The Parish of Kilcluney runs alongside the borders of Gosford Demesne and is situated in the Barony of Lower Fews. Originally known as 'Cloncerney' or 'Cloncearnie' from Clan-Cernagh, the Parish was the home of the Gaelic O'Hanlon clan until the land was confiscated during the Land Inquisition of 1609. This land was granted to settlers of Scottish origin, including Sir James Douglas and Sir Henry Acheson.
The original site and burying ground is situated at Kilbracks approximately 2km south of Markethill on the road to Glenanne. The graveyard is still in use in the care of Armagh District Council. Reputedly, the last man hanged for sheep stealing in Ireland is buried there.
Within the graveyard is an elongated mound that seems to indicate the site of the original church. We do not know the date in which this church was constructed. Local legend has the church being burned to the ground with the congregation inside during the Rebellion of 1641. The historical evidence, however, does not seem to support this. The violence within the parish at this time came about when Sir Phelim O'Neill avenged his defeat at Castlederg by reputedly dispatching Mulmory O'Donnell to massacre all the Protestants within the parishes of Mullabrack, Loughgilly and Kilcluney. During this action, the Reverend Mercer of Mullabrack and the Reverend Burns of Loughgilly were murdered. The confusion over the destruction of a possible church on the site of Kilcluney graveyard seems to have arisen because of the unification of Kilclooney and Mullaghbrack parishes early in the seventeenth century, in February 1627 (Calendar of the Patent andf Close Rolls of Chancery in Ireland, Membrane 47). Mullaghbrack church was indeed attacked and its minister Mercer killed in 1641. Because the Reverend Mercer was at the time minister for both Mullaghbrack and Kilcluney parishes, subsequent generations have supposed the elimination of a church at Kilcluney.
The union between Mullaghbrack and Kilcluney parishes lasted until 1792 when Lord Viscount Gosford granted an acre of land to the congregation for the purpose of a churchyard. A gift of £500 from the Board of First Fruits in 1794 brought about the construction of the present church in the townland of Glassdrummond.
The church is a plain hall, originally measuring 50 feet by 25 feet. The Ordnance
Survey Memoirs of 1838 (calling it Glassdrumman rather than Glassdrummond) describe
"Glassdrumman church, situated in the townland of Glassdrumman on the road between Markethill and Keady at a distance of 1 and a quarter miles from the former, is a plain rectangular building, slated and in good order, without a tower. It was built in the year 1788 and repaired last in 1836, a new roof and gable having been then added. It is 50 feet long and 25 feet broad. Rector the Reverend Doctor Blacker, curate the Reverend L.H. Robinson at Kilclooney Glebe. " (Ordnance Survey Memoirs 1835-38)
The 1826 Schools Commission report describes the school under its patronage:
"Glassdrummond - A pay school under the care of Hugh and Sarah Ker, of the Dissenting denomination, who were in receipt of 10l per annum plus residence. The school was built at a cost of 80l and was in good repair. The school was under the patronage of the parish church with the incumbent granting the master 4l per annum. Average attendance of the school was 30 scholars."
In the early 1860's, architects Welland and Gillespie designed and constructed a south aisle to compensate for the removal of the gallery.
In 1807, the Rev.Clarke was granted £450 by the Board of First Fruits for the construction of a rectory which was duly built in 1816. Under the ministry of Rev.Crossle, in the 1870's, the Glebe House was purchased by the church and became the home of the rectors until the 1950's.
The chalice, flagon and alms dishes were the gift of the Rev.Blacker in 1827 and the silver plate was the gift of the Rev.Hutchings in 1885. Three stained-glass windows, representing nativity, resurrection and ascension, were placed in the church by the congregation in memory of the Rev.Hutchings.
The intricate woodcarvings within the parish church were the work of Rev.Hutchings and his youngest daughter. Delicate carvings on the pulpit depict the cross, nails, thorns and spear used at the crucifixion of Christ, while the communion rail is adorned with the flowers of the Holy Land. On either side of the east window are tablets bearing the Nicene Creed and the Ten Commandments.
The present organ was purchased form Evans and Barr at a cost of £300, and dedicated in September 1921. Dr.Ruth Lemon was the first organist.
The Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette of 1887 records the visit of the Lord Primate to the church at Kilcluney to officiate at a service. No Bishop had officiated in the church in the memory of the oldest living parishioner so it is understandable that people came for miles to attend the service. In fact one man walked for eight miles in the hope of seeing a live Bishop in Kilcluney church!
LIST OF CLERGY
After the rebels burned the Church in 1641 the congregation joined with Mullabrack Parish.
In 1792 during the term of James Archibald Hamilton twenty-two townlands were disunited from Mullabrack Parish and Kilcluney became a Perpetual Curacy.
In the accompanying recording, the late Jack McCune talks about St. John's Parish Church, Kilcluney.
Use the audio controller to listen to this talk, given in 2003.
KILCLUNEY PARISH, MARKETHILL
(Poem composed by William Thomas Williamson, Cavanagrove, 10th January 1919)
On a glorious Sabbath morning in the merry month of May,
Along the lanes and country roads I quickly made my way.
I passed the famous Carrick-a-Toal, through Ballymacaully, too.
Through Brackley and Glassdrummond, till the old Church came in view,
And when I reached that grand old place where we meet to worship God.
I thought of the dear ones gone before who lie beneath the sod.
Those good old folk have left us; their souls have passed away;
And we know their mortal bodies lie mouldering in the clay.
So I thought of those grand old heroes, and their Church in the days gone by.
When with Robinson and the Crossles, they praised their God on high,
Then Henry Hutchings came to them, - a good and grand old man.
His son came next, and just as good, deny it no one can.
And after them there came to us a gentleman of fame,
From Drumnakilly Parish, J.H.Lucas was his name.
For years he laboured hard with us - he was our pride and joy;
But he got a call and left us all, and went down to the Moy.
The clergyman who took his place has done the best he can.
Since he joined us here from Portadown, upon the River Bann.
He'll stick to us and lead us straight, and not leave us in the lurch.
And will do his duty nobly to uphold our ancient Church.
I looked on the congregation as they flocked in through the gate,
And thought that I would join them before it was too late.
I watched them as they passed inside and right along the aisle;
They greeted me with a friendly nod and a very pleasant smile.
Some faces were familiar, and some were strange to me,
But a happier lot, both young and old you'll very seldom see.
There were the Agnews and the Blairs and the Blacks of Enagh hill;
Quite a crowd of Binghams, and the Browns a seat did fill.
Another man we like to see, dressed up in royal blue,
Was that gay young "Bobby" Dicky Brunt, who is well known to you.
There were the Clydesales and Croziers, and the Craigs I'm sure of that,
Matt Chambers and the Christy's and all the Clarks of Lisnaget,
The Deans and the Dougans whom you know have always been,
A tower of strength in Church affairs appeared upon the scene,
Edgars, Evans and Elliots, and Fultons from the line;
Forbes Farrels and Fergusons, who all were looking fine,
Gwynnes Grahams, Gass and Gilmores and likewise all the Haires,
Hales, Irwins, and the Jacksons the Johnstons and the Kerrs
Kirklands, Kellys, Lockharts, and the Lemons of the best,
McMullans, Morgans and McCunes, who all will stand the test.
Morrows, and McConnells and McCartneys from the town,
The Mills and McWhirters who never show a frown.
Montgomerys and McCammonds the Martins and McClures,
The dashing Florrie Meehan, John Magills and Davy Moore.