Prior to the building of St. Patrick’s Church, Strandhill, the local Catholic population had to travel to ( old) Ransboro Church for Sunday Mass. In the years immediately before the new Church was built the Strandhill National School house was used as a venue for Sunday worship.
The need for a Church in the growing village of Strandhill had been recognised – especially in the holiday season when the local population was more than trebled by the annual influx of holiday makers who came to benefit from the seaside air. The early autumn of 1919 saw perhaps the greatest ever influx of visitors hoping to fortify themselves against the great Asian Flu that was then stalking the land.
The man who acted as a catalyst for the Church building project was Fr. Mulligan, the curate with responsibility for this part of the local Cathedral Parish at the time; he had full support of the local people and of the Most Rev. Dr. Coyne, Bishop of Elphin.
The Building Fund was launched when Fr. Mulligan’s brother – a priest home from the Missions – preached in the Cathedral in December 1919.
Mr. Benjamin Morrow donated the site for the new Church in the townland of Carrowbunnan. It was on the left hand side of the new line of road – Buenos Aires Drive, which had recently been built by Mr. Morrow between the ‘top road’ and the sea.
Mr. James Walker the owner of Killaspugbrone townland gave permission for the removal of sand and gravel from Kilaspugbrone shore. Plans and specifications for the new Church were drawn up by Mr. R.J. Kirwan, County Surveyor.
The highly successful Culleenamore Strand Races in August 1920 were organised to raise funds for the completion of the new Church.The first sod on the site of the Church was cut on the 10th of February 1920 and the excavation for the foundation commenced.
The Foundation “stone” was a casket …
On St. Patrick’s Day 1920, despite most unfavourable weather, a large attendance of local people gathered at the site for the blessing and the laying of the foundation stone. The ceremony was performed by Dr. Coyne, Bishop of Elphin attended by several priests.
The foundation “stone” took the shape of a casket made in cement. Inside the “stone” was placed, in a sealed glass a parchment containing the date and particulars of the erection of the church. A small box containing specimens of the current coin of the realm was also included as were the current copies of the Sligo Champion, Sligo Independent and Sligo Nationalist. Bishop Coyne was then presented with a silver trowel and having closed the lid, the ‘stone’ was deposited in the eastern corner of the sacristy area.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Dr. Coyne presented Fr. Mulligan C.C. with a cheque for one hundred pounds for the building fund.
The Church is a standing tribute to the generosity of Coolera & Strandhill
The Sligo Champion of 20/3/1920 concluded its account of the blessing of the foundation stone with the following remarks: – “A special word of praise is due to the people of Coolera and Strandhill. They have given not only subscription in generous measure, but they have placed at the disposal of the committee their services in the carting of material etc. and carrying free of charge all the initial work in which they could be of service. When the Church is complete, it will be a standing tribute to their unselfishness, and time will only make dearer to them the recollection of any service they have given in building a house for the glory of God and the perpetuation of the faith of our Fathers.”
The building proceeded according to plan and was completed in June 1921. Built of mass-concrete the dimensions of the new church were 102 feet long, 32 feet wide and 55 feet high. There were three porches and a large sacristy. The work was all done locally, with the exception of the altar.
The Stations of the Cross were supplied by Messrs. Egan, Cork and presented by Mrs. Ballentine.
The fact that the Church and everything pertaining to it was Irish in construction was a cause of particular pride to the people.
The Church was solemnly dedicated to St. Patrick on August 14th, 1921. The dedication was particularly apt in view of the association of St. Patrick with the nearby ancient church of Killaspugbrone.
The ceremony of dedication took place at twelve noon, by which time an immense gathering had collected in the vicinity of the Church. Three Bishops attended – Doctors Coyne of Elphin, Morrisroe of Achonry and O’Doherty of Clonfert, together with a large body of clergy.
Bishop Brone’s tradition lives on …
Bishop Morrisroe was given the honour of blessing the Church prior to the Mass. Bishop Coyne presided at the High-mass and Bishop O’Doherty preached the sermon. The Sligo Cathedral Choir attended and rendered the sacred music for the Mass.
For his sermon Bishop O’Doherty took as his text the words of the King Solomon “I have built a house in Thy name.” He reminded the congregation of the fact that St. Patrick himself had brought the light of Faith to the locality and that he had left Bishop Brone to minister to the spiritual wants of those Christians of long ago.
While the church of Bishop Brone was now gone, near its ruins there arose another in its place to be a landmark of the Christian Faith in Strandhill.
He congratulated Fr. Mulligan and, the people of the parish on the magnificent work they had done for the glory of God. He emphasised the fact that everything in the Church was of Irish material – planned by Irish brains and executed with Irish hands.
After the Mass, Solemn Benediction was given by Bishop Coyne after which the choir gave a beautiful rendering of “Hail Glorious Saint Patrick.”