A Short history of the Parish
Although our parish is just over 10 years old the Catholic faith has an ancient presence in this area of at least 800 years. This account is a summary of the events which led to the creation of this parish in 1996.
Our story begins with the taxation of Pope Nicholas IV in the 13th Century through which we learn that this area had a number of religious buildings. However the earliest documented record of an ecclesiastical building with the name Kilwee, occurs in a ledger dated 1613 where it is named as Capella de Kilemna . It was one of a number of chapels administered by Shankill Church, the principal Church which served this area of the Lagan valley. We know that the Shankill Church was in turn administered by or linked to the priory of St Andrews in the Ards at Blackabbey. This priory was founded by the Norman knight, John de Courcy sometime between 1183 and 1202 AD. It was located about two miles to the east of the major Benedictine Abbey, now in ruins, in the village of Greyabbey. No trace of the Abbey remains today apart from a remembrance in the names of some local roads. Its possible therefore that a ‘chapel’ existed in the Kilwee area in 14th Century and before.
In 1622 in a report on the Diocese of Down and Connor, Kilwee is named as the hamlet of Kilrates and in a further report about the same time it is named as the Chapel of Kilmean, its tithes belonging to the Countess of Kildare.
In his history of the Diocese of Down and Connor compiled in the 1880’s, Fr O’ Laverty records that the ancient Church of Kilwee; ‘stood in the field opposite the Five mile stone from Belfast. The site is now a mill pond…according to local tradition, the last interment took place about 120 years ago.… The Holy Water font is still preserved by Mr Mc Cance of Suffolk.’ This description would suggest that the ancient Church of Kilwee stood where the present day Suffolk housing estate is located. In the original Irish spelling, Kilwee is Cill Uaighe, meaning ‘the Church of the burial ground’. In 1927 the Mc Cance family presented that same Holy Water font mentioned by Fr O’ Laverty, to the Ulster Museum.
Following the Reformation and the dis-solution of the monasteries, the number of adherents to the Catholic faith in this area would have been very few, as attempts were made to extinguish the Catholic religion.
However, in 1704, Fr Phelomy O’Hamill was registered as the Parish Priest of Belfast, Derriaghy and Drumbeg. Under the Penal Laws he was obliged to surrender himself to the nearest magistrate, who promptly had him imprisoned in a gaol in the town of Belfast. Fr O’Hamill is recorded as being 60 years old and normally residing at Derriaghy. He had been ordained a priest by Primate Oliver Plunkett in Dublin in 1667. He is the first recorded Parish Priest of this area and it is believed he languished in gaol until his death. It was claimed that he was buried with his relatives at Lambeg.
There had been a chapel at Derriaghy from an early period, it was probably a replacement structure which was burnt down in 1744 and again in 1798. On the first occasion it was rebuilt, the church was dedicated to St Patrick. This Church still stands on the Barnfield Road and was recently restored in 2010. In 1785 our ancestors built a second chapel at Stoneyford, St Peter’s The Rock and a third chapel, St Joseph’s at Hannahstown, in 1792. These three chapels served the Catholic population of this area right up until the beginning of the 20th Century. In 1812 Belfast was redefined as a separate parish and thus was no longer linked to Derriaghy. In 1911 the Church of St Teresa on the Glen road was built to cope with the growing Catholic population. In 1948 a temporary Church of St Agnes was erected and a similar building dedicated to St Anne, near Dunmury. Both of these temporary structures were replaced in the early 1980’s with the present churches.
In the 1950’s this area was still all part of the Parish of Derriaghy. In geographical terms it was a very large area encompassing Derriaghy, Lambeg, Dunmurry, Finaghy, Kilwee, Killeaton and Old Forge and also the areas of present day Twinbrook, Poleglass and Lagmore.
In 1955 the Parish of Derriaghy was divided into four. Derriaghy, St Teresa’s, St Agnes’on the Andersonstown Road and St Joseph’s on Hannahstown Hill. A new church for Derriaghy was built in 1957 dedicated to St Colman.
The steady growth of the Catholic population on the northern side of the Lagan valley led to further divisions. In 1976 St Luke’s in Twinbrook became a parish, followed in 1980 by Nativity, in Poleglass. In 1994 St Anne’s was separated from Derriaghy parish. Then in 1996 the northern end of St Anne’s Parish was separated to form this parish, Our Lady Queen of Peace. Finally in 2000 the parish of Christ the Redeemer, at Lagmore was created completing the family of parishes birthed from the original parish of Derriaghy.