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Guide to Creggan Church and Graveyard

Adapted, with the Society's permission, from the 1988 Guide

During the middle of the 15th Century, the O'Neills of Tyrone invaded South-Armagh and conquered the large tract of territory, known as the Barony of the Fews.

In the middle of this wooded wilderness, lay the townland of Creggan and, around 1490, they built a church there, from which the Parish of Creggan took its name.

This church was the pre-Reformation parish church of the Catholic Parish of Creggan for nearly one hundred years but, at the time of the Reformation, it was taken over by the Established Church.

It is mentioned in some 17th. Century documents and appears on several 17th. Century maps but the last over-ground traces of it disappeared during the early years of the last century.

According to some sources, the present church at Creggan was built in 1758. However, in "Armagh Clergy and Parishes", in 191 1, Rev. J. B. Leslie wrote:
This is probably a mistake, for the Vestry Minutes of 1741 refer to ladders being purchased for the church. Besides, there are Vestry Minutes for 1731 extant which imply a church. . . "

The tall, square tower was added in 1799 and, since then, several major improvements and some minor structural changes were made.

In his "Account of the Barony of Upper Fews". in 1838, John Donaldson, Cloghoge, wrote:
The parish church of Creggan is erected on the brink of a rocky precipice on the eastern bank of the Creggan river. . . The foundation qf the church passes over, in a transverse line, and intersects at nearly right-angles, another ancient edifice, part of the ruins of the south gable of which was standing until within the last twenty years, and which is said to have been the ruins of a Roman Catholic chapel Certain it is that the ancient families of the O'Neills and MacMahons bury their dead in a vault which if is asserted was under the altar... To this church is attached a very extensive burying-ground, which has been enlarged several times, and is well enclosed by a stone wall. . . ".

Creggan Graveyard is the last resting place of several generations of the people of Creggan Parish and beyond, people of all creeds and classes and from all walks of life princes, poets, priests, parsons ... paupers - divided, perhaps in life, united again in death.

Most of their graves are unmarked and unknown.

This guide will show you where some of these people are buried and will tell you something about them.

We hope you will find it useful in your exploration of the graveyard which is, undoubtedly, one of the most historic in Co. Armagh, if not in all Ulster.

The last verse of Dr. George Sigerson's translation of Art MacCooey's "Urchill An Chreagain" comes to mind - the poet's last words to the fairy queen in his dream echoing, perhaps, the last wish of many brokenhearted exiles from Creggan Parish:
"One pledge I shall ask you only, one promise, O Queen divine!
And then I will follow faithful - still follow each step of thine,
Should 1 die in some far-off country, in our wanderings east and west,
In the fragrant clay of Creggan let my weary heart have rest".