Having secured Enniskillen in 1607 during the Ulster Plantation, William Cole set about developing the town. The Island had two small hills. Cole decided that the higher of the hills would be the site of a church while the slightly lower would be used as a market place – the Townhall now occupies the latter site.
Apart from a small lattice window and a stone from the tower above the main entrance door of the current Church of Ireland Cathedral nothing of the original 1627 church remains. Essentially what you see today is the 1842 church (the parish church of St Anne’s until it became the cathedral church of St. Macartin in 1923) with a 50 metre spire visible from miles away. Macartan was a converted pagan member of St Patrick’s household. St Patrick appointed Macartan as the first bishop of the diocese of Clogher (of which Enniskillen is part) in 454. As the cathedral in Clogher is also named St Macartan’s the Enniskillen cathedral of St Macartin came to be spelt with an “i”.
The Cathedral houses the Regimental Chapel (since 1970) of the Inniskilling Regiments – left hand nave of the church as you face the altar. I have indicated elsewhere that not one, but two, regiments of the British Army were raised in Enniskillen. If you have an interest in the history of these regiments you will certainly also want to visit the Inniskillings Museum in the nearby Enniskillen Castle Complex – though you should go there for other reasons too. In the Cathedral you will see various Regimental Colours of both the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards.
In the chapel, a book of remembrance records all ranks of the Regiments killed since Waterloo (1815). In that campaign, 119; South Africa (1835), 13; the Indian Mutiny (1856), 14; Tirah and Frontier (1897-1898), 9; South Africa (1899-1902), 186; First World War (1914-1918), 5,260; Second World War (1939-1945), 1,133.
Memorial plaques are numerous in the church and include many related to the Inniskilling Regiments and the Cole Family (Earls of Enniskillen from 1789).
In terms of silverware the Cathedral stacks up well and has in its possession some interesting Communion silver, the Davis Chalice made in 1638, the Cathcart Flagon given in 1707, and a paten dated 1743. Unfortunately these items are not on public display due to their high value.
Another interesting feature of this cathedral is the that it has ten bells which are often used to play well known hymns such as “Abide with Me” which was written by a former pupil of the town’s Portora Royal School. The Rambling Wombat’s brother is an occasional tinkler (I believe the correct term is campanologist) of the cathedral bells so if you hear the bells ringing it may be him on the ropes (the hourly and quarter hours chimes are automated though). Talking about Portora, if you are in Enniskillen in December not only will you find it is very cold but you will be able to attend Portora’s annual carol service which is held in the cathedral – highly recommended if you are in town. Check with the school or cathedral for details.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on many trips to Enniskillen. I suggest you continue with my next entry – St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – “Fare thee well Enniskillen, ………..”