At 200 sq. miles, the parish of Ballyclare and Ballygowan is the largest in the North of Ireland; it stretches from the railway line near Corrs Corner to four miles from Larne, from Mossley to the Glenwherry Hills and from Templepatrick to the Star Bog. By 1787 there was one huge parish covering much of East Antrim (the present parishes of Larne, Carrickfergus & Ballyclare) and the newly appointed parish priest Friar McCary constructed the first post reformation catholic churches in the district, the present church at Ballygowan and a temporary church at Carrickfergus.In 1832 Bishop Crolly built a church in Ballyclare, even though there were only 6 catholic households plus a few servants living the area. This church which remained in splendid isolation outside the village until the Tir na nOg National School was built in 1886, served the parish until the construction of the present church in 1911. In 1852 Ballygowan and Larne formed a new parish and in 1854 Ballyclare was incorporated into the parish of Greenisland and Whitehouse.The modern parish of Ballyclare and Ballygowan was established in 1869 when Larne, Ballymena and Whitehouse transferred the Ballygowan, Glenwherry and Ballyclare districts respectively to form the new parish. When the first parish priest, Fr John Cavanagh, was appointed on 4 July 1869 there were 675 parishioners, mostly living in the Ballygowan area.By the turn of the century the parish had a congregation of 500 with the majority now living in the Ballyclare area - with only 120 residing in the district of Ballygowan. The church in Ballyclare had a capacity of 170 so Fr. James O’Boyle set about raising funds for a larger church. A local Protestant solicitor, Edward Hill, donated a site adjacent to the parochial house for the construction of the chuch. The Church of the Sacred Heart was solemnly blessed and opened by Bishop Tohill on 11 June 1911.On the night of 21/22 March, 1969 the Holy Family Church at Ballygowan was subjected to an attack by dynamite. The entrance porch was almost completely destroyed, the bell tower was badly shaken, windows were shattered, the walls were cracked and part of the terrazzo aisle was broken. The effects of the blast extended to the school, neighbouring houses and the cemetery. Being one of the first victims’ of ‘the Troubles’, the condition of the church elicited much sympathy from both Protestants and Catholics. Within a short time over £200 was received in subscriptions from all people of all denominations. Unfortunately on 26/27 September 1969 while repairs were being carried out, the church was again attacked, this time by petrol bombs; more windows were broken, parts of the flooring and seating were burned and the walls were scorched. The reconstruction of the bombed church began in August 1970. A new porch was built, the sanctuary was modernised, the bell tower was removed, windows were replaced and the walls strengthened.On the 9th April 1973 the Church at Ballygowan was bombed again. The new porch was destroyed, many of the windows were smashed, and the altar furnishings were damaged. For more tha 6 months Mass was celebrated in the school while repair work went on.
Holy Family Church, Ballygowan. 1967
Holy Family Church, Ballygowan after bomb attack. 1967