St. Mary’s Catholic Churchby John Rooney.

St Mary’s Catholic Church, Carrick is the parish church of the Parish of Kiltoghert. Situated near the centre of Main Street, it is the finest of many parochial churches in the provinces. Built on elevated ground, it has a magnificent set of sandstone steps leading to the street. These stretch almost the full width of the church. There are rockeries, with many kinds of flowers, on either side of the steps. This church is an early Gothic building designed by the Dublin architect, Mr William M Hague, in 1879. It was completed 50 years later by his pupil T.F. MacNamara, who added the stained glass windows over the High Altar. It was commissioned by Canon Thomas Fitzgerald P.P. (1872-1887), who is buried at the foot of the altar of the Blessed Virgin.

Whe the church was ready for roofing it was reduced to ruins by a hurricane on 19th January 1875. This storm caused the extra cost of nearly £4,000 and the total debt on the church when it was opened was less than £2,000. St Mary’s was solemnly blessed and dedicated to the Mother of God by Most Rev. Dr. Woodlock, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, on 9th October 1879. On the occasion the sermon was given by Archbishop Croke (founder/patroon of the GAA). According to the members of the Church of Ireland community the land (like nearby St. George’s Church) for the site of St. Mary’s was provided by Charles Manners St George of Hatley Manor. The church was completed under Canon Hoare P.P. During a period of eight years Canon Hoare provided the parish with three other churches. He re-opened Jamestown Church in 1887, as the Church of the Sacred Heart, which had been built early in the century by the O’Beirne family, as an oratory. Canon Hoare also built St. Joseph’s Church at Leitrim Village in 1888, and St. Patrick’s Church in Gowel in 1892.

In St. Mary’s, the aisles are divided from the nave by pointed arches sustained by polished Balmoral granite pillars with moulded bases of Portland stone and ornamental caps. The high relief sculpture over the front door is made of caenstone from France. Measuring entirely 170 feet long and 60 feet wide the building is 30 feet wide at the nave with the aisles being 15 feet each. The height from the floor to the roof’s apex is 60 feet. Its walls are built of limestone with chiselled dressings, the gables being pierced by decorated stained-glass windows and the large varnished doors are hung with decorated iron-work and the seats are of pitch pine with ornamental terminals. Construction of the magnificent bell-tower took place in 1925 under Dr. Hoare’s successor in the parish, Canon Thomas O’Reilly (1915-1932) on the direction of Dr. Hoare, (who became Bishop of the diocese), at the cost of £6,000. Soon afterwards in 1927/28 the splendid organ was installed and before his death in 1927, the bishop arranged for the erection of the grand sanctuary window, his last gift to the church and parish of his predilection.

There is an old photograph of the original bell-tower in the book “Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland” published in New York in 1900. The High Altar as dismantled in 1979 and parts of it was distributed to a new tabernacle in the chapel on the left. Its place was taken by a gallery of boarded wood enfolding an oil painting of the Last Judgement with Christ looming behind a group of fleeing figures by artist Ray Carroll.

  Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim - Telephone : 071 96 20118