Nestled at the foot of Errigal (the hightest mountain in County Donegal) is Dunlewey and The Poisoned Glen. Here at the edge of Dulewey Lough is 'The Old Church'.
The Old Church Dunlewey with Errgal in the background
On the notice board there:
"Jane Smith Russell had the church built as a memorial to her husband, James Russell, landlord of the Dunlewey Estate, who died on 2nd September 1848. James Russell was laid to rest in a vault under the church floor. The church was consecrated on 1st September 1853 as a Chapel of Ease to Tullaghabegley. Tullaghabegley was the parish consisting of the present day Gweedore and Cloughaneely parishes.
The church is built of white marble and blue quartzite which was quarried locally. The supply of marble in the nearby quarry has now been depleted. The red brick in the arches of the windows was produced locally. Remenants of the brickfield are still visible near Oilean Ghrainne when the level of the lake is lowered.
A two storey rectory was built in the nearby Glebe. This field, part of the Dunlewey Estate, is now forested. James Henry Bor was the only full time rector to reside in the rectory. He was nominated by Jane Russell on the 6th of September 1856 and later was installed as rector of Raymunterdoney in 1872. The church is at present under the curacy of the combined parish of Gweedore, Templecrone and Carrickfinn.
Buried in a large communal grave is Dr. Frazer Brady (died March 1877), his wife Fanny, who was a daughter of James and Jane Russell (died December 1900) and four of their ten children: Jane Russell died February 1851 aged 3 months; Mary died April 1860 aged 3 months; Valentine Pole Griffiths died April 1868 aged 4 years; and Hugh Woodhams died January 1876 aged 19 years.
Also interred in the surrounding graveyard is Richard Lewis Crankshaw, owner of Dunlewey Estate, who died 29th November 1929. His wife Nellie who died in 1946 is buried in the graveyard of the local R.C. chapel. Her grave faces this church and her husbands grave.
With the decline of the Dunlewey Estate the potential congregation diminished and the church was not in regular use. The expense of the upkeep and the passage of time added to the deterioration of the church. In 1955 the roof was removed as a safety measure. It's furniture and fittings were distributed to other churches within the diocese of Derry and Raphoe. The bell is now installed in Cashel Church of Ireland near Doe Castle.
In 1987 the local community restored the floor. In 2005, half a century after the unroofing, with grant aid for the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation work was undertaken to ensure that this beautiful and historic landmark was preserved for future generations. In co-operation with Udaras na Gaeltachta and Fas the surrounding wall was subject to repair and conservation work. Considerable funds were raised through the generosity of the local community in the form of sponsored walks."
From Buildings of Ireland:
“Description: Freestanding Church of Ireland chapel of ease, built c.1853, having four-bay nave, single-bay chancel, and three-stage entrance tower to west end. Pitched roof, un-roofed 1955, having limestone eaves course and ashlar copings to gables. Moulded parapet to tower, having ashlar corner finials with gablet detail. Squared and snecked tooled and dressed white marble walls, with projecting ashlar limestone plinth course and diagonally set grey limestone buttresses to corners of building with ashlar skews. Ashlar limestone plinth and string courses to tower, and ashlar cornice with moulded inset. Pointed-arch window openings, formerly multiple-light to east window, with chamfered limestone surrounds, integral sills and remains of cast-iron lattice windows. Tower has pointed-arch chamfered limestone doorway to ground stage, oculus to second stage and pointed-arch window opening to top stage, with chamfered cut-stone surrounds and hood-mouldings. Interior has remains of lined-and-ruled rendered walls and gravel floor. Building overlooks Lough Dunlewey, with graveyard to southwest, and quartzite rubble stone boundary wall with tooled ashlar limestone piers and wrought-iron double-leaf gate.
Appraisal: This roofless church stands in a dramatic setting and poses a striking presence in the rural landscape at Dunlewey. It was built by Jane Russell Smith as a memorial to her husband James Russell, landlord of the Dunlewey Estate, who died in 1848 and is buried under the church floor. The building is composed about a simple rectangular nave with an entrance tower and is enlivened by pointed openings. The use of local building stone adds to the integrity of the church as it sits as a picturesque ruin close to Mount Errigal. The patina developing on the stonework also adds to the interest of the structure. With the decline of the Dunlewey Estate the congregation diminished and the church fell out of regular use and into disrepair, with the roof removed in 1955.”
In the graveyard there there lies the body of a man (Richard Lewis Crankshaw) who was in a mixed marriage (ie he was Church of Ireland, she was Catholic). He died first and is buried in the grounds of this church but she, being a Catholic, did not want to be buried there. His wife, Nellie, is buried in the Catholic church across the valley, Church of the Sacred Heart.
However, even in death she wanted to remember her husband and her grave in the Catholic graveyard faces across the valley to her husband's resting place. (Her grave is behind the church and you will see her grave points across the valley and stands out from the others which face straight ahead).
"Also interred in the surrounding graveyard is Richard Lewis Crankshaw, owner of Dunlewey Estate, who died 29th November 1929. His wife Nellie who died in 1946 is buried in the graveyard of the local R.C. chapel. Her grave faces this church and her husbands grave."
Grave of Richard Crankshaw nr the Old Church, Dunlewey