St Mary’s a ‘WELL’ Church growing through prayer and service
The first known Christian community in the area was set up at Camus on the west bank of the River Bann, about 3 miles south of Coleraine, in 580A.D. Camus means bend or curve, of course referring to the river at this point. Here an early Celtic Church was founded, the origin of which is attributed to to St Comgall of Bangor. Unfortunately, there is no trace of the ancient church, but within the well maintained graveyard, now under the care of the Historic Monuments branch of the DOE, stands a sandstone pillar, 6ft 6ins high, 1ft 8ins broad and 12ins thick. This pillar is believed to be part of a sculptured Celtic Cross.
About 1172, the Cistercian Order founded an Abbey at Macosquin, 2 miles southwest of Coleraine. The name Macosquin is derived from the Gaelic “Meaghcosgain” meaning “Plain of the conquest.” Obviously tribal warfare had taken place at some time in this area. The Abbey was known, according to Cistercian records, as ” Beatae Marie Clarafonte” meaning the abbey of “Blessed Mary of the clear spring.” After periods of Gaelic unrest and widespread lawlessness by 1539 the Abbey had fallen into a state of dilapidation. By the end of the century the building was in a ruinous condition when the Plantation of Ulster began to take place.
Camus and Macosquin
The lands vacated by the Gaelic chieftans were given by King James I to English and Scottish settlers. The lands in Co.Coleraine later renamed Co. Londonderry, ruled by the O’Cahans were given to the London Companies. In 1609 the Merchant Taylors Guild obtained those lands comprising of the parishes of Camus and Macosquin. Shortly after the Plantation of Ulster a Church was built. Records of 1622 note that the parish church, provided by the Merchant Taylors, was consecrated as the Parish Church of Camus and Macosquin by the Bishop of Derry, George Downham. This was the beginning of the Church in Macosquin. The North wall of the present Church includes part of the north wall of the Abbey.