Organisation : Waterford County Museum
Article Title : Ardmore Memory and Story - The Village
Page Title : St. Declans Church
Page Number : 5
Publication Date : 06 November 2013
Expiry Date : Never Expires
Category : Ardmore

Rev. Fr. P. McGrath was responsible for the erection of the churches of Ardmore, Grange and Old Parish, while he was parish priest 1836-1846. Old Parish was later cut off from Ardmore and joined with Ring. The building of the three churches was an extraordinary achievement for the pastor and people of the area in pre-famine times. As a matter of fact, it seems to have been an almost impossible achievement for a poverty-stricken people. Not surprisingly, they remained without furniture for some years.

The following is taken from the Ardmore Journal: 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) 'dhá Thig' the path which descends steeply from Dawsons Road to the Cliff between Stone Steps and Rosary Cottage. Acording 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 Coláiste Deaglán), was born in the 1830'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.

An article in the Monthly Illustrated Journal of July 1883 describes a visit to Ardmore Church:-
"A turn to our right, a few moments along an even roadway with more whitewash to contrast with the blue expanse of waters before us, and we were in the little Catholic Church. A wonderfully humble sanctuary, with unpretentious wooden altars, tiny statues, flagged with large squares of dull stone, railings and pews stained a dark brown, a dim religious light prevailing everything. The one spot of colour some devotional pictures above the high altar, and the smell of the sea breeze borne on the fresh breeze through the open windows. It seemed to me a perfect sailor's chapel, so neat, so spotless, so guileless of any attempt to hide its honest simplicity."

There are still some interesting plaques in the church, two of them placed there by Canon O'Connor. One commemorates the visit of Cardinal Ó Fiaich in 1987, for the 150th anniversary; another commemorates Fr. Prendergast P.P. in famine times, who distributed food here during the famine and who is buried in front of the High Altar.

A plaque near the fourth station commemorates Fr. Patrick Costin who died in March 1875 aged 86 years and 60 years of his sacred ministry. A little framed photograph of him used hang on the wall beside the plaque. A brass plaque over the holy water font at the church door is in memory of 'his deceased parents' and presented by Mr Patrick O'Brien of Boston in 1914. The well-known Mrs Barry nee Dwyer who dominated the Cliff for so many years, donated the Stations of the Cross.

Willie Dwyer of Cork, donated the high altar in thanksgiving for the recovery of his son, Declan from an accident. The late Paddy Mockler sacristan at the church all his life (in succession to William, his father who had been sacristan since 1927) remembers the original wooden altar being replaced, and seeing as a school child, the cases containing the section sof the new altar being unpacked. Misses Amy and Snow Dwyer, Star Cottage, donated the altar rails. The side sections of them still remain.

After the death of Fr. Wall in 1875, the people erected by subscription, a side altar of marble dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A slab inserted beside the memorial altar is inscribed, "Pray for the soul of Rev. Patrick Wall P.P. to whose memory this altar was erected by the parishioners of Ardmore and Grange". Parochial History of Waterford and Lismore by Canon Power. The plaque is no longer in evidence.

We still have some note-worthy relics of the past in our churches. In Grange church there is a chalice of 1818 presented by 'the house-keepers of the parish'. It is extraordinary to remember that this was made years before the church was built. In the Ardmore Journal of 1990, there is a very interesting article on Patrick Troy, Wainright, Móin Bhaile Shiobhaín. Michael Mulcahy describes the set of six funerary candelabra made by P. Troy for Grange Church and there are two illustrations, side view and front view of the exquisite reserve tabernacle he also made for Grange church.

In Ardmore Church, there is a chalice 'presented by Mary Foley in memory of her father, James Foley Ardmore 1926. Ciss Quain remembers Fr. Galvin P.P. announcing this to the congregation. Mary Foley was in the U.S.A. and in order to identify her father, James Foley, said he was known in Ardmore as 'Jim the Boy'.

There is another most interesting chalice in the mass kit which goes out to the 'Stations'. It says "Doms Thos Power de Ardmore fieri me fecit Ad 1751. It is again extraordinary to think that this preceded the building of the present church by so many years and was probably in use in the old thatched church on the cliff, which is shown on a map of 1818. (A font from this church is still in existence, see Ardmore Journal 1987).

