Dromantine will be extensively featured on Newry Journal for a short while. Every Catholic (and we hope, many of other faiths and none) is familiar with Dromantine Sundays, a fun day organised to raise funds for the SMA [Society of African Missions] when the beautiful grounds of this most impressive estate are open to all. The College now serves mainly as a Retreat House and no finer place for such activity could be imagined. The well-kept grounds, the extensive lakeside walks, the impressive 19th century country house, the new Conference Centre, the goldfish pond, the drumlin countryside panorama – it is the perfect place to de-stress and reflect on the spiritual and contemplative life, and all within a few miles of Newry centre!
I will shortly feature the work in Africa of one of Newry’s greatest sons, Bishop Carroll of the SMA, who was trained at Dromantine. Then I intend to summarize the centuries of history of this great area, its people and the estate. Finally I will refer to the recent renovations and the role of the College today. First, a short summary of IMPORTANT DATES.
The Magennis clan was for centuries the ruling clan in Iveagh, an extensive area covering most of the present day’s west County Down and reaching from Lough Neagh in the north to the Irish Sea in the south. Some leaders occasionally participated in the resistance to the encroaching powers of the Normans and later, the English. Most however, took a more pragmatic approach to ensure their survival. Thus in the seizure and ‘re-grant’ era of the early seventeenth century, Arthur Magennis, in 1611, received 4,200 acres in ten townlands within the precinct of Clanaghan (Glen). The Magennises continued in ownership for a century and a quarter.
1611 Arthur Magennis receives Dromantine in ‘re-grant’.
1737 Dromantine put up for sale.
1741 John Innes of Scotland buys Dromantine.
1808 Building of the present house.
1810 Construction of the lake.
1859 Extensive construction work on House.
1865 Work on House completed.
1922 Dromantine House bought by Samuel McKeever.
1926 The Society of African missions buys Dromantine.
1927 First eleven of 587 priests ordained.
1931 St Patrick’s Wing built.
1935 St Brendan’s Wing built.
1936 Work begins on Chapel.
1959 St Colman’s and Assembly Hall opened.
1974 Dromantine closes as a Seminary.
1975 Dromantine opens as a Retreat Centre.
1998 Major renovation work begins.
2001 Renovation work completed.