05 August 2017
A few days ago, I blogged about trying to find a rowing club near Askeaton and my walk on Thursday afternoon down to the slipway at Gort on the banks of the River Deel.
I returned to the slipway at Gort yesterday afternoon (Friday 4 August 2017) and found one man was out on the river in his boat.
Hospitality is unbounded in this part of Limerick, and as two of us stood on the slipway Dan Moran immediately invited us to join us in his boat.
Not only did he invite us to join him, as he had half an hour to spare as he waited for friends to join him, but we rowed up-river, through the wide bend on the Deel, by the ruins of the Franciscan Friary and the old creamery, under the bridge and up to the island on which the Desmond Castle stands.
Dan was a good tutor, and in half an hour I was in to the rhythm of rowing.
We returned back down the river, and continued on just a little further towards the Shannon Estuary to catch a glimpse of three swans who live on this stretch of the Deel.
Walking along the Backs in Cambridge year after year, I have often regretted that I went to Cambridge too late to learn to row. But on Friday afternoon I was told gently that I am never too old to learn.
Back at the slipway at Gort after about an hour on the river I was signed up for the recently-formed Desmond Rowing Club.
I have promised to be back on Monday evening.
It is just a short stroll from Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, to the other Saint Mary’s, and so recently, after dropping in to the cathedral, I visited this other Saint Mary’s on the Island.
There has been a Saint Mary’s Church on Athlunkard Street since the 18th century. This site on the Sluice or Little Island was first leased from Alderman John Ingram and a former Malt House improvised as a church.
John Ingram was the father of Canon Jacob Ingram, Chancellor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral in the 18th century, and grandfather of Canon John Hoare, Chancellor of Saint Mary’s and Rector of Rathkeale.
Work on building a purpose-built chapel on the site began in 1746-1748, and the first Mass was celebrated there on 10 December 1749. This was a cruciform-plan church, and there was a handsome altar donated by John Kelly, a Limerick merchant.
The present church was designed by the Dublin-based architectural partnership of Ashlin and Coleman, where George Coppinger Ashlin and Thomas Coleman were the heirs to the church building programme in Ireland of the great AWN Pugin. Their other works include many of the great contributions of the early 20th century to the Gothic Revival in Ireland, including Saint Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Armagh, and they also designed Clery’s Department Store on O’Connell Street, Dublin, in 1918-1920.
The new Saint Mary’s Church in Limerick was built by the Dublin-based builders Maguire and Shortt at a cost of £40,000 on the site of the former Saint Mary’s. The foundation stone was laid on 11 May 1930 by the Bishop of Limerick and the first Mass took place in 1932.
This church is a good example of 20th-century Hiberno-Romanesque church architecture. The church and tower are important elements in the streetscape marking entry and exits point in the city. The design of the tower is particularly strong, working well with the nave elevation.
The church is built in limestone, with a seven-bay aisle and clerestorey side elevations prolonged by a slightly recessed chancel elevation, and a three-stage tower to the south-west corner, which was added in 1940.
The church is built on a rectangular plan, with a double-height nave flanked by single-height aisles. The pitched slate nave roof has crested ridge tiles, and there are slate roofs on the lean-to aisles. There is a limestone chimneystack flush with the chancel elevation.
The three-stage square-plan tower has a smooth limestone ashlar base, an elongated intermediary stage, with smooth limestone ashlar sides projecting from the rock-faced limestone elevation. There is a smooth limestone ashlar belfry stage with triple-arched openings rising from the plinth course. A smooth limestone ashlar cupola rises from the machicolated parapet. The ogee cupola over the square-plan tower lantern tapers to a cruciform finial, with patinated copper laid in a herringbone pattern, and trefoil vent openings.
There are round-arched lancet window throughout the church. These are grouped in pairs to the clerestorey, and in threes to the aisle elevations.
There is a rose window above the gabled entrance filled with geometric tracery and leaded stained glass. There are oculi to the tower aisle and the chancel elevation with leaded stained glass.
The main door is set in a Romanesque-style round-arched door opening with engaged colonnettes, cushion capitals, and stripped chevron archivolts.
Inside, the nave is separated from the aisles by arcades made of polished marble columns with rendered capitals and flat squat impost block.
A full-height round arch separates the chancel, with the High Altar raised on a marble-faced platform. There is an arcaded marble and mosaic reredos beneath a triple arched window.
The different floor coverings including patterned tilework to the nave and aisles; timber boards laid in herringbone patterns in the pew areas; modern replacement tiles on the nave side of the altar; and mosaics with classical patterns.
The church stands on a prominent corner site where Athlunkard Street, Island Road and Saint Mary’s Place meet. The early 19th-century former parochial house is to the north-east and the foundations of the earlier church form and interesting feature in the church gardens.