Historic church railings are now preserved for the future

June 1st, 2019 7:06 AM

By Jackie Keogh

An after photograph showing the beautifully restored Presbytery railing in Skibbereen.

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INSTEAD of simply replacing an old wrought iron railing at the presbytery in Skibbereen, the parish assembly went to the time, trouble and expense of having it restored to its former glory.

The ornate gate, posts and railing – which runs approximately 40m alongside the presbytery gardens at North Street – were made and installed in the late 1800s so the parish assembly members were keen to preserve them for posterity.

They engaged Pat O’Driscoll & Sons Ironworks in Durrus to complete the first phase – the railing – and that was installed last December, while Lar O’Donovan Builders was engaged to finish the job by capping the wall.

Pat O’Driscoll told The Southern Star: ‘The job was difficult because sections of the railing were in a very bad condition. We had to use old techniques to take them apart and rebuild them.

‘It was, however, very satisfying to see the end result: myself and my sons are very happy with it and we are looking forward to the next phase – the restoration of the four entrance gates and the four pillars.

‘That could be a more difficult job but interesting nonetheless,’ said Pat, ‘because the pillars are cast iron and were made in the foundry in Skibbereen.’

Pat explained that cast iron is, in fact, a delicate material so they will have to be careful if they are to achieve the same high-end result as they did with the railing.

Con McCarthy, a member of the Skibbereen Parish Assembly, said they too were happy with the result because the railing had become ‘an eyesore’ and they were afraid that if they left it for much longer it would be beyond repair.

Another project that is being considered is the restoration of the St Patrick Cross that was blown down during a storm and pierced part of the domed roof above the alter at St Patrick’s Cathedral. 

The cross is more than 6ft tall and very badly rusted, but when it is restored, Con said they would try and find a more suitable place in which to display it. 

‘Not too many people might notice these things,’ said Con, ‘but there are a few of us who would like to see these historic artefacts preserved for future generations. They were made with great care and attention at a time when money was scarce and we believe it is our duty not to turn a blind eye and neglect them.’

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