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History in the museum as golden couple renew vows in church 'exhibit' where they wed

By Emma Patterson

Published 24/02/2016

Laurence and Cecelia celebrating their 50th anniversary
Laurence and Cecelia celebrating their 50th anniversary
Laurence and Cecelia outside Drumcree church in Cultra
The newlyweds Laurence and Cecelia McCann

The spirit of Valentine's Day was still in the air at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum this week when it played host to a unique 50th wedding anniversary celebration.

Laurence and Cecelia McCann, who both hail from Northern Ireland, flew from their home in the United States to enjoy a special marriage blessing carried out in the museum's Catholic church by Father Michael Toner.

The couple, now in their 70s, were originally wed in the same church 50 years ago when it stood in Drumcree, Portadown.

Family and friends travelled from the US, Canada and from across Ireland to help the McCanns celebrate.

Mrs McCann said: "This was a very special day for us, made even more memorable by being at the same church, now in a different county.

"We were joined by family and friends, including our bridesmaid and best man.

"Many of our guests travelled thousands of miles to be here and it was wonderful to have the blessing in the very unique setting of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum."

Laurence and Cecelia first met through church when they both served as volunteers with the Legion of Mary, an organisation helping those in need, including hospital and home visits.

Since marrying in February 1966, Laurence, a retired businessman, and Cecelia, a retired nurse, have lived all over the world, including Australia, Hawaii and Canada. They settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and have two sons and four grandchildren.

St John the Baptist Church was initially built in 1783 on the Birches Road in Portadown. Making way for a new church on the site, it was dismantled and rebuilt at the museum in Cultra, Holywood.

Drumcree Church is rare in that it is one of the few Catholic churches built more than 50 years before the repeal of the Penal Laws.

The Penal Laws, which were enacted at the end of the 17th century, discriminated against the rights and status of Catholics and Presbyterians in favour of the established church, the Church of Ireland.

Drumcree follows a simple 'barn' layout, an architectural style also favoured by Presbyterians at the time, indicative of the caution felt as religious restrictions began to loosen, yet fear they could be reinstated.

The church includes a magnificent early 1800s pipe organ as well as the 14 Stations of the Cross, identical to those hung in the original building.

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