St Lugadius’ Church to celebrate 400 years of history

A SPECIAL Open Day takes place today in St Lugadius’ Church, Clonleigh, Lifford, to begin a series a celebrations marking its 400th anniversary.

As part of Heritage Week, people are invited to attend the Open Day, between 11am and 2pm today,which will be followed by a special service on Sunday, August 21, at 3.30pm.

The preacher will be the Venerable David Huss, Archdeacon of Raphoe.


Refreshments will be served afterwards in Lifford Old Courthouse.

Rural Dean, Rev Cannon David W T Crooks said at the heart of every community in Ireland is a church.

“Lifford, the administrative centre of Donegal, has within its boundaries, the Parish Church of St Lugadius. Though the parish of Clonleigh was transferred to Raphoe Diocese in 1978, it belongs historically to its neighbouring parishes of Monellan and Donaghmore, and the Parishes of Inishowen to Derry Diocese.

“Many people over the years have put pen to paper and written the history of their church and parish. Indeed, there is now a written historical account of most of the parishes of the Church of Ireland. Now we have one more.”
Averil Meehan, a long-standing parishioner of St Lugadius’ Church, has documented the story of the historic church and parish from earliest times to the present day.

“She traces the story of the parish right back to its origins in the early Celtic Church to the time of St Columba in the sixth century. She tells us about St Lugadius, who he was, and his importance as a significant local person in Columba’s time. She brings us forward to the time of the Plantation of Ulster in the 17th Century, and describes for us the importance of the town of Lifford at that time, mentioning in particular Sir Richard Hansard, whose fine monument is such an important feature of the Church.”

Rev Crooks said the development of the parish and the enlargement of the church in the following centuries is also highlighted by Averil.

“The book is beautifully illustrated with lovely colour photographs of all the most important furnishings and features of the church and its surrounding graveyard.


“Although small in numbers, the parishioners are confident in their future, as can be seen from the photos of the congregation at such important events such as Harvest Thanksgiving and Christmas services.”

Rev Crooks said the parishioners are very grateful to Averil for her “excellent, beautifully illustrated and readable account of their lovely old church, its history, and its significant place in the community”.

St Lugadius’ Church is recorded as being of national importance in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) survey for County Donegal, in the records of protected structures.

This is also mentioned in the County Donegal Development Plan 2018-2022 by Donegal County Council: “Detached Gothic-Revival Church of Ireland built c.1620 with three-storey tower added to the west end c. 1880, and vestry to north east corner, with aisle extension to north built 1863 and interior remodelled”.

In the Plantation Architecture and Landscape in Derry and Donegal booklet by Donegal County Museum, St Lugadius’ Church, along with Raphoe Cathedral are the only 17th Century plantation churches listed as still being intact. There are very few left in the whole of Ireland, and much rarer still to find one in active use.

The naming of the present-day church reflects the much older history of the area where the church was built.

It is a tribute to the contribution of St Lugadius to the area.

Joe McCormick tells how the church in Lifford came to be named after St Lugadius:

“The first mention of a church in the Clonleigh area was one built by St Columba about one mile north of Lifford on a hill called Clulcin-leagh, from where Clonleigh derives its name.

“ Columba placed it under one of his missionaries by the name of St Lugadius.

“The church of learning was dissolved in the mid 1500s during the reign of young Edward VI.”

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