converting the local
people to the Protestant faith.
The powerful O’Neill clan had come to Donaghmore district in the
12th century. They had come from Inishowen, in Donegal and were the
descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages. There were the leaders in Ulster.
But in 1601 they fought against Queen Elizabeth’s forces at the Battle of
Kinsale, because they did not want her troops coming to Ulster, but they
were defeated and Lord Mountjoy and Toby Caulfield led the Queen’s
troops to Ulster and took over Ulster. Not long afterwards many Irish
people lost their lands at the Plantation of Ulster in 1609. This included
the O’Donnelly’s of Ballydonnelly, now Castlecaulfield, whose 1,000
acres of land were given by King James 1st to soldier, Sir Toby Caulfield.
Sir Toby built his castle there, in the townland of Lisnamonaghan, beside
the River Torrent, and its ruins are there to this day.
The local Irish people were angry at loosing their lands and they came down from the mountains at night and raided Castlecaulfield, and harassed the new settlers. In 1641, they rebelled against the new settlers. The O’Donnellys came to Castlecaulfield and burned the castle. It has been
a ruin ever since. This war lasted many years and the Irish lost the war and they also lost a lot more of their lands.
More new settlers came into Ulster from England and Scotland and were given these lands. Everyone was expected by law to conform in religion to the Established Church but the Irish Catholics and Presbyterians, Methodists, Quakers etc., refused to do so and they had Penal Laws imposed on them. They were called Dissenters and they were not allowed to have their own churches and they could not own a horse worth more than £5. They had no schools and were not allowed to be doctors or lawyers.
There are six churches now in Donaghmore parish: three in Castlecaulfield- St. Michael’s Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church.
The first Church of Ireland church in the parish was built in 1622, in the old graveyard, Donaghmore. It was damaged in the 1641 Rebellion and lay derelict until the present St. Michael’s Church was built in Castlecaulfield in 1683. Castlecaulfield Presbyterians held their first services in an old stable at the ruined castle. The present church was built in Castlecaulfield in 1842 by the Rev. David Acheson.
Methodism in Castlecaulfield dates back to the mid 1700s, when John Wesley visited Castlecaulfield on three different occasions and preached to crowds of people on the castle green. The early Methodist church in the village was called the Primitive Methodist chapel. The present Methodist church was built in the 1880s.
Donaghmore village has two churches, one Church of Ireland, the other Roman Catholic. St. Patrick’s Upper Church was built in 1842 as a chapel of Ease, for the Church of Ireland, through the influence of local Donaghmore brewer, Alexander Mackenzie. Most people had to walk to church in those days and it was a long walk for Donaghmore people to Castlecaulfield, so Alex Mackenzie used his influence and a lot of his own money to have St. Patrick’s Upper Church built as a convenience for the people.
For many generations Donaghmore Catholics were forced to hold their services in the open air and at the mercy of the elements, until the introduction of an easing of the penal laws against Catholics in 1793. The first St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church for many generations was
built on the site of the present Church in Donaghmore, between 1801 and 1807. The site had been given by Lord Ranfurly. People were so desperately poor at the time that the Rector of St. Michael’s Church, Castlecaulfield, allowed the builders to use the stones from the ruined church in the old graveyard to build the church. It was just a plain building with no seats, a
clay floor, no heating, and lit by candles. It probably had a thatched roof.
This old church was replaced by the present church between 1845 and 1846, a much bigger and better structure.
The great famine had started in 1845 and people in Donaghmore parish suffered a lot from hunger, disease, and many were evicted from their homes. The price of food rose so high that poor people couldn’t afford to buy food or pay their rent. Many Donaghmore people died at this
time and many others were forced to emigrate.
The sixth church in Donaghmore Parish is Carland Presbyterian
Church, The present church dates from the 1850s, not long after
the great famine, but Carland has had a long and distinguished
Presbyterian history which began in the 1600’s with the arrival
from Scotland of the Rev. Thomas Kennedy. He established the
first Presbyterian Church, said to have been a log cabin, erected
near Carland Bridge. Presbyterians were forbidden the right to practice their religion under the penal laws. Rev. Thomas Kennedy is buried in the old graveyard, Donaghmore.
The seventh church in Donaghmore parish is St. John the Baptist’s Church Galbally. As in Donaghmore, Galbally Catholics held their services in the open air, for many generations, exposed to the elements. Things improved after Catholic emancipation and between 1841 and 1842, the present church at Galbally was built by Fr. Neil McGuckin.
In addition to a rich Christian heritage, the parish of Donaghmore had an important industrial history dating from the late 1700s until the mid 1950s.
Until the latter years of the 18th century Donaghmore was just a rural backwater where there were seldom any new happenings. This was due to restrictions on Irish exports of wool and other goods to England in order to protect English producers. These laws were eased in the latter part of
the century and local Donaghmore entrepreneur, Alexander Mackenzie of Mullygruen, decided in 1796 to build a brewery in Donaghmore and another in Dungannon. We still have the Brewery Bridge over the River Torrent in Donaghmore to this day. Mackenzie’s brewery was a very prosperous one and it produced both ale and whiskey in great quantities. The only transport at that time was horse and dray and Mackenzie’s products were taken to Belfast and elsewhere by this way. There was a corn mill which supplied the brewery just opposite it and it is still there to this day. Mackenzies brewery ceased operations in the 1860s. The coming of the railway to Donaghmore brought cheaper ale and whiskey from cities like Dublin and Belfast and Donaghmore couldn’t compete.
Another very important industry in Donaghmore was the soap and candle factory of David Brown & Son. David Brown, born at Mullaghmore in 1777, started his working life in the linen trade but after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1814, trade in linen really slumped and David Brown had to find a new career. In 1815, he opened a grocer’s shop and bakery in the main street, Donaghmore. In 1820, he began to experiment making candles and soap in a room at the back of his shop. When he was happy with the products he had made, he gave samples to the traveller from the brewery to promote on his journeys in Ulster. They met with a very good response and soon David Brown was producing soap and candles in Donaghmore. Sadly, David died in 1837, and his son James aged 13, had to leave school and come home and learn the business. When he was 18 he began to travel by horse and trap for the factory. In this way he got to know
his customers very well. James Brown was a very clever man and the business really prospered under his management. His twin sons, David and Robert joined their father in the firm and it went from strength to strength. They employed many local people who otherwise would have had to emigrate to find work. The soap and candle factory closed in 1956 due to competition from Port Sunlight and other factories.
David Brown’s daughter Amelia married the Rev. David Acheson of Castlecaulfield, and their son David Acheson, built a linen weaving factory at Castlecaulfield in 1874. Like the Donaghmore brewery and Brown’s soap and candle factor, it also prospered, and gave employment to many hard pressed people. It produced all kinds of linen products for export abroad and they also had the important Tyrone Laundry. The Castlecaulfield Weaving factory of David Acheson & Son eventually closed in the mid 1970s due to competition from the Far East.