Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 2 May 2013
A Gate of Heaven
“Take ship and travel into strange lands; go into strange villages, towns and cities. You may not know the roads or streets; you may not understand the human language. The first road or street you will discover is the one that leads to the Church. Enter it, you will always understand the language in it- it is the language of prayer, adoration and love” (Fr Kieran, OFM CAP, 11 September, 1938, Sermon, Dedication of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Ballinlough).
As a side topic this week, I’m currently doing research on Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Ballinlough to mark its 75th anniversary. This is an article looking for memories of the people involved in its design, construction, and fundraising. If anyone has information, I’d love to hear from them (087 655 3389). The Church of Our Lady of Lourdes at Ballinlough was solemnly blessed by Bishop Daniel Cohalan, Bishop of Cork in September 1938. The church as a project followed shortly after the opening of Christ the King Church in Turners Cross in 1931.
The solemn ceremonies in 1938 marked the realisation of a long cherished hope of priests and people of the extensive Parish of Blackrock. The new church was a long felt want in the Ballinlough area of the parish due to the rapid growth of it as a residential suburb of the city. The project had been envisaged for some years and in 1935 the Bishop of Cork laid the foundation stone. The design was quite different to the elaborate concrete Christ the King Church. Simplicity of design was the keynote of the Ballinlough building in regard to both exterior and interior. Despite this, passing this building and viewing it from a distance especially from the northside, its striking lines do make an immediate impression on its limestone ridge. The altar is of a beautiful design. The tabernacle stands out impressively as a separate unit. The Stations of the Cross are also of a distinctive pattern.
There was a large attendance of the parishioners for the 1938 dedication ceremonies and when the time came for the public to enter the church, the accommodation for 1,000 worshippers was well taxed. Bishop Cohalan in his address highlighted the importance of having a temple to worship God thanked all those involved in it; “I would like to thank all who have helped to provide the means of meeting the cost of this new church. About £10,000 has been already expended and paid out on this church. That was a notable sum for the organisers and collectors to collect…there remains a debt of £1,000 and a house must be provided for the priest in charge of this church…And I appeal to the parishioners and to charitable friends to help Canon Murphy to wipe off the debt and to provide the small sum required. And not to confine myself to mere words, to appeal by example, I am myself giving the Canon £100 to meet the remaining liability”.
The architects were Messrs. Ryan and Fitzbibbon, 21 South Mall (looking for information on?). The building is in a Romanesque style and is faced externally with bricks and white cement. It was originally decorated internally in cream coloured paints. The flooring in the nave was timber, with the centre and side passages of terrazzo and the sanctuary floor was in cream, white, brown and blue mosaic. The altar rail, altar, or predella (the platform or step on which an altar stands), and steps are of marble. In the sacristy, there was ample room for space a mortuary. The baptismal font was situated at the west end of the nave. Two recessed confessionals were provided, and space was provided for an organ.
Messrs. Coveney Brothers, West Douglas, Cork (information needed?) were entrusted the important job of chief contractors in the erection of the new church. They were specialists in the work of church and school erection. They were known for their attention to detail in making structures solid and lasting. Their name was linked to many projects of note in the city and outside of it. The products of Ballinphellic Brick Company, Ltd (information needed?) were widely known and appreciated. Their works were at Ballygarvan and their offices at 29, Watercourse Road. To Messrs. Lynch’s Joinery Works, Kyrl Street (information needed on?) was entrusted the work of the seating and other joinery works. The firm had a reputation as manufacturers of joinery of a very high standard of quality.
In his sermon, Fr Kieran OFM CAP eloquently wove themes of the importance of community coming together in changing the nature of a building into something more sacred; “We are gathered and united in one living Holy Faith this morning in this beautiful little church, planned by Christ-like minds and built by human hands and generous hearts. We have witnessed a simple and significant ceremony of the Mother Church, a ceremony that has changed this chaste material building, making it now and for years to come, no longer a mere house, but a house of prayer, a house of God, A gate of heaven”.
689a. Interior of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Ballinlough (picture: Kieran McCarthy)