SEAMUS Heaney’s burial place in the grounds of St Mary’s Church in Bellaghy may be proving something of a mecca for fans of the Late Bard, but there is another church that for centuries has exerted its own special lure for historians and visitors to the village.
That church is St Tida’s, or Ballyscullion Parish Church as it is familiarly known, recognisable by its distinguishing spire.
The spire sits atop a listed building of around 400 hundred years old, which is reputed to trace its roots to 408AD. A rich cultural heritage lies within its walls, while in the churchyard lie graves dating back to the 17th Century.
Today, a very different kind of interest envelops the church, that of an extensive renovation programme, described as the “most significant” in its history - and the “daunting bill” that is required to achieve this.
Chancellor Robin Lavery, the ‘part-time priest in charge’ of the church, explains: “Old age has taken a major toll and extensive repairs are required to not only the roof and windows but to the wonderful spire which is a local landmark. Damp and even woodworm treatment are also on the agenda in what is an ambitious but completely achievable rescue of this grand old building.”
He highlights the restoration of St Tida’s will cost £250,000. To date, the Church has received a Heritage Grant for close to £100,000, and parishioners have raised a further £100,000.
“They deserve great credit for taking on this challenge,” says Chancellor Lavery. “It’s a wee church. The congregration has only 65 famiilies.”
You too can support the fundraising effort - a Gospel and Country Concert will be held in Rainey Endowed School Hall on Friday, October 11, at 8pm. Tickets cost £10 and can be purchased at the door.