Thursday, 3 December 2020

A Limerick architect
and engineer who also
worked in Askeaton

The Parochial House or Presbytery in Askeaton, Co Limerick, was designed by the architect and engineer Brian Edward Fitzgerald Sheehy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

The old rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick, now known as Ballindeel House, was designed by the celebrated Limerick-based architect James Pain, who probably also designed Saint Mary’s Church, the Church of Ireland parish church, which was rebuilt at the same time.

But architectural interest in the former rectory should not eclipse similar interest in the Parochial House or Presbytery at the west end of Askeaton, beside Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, which also has an interesting architectural history.

The Parochial House or Presbytery was designed by Brian Edward Fitzgerald Sheehy (1870-1930), who worked as an architect and engineer in Limerick from the 1890s until the 1920s, and it was built in 1911 by the well-known church builders John Ryan & Son.

Brian Sheehy was born on 26 September 1870, the son of George Lake Sheehy, a ‘gentleman farmer’ of Moviddy, Newcastle West, and Elizabeth (nee Fitzgerald).

He was educated at Blackrock College, and was then articled to the Dublin-based architect and engineer Samuel Gordon Fraser of Dublin.

Sheehy had returned to Limerick by 1903, and was in private practice from then, living at 57 O’Connell Street (formerly George’s Street). He married his wife, Elizabeth Sheehy, daughter of Major Brian E Sheehy, of Cherrygrove, on 28 October 1908 in Croom, Co Limerick. She was a sister of the barrister Richard J Sheehy.

Sheehy was the engineer with the Newcastle West District Council, the old District Council and Board of Guardians of Croom and the Co Limerick Health Board, and he was the architect to the Thomond Artisans’ Dwellings Company, Limerick, and the Ennis Asylum Board, Co Clare. As a consulting engineer, he frequently appeared in court as an expert witness.

Professionally, he was an associate member (1901) and then a member (1912) of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland (ICEI), and a council member from 1926 until his death; a licentiate of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1925); and a member of the Society of Architects, the Royal Sanitary Institute, and the Institute of Water Engineers.

During his career, he carried out a large number of engineering schemes, water, sewerage, and buildings in Munster.

His engineering works included the Doneraile Water Supply scheme, Co Cork, for Mallow District Council (1900), the water supply schemes in Thurles, Co Tipperary (1901), Ennistymon and Lahinch, Co Clare (1903-1906), Newcastle West, Co Limerick (1928), Rathkeale, Co Limerick (1929), and works on the National Bank in Limerick and bank branches in Doneraile, Co Cork, Bruff, Co Limerick, and Caherciveen, Co Kerry.

His architectural works included new offices in Limerick for the Irish Co-op Agency Society (1901), a grandstand at Garryowen (1903), 16 artisans’ houses and 24 labourers’ cottages in Mallow (1903-1904), six houses at Park View Terrace, Limerick (1911), four houses on Military Road, Limerick (1911), houses in Nicholas Street, Limerick (1913), and a new bridge over the River Feale in Listowel, Co Kerry (1910).

He also worked on alterations and extensions for Saint Munchin’s College, Limerick (1909-1911) and the Municipal Technical Institute on O’Connell Avenue, Limerick (1923-1926) and convents, schools, banks, hotels and factories throughout the south-west and mid-west.

His church works included alterations to Meelick Church, Co Limerick (1903), a new convent and chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Limerick (1903), the parochial houses in Charleville, Co Cork (1904), Kilmallock, Co Limerick (1908), and Croom, Co Limerick (1908), the convent in Kilfinane, Co Limerick (1904), and a temperance hall on the corner of Cecil Street and Henry Street, Limerick (1907-1909).

His best-known and most successful church building must be Saint Colman’s Church, Kilcolman, Co Limerick, built on a difficult and challenging site in 1912-1913.

Shortly before working in Kilcolman, Sheehy designed a new parochial house for the parish in Askeaton. At the same time, he remodelled and extended the national school in Askeaton in 1911, and he designed a new post office for Askeaton that year.

Sheehy’s pupils and assistants included the architect and engineer Patrick John Fitzgerald Munden (1883-1962), who was working with him in from 1910 to the end of 1912, while the parochial house, school and library were being built in Askeaton. A few years later, Munden was involved in the Howth gunrunning, and was arrested in Dublin Castle in 1916. Munden was an unsuccessful independent candidate in the 1923 elections, but he sat on Rathmines Town Council.

Sheehy died at the age of 59, on 6 January 1930 at his home, 57 O’Connell Street. The Limerick Chronicle reported his death the next day and noted that he ‘was a member of an old West Limerick family.’

Saint Colman’s Church, Kilcoman, Co Limerick, built in 1912-1913 … also designed by Brian Sheehy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

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