To mark the approach of the Centenary Year of St Mary’s Star of the Sea church , in 1916, an interesting and substantial book has been launched. Parish Priest, Fr Austin Mc Girr welcomed the large crowd of parishioners and members of other churches in Portstewart including Rev Stephen Fielding from Agherton parish. He spoke of” the excellent cross-community relations which have always been part of life in Portstewart and how people from all sections of the community contributed to the building and funding of the church a hundred years ago. He thanked the members of the editorial team, Maurice Mc Aleese, Margaret Campbell, Sean Farren and Roisin Mc Caughan for their time and painstaking efforts to produce the book and all of the other people who contributed articles and to Aaron Doherty and all who provided photographs.
Sean Farren, representing the editorial team thanked Father Mc Girr for his encouragement throughout and gave a comprehensive account of the book’s contents. He paid special tribute to local historian and author , Maurice Mc Aleese, who spearheaded the project from start to finish for his meticulous research and expertise. Information was also kindly made available by Father Gregory Cormican , P.P. St Malachy’s , Coleraine in the “Chronicari Parociali” of that parish as Portstewart came under its jurisdiction from 1895 to 1954. Special thanks was conveyed to Bishop Noel Treanor for his “inspirational and challenging Foreword” and to Bishop Anthony Farquhar for sharing his memories of his time in Portstewart.
The book spans more than one hundred years from the days when people from Portstewart had to travel to Portrush in a jaunting car to attend Mass to the present day. It covers the erection of the “Tin Chapel” at Heathmount in 1895, followed by the church at The Crescent in 1916. Details are given of the chief benefactor, John Glenn, a prominent Coleraine businessman who left a generous legacy to St Malachy’s , a portion of which went towards the building of Star of the Sea church. Further chapters tell of other benefactors, clerics who served in the parish and natives who were ordained. Important information was supplied by a special guest at the launch, the only living link with someone who actually constructed the church, Mrs Denise Sloan whose grandfather , Daniel Reid, was clerk of works. The arrival of the Dominicans, material on St Colum’s school, parish organisations/ outreach and significant features within the church are also included.
The publication was officially launched by Father Martin O’Hagan, of the well known singing trio “The Priests” who gave an interesting account of his personal links to Portstewart. Addressing those present he said : “You are part of that mosaic of personalities that has crafted the parish into what it is to-day. You are the bearers of the story which speaks volumes to future generations. You are all members of the crew who rely heavily on your captain, Christ. People will be delighted and inspired by this beautiful book.”
In the words of Father Austin Mc Girr in his introduction :”This book goes beyond the superficial snapshot and describes the people who have worshipped in Star of the Sea in the past one hundred years and their contribution to Church and society.”