Holy rosary

Local history: Church of the Holy Rosary – 118 years old

Construction work on the Church of the Holy Rosary, Castlebar, complete with scaffolding, ramp and workers Photo: Wynne Private Collection

By Tom Gillespie

At the instigation of John McHale, Archbishop of Tuam, a new church was built in Castlebar in 1876, to a design by JJ O’Callaghan. Much of the funding came from the diaspora in the United States.

The church was on a higher site opposite the original church. Progress slowed when the parish priest, Canon James Magee, died in 1885. His successor, Canon Patrick Lyons, demolished the half-completed church in 1891, much to the dismay of parishioners and donors, and built the current church next to the old church of St. Mary’s Church.

In March 1897, construction work began. However, a storm in 1899 damaged the structure but work continued and the church was completed in 1901, with the exception of the spire, which was postponed, possibly due to lack of funds.

The architect of the church was Walter Doolin of Dublin, the contractor was Healey of Tralee, the foreman was Donohoe and the works clerk was Cotter and the cost of construction was £ 18,000.

Archbishop McEvilly celebrated the ceremony of blessing and dedication in October 1901 on the feast of the Holy Rosary.

Bishop McCormack of Galway preached the special sermon and Bishop Ludden of New York celebrated Mass. He had donated the high altar, designed and built by James Pearse and Sons of Dublin. James Pearse was the father of Padraic Pearse.

In his sermon, Bishop McCormack said, “It has all the architectural features that combine togetherness and beauty, majesty and grace. “

For the 42-year period from 1901 to 1943, the church needed and received nothing more than routine care and maintenance. But in 1943, it needed major renovations and restorations.

Archdeacon Fallon was PP, but in poor health, and Father John Gibbons was in charge of the renovations. The architect was Charles Powell of Dublin.

Some of the work was done by specialists, but much of it was done by local artisans. The work included the treatment of woodworms. It was discovered that there was an extensive and serious attack of woodworms in the seats and the roof. This deserved an article in The Irish Press of July 9, 1943: “Experts have discovered that the Deathwatch scarab had lodged in the century-old organ of the parish church of Castlebar.

It was presumed that the organ came from another church where he had picked up the woodworm. All the woods have been treated with Cuprinol. However, in the 1950s the church had to be treated again at a cost of £ 1,800.

The old organ was sold in 1943 and the current organ was built by an English company, P. Conacher & Co., of Huddersfield. It was completed in 1948. Mr. Conacher has said of this: “The instrument itself is the best two-key organ, to my knowledge, in the whole country.

It cost £ 3,000 at the time. It was extensively maintained and refurbished in 1969 at a cost of £ 925.

In 1943, the AW Lyons Company of Dublin carried out extensive work on the church windows and many of the high standard ones were replaced.

In the 1950s, the cross on the gable closest to the river was struck by lightning and shattered on the roof of the shrine, causing extensive damage.

After 42 years much of the painting had perished and was redone in 1943. The old church floor was tiled with parquet but had sagged in many places, including the side altars and the pulpit. The defects were repaired in the 1943 draft, but it was not until 1955 that a new floor was supplied.

The old solid fuel heating system was maintained until around 1950. The boiler room chimney was dismantled and an electrical system installed in 1950 at a cost of £ 800.

A sound system was installed by Tannoy in 1949 for £ 362. In 1980, a separate system was put in place for the folk group.

In 1983 a new amplification system with new speakers and microphones was installed for £ 2,700.

The church bell weighed 42 quintals. It was supplied by Matthew O’Byrne, Dublin, in 1937 and in 1952 a new strike wheel was supplied.

The mosaic of Notre-Dame Chapel was made in 1956 by J. Crean & Sons, Roscommon, in collaboration with JP McCormack & Sons, Castlebar.

The ornate iron door at the entrance to the baptismal font was made by MM. John Fagan & Sons, Dublin. Baptized babies therefore had to pass through the “Fagan Gates”, the traditional meaning of being considered a “real” Castlebar person.

In 1986, further improvements were made to the shrine by then-parish priest Canon Sean Blake, including the installation of a new altar. His successor, Canon Patrick Curran, commissioned a mosaic of Our Lady of the Rosary on the main door to celebrate the church’s centenary in 2001. Walter Michel, a German artist living near Parke, designed the beautiful mosaic.

Details courtesy of Castlebar Parish Magazine 1983.