Creggan Parish

Creggan church, two miles from Cross on the Newry Road, has become a site of significance. Several famed Ulster poets, including Art Mac Cumhaigh, are buried there. Other local eighteenth century Irish poets from the great Airgíalla school of poets and songwriters were Peadar Ó Doirnín, Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta and Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna. The first church was built by the O’Neills, who came to the area from Dungannon, in Tyrone, in the 15th century. The family built a burial vault under the altar. The church which stands now was built around 1731, perpendicular to the original one, but the now-forgotten vault lay undisturbed until the 1970s when gardeners maintaining the graveyard accidentally broke through the roof. The earliest Gregory family members are buried in this cemetery.

From Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland – 1837

Creggan, a parish, partly in the barony of Upper Dundalk, County of Louth, and province of Leinster, but chiefly in the barony of Upper Fews, County of Armagh, and province of Ulster, 8 miles (WNW) from Dundalk, on the road to Newtownhamilton; containing 14,261 inhabitants of which number, 1,674 are in that part of the parish which is in the County of Louth. The parish comprises, according to the Ordnance Survey, 24,815-1/4 statute acres, of which 21,832-1/2 including 419-1/2 of water are in Armagh, and 2,991-3/4 in Louth. Of these, 21,640 acres are applotted under the Tithe Act, and valued at £19,708 per ann., and 1,088 are mountain, bog and lakes. The surface is irregularly broken and the general aspect bold: the soil is generally good, and the system of cultivation improving. Linen cloth and yarn are manufactured to a small extent by the farmers, whose principal dependence has been in the breeding of cattle, but now most of the grazing land has been converted into arable, and even much of the mountainous district has been brought into cultivation. The river Creggan, which divides this parish into two nearly equal parts, turns several mills and contains fine trout. Near the village are several hundred acres of bog or moorland used for fuel; and there is a coarse kind of granite and also a coarse slate, which is very hard and durable; the quarries however, are not much worked, except by the neighbouring farmers, who use the stone for building. The village is pleasantly situated, and the surrounding scenery is picturesque. A market is held on Fridays at Crossmaglen, for provisions and fairs on the first Friday in every month for farming stock. Cullyhanna, also a village in this parish, is an improving place. Fairs are held in it on the second Tuesday in January, April, July and October; and there are two at Balls Mills. There is a penny post to Dundalk, and petty sessions for the Crossmaglen district are held in the school-room at Creggan, on alternative Saturdays, or weekly if requisite. The principal seats in the parish are Urker Lodge, the property of T.P. Ball Esq. to whom the parish principally belongs; Crossmaglen, of Capt. Ball; and Clohog Lodge, of R.G. Wilson Esq.

Creggan Cemetery
Creggan Church, Crossmaglen Armagh
Photo by Terrence Gregory

The living is a rectory and vicerage, in the diocese of Armagh, and forms the corps of the treasureship in the Cathedral of St. Patrick, Armagh, in the patronage of the Lord Primate. The tithes amount to £1,050: the glebe-house, which is near the church, is romantically situated on the river Creggan, which flows through a deep glen abounding with picturesque scenery, and ornamented with evergreens, rustic seats and walks cut out of the solid rock: the surrounding grounds have been greatly improved by the Rev. Dr. Atkinson, the rector. The glebe, comprising 300 Irish acres, consists of the whole townland of Cregganban, except for 40 acres appropriated as a glebe for Newtown Hamilton when that parish was severed from Creggan. The church is a spacious and handsome edifice in the centre of the parish, built in 1758, and to whick a lofty square tower was added in 1799. In the R.C. divisions the parish is the head of two unions or districts, called Upper and Lower Creggan, the former contains four chapels, situated at Crossmaglen, Glassdrummond, Mowbane and Shela, of which that at Crossmaglen was built in 1834, on a site given by T.P. Ball Esq., at an expense of £750: and the one at Glassdrummond is a large and handsome building. The part called Lower Creggan is united with the parish of Newtownhamilton, and contains a chapel at Cullyhanna and one in Newtown-Hamilton, both in that parish. At freeduff is a Meeting House for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster of the second class; and there is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists at Balls-Mills. The parochial schools, in which there are about 50 boys and 40 girls, are supported by the rector, who gives the house, which was built in 1822, and a garden and two acres of land rent free for the master, besides books for the children. There is a female working school in the churchyard, and an infants school supervised by Mrs Atkinson; also schools at Tullynavale and Anavachavarkey, built by the rector, aided by some subscriptions; and chiefly supported by him; in the former, which is a large and handsome edifice, divine service is performed by the rector, or his curate, on Sunday Evenings. At Darsy is a national school; and there ate thirteen private schools in the parish, in which about 460 children are educated. A dispensary was established at Crossmaglen in 1830. In the Northern part of the parish are vestiges of an ancient intrenchment, which extended more than a mile in length and about one third of a mile in breadth; it is now intersected by roads.

Creggan Parish was considered as one up until 1795 when it was divided into two parishes known as Upper Creggan and Lower Creggan. There were four Roman Catholic chapels in Upper Creggan. They were Moybane, Shelagh, Glassdrummond and Corliss. Cullyhana and Newtownhamilton encompassed Lower Creggan.