Monday, 3 September 2012

Ardstraw, Newtownstewart, St. Eugene

The Parish of Ardstraw at Newtownstewart in County Tyrone has very ancient roots. In the north-west, the territory of Cinel Eoghain in Inishowen and Tyrone, was Ard Stratha, which means, "the height of the bank", or "strand". It gained prestige because of its associations with St. Eugene who founded the Diocese of Ardstraw about 540. It remained the seat of a monastic bishop until about 1150 when Bishop Maurice O'Coffey transferred the See to his native Rath Luairg, (Maghera).

The chief planter family in the 17th century were the Stewarts who gave their name to the village. In 1622, the church was in ruins. However, it was in good repair in 1693. 

The present church was built in 1724, according ti a date stone below the east window. It stands at the top of Newtownstewart's main street, overlooking the town. It is approached up steps through an 18th century gateway. There is a louvered tower which is surmounted by a spire and finals. The spire was erected in 1806. There are lean-to-porches on each side. There is a font in the porch, and a stair to the gallery.

The interior of the church was altered in 1858 and 1867, and the chancel was re-ordered in 1909. Over the west end of the nave is the gallery,

which contains a two manual Conacher organ with pedals. This was presented by Thomas Noble Mitter, a friend of the American philanthropist and patron of Music,

Andrew Carnegie of Pittsburgh, USA, in 1907. A space adjacent to the north wall of the nave is used for daily services.

The pulpit is on the left of the chancel, and there is a prayer desk on each side. The sanctuary is raised above the chancel, and there are vestry rooms on each side.

There are three round-headed windows in the south wall, and two in the north wall. The first window in the south wall under the gallery, has clear, square glass. The second window has coloured glass, and commemorates Fanny Fulton, 1905.

The third window has coloured glass, and the text, "the memory of the just is blessed". It is in memory of George Bates who died in 1890.

In the north wall, the first window, which was erected in 1979, depicts the Good Shepherd, and is in memory of Mary Tipping who died in 1975.

The second window commemorates Peter Scott Martin, aged fourteen years, who died in 1952. It depicts the  text, "Blessed are the pure in heart".

On the still, a plaque commemorates his parents, Commander Ralph Martin, DSC, RN, and Doreen Martin. The east window has three lights and tracery. It depicts the Ascension,

and commemorates the Rev. James McIvor, Rector of Ardstraw, 1847-1886. Dr. McIvor was a Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and Professor of Moral Philosophy.

Ardstraw church has some fine classical monuments. In the porch, two plaques record the covering of the stairway in memory of Thomas and Mary Ann Clarke, and the installation of the sound system in memory of Tommy and Jennie Doonan, 1998. There is also a plaque with a list of benefactors. The memorials to those who fell in the two World Wars are on the west wall on either side of the entrance.

On the north wall, there is a memorial to John Fowler who died in 1907, as well as a classical monument to Major Jones Crawford who died in 1839,

and a memorial to John McKeown who died in 1917.

Several monuments in the church commemorate distinguished academic clergy who were Rectors of Ardstraw in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They held professorships or other senior positions in the University of Dublin along with the incumbency of Ardstraw. This was possible, as the patronage of the parish was held by Trinity College, Dublin until the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1870.

The Rev. Thomas Wilson, DD, Rector of Ardstraw, 1786-1799, is commemorated on the north wall. Dr Wilson was Professor of Natural Philosophy and Archbishop King's Professor of Divinity in the University of Dublin. 

There is also a monument to the Rt. Rev. George Hall, DD, Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Rector of Ardstraw, 1800-1806.

He was elected Bishop of Dromore, and was consecrated on 17th November 1811. He died six days later on the 23rd November 1811. He was Professor of Greek, Archbishop King's Lecturer in Divinity, Professor of Modern History, and Professor of Mathematics at various stages of his career in Trinity College, Dublin.

On the south wall, beside the prayer desk, a monument commemorates Sir I.A Montgomerie, Kt.,

son of Viscount Montgomerie, and Katharina Lady Montgomerie, who died in 1634.

  There is a monument to the Rev. Richard Nash, DD,FTCD, Rector of Ardstraw, 1819 until his death in 1847, as well as a monument to the Rev. John Hall, DD, Rector of Raymochy (Manorcunningham, Co. Donegal), and Ardstaw, 1713-1735. He was Vice-Provost and Librarian of Trinity College. On the same wall, Lt. Frederick Fitzgerald who died in 1817.

His father, the Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, DD, Rector 1806-1819. He too, was a Vice Provost of Trinity College.

Other Features of the church.

1. Brass Eagle Lectern

2. Beautifully carved Altar and Reredos.

3. Tiled Mosaic floor in the Sanctuary.

4. Table used beside the north wall for Baptisms. (Removable Font)

5. Photographs of past Rectors in the entrance porch.


  1. Great to see my 5xGreat Grandparents, Rev Gerald FitzGerald DD d10 Mar 1819, 80yo Rector of St Eugene, Ardstraw Parish Church of Ireland, Newtonstewart, Co Tyrone, Ulster, Vice Provost of Dublin Uni (descended from John [de Cogan?], first Lord Decies and Desmond AD 1250), who m Elizabeth d14 Sep 1818, 60yo d/o Rev Plunket Preston Rector of Duntrileague Cashel & 5xGreat Uncle, his son, On the same wall, Lt. Frederick Fitzgerald Esq. of xx Regiment of Foot in the Walcheren Expedition in the Peninsular war d 6 March 1817 25 years.

  2. Glad you found the article enlightening. Thank you.