The Irish Republic church with Northern Ireland congregation

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An isolated border church which lies in the Irish Republic but has most of its congregation living in Northern Ireland celebrates its 175th anniversary this weekend.

St Mary’s Parish Church, Drummully, was built in the townland of Clonooney in Co Monaghan in 1844 and on Sunday it marks this special milestone.

A joint anniversary service will also involve the parishioners of Galloon and Sallaghy, conducted by Church of Ireland bishop of Clogher, the Rev John McDowell.

While Drummully church is situated in Co Monaghan, the majority of its congregation are from Co Fermanagh.

Rector the Rev Nigel Baylor, in a 150th anniversary message, said: “Since the church was built, the world as it was then, has changed enormously and many people have come and gone from the area. The church, however, has remained and is a continual witness to the Christian faith in the area.”

The parish church of Drummully remained in the Newtownbutler area throughout the 18th century when, during an Act of Privy Council in London in 1804, it lost a number of townlands and, through this loss, the parish church at Newtownbutler. As a result, Drummully took over Drumkrin church which was dissolved at the time.

The building of Drumully church coincided with the famine years and the population of many parts of Fermanagh and Monaghan was decimated. The parish of Drummully, however, was largely unaffected.

Drummully church is designed in early English Gothic style. One of the characteristic features of this style is the use of the single lancet window, long and narrow in proportion. The roof is supported by Queen-post trusses and wall brackets.

Following partition in 1921/22, Drummully parish was cut off from the United Kingdom by the new border. However, an area known by Drummully Salient, an area of Co Monaghan surrounded by Co Fermanagh and inaccessible by road except through Co Fermanagh, was not policed until May 1924. Then, police from the Irish Free State were allowed to pass into the 16 cut-off townlands through Northern Ireland.

Rural depopulation resulted in a decline in the number of parishioners of Drummully parish, not only as a result of the recent Troubles, but also lack of employment in the area. Today, Drummully church has the smallest congregation in the Galloon, Sallaghy and Drummully group parishes with 36 people registered. However, the small number of parishioners have continued to preserve this place of worship.