Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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THE DOCKLANDS - ST LAURENCE O'TOOLE'S CHURCH

'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage is a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research I have undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.

St. Laurence O Toole’s (Roman Catholic) Church,
Seville Place, North WalL

Saint Laurence O'Toole

Saint Laurence O'Toole was born near Castledermot, County Kildare, in 1128. As a young boy he was taken hostage by the MacMurroughs and imprisoned in a herdsman’s hut with just enough food to survive. After his release, he entered the church, becoming Abbot of Glendalough and then, aged 32, Archbishop of Dublin, the first native-born Irishman ever to fill the see. His elevation marked the end of Scandinavian domination in Dublin. As Archbishop he made a considerable impact on improving the lot of the poor, paying for certain people to holiday in the fresher climates of England. Laurence was centre stage for the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169 as his sister was married to Dermot MacMurrough, the villain of Irish history blamed for inviting the Normans to Ireland. During the subsequent peace negotiations, Laurence was the foremost ambassador for Irish interests. His efforts took their toll and he died in 1180 on the coast of Normandy following a meeting with King Henry II. He was buried in the Augustinian Abbey at Eu where his shrine still survives in the parish church. He was canonized just 45 years after his death. In 1914, a small bone from his hand was brought from Eu to Dublin and the relic was placed in a shrine in the St Laurence O’Toole Church on Sheriff Street.

Charles Kennedy

The arrival of the Dublin & Drogheda Railway (later the Great Northern Railway) in the early 1840s created huge employment opportunities in the North Wall. By 1843, the population of the North Dock Ward was estimated at nearly 4000, mostly Catholics. Daniel Murray, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and co-founder of St Vincent’s Hospital, insisted that such a large population should have a church. A generous benefactor Charles Kennedy gifted the church a triangular plot, measuring 20,000 square feet, on the corner of Seville Place and Sheriff Street.[1] Kennedy, whose coffin lies in St. Laurence’s vault today, also provided donations amounting to £1000 which ignited a major fund-raising drive. The architectural contract was awarded to Joseph B Keane who conceived a spacious church of dressed limestone built in the Gothic style. The first stone was laid on 13th June 1844. On 18th April 1847, the first stones of the St Laurence O’Toole Schools were laid just behind the church. (The schools were finished in November 1848 and 350 pupils were soon in the school).

Open for Business

The opening ceremony of the landmark Catholic Church took place on 24th June 1850 and was attended by thirteen bishops including the new Primate, Dr Paul Cullen. The clergy of the diocese donated the altar, made of Carrara marble from Italy. In October 1853, the district of Seville Place was declared a separate parish. The first parish priest and school manager was Father Michael Farrington P.P.

The Venerable Matt Talbot

One of the Church’s regular parishioner was the revered ascetic Matt Talbot who worked as a labourer in Messrs T & C Martin’s timber yards just next door to the church. He often came to morning Mass direct from his job in the creosote yard, the tar from the sleepers still shimmering on his clothes. [2]

The Relic of St Laurence

In 1914, a shrine to St Laurence O’Toole was erected in the church, comprising a relic of the saint, a small bone from his hand, brought from Normandy to Dublin that same year. Amongst those who must have admired this relic was Church Street resident Patrick Byrne, a Kildare man who lived at No 10. In 1903, Patrick married Isabella Carrick in 1903 in this same church. Upon the outbreak of the Great War, he joined the 6th Battalion of Royal Dublin Fusiliers and died at Gallipoli aged 43.

Union of Parishes

In 1941 the East Wall & North Strand Parish was formed from part of St Laurence O'Toole's. This included the flock of St Joseph’s Church in East Wall, built in 1919 and rebuilt in 1956.

Bending the Aerial

In his poignant and disarming memoir of growing up on 44 Seville Place in the 1960s, theatre director Peter Sheridan recalled how the church initially blocked their TV reception. They managed to position the steel antenna to bounce the signal into the house and ensure picture perfect reception a half hour into 1960. One of the curates, Father Ivers, rented a space in the Sheridan’s garage on the corner of Seville Place and Emerald Street for his ‘shiny black Volkswagen’.

INFORMATION

Priest: P.P: V. Rev. Ivan Tonge
Curate: Rev Jerome McCarthy
Parish Sister: Sr. Kathleen Mullin
Morning Service: Sunday: 10.00am & 12.00pm; Weekdays: 10.00am.
Evening Service: Saturday: 7.30pm; Weekdays: 7.30pm.

FOOTNOTES

[1] At the time, Church Road came to a point just opposite Kennedy’s land. However, with the expansion of the railways and canals, the southern end of Church Road was cut off from Seville Place and its community vanished into East Wall.

[2] Life of Matt Talbot, Sir Joseph A Glynn (Dublin 1928, Catholic Truth Society of Ireland).

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