Last year, an old Inventory Book, belonging to the parish of Athenry was discovered by Fr. Martin Gleeson, P.P. Claremorris, in Barnacarroll. The notes on the parish churches and schools are recorded as written in this book.
….. The present Church of Athenry, which was built around its predecessor, a much smaller building was commenced in 1852 and was dedicated on August 15, 1853. The entry is in an account book not mentioning by whom, the Revd. Peter Curran being Parish Priest. The Most Reverend John McHale being Archbishop. The Revd. Daniel Cullinan, the immediate predecessor of Father Peter Curran left a bequest of £100 for the New Church in August 1852. Subscriptions commenced to be handed in 1851, but no items of expenditure appear until April 1853.
……. The Archbishop and priests of the diocese and some priests from the neighbouring parishes outside the diocese contributed.
The name of the Revd. Augustine O’Dwyer CC, first appears in August 1852. He took a very active part in the building of the Church, actually working on the scaffold. Father Peter Curran PP bequeathed £50 towards the building of the Church which was acknowledged by Father John O’Grady PP on January 22nd 1860.
Father – afterwards Canon O’Grady came as Parish Priest of Athenry on July 19th 1857. He did a great deal of the furnishing of the Church, erecting the very imposing High Altar of Caen Stone, having the roof solidly ceiled with wood and completing the Tower in which he had erected a large bell. This bell, however, after many years use, got cracked and its place supplied by the present one which was consecrated by His Grace, Most Reverend John Healy, Archbishop on November 29, 1903.
A gallery was erected in the South Transept in the year 1907 (at a cost of £75) and in 1911-12 the North Transept was enlarged and a choir for the nuns erected adjoining the Sanctuary.
Newcastle Church: 1838
Newcastle district was formerly a portion or district of the parish of Monivea, the Monivea district having been united to the parish of Abbeyknockmoy, and Newcastle to Athenry. This division or arrangement must have been subsequent to the year 1829, as a man named John Wall who was born in and lived until his death in Woodvillage, Tiaquin, Newcastle parish district, was baptised in Monivea in the year 1829.
The present, 1913, Newcastle Church was in course of erection in the years 1838-39, as some of the parishioners still living in 1913, remember that the structure – a portion of the unfinished gable was damaged on the “night of the big wind” on January 6th, 1839. (The Gallery was completed in 1907 cost £108.15.4.)
On the completion of this Church, the old one which was about half a mile eastwards, was used as a schoolhouse until the year 18..? During the curacy of Father Austin O’Dwyer (August 1852) a school-house was built in the new Church grounds, which served its purpose until January 1906, when the present schools under one roof were completed at a cost of £811.6.0 of which amount the Board of Works gave a grant of £504.4.1 1. (Hall in Newcastle built as a Schoolhouse by Fr. O’Dwyer)
During the same period, a residence was built for the male principal teacher, but is at present occupied by the principal female teacher, widow of the late principal teacher, John Heavey, sanctioned by the Education Board. The present (1913) principal male teacher being unmarried, wishing to live with his friends.
Athenry Boys and Girls School
In the year 1856, Father John O’Grady commenced to collect for the erection of schools in the town of Athenry. A site adjoining The Abbey, the ruined Priory of St’s Peter and Paul, belonging to the Dominicans, was given gratis by a Mr Hickman, a retired solicitor, a Protestant. He also gave a donation of £5 towards the erection of the School which always has been and is parochial property, no help ever having been asked from the Education Board. The School-house was built for two schools under one roof, having no internal communication, each room having its own door in a twin porch.
In January 1910, on the Girls School being transferred to the Convent School, an opening was made in the middle gable and the Girls School converted into a classroom for the Junior Classes. At the same time, the building was generally repaired and renovated, so that it is now a very good school-house, airy and commodious. During last year, 1915, I was obliged by the Local Government Board to erect new water closets flushed by water, and a closet for the Teachers Residence on the same principle at a cost of £72.11.3. See items and receipt on file. (Notes compiled by M.H. 25.4.16.)
Written by Tony King
Published here 09 Feb 2021 and originally published Spring 1997
The Athenry Journal
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