Down through the years various families donated pews in the side aisles and these were know as 'belonging to' such and such a family, right down to the 40's and 50's. every year, there was a collection for the church pews, families of the original donors being exempt from this. Fr. O'Byrne discontinued this collection. Anyhow, the side aisles, specially the ones at the Sacred Heart side were practically taken over in summertime by the influx of visiting nuns in the 50's and 60's. Before this, the Cappoquin nuns were in occupation of the top pew at the right-hand side and had a heavy red curtain around it. At one stage, Fr. Draper when curate, asked the nuns not to come to last mass on Sundays in order to leave room for the ordinary congregation. In our youth, we remember that the men invariably occupied the left-hand side of the middle aisle and the women were on the right.

As a result of Vatican 2, one main change that took place throughout the country was the liturgy in the vernacular and that now, the priest faces the congregation. We also have altar girls, Eucharistic ministers and readers. All this took time, but we have become quite used to it now. The Vatican Council which began in 1964 led to great changes in churches throughout the country.

In Ardmore, the first change involved making a large wooden platform for the altar and bringing it some feet further down towards the congregation. The second lot of changes occurred in the seventies in Fr. Meehan's time. Fr. Aidan from Melleray was very much involved. In the late 70's the altar (re-cycled from the former high altar) was made free-standing and the tabernacle inserted in the wall behind. The niches up high which had held statues were filled in and some of the statues dispensed with. Various plaques have disappeared too. During the alterations, St. Declan lost his silver heart-shaped brooch which had been presented by a Mrs Appleby, in return for a cure for her alcoholic husband.

The sanctuary lamps were removed and sold to two parishioners, but owing to the diligence of Mrs Eileen O'Brien of Grallagh, one of them has been traced and returned. It had been bought by and forgotten by the late Eddie Colbert who had no difficulty in relinquishing it in to her custody when she enquired about it. She performed a wonderful job of restoration on it and with the help of her brother, Tom Curran, Ballylangadan, made it ready for installation again in Ardmore Church.

The flagged floor of the church was taken up and a new one laid down. Regrettably, the original mullioned windows of plain glass were dispensed with, both in Ardmore and in Grange.

During all this upheaval, the late Mrs. Mockler did trojan work each weekend, preparing the church for Sunday mass. There was just one Sunday, when we were guests of St. Pauls (Church of Ireland.) In the old regime, part of the duties of Paddy Mockler, the sacristan was standing at the church gate with a wooden box, collecting coppers from the people going in. This of course, has been replaced by the offertory collection, and coppers are not expected in this.

Up to the 50's, the result of the annual collections for the priests of the parish were read out from the altar and the congregation listened with avid attention, as each section of the parish was taken in turn, for eg, Main St., the following gave £1 each - Jack Brown, John White etc., The following gave 10/- each Joseph Smith, John Moriarty and so on, down to the smallest donations. Nowadays things are done much more discreetly, baskets are passed around at the Offertory.

In the church-yard, at the west side, there are three headstones of priests who have been buried in the church:-
Fr. Prendergast of the Famine period
Fr. Shanahan who was responsible for the building of the school.
Fr. Patrick Wall, who died on Good Friday 1875.

It is remarkable that two priests of the parish died not alone in the same year 1875 but in the same month i.e. Fr. Patrick Wall and Fr. Patrick Costin (plaque near the fourth station already referred to). Fr. Galvin P.P. and Fr. Wall P.P. are both buried at the west side. Fr. Meehan died 1978 and Fr. Cahill 1975 are at the eastern side.

The Terry family has a burial plot and headstone at the back of the church, near the sacristy and Mick Terry of Whitingbay was buried there in 1998.

An interment took place about 1928/30 at the eastern side quite near the graves of Frs. Meehan and Cahill. There were bushes and trees in the area at the time. The horse-drawn hearse, with the horse caparisoned in black, arrived shortly after 3pm, so we inquisitive school children trooped up to investigate, but nobody now remembers who was buried there. Also at the eastern side a new grotto has been erected, dedicated to Our Lady Star of the Sea and commemorating those from the parish who were lost at sea. Bishop Lee consecrated it in December 1997.

I was upset that the sycamore and willow trees, which framed the church, were obliterated, they helped to soften the stark utilitarian aspect of the building. Many generations of my forbears have worshipped here, so I have a special regard and affection for my local church.

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