St Joseph’s Church

Saul & Ballee Parish

In the 1700’s mass was said in various places. Cargagh Church was one of the “Old Mass Houses” reported to the House of Lords in 1731 by the Protestant Bishop of Down and Connor. It was originally built of mud but was replaced with stone in 1754.

Another “Bohog” – a name used by the old people in the diocese for a shed under which the priest said mass during times of persecution – was in the townland of Ballybrannagh. Mass was celebrated at the east end of Hugh Teggart’s house in Loughkeelan, and at a place called Craigawoorish, where the altar was sheltered by a large thorn.

There was a older “Bohog”, and one frequented in more dangerous times in the townland of Carntaggart, the Parish of Saul, called Lugganiffrin or the “Mass Hollow”.

Before Ballycruttle church was build, Mass was celebrated along the ditches near the site of the present church. It is said that one of the Spears having ordered the priest and congregation to leave some place where they were assembled for Mass, the family granted the site to make amends for the insult. Mass had been celebrated in a sand-pit in Ballymurray, along the road leading to where the present church is. The site was obtained by John Spears (father and son) of Downpatrick who gave a rood of land belonging to a person by the name of James Magee.

Fr. Daniel M’Alea became Parish Priest in 1760. He was a native of Ballynarry, the parish of Kilclief. In 1783 he build Ballycruttle Chapel. He signed the lease by the name “Daniel Lea (Lea being another form of M’Alea). He retired in 1798 due to old age and died in 1809 in the townland of Ballynarry. He is buried in the Kilclief churchyard.

Fr. James Killen, who was Parish Priest of Ballee in 1837, obtained an enlargement of the grounds around Ballycruttle Chapel and had the graveyard consecrated in September 1839,

In the graveyard attached to this church the remains of Most Rev. Dr Denvir (Bishop of Down and Connor), Rev. Edward MacMullan, the Rev. P. Starkey and Rev. John McGreevy are interred.

Ref. O’Laverty – Diocese of Downand Connor.


Welcome to Saul Parish, from the Irish sabhall phadraig meaning Patrick’s barn. It is claimed that when St Patrick came to Ireland in 432, strong currents swept his boat through the Strangford Lough tidal narrows, and he landed where the Slaney river flows into the lough. The local chieftan Dichu was quickly converted and gave him a barn, and it was here that St Patrick founded his first church in Ireland at Saul.

Nearby on the crest of Slieve Patrick is a huge statue of St Patrick with bronze panels showing scenes from his life. St Patrick was born near Dumbarton in Scotland in the year 387, died at Saul on 17th March 461, and is buried in nearby Downpatrick. Our church today is a modern church having gone through extensive renovations in 2008, and has 2000 families most of whom have very close ties with the church.

The parish is led by Fr. Paul Alexander pp. Mass is celebrated every day, and a full schedule of our mass times can be viewed on this website.

Saul & Ballee Parish