It has been said that, at it’s best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.
The last four years have witnessed enormous community effort to preserve and repair one of the most enchanting buildings in West Cork, namely Christ Church, Kilfaughnabeg in Glandore.
Access to the church is gained through a rock tunnel in the form of an archway, to where it nestles snugly overlooking panoramic views of Glandore harbour. The church itself is small and sturdily inhabits a space between the road to Glandore and the side of a cliff.
It was consecrated on September 17th 1861 by William Fitzgerald, Bishop of Cloyne and Ross and a report in the Cork Constitution newspaper of September 17th, 1881 describes the event as follows:
‘The day was highly propitious, the picturesque harbour presented a scene of unusual splendour, which borrowed most of its attractiveness from the presence of a number of Erin’s lovely daughters in their holiday attire, promenading the beach, bringing to mind O’Connell’s oft repeated quotation “the finest peasantry under the sun”’
At the time it served a local Church of Ireland population of 53.
The tower bell went silent in 2011 when local man Tim O’Donoghue had to suspend a lifetime practice of ringing it for Sunday service. The church was deemed unsafe by engineers and temporarily closed.
Also known as ‘The Little Church of Factna’ it soon became apparent that as well as the tower needing repair, there were also a number of other issues to be dealt with including a leaking roof. There was no electricity. Then the people stepped in to save the church.
A cross-community committee was formed in 2012 to raise the €110,000 necessary to save the tower and install electricity.
Trojan fundraising efforts ensued, spearheaded by the committee including Averil Cook, Dean Christopher Peters, Liz Best, John Dowling, Maureen Fortune, Lal Thompson, Rosemary Singleton and Jennifer Calnan.
The initial phase-one target was reached, and the work carried out thanks to a grant from West Cork Development Partnership Ltd, donations and money raised through a ‘Sponsor a stone’ campaign, where each donor would have a personal stone in the church assigned to them.
The tower has since been restored and electricity installed. Gutters and downpipes have been replaced, new drains installed, most of the stonework repaired and last year the windows and interior were painted.
‘We are on the last push now to restore two small sections of stonework on the tower that still need to be repaired’ says Averil Cooke, one of the committee members who have worked tirelessly to save the church. ‘We have been very kindly gifted with the necessary stone by Sam Kingston but we still need around €13,000 euro to complete the repairs.’
‘The final phase of the restoration will have to be carried out under strict conservation guidelines, and we are getting there gradually thanks to all the support we have received, so we remain optimistic that the work can be completed, but there’s still more to be done.’ she says.
In order to raise the necessary funds, the church has hosted a number of events during the summer including a traditional music concert, a film screening, art exhibitions and lectures by the Glandore Harbour Yacht Summer School.
‘We nurture the hope that the church will continue to enrich the cultural life of the local area, as well as serving as a place of prayer and contemplation for people of all denominations,’ says Dean Christopher Peters. Regular Sunday services are held during the months of July and August at 10am.
‘I want to thank everybody who has worked so tirelessly to help preserve the church, we have received such great support from the wider West Cork community,’ says Dean Peters ‘We remain hopeful that we will get it fully restored as we are now in the final phase.’
Many well-known locals have rallied behind the fundraising efforts over the last few years. These include actor Jeremy Irons who gave a fascinating talk after a viewing of The Mission and producer David Puttnam whose other well-known film War of the Buttons was filmed in the Glandore /Union Hall area.
The church is open daily from June to September and wall hangings are permanently on display outlining the history of local buildings, monuments and events, except during scheduled exhibitions.
More information can be found on the Facebook page Glandore Church of Ireland restoration project