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Grave concern

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

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A RECTOR has reassured families the sale of St John's Parish Church in Hilltown will not include the graves and access will not be denied to people visiting the final resting place of their loved ones.

His comments were welcomed by Hilltown man Ian Bailie whose late brother is buried in the graveyard.

Mr Bailie initially expressed grave concerns after the former parish church was put on the market for 80,000.

Although continuing use of the graveyard is outlined in the sale agreement, Mr Bailie feared the conditions may have been difficult to enforce once the listed building is sold.

However, Rector of Drumgooland and St John's Parish Churches, the Rev Gerald Macartney said the graveyard will be protected.

Rev Macartney added: "The select vestry has decided to put the church on the market and we would reassure people that the graveyard is not part of the sale and it will be maintained.

"It is our desire that the buyer of the building will restore it to its former glory and conditions of the sale will be included to ensure that the building is used for an appropriate purpose." The iconic Church of Ireland building, designed by architect Charles Lilley, was the first worship house to be built in Hilltown and was opened for worship in 1771.

The building has stood desolate since its last sermon in the early eighties and is in need of repair.

Maurice Fegan, manager of Shooter Properties in Newry who have charge of the sale, said the high level of interest in the property is encoura ging.

He added: "Although this property only recently went on the market it is encouraging to see the high level of interest it has generated due to its uniqueness and where it is. We already have a number of people lined up to view the property."

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