The Early Years
According to Canon Patrick Power (Ref 1 & 2) Rev Patrick McGrath was parish priest of Ardmore from 1836 to 1846. The church of Ardmore was erected during his pastorate in 1837. The building is described as "of the plain spacious and substantial type characteristic of country churches of the second quarter of the last century". The builder was Mr Mullany of Cahir and the dimensions of the church are given as length 88ft width 31.5 ft. Odell estate records (Ref 3) mention a lease dated 16th February 1844 from John Odell to Rev Patrick McGrath P.P. of Ardmore, for 500 years, from 25th March 1844. "This lease is for the site of Roman Catholic Chapel and contains a clause of forfeiture if otherwise used. The site of the previous church is not known. One is tempted to suggest Temple Disert at St. Declan's Well but this is definitely not the case. Smith (Ref 4) in 1774 described Temple Disert as being "quite in ruins". Ryland (Ref 5) in 1824 describes it as being "in a most ruinous condition". So we must look elsewhere.
Local tradition tells of a thatched chapel or mass house up the cliff near the pier. Some evidence for this is provided by two holy water fonts found at Cliff Cottage and also by the story of the mass path. People from Ardo and Whiting Bay used to come to church along an old mass path which started up near the rectory. The path went in front of Curran's Cottage (now Joe Callaghan's), crossed the stream and went along through the fields in an easterly direction behind Melrose, Maycroft and Lacken following the boundary line between Duffcarrick and Dysert. The remains of this track can still be seen behind Melrose. According to Paddy Mockler the end of it was the (idir) "dha Thig" the path which descends steeply from Dawson's Road to the Cliff 'coming out' between 'Stone Steps' and 'Rosary Cottage'.
According to Jack Crowley a link with these times is provided through a reminiscence of Tom Cullen of Ardo. Tom Cullen, father of J. Cullen who wrote "Lovely Ardo" and of D. Cullen of Colaiste Deaglain, was born in the 183O's, and was over 90 when he died. Tom recalled following his parents to mass as a child along this route to the cliff. By the time he was old enough to go to mass the present church had been built.
Rev Patrick McGrath P.P. was also responsible for erecting the churches of Grange and Old Parish. In 1846 he was transferred to another pastorate and at that time Ballymacart or Old Parish was cut off from Ardmore and Joined to Ring, and so the present parish is made up of Ardmore and Grange. Fr. McGrath was succeeded by Fr. Prendergast, Fr. Wall and Fr. Shanahan in turn. All of whom lie buried in Ardmore Church. The tombstones inscribed to them were originally embedded in the Church floor. During renovations in the church the three tombstones were relocated outside at the western boundary wall of the churchyard, on the right as you come in the church gate.
Rev Garrett Prendergast P.P. 1846-1857
Distributed food during the Famine, died on January 2nd 1857 and was buried in front of the main altar.
Rev Patrick Wall P.P. 1857 - 1875
Died on Good Friday March 20th 1875. To his memory the people erected the marble side altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in front of which he lies buried.
Rev John Shanahan P.P. 1875 - 1884
Died on 11th March 1884 aged 68 years, and was buried in front of Our Lady's Altar. He built the 'old' National School of Ardmore outside the church.
The residence of the parish priest has changed over the years.
Fr. John Walsh (P.P. 1884 - 1901)
Lived in Ballyquin House. He was known locally as 'Geallaim - se' from his sermons. He was killed by a fall from his horse returning from a sick call and was buried in Grange. On the outhouse wall near the sacristy in Ardmore was a ring to tie up the priest's horse.
Fr. Patrick Walsh (P.P 1901 - 1906)
Lived in the College or Monea House as it was known.
Fr. Casey (P.P. 1906-1911)
Erected the Parochial House during his time here.
The curates lived in various houses around the village until Fr. Galvin bought the house on the Rocky road known since as the curate's house. In those days it was known as Atlantic Lodge and William Mockler worked there for many years for the Poer family.
An Interview With Paddy Mockler
To find out more about the present church now celebrating the 150th year of its existence (1987) I spoke to Paddy Mockler whose family have looked after the church in Ardmore for the past 60 years.
The Mocklers have lived in Ardmore for generations. At the Ardmore ICA Historical Exhibition of 1955 a sundial made by my great grandfather was on display. This is engraved "W. Mockler Ardmore 1846". My qrandparents lived above in Dysert up on Dawson's Road. My grandfather was a great bird-fancier. One day a local character well known for confusing things, went to him looking for a bird and came home saying "Patsy Canary is going to give me Mockler for a bird".
My parents lived here in this house near the cross at the top of the village, and they looked after the church before me. My father William was gardener for the nuns up at the convent Stella Maris for many years. He was caretaker for Halla Deaglan and was very involved in the G.A.A.. He was also a drummer in the Ardmore Fife & Drum Band. My mother Julia Roche was from Curraghue in the parish of Glanworth Co. Cork.
I was born on 1st March 1915, an only child. I went to the old school just outside the church. As an infant I went to the nuns in the Girls' school for 2 years. Then we went into the Boys' school to Mrs. Keevers and Mr. Crowley. Monsignor Walsh and Fr. Ducey of Melleray were in class with me.
