~~~ Loving God and Loving our Neighbour ~~~
The Church of Ireland parishes of Desertlyn and Ballyeglish, Diocese of Armagh
A BRIEF HISTORY OF DESERTLYN PARISH
Although the church of St John is located within the village of Moneymore, Co. Londonderry, the name of the parish comes from the older 'Desertlyn' church. This original church was built at the beginning of the Plantation, in 1622. The ruins of this original church can be found heading towards the mountains, a couple of miles out of the village on the Desertlyn Road. Some of the stones of the church still lie from all those years ago, delineating where the walls once stood. Surrounding the site of the church is the very old graveyard where headstones, bumpy unmarked graves and table tombs rise and fall in every direction. This graveyard and its accompanying church site is well worth a visit, especially with the beautiful backdrop of Slieve Gallion, one of the famous Sperrin Mountains.
In these earliest days (between 1622 and 1758), Desertlyn was not an independent parish, but part of Lissan parish, near Cookstown. During this period, one of its rectors was Rev. George Walker D.D. He achieved fame for his governership of Londonderry during its seige, but also for his determination (against the wishes of William of Orange) to fight in the Battle of the Boyne where he met his death.
The first Rector for Desertlyn as a single parish was Rev. Theodore Martin (1758-1822). Under his stewardship a new church was built in 1767. This church was in Church Street Moneymore, or, as it is known today, Lawford Street.
It was under the Rev. Hon. James John Pratt Hewitt (Rector between 1828 and 1874) that the current Rectory was built in 1831 and then St John's church erected in Smith Street in 1832. St John's, as with the re-roofing of the old Roman Catholic chapel, were paid for by the Drapers Co. of London. This was the same company who donated money for many of the village dwellings and commercial properties of the period.
In 1922 when the parish formed a union with Ballyeglish, it stretched from Slieve Gallion on the one extreme to near the shores of Lough Neagh on the other. The 2011 Diocesan Population Census reported that there were 38 households with 115 parishioners in the parish of Ballyeglish, and 205 households with 534 parishioners in Desertlyn. Ballyeglish covers an area of approximately six square miles, whilst Desertlyn covers 16 square miles.
The ruined remains of the old Desertlyn church are still visible.
Find the old graveyard on the Desertlyn Road out of Moneymore - well worth a visit with Slieve Gallion as the backdrop.
Between the period of the old Desertlyn Church and the present St John's, another building was erected in Lawford Street, although it is very difficult to see where it once stood.