(The church more recently has been renamed St James of Jerusalem to distinguish it from St. James Catholic Church, Tandragee. Mullabrack is an alternative spelling for Mullaghbrack).
For the duration of the penal codes in the eighteenth century, Catholics in Ireland were restricted in the worship and celebration of their religion. A congregation did exist at Mullaghbrack although they had no permanent place in which to meet. At this time they worshipped in an open air Mass-garden at Drumatee.
A chalice presented to the congregation in 1788 by Father Maguire was used until recently in the oratory at Mullaghbrack. Its presentation was in celebration of the union of the parishes of Ballymore and Mullaghbrack. It is inscribed, "John Maguire had me made for use of the altar in Mullaghbrack AD 1788" Father Maguire was also responsible for the establishment of a school at Clare Castle, which has produced some prominent priests over the years.
The present church of St.James was constructed in or around 1829. The original lease was signed on November 1st 1826, the signatories being the Second Earl of Gosford and Father Arthur McGuirk. The church was located in the townland of Drumlack on the 'old road to Armagh'. The annual rent was 1/- (5p), payable in two instalments per year, for a period of nine hundred and ninety-nine years. The lease also contained a note of caution, "If the said piece or parcel of ground should at any time...be used as a burying place for the dead without the consent of the said Archibald, Earl of Gosford or his heirs...this present lease shall wholly cease and be void". This clause was of course nullified by the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829.
Ordnance Survey Memoirs of 1837 described the building as, "A plain rectangular whitewashed building in good repair, built in the form of a cross of which the extreme length is sixty-six feet and the extreme breadth fifty-eight feet". Initially the congregation was required to stand but by the late nineteenth century the members had begun to supply their own pews. At the turn of the century Father Bernard Lavery oversaw the instalment of a complete set of pews.
Almost a century after its initial construction the church was renovated, the work being completed following the death of Father Cornelius Shortt. This work included the removal of the galleries from the transepts, shortening the gallery in the nave and raising the height of the walls to bear the weight of a new roof. No doubt this added to the debt that burdened the church but this was removed during the ministry of Father Macken.
The original Stations of the Cross were erected by Father Daniel O'Toole and were replaced by Father Charles Montague in 1937. Since then they have been replaced a number of times to comply with new liturgical requirements.
The Parochial Hall adjoining the church was built in 1986 during the ministry of Father Patrick McNulty.
In 1996 the parochial house in Markethill was refurbished at a cost of £45,000.
The Church was restored again in 2010.
A valuable source of information on the church is the book by Neil (or C. F.) McGleenon,Views on the Speckled Summit: Mullaghbrack and the Church of St James of Jerusalem (Armagh, 2013)
The parish of Ballymore and Mullaghbrack is one of sixty-one in the Diocese of Armagh. Originally two separate parishes they were united some time in the late eighteenth century. There are four parish churches in the area: St.Joseph's, Poyntzpass; St.James's, Tandragee; St.James's, Mullaghbrack and St.Patrick's Ballyargan.
The parish priest resides in Tandragee with curates resident in Poyntzpass and Markethill.
1788-1798 Fr. John Maguire
1798-1819 Fr. Henry Campbell
1819-1831 Fr. Arthur McGuirk
1831-1837 Fr. John Coyne
1837-1859 Fr. Edward Campbell
1859-1883 Fr. Daniel O'Toole
1883-1897 Fr. James Donnelly
1898-1918 Fr. Bernard Lavery
1918-1925 Fr. Cornelius Shortt
1925-1929 Fr. Patrick Macken
1929-1941 Fr. Charles Montague
1941-1952 Fr. Patrick Hughes
1952-1971 Fr. Bernard Donnellan
1971-1988 Fr. Patrick McNulty
1988-1994 Fr. Terence Kelly
1994-2001 Fr. Brian Hackett
2001-present (as of 2014) Fr. Michael Woods
In the accompanying audio recording, Dr. Neil McGleenon, retired headmaster and local historian, talks about the history of St. James of Jerusalem Church, Mullaghbrack, in Drumlack.
Use the audio controller to listen to this talk, given in 2003.