Looking Back

Looking Back



Did you find this site helpful?  Any comments?

Sign Guestbook

Read Guestbook

stephen_stuff_nav.gif (1636 bytes)

Email me

Since it closed, some books and articles have been published.  Some have been mentioned in the sections above, but other newspaper clippings can be found below.

When Monkstown had the abbey habit

19891102_newtownabbey_times_p14.jpg (296886 bytes)

In the 2nd November 1989 edition of the Newtownabbey Times (page 14), an article was published which gave some information about the history and some interesting information about some of the artefacts from the church.


Newtownabbey is renowned for Its depth of religious history, exemplified not only by the name of the Borough, but also by names like Whiteabbey and Monkstown.

Perhaps not so widely known is that bits and pieces of that history have been preserved and stand today as a monument to it.

One such artefact is the baptismal font in the Presbyterian Church at Monkstown, which apparently came originally from the old Abbey up at Knockagh. The history of the Abbey stretches back to the pre-Christian era and its thought that the monks who belonged to it could just possibly have been Druidic.

Of course any information about the Abbey is impossible to verify simply because it belonged to such an early era, but when you look at old maps depicting the multitude of forts and abbeys in the area, the Abbey's strategic location is very apparent.

Today a public right of way still exists in the vicinity of the Abbey although all that's left are ruins covered in ivy and a few headstones. That's sadly lamented by Monkstown librarian, Charlotte Bradley, who has carried out extensive research on the history of the area.

"I really think it would be worthwhile if the Department of the Environment would make some sort of restoration effort to the old Abbey", she said.

"I know something of the like has been done very successfully using ACE-workers on one in Cushendall and I see no reason why they couldn't do the same thing here."

An interesting legend attached to the Abbey is that King Fergus of Scotland is reputed to be buried there. The story goes that the king suffered from leprosy and came here because he'd heard of a river, famous for its medicinal properties.

Unfortunately the king never made it to the river, for his ship was wrecked on a rock off the Irish coast supposedly giving rise of Carrickfergus (the Irish for rock is "Carrig"

Monks from the Abbey found Fergus' body on the beach and buried it in the grounds of the Abbey. Bones found at a later date are thought to be those of Fergus. All this is supposed to have happened as early as 410 AD and stone lined graves in the area, then known as Ballynamanagh (town of the monks) give strength to that early dating.  Former Minister of the Monkstown Presbyterian Church, Alec Crummie, told how the old Abbey's font was found. "I remember it was discovered in the garden of one of the members of the congregation-I think it was actually being used as a bird-bath". 

"Of course when we discovered its historic value the family were only too glad to hand it over to the Church and it's still being used there for baptisms today.


"It's thought that the piece of stone might originally have been a socket in one of the doorposts in the Abbey. It certainly wasn't a font as the Abbey monks were pre-Christian. I think it's made from granite.  "The foundation stone of the Church also came from the Abbey, while another old relic plays the vital part of namestone at the Monkstown Church.  This stone, seen by  Reverend Crummie sticking out of a garden off the Bridge Road, was discovered to be an old mill stone from the Corn Mill.

Congregation member, Ben Bowman's links with the Presbyterian Church at Monkstown go back years. "I remember services were first held in 1968, before the Church was ever built," he said. "Carnmoney was the Mother Church and we held our services in the wee rooms above the chemist's shop.

"This was when a row of shops, including a home bakery stood where the Church stands now. We had joint services with the Church of Ireland and the Methodists in what were called the upper rooms.

"We met in the room on the left after you came up the stairs. If you turned right that was where the Congregational services were held, as well as a Youth Club."

Ben explained how because there were more Presbyterians than other denominations they moved to the assembly hall in the local Primary School and then eventually a temporary hall was built where the present Church now stands.




  HOME          PREV         NEXT





All information Copyright Stephen Barnes 2002.  Quoted text copyright original author.