Local Churches in Ballycastle in Co. Mayo

The Old Church in Ballycastle

This Church was built in 1828 and was situated at the front of the site of the present Church. It had a low roof of brown Bangor slates, grey plastered walls and windows of diamond coloured panes, galleries and a small belfry. The site of this Church was very limited, just a few feet longer than the actual building which was cruciform, it's northern boundary forming part of the street boundary. The main entrance was in the side wall near the southern gable and the altar faced south. There were three galleries. The main one, which was approached by a stairs from the front door, had a small organ. On Sundays, the boys in the senior classes in Ballycastle Boy's School had a Catechism class there which was usually taken by the Principal, William Kneafsey, or by his son, Willie, who also played the organ for Benediction.

The three galleries were fully seated but the body of the church was only partly seated. The majority of the congregation stood and knelt on the floor. The seats on the floor and on the galleries were rented to those who could afford them. Sunday masses were at 8.30 and 11.00a.m. At the 11.00a.m. mass, the long Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity were read, followed by prayers before mass. Mass was in Latin and was usually followed by Benediction, with hymns in Latin also.

By 1931 the roof had sagged, forcing the ceiling down with it. Further repairs were considered impracticable so the present building was begun.

The Present Day Church

The foundation stone for the new church was laid by Bishop James Naughton on 1st August 1931. The front part of this church covers part of the site of the old church. It was built with local stone from a quarry in Doonfeeney belonging to John (Tony More) Heverin. Mass concrete was mixed on the site and placed in position with wheelbarrows or buckets. The gravel for the mix was quarried in Sweeney's pit in Ballyglass, which, at the time belonged to Peter Sweeney. The sand for plastering was also from this quarry.

The nave of the church measures 110' by 30' and the transepts 27' by 30'. It has a high altar of Carara marble and pitch pine woodwork throughout. The architect was William H. Beirne & Sons and the contractors were Messrs. Kilcawley, Maloney and Taylor.

The church was dedicated to St. Brigid by Dr. Naughton on 23rd July 1933. Electric lighting was installed in 1950 and a new heating system in 1961. In 1970, a new boiler was put in and in 1974, a new pipe organ was purchased for the Church.

In 2000/01, the pipe organ was refurbished and 32 stained glass windows (donated by parishioners in memory of departed loved one) were installed and were blessed by Bishop Thomas Finnegan on 15th June 2001.

St. John's Church

St. John's Church was built in 1827 and is the oldest building in the town. The Church grounds contain 18 headstones, the oldest of which is dated 1865 and bears the name of Robert Crawford.

St. John's Hall, beside the Church, was built as a soup kitchen in Famine times.

The Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church, on the Glen Road was built in 1850.

It's first Minister was the Rev. Michael Brannigan. He was appointed to Ballinglen in 1848 and organised fundraising for the building of a Church. This was completed in 1850 and the Church was officially opened by the Rev. Dr. Cooke of Belfast. The site for the Church was first leased from the Knox family in Ballina but in 1854, it was purchased by the Presbytery of Connaught, through the Encumbered Estates Court, for '50. The original building was described as a 'meeting place' with no steeple or ornamental design.

In November 1864, the Church was damaged by fire. Rev. Brannigan had the building insured so re-building began almost immediately. The new building had a schoolroom. Living accommodation for the teacher and a Steeple were erected in 1876. A new manse was built 100 yards from the Church, on the main Ballycastle/Crossmolina road that same year.

Rev. Brannigan served the area for 24 years. He died in 1874, aged 58yrs, and his tombstone is in Ballinglen Churchyard.

Only a total of 24 marriages took place in Ballinglen. The last marriage took place there in 1908 and the last Baptism in July 1930.

The Church closed in 1959 and the Primary School attached to the Church was closed in the 1920's. The last teacher to work and teach in the school was Miss Shannon.

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