Dunmanway bells project to honour town's famous son

July 2nd, 2017 7:15 AM

By Jackie Keogh

The bells are being restored by Martin Hough, above, at his workshop in Drinagh.

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SAM Maguire’s contribution to the GAA and his dedication to his country is being recognised in his hometown with the Sam Maguire Community Bells project.

A ring of eight bells – six of which were cast in 1887 and came out of a church in Wales, plus two new bells that were cast by Matthew Higby & Company in Bath, England – are to be installed in the tower of the Church of Ireland St Mary’s Church in Dunmanway this summer.

Rev Cliff Jeffers said the Sam Maguire Community Bells project – which will be officially launched on Saturday, September 9th next – will tell the story of Sam Maguire and the history of the town.

Each bell will have a theme including sport, wars and revolution, agriculture, the people of Dunmanway, migration, religious traditions, education and arts, and industry and commerce.

The themes will be developed into storyboards, but the project will also serve as a draw for people who are interested in learning how to ring bells.

With that in mind, Rev Jeffers said they have a loan of a ‘mini ring’ and are offering practice lessons every Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Martin Hough, who is originally from the South of England but relocated to West Cork seven years ago, spoke with pride of the restoration works that he was engaged in at his workshop at The Pike in Drinagh.

Martin explained that over the summer steel grills will have to be put in place to hold the weight of the eight bells, and that builders will have to concrete in the end of these beams into the walls of the church tower, and all of that will have to be given time to cure before the bells can be installed.

Martin, a welder fabricator by trade, said he worked for church bell companies in England and was surprised to find that no one in this area specialises in church bells.

‘That’s how I ended up doing what I am doing here,’ he told The Southern Star. ‘Most of my work is with single bells because most churches have single bells. I never anticipated that I would end up doing a complete set. But it wasn’t a problem.’

Martin said that throughout the country, there are only 36 churches with a complete set and that West Cork – namely Skibbereen, Rosscarbery, Bandon and now Dunmanway – plus St Finbarr’s in Cork, and Doneraile, is well represented. Martin said he’s looking forward to the launch and the fact that a group of bellringers are coming over from the UK that weekend to share their expertise with the community.

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