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Deceased former rector was tireless cross community worker

August 12, 2013

The Revd Mervyn Kingston who died earlier this month (2nd August) was the popular Church of Ireland rector of the parishes of Creggan, Ballymascanlon and Rathcor for 13 years until he resigned because of ill-health in 2003. The east Belfast native moved to this rural cross-border group of parishes from his previous parish in Glencairn in loyalist west Belfast. He brought with him a commitment to ecumenism, cross-community involvement and social development which were the hallmark of his ministry. In return he felt embraced by the warm welcome of all the people, Roman Catholic and Protestant, in south Armagh and north Louth. This was evident in the wide range of people from the area who attended his funeral at Glencraig church in Holywood, County Down on Tuesday 6th August.

Mervyn encouraged a closer working relationship between the small Protestant community and the majority Roman Catholic community on social projects for the benefit of all. One major achievement was that he secured major European Union funding to transform the land around Creggan Church and the derelict Rectory into the delightful public park known as Poet’s Glen. The park includes attractive walks, a beautiful walled garden and four specially commissioned sculptures. Mervyn greatly appreciated the rich cultural heritage of south Armagh, (including its 18th century Irish language poets) He produced a DVD of three short films called “The Poetry and Music of the Fews” to introduce Creggan poets and people to visitors.

Mervyn himself trained as a tour guide to prepare himself for showing visitors around the fascinating graveyard at Creggan as well as the Visitor’s Centre (the development of which was a combined effort by Mervyn, members of Creggan C.O.I Hall Management Committee, Creggan Historical Society and other interested individuals) The Centre boasts a permanent exhibition on the social and religious history of the area throughout the centuries. When providing Ministry in the south Armagh area Mervyn formed a close friendship with the late John Fee MLA and was deeply moved when John’s mother presented Mervyn with a penal cross for the permanent local historical display.

It was in south Armagh that Mervyn developed a love for the Irish language. He attended a beginners evening class and in recent years (post his service at Creggan) he often said the Lord’s prayer as Gaeilge.

Mervyn immersed himself in local community development and joined the Board of ROSA (Regeneration of South Armagh). He assisted local community groups and sports groups from across the community to access grants. He was also a member of the Jackson Charitable Trust.

Mervyn’s mind was never far from Creggan and indeed in the final month of his illness from cancer he was said to have been in communication with the N.I Tourist Board trying to encourage them to persuade Translink to extend the summer tourist bus between Newry and the Slieve Gullion centre on to Creggan and Crossmaglen.

Mervyn is survived by his partner of 24 years Richard O’Leary, his sister Jill in Australia, cousins and many friends. It is a mark of his affection for the people of south Armagh that he specifically requested that Urchill an Chreagain be performed at the memorial service which will be held for him in Belfast on a Sunday in mid-February.

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