St Mary’s Church, Enniskerry
Thanks to Brian White, Local Historian extraordinaire for sending on this image of St Mary’s Church, Enniskerry, which looks like it was drawn to help the appeal for funds to build the new church in late 1858/early 1859.
The image appeared in Battersby’s Catholic Directory, Almanac and Registry of the Whole Catholic World (now there’s a title), 1858. In this, some annals of important events relating to the church are recorded and I have reprinted them below. Briefly, when Mervyn, 7th Viscount came of age, he reversed the policy of his predecessors and granted land beside Knocksink Bridge for the new church.
The appeal for funds gained momentum quickly (see below a note from Archbishop Paul Cullen) and the church was built by 1860. Archbishop Cullen thanks the generosity of Lord Powerscourt, and wishes his mother the Dowager Viscountess well (one may have to read between the lines here!) The Dowager had left the gift of St Patrick’s Church as a parting gift to the tenantry on her leaving of Powerscourt when Mervyn came of age.
So it was that Enniskerry got two new churches in very quick succession. Both parishes celebrated the 150th anniversary in 2010.
Correspondence Recorded in Battersby
A numerous meeting of the Catholics of Enniskerry and its vicinity held in the old barn (for so many years used as the Catholic chapel), for the purpose of appointing a committee, and organising subscriptions for the erection of a church, suitable to the wants and wishes of this beautiful and extensive locality. The Rev Thomas O Dwyer, the resident clergyman, Rev James Walsh and Rev Patrick Smyth and many others take an active part. Christopher O’Connell Fitzsimons Esq chairman. Mr Justice Keogh was also present [Nov 12 1858]
Lord Powerscourt coming of age soon after graciously promises the Rev Thomas O’Dwyer of Cuttlestown a suitable site in the beautiful village of Enniskerry for a new Catholic church instead of the miserable barn belonging to the poor Widow Dixon in which for so many years the tried Catholics of this district have worshipped God according to the dictates of their conscience [Nov 12 1858]
The plan of the new Catholic church in Enuiskerry submitted to Lord Powerscourt is approved by his lordship [Nov 20 1858]
Lord Powerscourt writes to Rev T O Dwyer Cnttlestown graciously conceding all solicited of him; suggesting the best and most central site called Knock Sink, near the new bridge of Enniskerry, for the intended Catholic church, but soliciting Father O Dwyer’s judgment on the subject. The selection of this site not only meets the approval of Father O’Dwyer but of all concerned. [Nov 28]
The Rev T O Dwyer makes a thrilling and pathetic appeal to his parishioners in Enniskerry accepting with thanks Lord Powersc0urt’s grant of the site for the new church there and prays them to come forward promptly, earnestly, and generously, to erect this house of the Lord. [Dec 6]
Meeting of the committee at Enniskerry when the Rev Thos Dwyer proposes the complete organization for the collection of the funds necessary for the new Catholic church [Dec 7]
Summarising the situation, Bentley reports:
“We regret to say that in the midst of such natural blessings this attractive district has been for centuries literally without any house of worship nor should its inhabitants even now be able to obtain a place for the erection of a Temple to the Almighty were it not for the liberality and generosity of the young and noble lord of the soil Viscount Powerscourt who immediately on attaining age placed at the disposal of the Roman Catholic Parishioners the most appropriate and commanding site in the locality. Our venerated Archbishop has lost no time in responding to this most generous act and has manifested his anxiety on the subject in the following lines:
It has given me great gratification to learn that Lord Powerscourt has granted a site for a Church in Enniskerry. I feel very thankful to his Lordship, and I am sure I am giving but very inadequate expression to the sentiments of gratitude felt by all Roman Catholics, and particularly by those of Enniskerry, when I say they will never forget his generosity, and that they will ever pray for the welfare of his Lordship, as well as that God may crown with every blessing and happiness his excellent mother, the Marchioness of Londonderry. I hope that measures will soon be taken for the commencement of the new church, and I trust that with the blessing of God, the generous contributions of the faithful will render the undertaking eminently successful.
“It is scarcely necessary to say that, so encouraged and patronised, all the efforts of the Roman Catholic Inhabitants shall at once and unceasingly be directed to erect upon the site granted, an edifice worthy of the great and holy purposes of a Christian Church, and in a style commensurate with the liberality of the noble proprietor, and the wishes of our revered Archbishop But the resources of the peasantry of a mountain district (however they may be seconded by the generosity of many of the neighbouring Protestant proprietors) are inadequate to so expensive an undertaking and we trust that their appeal to a generous public may meet with a response similar to that which has even within our own time adorned our country with so many splendid Temples-evidences of the faith that is in us.”