Vol. 9 No. 2 - 2009
Until the early 1970s, St John’s Catholic Church, Lylo, was one of four churches serving the large Seagoe parish under Catholic aegis. When the parish of Moyraverty was set up to cater for the new city of Craigavon, St John’s was transferred to Moyraverty.
St John’s began life as a small rectangular white-washed church measuring 40 feet by 25 feet. The ground for the church and cemetery was donated by William Robinson, a Protestant gentleman, who was a major landholder in the townlands of Lylo and Levaghery. The burial-ground was erected by Reverend Laurence Morgan, a most progressive Seagoe Parish priest, in 1869.
On the small plot of ground which lay between the church and the main road, a small school was erected in 1894 to cater for the Catholic children of the district. A similarly-sized Church of Ireland school was located on the same road, 300 yards distant.
What made the little Catholic school unique was its location, affixed to the front gable of the church. Not from the days prior to the setting-up of the National School system was such an arrangement sanctioned. The strict rule was, that a solid wall should separate a school from a church, regardless of denomination.
The school is now defunct, but being a Grade B listed building its future use is uncertain. It would be true to state that some parishioners would agree to its removal while others, conscious of tradition, would prefer it retained and refurbished.
In recent years, St John’s Church was targeted by arsonists. In the mid-1990s a severe attack meant that a complete interior restoration was required. At the same time, the adjoining cemetery was greatly enlarged. The rural parishioners of St. John’s have a wonderful record of voluntary self-help, the extension and landscaping of the cemetery being perceived as a Christian duty.
St. John’s was one of four sites visited on an historical outing organised to the Bluestone Road, Craigavon by personnel from Craigavon Museum at Oxford Island. The other three sites visited were Lynastown Quaker Cemetery, the first Quaker cemetery in Ireland (1658): Bluestone Methodist Church and the nearby Lisnamintry Rath. The inter-denominational profile of this district combined with the attractiveness of the landscape on either side of the road, means that the undulating Bluestone Road, on its one and a half mile route, has a special place in the historical legacy inherited by the new urban initiative that is Craigavon.