Irish President Visited Donegore Parish Church
Michael D Higgins the Irish President visited Donegore Parish Church recently. The President of Ireland visited St John’s Parish Church on Thursday October 27th 2016 to see the grave of Irish poet Sir Samuel Ferguson.
He then travelled a short distance up Donegore Hill to the studio of stained glass artist David Esler. Here he was shown a window crafted by members of the Dalaradia Group. The Dalaradia Group is a community organisation of men who wish to make a positive and peaceful commitment to conflict transformation.
The same group had voluntarily given their time to tidy up the St John’s graveyard, including Sir Samuel Ferguson’s grave. They had also cleaned all the windows in the church. These are almost 200-years-old and on the site of an Anglican church dating to the 14th century.
The Irish President was met at the gates of St John’s by the curate, the Rev Andrew Ker. Also Mr Robert Williamson, chairman of Dalaradia and Dr Ian Adamson OBE, a former Lord Mayor of Belfast and the city’s first Honorary Historian.
Among the guests was the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, Connor Diocesan Development Officer Trevor Douglas and members of the Dalaradia Group.
They were welcomed by the Rev Ker. There were speeches by Mr Williamson and by President Higgins who spoke of the ‘profound and inspiring legacy’ of Sir Samuel Ferguson.
“I am delighted and honoured to visit such a beautiful church,” the President said. “I remember studying Sir Samuel Ferguson and his work, and have been talking for years about wanting to visit his resting place.”
Guests were entertained with music played on the Mountain Dulcimer by Paul Atcheson-Blair from the Dalaradia Group. This instrument is unique to the Appalachian Mountains in America where many Scots Irish made their homes.
While the Irish President visited Donegore Parish Church he was shown around by St John’s curate the Rev Ker. He gave the President a short tour of the church. He was shown the beautiful war memorial crafted from ceramic poppies used in the Tower of London WW1 centenary display. He also saw the unusual Donegore Parish Roll of Honour, written in 1916, half way through the war!
At the graveside, Dr Adamson said a few words, reflecting on Sir Samuel’s express desire to be laid to rest in Donegore. The Bishop of Connor said a prayer of thanksgiving for literature, culture and for writers.
Everyone then moved to the David Esler Leadlines studio. Here the Dalaradia Group gave a preview of a stained glass window project produced by the group under guidance from the Institute of Conflict Research
The group is made up of men from Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus, Belfast, Larne and Antrim. The group, in seeking conflict transformation, explore aspects of their historical and contemporary identities on the islands of Ireland and Britain.
The Irish President visited Donegore Parish Church (St. John’s) on Thursday October 27th 2016. He was there to see the grave of Irish poet Sir Samuel Ferguson. While there he called with master glass maker David Esler.
Working with the Institute for Conflict Research on a programme ‘Back to the Future,’ the group created the window under the tutelage of master glass maker David Esler. It depicts images of Ulster’s rich heritage and culture, in the shape of a cross mounted in a portable stand.
Sir Samuel Ferguson was born in Belfast in 1810 and studied law at Trinity College, Dublin, supporting himself along the way by writing. He practiced law as well contributing articles on topics of Irish interest to antiquarian journals.
His collected poems, Lays of the Western Gael was published in 1865, resulting in and honorary degree from Trinity. In 1867, he retired from the bar to take up the newly created post of Deputy Keeper of the Public Records in Ireland. As reward for his services, he received a knighthood in 1878.
Sir Samuel’s major work, the long poem Congal was published in 1872 and a third volume, Poems in 1880. In 1882, he was elected President of the Royal Irish Academy. This organisation is dedicated to the advancement of science, literature and antiquarian studies. He died in August 1886.
You can find out more about St. John’s church, Donegore here.