The History of Saint Mary's Lavey.

The beautiful black stone, Gothic Revival style church of St. Mary's, Lavey, County Derry, stands alongside the A42 approximately halfway between the old market towns of Maghera and Portglenone.
As the church is built in the townland of Mayogall, it is often referred to by the older generation as "Mayogall Chapel".
The foundation stone of this chapel was laid on Thursday the 2nd May 1872 by the Rev. James McLaughlin, the then Parish Priest of Lavey who had been given special permission to do so by the Bishop of Derry, the Most Rev. Dr. Francis Kelly.
The chapel was opened, although unfinished, on Sunday 6th July 1873 by Dr. Francis Kelly and dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy.
Much of the cost of the building was raised from within the parish. Funds were also raised amongst the Tyne-side Irish communities of Newcastle-on-Tyne, Jarrow, Wallsend, etc., in which many people from this parish had settled. The land for building had been acquired from the Bellaghy Estate and the design and building entrusted to Messrs Tipping and Co. of Castledawson and Magherafelt.

It would seem that the chapel had been practically untouched, other than the erection of the Altars, 1889, and a few running repairs, until during the Pastorate of Rev. James Maguire, P.P. 1958 - 1978, when there was some renovation and extension to the chapel. On the 29th October 1961 the chapel was re-opened by Dr. Neil Farren, Bishop of Derry, after having a new floor and under floor heating installed. At this time we also saw the removal of the original pulpit and altar and the re-arrangement of part of the seating. In October 1974 work started on the new Sacristy at the West gable and the South facing door, commonly known as 'The Men's Door' was widened to facilitate ingress and egress. Despite this work, we can say that the original fabric of the building has, in the main, been left unaltered.

The chapel we know today replaced a chapel which was situated about 100 metres to the North on the opposite side of the road. Part of its ruins are still visible in what is locally referred to as the 'Old Graveyard'.
The chapel in the old graveyard was built in 1802 to replace an old Mass House whose origins went back into Penal times. Much local history and folklore surrounds the building and function of these houses of worship.
Researched and written by James Moore, Dreenan ( and typed by Canice ).

Copies of Newspaper Adverts

The Building of Lavey Chapel.

Father Regan PP(1980 - 1989) published two bulletins in 1985 containing information taken from Parish records about the building of Lavey Chapel in the 1870s.
Priests in charge at that time were the Rev James Mclaughlin, P.P. and the Rev Daniel McLeer, C.C. 
One bulletin listed some of the names of parishioners subscribing to the cost of building the church. Please note that Father Regan said that more names existed, he hoped to publish these also but unfortunately he died in 1989. The original bulletins gave an assessment amount opposite each name.
 The other bulletin contained information about the cost of labour, material and the building of the various sections of the church.
Please note that the money system in use at that time was the British system of pounds, shillings and pence (eg £5.10.5 read as 5 pounds 10 shillings and 5 pennies). A pound equalled 20 shillings and a shilling had 12 pennies. Most of Ireland, in common with most of Western Europe, uses the Euro. Only  six of the nine Ulster counties still use the decimal version of British pounds and pence, ie a pound equals 100 pence. I will leave it up to viewers to equate the values to their own currencies.
There is also a short paragraph about a mission in 1889.

I have quoted exactly from Father Regan's bulletins.

Building Accounts

  • 1872 Tipping's (Chapel Builder) Account £1840-10-10½d

  • Architect's Account £97-12-10d

  • Lime & Sand £45-0-0d

  • Advertisements "25-0-0d

  • Seats £93-11-9½d

  • Gallery Account £119-2-10½d

  • Pulpit & Altar Rails £48-6-0d

  • Sundries Two Charity sermons & dinners, Dedication, Travelling expenses in England & Ireland collecting for the church a/c £148-1-9d.

Churchyard Accounts

  • 1876 Building walls £50-12-6d

  • 1877 Building walls £29-5-8½d

  • 1878 Building walls £13-11-1½d

  • 1879 Building walls, pillars and gate £29-6-11½d

Vestments Account

  • Candlesticks £11-0-0d

  • Long Candlesticks £2-10-0d

  • Aspergillum & Stoup for High Altar £1-7-6d

  • Antependium High Altar £4-0-0d

  • Antependium Virgin's Altar £3-3-0d

  • Linens Account £8-0-8d

  • Harmonium, Benediction Vestments £59-16-8d

The Cost of the Altars

The new altars were erected in Lavey Chapel in 1889.
The High altar was erected in Lavey church in 1889.
John McNally of Cookstown made it and finished it at £130.0.0.

Lavey Chapel Old Altar


The Virgin's altar of marble was made by C.W. Harrison, Great Brunswick street, Dublin at a cost of £50.0.0.
The cost of the foundation and erecting the altar was £3.0.0.



He then painted and decorated Saint Joseph's altar, varnished the seats and the sanctuary for £20. He also varnished the roof and painted the walls of the church, the windows and doors for £25.0.0.

Ladders and timber for Lavey church cost £5.0.0.
For sinking the foundation of the High Altar £3.10.0.

All paid at this date, March 29th, 1889.


Charles McGlade of Knockloughrim left a bequest for the Virgin's Altar of £50 to this was added £3.0.0 from Parish funds.

Names of people who made donations to build chapel

Notes on a Mission in Lavey October the 27th 1889

A Mission was given in Saint Mary's Lavey by the Redemptorists for a Fortnight beginning October the 20th, 1889.A Press cutting from the "Irish News" dated November the 22nd, 1889 has the following:-"For fully an hour before 6.30 o'clock pm, the time fixed for 'the close', every available part of the large and spacious church was packed and before 6.30 the churchyard and every approach thereto were filled.

Altogether the great congregation was computed to be close on 10,000 persons.