History

The historic St Mary’s Church of Magheraculmoney Parish dominates the drumlin landscape of the quiet rural townland of Ardess Glebe. The name, Magheraculmoney, has been translated to “the plain of the back of the shrubbery” and “the plain of the peaty angle.” An Order of Council was issued on 27th February 1770, dividing the parish into two, with the second parish being called Drumkeeran.

The first rector of Magheraculmoney was recorded in 1439, and records state that the Church, also previously known as Templemaghery Church, was originally built during the fourteenth century and was subsequently burnt in 1484. Part of today’s present stone-built structure can be dated as far back as fifty years before the Reformation. In 1622 it was noted that the Church was lately roofed, but not glazed. It has since undergone extensive alterations and enlargements during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Gravestone

Ardess Church with its three stage tower now stands proudly as a distinctive landmark. Directly beneath the Church lies the family vault of the Archdales, once one of Fermanagh’s significant plantation families. 

The graveyard surrounding the Church is immediately recognisable as an ancient pre-plantation graveyard and it is estimated that there is a total of 433 marked grave headstones, flat slabs and crosses, with the oldest visible date being 1679. From 1608 until 1903 the graveyard served both Protestant and Catholic families in the district. All these graves face east with the exception of the priests’ graves who, according to local folklore, face west reportedly overlooking their flock. Running right across and dividing the pre-plantation graveyard in two is a huge fourteen foot wide trench grave. Described locally as the Famine Pit the huge long narrow sunken grave of 120 feet was used for burial during the Great Famine of 1845 – 1850. In 1997 Ardess Community Association marked the 150th anniversary of 1847 by restoring the unmarked famine pit and creating a sensitive memorial commemorating the many forgotten famine victims from North West Fermanagh, and in 2000 an ecumenical service of dedication and commemoration was held in the churchyard.

A former incumbent, the Revd Canon F.A. Baillie, Rector from 1979-1987, published Magheraculmoney Parish: A Short History in 1984.