Added on 21/08/2013
Joe Mahon, well–known presenter of Lesser Spotted Culture / Ulster, launched a new book by local author Hazel Philson at St Augustine’s Church on Tuesday, 20 August. It tells the story of one of Londonderry’s most historic and popular tourist sites to a new generation.
In writing The Little Church on the Walls: Fifteen Hundred Years of History Hazel has brought a passionate interest in the history and heritage of the city. A lifelong member of St Augustine’s her love of books also meant she was well suited to her job as Branch Library Manager of The Waterside Library, retiring from it in 2008.
St Augustine’s, known as ‘the wee church on the walls’ is built on the original site of St Columba’s first monastery in Londonderry. Occupying a beautiful situation on the city walls, in Palace Street, it is held in great affection by locals and tourists alike.
With a thriving congregation its situation and historical significance mean that literally thousands of tourists visit the church each year. It has also played an enthusiastic part in the UK City of Culture celebrations both as a concert venue and with its recent very successful Big Weave Project.
Londonderry is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Ireland. Though inhabited locally for thousands of years the earliest historical references date to the 6th century missionary Colmcille, or St Columba, who is seen as a founding father of the city. The reader will be fascinated by St Augustine’s uniqueness, as the site of Columba’s Abbey (543 AD) and the Church of the Plantation (603 AD).
Hazel Philson says “The history of St. Augustine’s is undoubtedly a linchpin to all the other fascinating places of historical interest within and without the Walled City.” She continued “I was touched by the great affection held for the little church by people of the city and further afield – a visit to the church site is certainly perceived by most people as something special – a unique spiritual occasion.”
More recent facts and historical input now allows a much broader picture to be painted of the story of the Little Church on the Walls. The history of fifteen hundred years of Christianity on this site is compacted into a readily digested book, in an attractive format for the reader.
Revd Pat Storey who is the current Rector says of the book “Hazel has done a wonderful job in capturing the history of this very historic church. We celebrate a heritage dating back to St Colomba. We are inspired by this now to do whatever it takes to effectively share the good news of Christ to this generation.”
A spokesperson for the diocese of Derry and Raphoe welcomed the new publication by saying “The heritage and importance of this ancient site reminds us of the missionary zeal of St Colomba. That is the living story unfolding in this book, with a commitment to the same courage and outward look as he displayed.”
Published by Guildhall Press and with funding from Heritage and Museum Services of Derry City Council, The Inner City Trust and The Irish Society Hazel was able to embark on the project, the basis of the publication being an earlier booklet published in 1997 by the late Roy Orr and Annesley Malley. Design and illustrations are by Tim Webster
The Little Church on the Walls: Fifteen Hundred Years of History by Hazel Philson, with illustrations by Tim Webster is available from St Augustine’s Church, Easons (Foyleside), Little Acorns Bookstore at Bedlam in Pump Street, Shipquay Books, DVCB, An Chulturlann and on Amazon, priced at £5.00.
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Mr Paul McFadden