River Bann, Lough Beg, Magherafelt, Northern Ireland
Many years ago this was a true island surrounded by water on all sides, however during the 1930’s the shores receded due to the dredging of the River Bann. Nowadays only one side of this island is on the shore & the opposite side is a marshland. During heavy winter rains the River Bann swells & re-floods this marshland so Church Island does return to its ancient 100% island state for a few days each year.
This church was built on the site of a pre-Viking monastery during the 12th century & was in use for 500 years but was burned down in 1603 during the ‘Plantation of Ulster’ period. Around this church ruin is an old cemetery containing about fifty known graves & the site of the ancient monastery which St Patrick is credited in establishing during the 5th century.
The spire of this old church ruin was actually added later in 1788 by the Earl of Bristol (Bishop of Derry). He built this spire because he desired to see the location of these ruins better from his grand palace which he built across the way. This spire is known locally as Hervey’s Folly. During World War 2 an American aircraft was flying so low that it actually clipped its wing tip on this spire which bent the structure! It has since been straightened by the Department of the Environment who now maintain these ruins as a historical landmark.