earliest ecclesiastical settlement in the Newtownmanor area was Carraig
a Teampaill, which according to tradition was a Patrician site. There
was a thatched post-penal chapel, called 'Boe Chapel' in the townland of
St Mary's Church was built in 1825 when Fr
Thomas Ford was parish priest. This church served as the parish church
of Drumlease until St Patrick's Church, Dromahair was completed in 1890.
The site for St Mary's Church was donated by the Whyte family, the local
landlords. Colonel J.J.Whyte met and married a French Canadian, who was
a Catholic and she became the 'Lady of the Manor'. She had her own
special room in the church which was known as the 'lady room'. In
January 1877 when their eldest daughter, Gertrude Mary, was married in
St Mary's Church it was the Primate of all Ireland, Dr McGettigan, who
officiated at it. Following Lady Whyte's death on 13th February 1874, a
cross was erected 'by the tenant farmers of the Manor of Newtown as a testimony
of their regard and affection' for her.
St Mary's Church was designed
to accommodate a much larger congregation than it has today. The altar
is where the main entrance now is and there were two side galleries to
accommodate the large congregation. Emigration reduced the population
greatly and in 1990, while Fr Patsy Young was parish priest, the church
was tastefully reordered to meet the needs of a smaller congregation.
The orientation of the church was changed with the nave becoming the new
liturgical space for altar, ambo and presidential chair. Eugene O'Neill
was the architect for this work. New stained-glass windows were
inserted. It was re-dedicated by Bishop Francis McKiernan on 24th June
1990. St. Mary's Church is situated in a beautiful landscape, beneath
the flat-topped mountain called 'O'Rourke's Table' looking down on the
valley below. 'From: 'Churches of the Diocese of Kilmore' by Fr Liam
Kelly - Published 2005.