Thursday, 6 February 2020

A 200-year-old church
in Loughill, Co Limerick,
with a tower and shrine

The Tower of Church of the Assumption in Loughill, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

The village of Loughill is between Foynes and Glin on the N69 route from Limerick to Tralee. The name comes from the Irish Leamh Choill, ‘the elm wood.’

The Owvaun or White River, a popular fishing river, meets the Shannon Estuary at Loughill.

Loughill’s development dates from the 12th century. In the past, there were ironworks in Loughill where the large supply of timber in the area was converted into charcoal for smelting iron ore. The village has seen modest housing development in the past 10 years and has a public house and a community centre.

Loughill was part of the Roman Catholic parish of Glin until Father Daniel McCoy, parish priest of Glin, died in 1855 when it became a separate parish.

Ballyhahill was part of the parish of Shanagolden and Kilmoylan in 1855, but when Father Mortimer Collins, parish priest of Shanagolden and Kilmoylan, died in 1857, Ballyhahill and Loughill were joined to form the present-day parish.

There are two churches in the Roman Catholic parish today, one at Loughill, the other at Ballyhahill.

Inside the Church of the Assumption in Loughill (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The church in Loughill stands on an elevated site facing the man road. It was built in 1819 and is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is not clear whether William MacEnery or Daniel O’Sullivan was the parish priest when the church was built.

The church was rebuilt in the early 1960s, to designs by Patrick Sheehan. It has a nave, chancel and two transepts, with a shrine to Our Lady of the Wayside in the stone tower at the end of the nave.

A plaque in the porch recalls the church was blessed and rededicated as the Church of the Assumption by Bishop Murphy DD, and James O’Byrne, PP, on 12 February 1961, just over a decade after Pope Pius XII had proclaimed the Assumption as a dogma invoking papal infallibility.

The shrine and tower conceal the main entrance to the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The shrine and stone tower conceal the main entrance to the church on the left, accessed by steep steps.

The altar was donated by the O’Shaughnessy family of Jointer, Loughill. The base of the altar was donated by exiles from the parish in the US and England. The altar rails were donated by exiles of the parish in New York.

Thomas Fitzgerald of Loughill House, donated the crucifix behind the altar. The confessional box was donated by the McNamara family of the US and Knocknaboula.

Symbols of the Four Evangelists in the stucco plaster work in the ceiling at the crossing (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

There are symbols of the Four Evangelists in the stucco plaster work in the ceiling in front of the chancel.

Two former parish priests are buried within the church: Bernard McMahon, who died in 1847, and Daniel McCoy, who died in 1855. A third former parish priest, James Byrne, who died in 1967, is buried in the church grounds.

The shrine to ‘Our Lady of the Wayside’ is in memory of Father James O’Byrne PP and his sisters.

Inside the Church of the Assumption, looking towards the tower and gallery (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

According to the local historian Westropp, there was an early church in Loughill before the present parish church was built in 1819. This church was dedicated to Saint Colmog, a hermit who had a little church in the area. It was said a holy well nearby could cure eye ailments.

However, only small fragments of the church remained when Westropp carried out his survey of the churches in Limerick in 1905.

The church in Loughill was built on an elevated site in 1819 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Saint Molua’s Church in
Ardagh and the discovery
of the Ardagh Chalice

Saint Molua’s Church, Ardagh, Co Limerick … built in 1813-1814 and rebuilt in 1966 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

Ardagh-Carrickerry is a parish in west Co Limerick. The village of Ardagh is situated on the R523, on the road to Foynes and Shanagolden. The nearest main town is Newcastle West, about three miles away.

The parish is bounded to the west by Athea, to the north by the parish of Coolcappa, to the east by Rathkeale and to the south by Newcastle West.

The parish is first mentioned in 1200 when it is named Ardachadh, meaning the ‘high field.’ But the discovery of the Ardagh Chalice in a ringfort nearby at Reerasta in September 1868 shows the church settlements in the area date back to many centuries. The Ardagh Chalice is regarded as one of the finest examples of early Christian Irish metalwork.

A monument in the church grounds commemorates the discovery of the Ardagh Chalice in 1868 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

After the arrival of the Anglo-Normans, Ardagh became an important centre and the manor belonged to the Bishops of Limerick. The ruins of the 15th century parish church, destroyed in the political violence in 1641, can be seen in the local cemetery, behind the church.

The post-Reformation Roman Catholic parish was amalgamated with the Newcastle West, and Father Paul Creagh was registered as the parish priest of both parishes in 1704. A separate parish in Ardagh was formed in the 1750s or 1760s.

Before the present parish church was built, the Roman Catholic parishioners in the village of Ardagh were served by a mass house near where Aherne’s petrol pumps stood.

Inside Saint Molua’s Church, Ardagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The site for the present church was obtained on 2 April 1813 by the parish priest of Ardagh, Father James Corbett, one of the first priests ordained in the early years of Maynooth College, founded in 1795.

The site was donated freely by Maurice Studdert of Elm Hill, along with a subscription of £10 to the building fund. The neighbouring landowners followed his example, and building was completed before the end of 1814.

The new church was named after the patron saint of the parish, Saint Molua.

The early 19th century church was demolished in 1965, apart from the East Wall, was extended, rebuilt and extensively renovated, and opened again for worship in 1966.

The Baptism of Christ depicted in the porch window (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The large entrance porch has a five-section window that rises above the roof of the porch to the top of the gable. The three-light stained-glass window inside the porch depicts the Baptism of Christ by Saint John the Baptist.

The main altar is made from marble. The tabernacle is placed in a marble lined recess surmounted by a large crucifix on a sanctuary wall that is otherwise without decoration. To the right is a statue of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child.

The modern nave is lighted by three five-light windows on each side.

The statues in the church and the Stations of the Cross are regarded as good examples of modern ecclesiastical art.

Inside Saint Molua’s Church, Ardagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Father Maurice Cremin, who died in 1887 at the age of 31, is buried within the church. A plaque to his memory was placed in the right aisle by his fellow priests of Newcastle-on-Tyne.

A number of former curates and parish priests are buried in the church grounds: John Connors (1984); Daniel Costello (1973); John Wilmott (1952); John Sheahan (1902); Michael O hAodha (1934); John Hallinan (1917); John Reeves (1929); P Ruddle (1958); and James Liston (1945).

The monument to Father Maurice Cremin, who died in 1887 at the age of 31 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

The oldest headstone in the graveyard behind the church marks the grave of Robert de Lacey, Bishop of Limerick (1737-1759), who is buried in the family vault inside the old church.

Today, the Roman Catholic parish grouping includes Saint Molua’s Church, Ardagh, Saint Mary’s Church, Carrigkerry, and Saint Colman’s Church, Kilcolman.

The ruins of the 15th century parish church, destroyed in 1641, stand in the cemetery behind the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)