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juniorate

Crossgar

Crossgar (in Irish: An Chrois Ghearr, ie the short cross) is a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland, approximately 15 miles south of Belfast in Northern Ireland on the main A7 road between Saintfield and Downpatrick. It is about 5 miles south of Saintfield and in the 19th century was a small hamlet. Crossgar has undergone many developments in the past few years because of its position as a commuter village. It has a good selection of pubs and restaurants and also boasts a poor nine-hole golf course. It had a population of 1,539 people in the 2001 Census.

History

Crossgar has had a very interesting and varied past, from the settlement of Anglo-Norman invaders, to Scots settlers, to the St. Patrick's Day riots in the 1800s. According to a history of Down and Connor by a Fr. O'Laverty, the parish of Kilmore in which Crossgar lies, was likely to have been established around 800 AD and was the ecclesiastical centre of this part of County Down. It was thought that the area had seven chapels and these can be reasonably evident by the remains of burial grounds. But the seventh cannot be traced to a burial ground and is referred to as the "lost chapel of Cill Glaise". O'Laverty says that by tradition this chapel was built by Saint Patrick and left in the care of his disciples Glasicus and Liberius.

The name Crossgar comes from the Irish An Chrois Ghearr meaning "the short cross". There is a holy well known as St. Mary’s Well (Tobar Mhuire) which suggests that in this case 'crois' (cross) is likely to refer to an ecclesiastical cross, no trace of which now remains. The adjective 'gearr' (short) may suggest that the cross was damaged or in some way defective. The parish of Kilmore comes from the Irish Cill Mhór meaning "big church" or another possible meaning is "An Choill Mhór" meaning "the big wood", which suggests that the area was covered by a large forest. Another location of one of the seven chapels is the townland of Killinchy (Cill Duinsí) meaning "Duinseach's Church".

Places of interest

  • Situated in the village is the famous Ulster Wildlife Centre, run by the Ulster Wildlife Trust and which is situated in a Victorian walled garden in the grounds of Tobar Mhuire Monastery (owned by the Passionist missionary order). Sir David Attenborough opened the Wildlife Centre in 1992 and the Trust is a charity to promote conservation in its natural habitat in Northern Ireland. Also situated in the same grounds is a huge Victorian conservatory with vines that were planted as far back as the last century.
  • The Market House is currently unused, missing its clock and boarded up.
  • Crossgar is home to Ireland's first Disc Golf course located on the Kilmore Road between Crossgar and Kilmore. This is not an advert.
  • Crossgar Free Presbyterian Church is the first congregation of the Free Presbyterian denomination worldwide. It was founded in 1951 when most of the elders and a large part of the congregation of Lissara Presbyterian Church seceded in a dispute between evangelicals and liberals and in which the Presbyterian Church in Ireland banned local people from using their own Church hall for a gospel mission. The evangelist for the mission was Rev. Ian Paisley.

Tobar Mhuire

According to local man Tom Hewitt's research, "one of the seven chapels of the parish of Kilmore was probably in the grounds of Tobar Mhuire (Mary's Well). Local folk memory would claim that the large stones erected along the avenue from the main entrance were originally from the ancient chapel that O'Laverty refers to in his History of Down and Connor.

The manor house, known as Crossgar House, was put up for sale by its last owner, Colonel Llewwllen Palmer, in later 1949. Around this time also the Passionists had been looking for a suitable site in which to refound their Juniorate, a second level school for boys interested in Passionist Religious life and Priesthood. The Juniorate up to this period was in Wheatfield, North Belfast. Tobar Mhuire met the necessary requirements and was purchased by the Passionists in 1950. So Tobar Mhuire then returned to its ancient roots and Mass was next celebrated there on 15 September 1950. The Passionists took up residence on the last Sunday in November 1950. The Juniorate flourished for nearly thirty years. Many young people were educated at Tobar Mhuire and in its 'hay-day' over fifty young students lived here with a staff of about eight. In the final years, before the Juniorate was closed in 1980, the students attended St. Patrick's High School in Downpatrick, run by the De La Salle Brothers.

In 1976 Tobar Mhuire became a Noviciate, a place where people are encouraged to deepen their vocation to religious life. The Passionist vocation, to help others become more aware of the great love God has for them as shown on the cross, motivated developing the Old Juniorate into a Retreat and Prayer Centre in 1982. The community continues its work through various Faith development programmes run both at Tobar Mhuire and elsewhere on request.

Transport

Crossgar is on the main A7 road, 5 miles (8 km) north of Downpatrick and 16 miles (26 km) south of Belfast, and on the B7 minor road between Ballynahinch and Killyleagh.

The village is served by Ulsterbus route 15 and 215 Downpatrick to Belfast.

Crossgar railway station opened on 23 March 1859, but finally closed on 16 January 1950.

Demographics

Crossgar is classified as a village by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) (ie with population between 1,000 and 2,250 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 2,539 people living in Crossgar. Of these:

  • 23.8% were aged under 16 and 18.6% were aged 60 and over
  • 49.2% of the population were male and 50.8% were female
  • 65.0% were from a Catholic background and 38.2% were from a Protestant background
  • 2.4% of people aged 16-74 were unemployed....

For more details see: NI Neighbourhood Information Service

People

The James Martin Memorial Stone is located in The Square in Crossgar and is maintained by Down District Council. Sir James Martin, who hailed from Raffrey, was born on 11 September 1893, and died on 5 January 1981, was awarded for services to Engineering an OBE in 1950 and a CBE in 1957. He is famous as the inventor of the Ejector seat for aircraft. He was also co-founder of the Martin-Baker Aircraft Company. A three foot high stone has been erected in his memory.

Ryan Stranney is a prominent member of the local gay community, he along with Conall Bell, Niall McCarthy, Ciaran Denvir and Jonathan Bell have been battling for gay rights for many years in the Northern Ireland area.

See also

References

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