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St. Patrick’s Church, Garrafrauns 1913

Garrafrauns Church 1913Garrafrauns Church 1913


 Reverend Canon Macken P.P. of Dunmore was given the responsibility of raising funds and organising the construction of a new church in Garrafrauns. A site situated in the centre of the village and just across the road from the old church was identified. Mrs. Millar a native of Blindwell, Kilconly and a local landlord donated the site free of charge, a noble gesture from a lady of Protestant persuasion.   Mr Robert Kirwan, surveyor of Sligo was awarded the commission of designing the church. Under the stewardship of Michael Finnegan, Dunmore, the main contractor, work on the building, which will be capable of accommodating a congregation of 400, commenced in springtime 1912.
 The construction of such a major building provided welcome employment for many local men as well as “journey men, stone masons and carpenters”. For many months tons of stone was transported by horse and cart from the villages of Quinaltagh, Cloondargan and Shanballymore. Stone was in ample supply in these localities as evidenced by the many stone walls that still exist in these villages. On site, the stone was painstakingly dressed by the many skilled stonemasons of the locality. A stonemason named Hawthorn from Castlerea, Co. Roscommon built the four corners and the external pillars. These pillars supported the heavy pine roof trusses. Two carpenters from Dunmore named Reddington and Mannion were involved in the making of the trusses and seats. Local masons contracted to work on the building included Martin Devine and his son also Martin, Pat Mullen, Eddie Nestor, Pat Glynn, Tom and Patrick Fleming (Flec) from Quinaltagh, Thomas Connally , Oggie McWalter, Patrick Sheridan, Bartholomew McWalter from Cloonfane; John Healy and John Connally from Garrafrauns.
Interior of ChurchInterior of Church

The site of the new church was extremely marshy and wet. The foundations were 10 feet wide in place. On occasions such was the amount of water in the foundations bags of cement still intact were thrown in. Still they persevered and a report in the Tuam Herald of 1912 recorded that the walls were 15 feet high. The limestone piers, bell tower and corners stones were quarried on the lands of John (Bull) Keane of Gortnagoyne. Thomas McHugh, sculptor of Tuam, created magnificent altars of finest Carrara and Connemara Marble. A new bell was ordered for the new church. However the bell was installed instead in Dunmore Parish Church and the Dunmore Bell was erected in the Bell tower in Garrafrauns. The building was completed in 1913 and was consecrated by Archbishop Healy assisted by Dean Macken P.P. on October 5th 1913.
As was the custom of the times, the High altar was flanked on either side by 2 smaller altars, one to Our Lady and one to the Sacred Heart. All 3 altars were constructed from white Italian marble. In 1938, a grotto dedicated to Our Lady was erected in the Church Grounds in memory of John and Catherine Fleming, Corohan. Electricity was installed in the building in 1949. In 1960, the building was given a facelift by JJ. Rhattigan, Builders of Milltown. Both the exterior and interior walls were plastered and central heating was installed.

As a result of changes to church law after the Second Vatican Council, the main altar was restructured to face the congregation and the 2 side altars were removed at the end of the sixties. However the statues that stood aloft on both altars still remain. At this time also the Baptismal Font was moved to the sanctuary and the altar rails were removed and reinstated at the front of the gallery. During 1974 the bell tower was removed and the bell was transported to a parish in Africa. The bell tower was rebuilt on the church grounds and now houses a statue of Saint Church Grounds 2013Church Grounds 2013Patrick. During the 1990’s the perimeter wall was demolished and was replaced by a cut stone wall of limestone.
In common with most churches of the time, Garrafrauns held an annual Corpus Christi procession. This tradition ceased in 1954. Confirmation was administered up to 1961. Now all schools in the parish are confirmed together in the parish Church in Dunmore.
The first recorded Baptism in the new church was Nicholas Canney of Cloondalgin on 5/10/1913, the first funeral was Kate Gilmore of Laughill on 25/10/1913 and the first recorded wedding was Patrick Walshe a local publican in 1922.
 4 priests have resided in the Priest’s house on the Poll an Adhastar road. The house and lands were purchased for the benefit of the local curate from the Quinn family. The first priest to reside in the house was Fr. Tom Concannon in 1948, and the last curate to reside there was Fr. Gerard Rafferty of Armagh. Father Rafferty was an army Chaplin in the Korean War in the early 1950’s and came to minister in the parish in the 1960’s. Only one priest, Fr. Gilbert O’Dowd, a native of Dublin, is interred in the church grounds.In 1994 the church had the distinctive honour of hosting the ordination of Garrafrauns native Fr. Francis Mitchell by ArchbishopCassidy.
Due to a decline in vocations, the number of priests working in the parish has now reduced from 3 to 1. In 2008, the last curate dedicated to the Garrafrauns Church, Fr. Benny McHale, was transferred to Ballyhaunis, thus ending an era. The Parish Priest of Dunmore, currently Fr. Fergal Cunnane, now has the sole responsibility for the spiritual needs of the whole parish. In more recent times, due to the shortage of priests in the diocese, parishes have been requested to cluster together. Dunmore Parish is clustered with Williamstown, Glenamaddy, Kilkerrin and Clonberne.

Priests who have served in Garrafrauns
Fr. Tom Concannon
Fr. Michael Cribben
Fr. Gilbert Dowd
Fr. Gerry Rafferty
Fr. James Quinn
Fr. Michael Farragher
Fr. Benny McHale



Church from the AirChurch from the Air