Mag Wolsey was chapelwoman in Ardmore for 22 years until one evening after having a drop too much she rang the Angelus Bell at the wrong time and was fired by Fr. 0'Shea. Later when he was Parish Priest in Ballyporeen he used to visit Ardmore regularly each year for the Pattern and would call in to see her.
"How are you Margaret"?
"I'm as well now Father as the day you fired me from the chapel"
Later on Maurice and Mag Flynn of Chapel Row looked after the church. There was a stove in the sacristy for heating and cooking. I remember serving as an altar boy on Sunday mornings hearing Mrs. Flynn inside preparing the priest's breakfast and the smell of the sizzling chops coming out at us. Later on Fr. Galvin asked my father and mother to take on the job. Their first day was Pattern Sunday 1927 with my father taking the collection at the church gate.
I got involved in the church work gradually and from an early age. I began by helping my mother with polishing the brass and also helping the Cappoquin nuns, who were there in those days, to decorate the altar with flowers and candles. When the nuns were withdrawn - from here Fr. Galvin asked me to take over their work. I couldn't have managed at all without my mother and Nellie over the years. It's much easier now but in the old days for example after washing the albs and altar cloths they all had to be pressed with a box iron. There was no electricity then and we had gas lighting in the church.
I go down to the church every weekday morning in time to ring the Angelus Bell at 8.00 am, and prepare the place for mass. During the morning I have various odd jobs, cleaning in the church, or cutting the grass outside. At different times of the year there are special jobs such as erecting the Christmas Crib and preparing for the Easter Ceremonies. The biggest job was always the Quarantore or 40 hours in July for the Pattern. Of course summer used to be very busy before, but there are not as many priests here on holiday at all now. I often saw a line of a dozen priests sitting in the sacristy and going out to say mass three at a time. At one time an extra temporary altar was set up in the sacristy.
There have been seven parish priests here in my time not counting Fr. Everard - I barely remember as a child seeing him passing up the street.
Fr. Galvin (P.P. 1921 - 37)
Fr. Galvin was the first P.P. that I knew. He got the bell erected outside and restarted the custom of ringing it - or the Angelus at 8.00 o clock, 12 noon and 6 o clock in the evening. The bell is inscribed O'BYRNE. BELL FOUNDER. DUBLIN. ARDMORE. 1927.It was originally on a wooden frame but this was replaced by a concrete one in Fr. Cahill's time. Fr. Galvin got a stroke and for about 4 years I used to go over to the Parochial House on weekdays to serve his mass.
Fr. O' Byrne (P.P. 1937 - 51)
He was a fine big man who came here as a curate from Carrick-on-Suir. He was made a Canon about a month before he left here and went back to Carrick as Canon O'Byrne P.P.
Fr. Cahill (P.P. 1951 - 68)
Fr. Cahill was responsible for building the new schools in Ardmore and Grange. He died here and was buried in the churchyard.
Fr. Power (P.P. 1968 - 70)
Fr. Power was only here for about three years and went to Lismore as Dean Power and Vicar General of the Diocese.
Fr. Meehan (P.P. 1971 - 78)
According to his headstone in the churchyard he was P.P. from 1968 to '78 but in fact Fr. Power was P.P. immediately after Fr. Cahill died. Fr. Meehan began the work of renovating the church and changing the altar following Vatican 2, so that the priest is now facing the people.
Fr. Wall (P.P. 1978 - 85)
Fr. Wall completed the work in Ardmore church and also carried out the renovations in Grange church. I was appointed a Minister of the Eucharist at this time. Fr. Wall died here in 1985.
Fr. O'Connor, the present (1987) P.P. was appointed in 1985.
My father remembered when the only seating was all around the wall of the church, the rest of the people had to stand or kneel. Originally the altar was of timber in the old Roman style. This was replaced by a marble altar and I remember as a child coming out from school and seeing the cases of it being unpacked.
Other church furniture was to follow. The holy water font has a brass plaque beside it which reads PRESENTED BY MR PATRICK O'BRIEN OF BOSTON TO THIS CHURCH IN MEMORY OF HIS DECEASED PARENTS AD 1911. The set of 14 paintings of the Stations of the Cross were presented by Mrs. Barry. The Cappoquin nuns organised a subscription in the parish for the brass candle holder or candelabra which is inscribed 'FROM PARISHIONERS OF ARDMORE THRO THE CHILDREN OF MARY 1921'. In the sacristy is a set of violet vestments donated by Lady Amelia McKenna to the P.P. made from a frock of hers. There is also a silver chalice dated 1751 which probably came from the chapel in the cliff.
As I said I could not have managed the work over the years without my mother and Nellie. I remember one summer's evening in August 1955, the month of the Regatta, my father came home from Stella Maris and said, "There's a nice girl cooking for the nuns above in the convent, Nellie Comerford from Bagnelstown in Co. Carlow. I told her she should come down to see us". Well she did and that's how I met my wife. Nellie used to come here every summer with the nuns and we corresponded for seven years and got married in Mount Melleray in 1942. Our daughter Sheila was born in 1950. My father died in September 1957 and my mother just one year later in September 1958.
"You must excuse me now James as its getting near the Angelus time."
Paddy Mockler and his wife Nellie are currently busy preparing for the 150 year celebrations this year (1987). Ardmore has indeed been fortunate in having the services of such dedicated people to care for its church and clergy.
Author: Siobhán Lincoln