07 May 2019

Malahide Presbyterian Church
was built to meet the needs
shaped by an expanding airport

Malahide Presbyterian Church … designed by William Baird and built in 1956 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

My visit to Malahide last week provided opportunities to visit both Saint Sylvester’s Roman Catholic Church and Malahide Presbyterian Church, each on opposite sides of the railway line.

Presbyterians had been worshipping in Malahide from as early as the 1890s, if not earlier. A small number of Presbyterians in Malahide first worshipped in two rooms in a house at No 2 Killeen Terrace, Malahide.

These rooms may have been adequate for those small numbers, but Presbyterians arrived in Malahide in noticeable numbers with the development of Dublin Airport and the expansion of Aer Rianta, Aer Lingus and other businesses in the north Dublin area from the mid-20th century.

From the early 1950s, Presbyterians in Malahide felt the need for their own church, and the Kirker family donated land as a site for a new church.

The Revd James McCaughey, the Session, the Committee and the members of the Howth and Malahide congregation embarked on the project with enthusiasm. The architect William Baird designed a church to seat 150 people, with an ancillary hall.

Baird was also the architect of the Lifeboat House in Howth, and its obvious likeness to the Presbyterian Church in Malahide attracts pleasing comments again and again from local people and visitors alike.

The foundation stone of the new church was laid on 7 April 1956 by the Right Revd Dr James Carlile Breakey, a former minister of Abbey Presbyterian Church, Parnell Square, Dublin, and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

The church was dedicated on 25 November 1956, by Dr Breakey’s successor as Moderator, the Right Revd Dr Thomas McCurdy Barker.

Bill and Sybil Baird lived in Sutton, and she was a Sunday School teacher at Howth Presbyterian Church.

Bill Baird was one of Ireland’s leading architects and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland. He specialised in restoring Georgian residences, including Russborough House for Sir Alfred Beit and Castlemartin for Tony O’Reilly.

The houses and other buildings Baird designed as a partner in the Dublin practice of Kaye Parry had an unmistakeable Baird stamp. Germanic or Nordic in tone with high-pitched, sloping roofs and discreet fenestration they, like their creator, combined several qualities in being solid, unpretentious, distinctive and unique.

He also had a love of sailing and the sea, and of painting. A first-class dinghy sailor in his youth, he won many prizes at regattas in the Dublin area in the 1930s and 1940s. With his friend Brian Campbell and others, he set up the Kilbarrack Sailing Club, and served a term as Commodore.

His watercolours and pastels depicted the Greek islands, the West of Ireland and Sutton.

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