(The first ten years)

Michael McShane

Reproduced, with the Society's permission, from the 1994/95 Journal of The Creggan Local History Society


The New Year started in much the same way as the Old Year finished, everybody working hard for the good of the Society. The A.C.E. worker was doing his bit in the Newry Reporter office, while John Fee was meeting and discussing ways with his Council officials in which the "Billiards Rooms" could be adopted as a museum. Mr. Jem Murphy had received permission from Rev. Canon Clarke to erect plaque over a number of graves in Creggan graveyard. These would include the burial places of Johnston of the Fews, the Eastwood Vault and the O'Callaghan Johnston Enclosure. By the end of January, members of the Society were meeting with Southern Education and Library Board personnel about publishing booklets on local history for local schools. This was the brainchild of the Society and was generating a lot of interest. At about the same time, the Society decided to publish a second journal. With the first one being such a success, the public were enquiring when the next journal would be published. The deadline was set for the end of March for the material to be in with the Editor for consideration. In the meantime, the Secretary had written to Cardinal Tomas O'Fiaich, inviting his Eminence to give a talk on Crossmaglen, Australia. In the Autumn of 1986, Cardinal () Fiaich had assisted his Holiness, Pope John Paul 11, who was on a tour of Australia, when he took time out to visit Crossmaglen, near Coffs Harbour, in New South Wales. "Crossmaglen's Twin" was the title of an article by Kevin McMahon in the first issue of "Creggan" and the Cardinal had wanted to see for himself if it bore any resemblance to Crossmaglen, in South Armagh.

On the first Thursday in February 1987, Cardinal 0 Fiaich arrived in Crossmaglen (South Armagh), armed with a car-load of photographs taken in Crossmaglen, New South Wales, Australia. A large crowd had gathered in Crossmaglen Community Centre to see and hear what the Cardinal had to say about Crossmaglen "down under". He did not disappoint them. The vast collection of photographs was explained in detail, so everybody went away with a good knowledge of history of Crossmaglen in Australia. Fiona Kearny, from Newry, lectured on fairs in Crossmaglen and Forkhill around the turn of the century and backed up her lecture with some magnificent slides, at the March monthly meeting. The annual outing for the Society was to Cultra Folk Park during April and, by May Mr. Peter O'Hanlon had resigned his position as A.C.E. worker for a more permanent job.

On 29th May 1987, the death took place of Mr. John Hannon. He was held in great esteem by the members of the Society and attended meetings regularly. "Master Hannon", as he was affectionately known, came from Roscommon to Crossmaglen in 1913 and was Headmaster of Glassdrummond School until 1953. He was 97 years of age.

The evening of 3rd June 1987 was another historic occasion for the Society. Archbishop Simms, the Church of Ireland Archbishop, visited Crossmaglen and lectured to the society on the Book of Armagh. He was accompanied by Rev. Canon Clarke, the Church of Ireland Rector of Creggan, and his wife and brought along the Book of Armagh so that everybody could view it (see end of article for information on the Book of Armagh). The Chairperson, Mary Cumiskey, made a presentation of Tyrone crystal to the Archbishop to mark the occasion of his visit to Crossmaglen.

During the summer months, Jem Murphy and his sons, Brian and Peter, were reported to be doing a lot of repair work to the surrounding wall of Creggan graveyard, the cost of materials alone running into thousands of pounds. Labour was on a voluntary basis. It was suggested that funds be raised to pay for the work and members of Creggan Church indicated their willingness to subscribe to the fund. The Creggan Local History Society would also give a donation.

By September, it was reported that the printers were having some minor difficulties with the journal and a date for the launch was deferred to the next meeting. At the October meeting, the Chairperson welcomed Bernadette Miroudot, the newly-appointed A.C.E. worker to the Society, and outlined some of the work she would be doing. The Chairperson informed the meeting that Mr. John Murphy would supply the music at a dance to raise funds for the repair of the wall of Creggan graveyard. The dance would take place in the Silverbridge G.A.A. club-rooms whenever a suitable date could be arranged. It was suggested that the launch of the journal should be aimed for the same night. It was revealed at the November meeting that Friday, 13th November was the date for the dance and to prove that things can go wrong on Friday 13th the launch of the journal had to be brought forward to 3.00 p.m. in the afternoon. This was due to the unavailability of some of the invited guests. Those who were in attendance were Mr. Raymond Turley (Recreational Officer), Miss Catherine Donnelly (Community Services Officer) and all the local councillors from the Newry and Moume District Council. Donnacha O'Duiling with Mrs. Mary Cumiskey Chairperson of the Creggan Local History Society at the launch of the second Creggan Journal in Silverbridge G.F. C. Club rooms on Friday 13th November, 1987.
(Photo-Creggan Local History Society Archives)

The launch of the Society's second journal was very successful and the usual speeches concluded with a well-presented buffet. Donnacha O'Duiling, the R.T.E. personality, put in an appearance at the dance and was presented with a copy of the new journal. On Saturday 14th November, both Mary Cumiskey and Jem Murphy met Donnacha O'Duiling at Creggan graveyard. They told him of the history connected with the graveyard and the surrounding district. This went out on R.T.E. Radio the following day, 15th November. A few weeks later, the B.B.C. sent their "Spotlight" crew to speak to members of the Society about the building of the museum in Crossmaglen. This programme was shown on Spotlight on Thursday, 3rd December, with John Fee as the representative of the Creggan Local History Society. By now, the Society was getting the recognition it deserved and, more importantly, it was seen to be promoting a lot of good will through the work it was involved in.

About this time, both Kevin McMahon and Jem Murphy had started work on another project - A Guide To Creggan Church and Graveyard, with a foreword by Rev. Canon David Clarke, Rector of Creggan. Work on this project would take several months and no date could be given for its completion.

By the end of December, the Society was again mourning the loss of one of its most esteemed members. On 29th Decemberl987, Mr. Edward Richardson passed to his eternal reward. A sad loss to the Society, Eddie was one of the last remaining great characters and story-tellers. He was not only a founder-member but was also the first President of the Creggan Local History Society.