The “Wee Church on the Walls”

The Beautiful Little Church where my great grandparents, Johnston Alexander Love & Isabella Fisher Chambers married on October 5, 1903.

Early History of St. Augustine’s Church Londonderry

St Columb (St Columba, St Colmcille ) was born c 522 AD at Gartan, Co Donegal, came to Derry in 546 AD and founded a monastery in the area on the side of the hill of Derry where St Augustine’s Church now stands. St Columb had been a student of St Mobhi at Glasnevin, Dublin and he came back to Daire Calgach (the ancient Irish name for the area) when his cousin offered him land to build a church. At the time the area was covered with oak trees from which Derry gets its name i.e. Doire, the grove of the oaks. After he left Derry in 563 AD for the Scottish island of Iona he only returned to Ireland once in 575 AD to attend the Convention of Drumceatt which was held near Limavady, about 15 miles (24Km) from Derry. Tradition is that he died on 9th June, 597 AD and that day is still celebrated in the City of Londonderry. Over the centuries the site was raided many times and some recorded dates are:

• 1059 AD – ” the old abbey erected in 546 AD, consumed by fire”

• 1136 AD – ” the Abbey and all the town consumed by fire ”

• 1397 AD – The records of the pastoral visit of Archbishop Colton show that he was lodged with the Augustinian Canons (the monastery had been taken over by the Augustinian Order on the decline of the Columban Order). They also give an insight into the daily running of the monastery. Little more is known until 1600. Queen Elizabeth I sent an army under the control of Sir Henry Docwra to settle Derry in May of 1600.

• A map made seven months later in December 1600 gives a good idea of the layout of the old settlement around which Docwra founded a new city. Sir Henry Docwra records in his narration that a hospital and lodgings were made amongst the ruins of the old abbey and he and his people used the old church for worship.

• By 1633 the new cathedral church had been built and the congregation moved from ” The Wee church ” and it is believed that it was then used by the Presbyterian people during the great siege of 1689. During the siege many buildings were damaged by cannon balls and mortar shells. One such shell landed in the graveyard of the church raising five corpses, one of which was blown over the City wall. It is recorded that they were re interred by gentlemen of the City. The old building survived until the 1760’s when the then Bishop of Derry, Doctor William Barnard had it rebuilt. At this time it appears that the title ” Chapel of Ease ” came into use.

• Bishop Barnard’s church continued in use until 1871, when it was deemed to be unsafe and with the consent of the congregation and the Chaplain, the Rev Thomas Lucas Scott, it was rebuilt in its present form.

• The new church was consecrated on 11th June 1872 by Bishop Alexander as St Augustine’s Church and is still in regular use.

Extract from:

Copyright (c) (2014) ( All Rights Reserved.


About CJ Murdoch

Looking For "Dead People"! My Journey Back In Time - Tracing my ancestors and researching the counties, cities and towns where they resided. Taking a “Glimpse” into their lives and stories and the times in which they lived; all in an effort to learn about their “Dash”! “I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend. He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning – to the end. He noted that first came the date of her birth and spoke of the second with tears, but he said that what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.” I have always been interested in researching my family tree and “hanging out” in cemeteries. Like most of us... I didn't ask enough questions when elderly family were still living. Oh, what I would give for 24 hours and a camera with my ancestors… just to sit and listen! I'm researching many family lines, including: Murdoch, Wilson, Berry, Love, Scott, Beattie/Beatty, Hendren, Sweeney, Robinson and Elvin; just to name a few. My families are predominantly from counties Antrim, Donegal and Londonderry. However, it seems that many of them, both maternal and paternal lines, originally hailed from Co. Donegal. I was born and raised in Northern Ireland and now live in Ottawa, Canada, making frequent trips back home to visit with my family. Of course those visits also include treks to the many burial grounds of my ancestors. My most recent trip back home was during the summer of 2019! Looking forward to August of 2020 when I will return. If you are interested in help tracing your ancestors I’d love to hear from you!
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