The following text and photographs are
excerpted from the Avoca,
A History of the Vale,
by Rev. P. Dempsey, C.C., Avoca; Second Edition; Browne &
Nolan, Ltd.; 1913; Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Waterford; pp. 32-39:
- The Parish
At first sight, it may perhaps
be wondered at that in a work of this kind, a special chapter
should be devoted to the study of the Parish.
Here Lyethe The
To my mind, the Avocanian chain, so to speak, would be rendered
incomplete by the omission of this important link. Besides, a
glance at the division of the book itself should suffice to show
the natural sequence of the Parish question, seeing that the
first three chapters deal with the Church, the last three with
Subsequent details will, it is hoped, furnish yet another proof
of favour of the insertion of this chapter in these pages, hence
I merely invite the reader "to wait and see."
To begin with, it was originally known as the Parish of Redcross,
and in this connection the following will be of interest. In
the cemetery at Redcross may be seen this inscription on one
of the tombstones:
Body Of The Rev.
Who Departed This
Life The 11 Of
He Was 44 Years
Priest Of This
The remains of the late Father Wolverfton are buried in what
I believe to be the grounds of the original parish church, and
the presence of a holy water font sunk in the earth at about
fifteen yards from the priest's grave, strengthens the opinion
that this was the original site of the Catholic church.
In later years, a church once stood on that portion of Mr. W.
Quinn's farm, at Sporting Lodge, which is known to the present
day as Chapel Field. The probable position of the church was
just in the hollow between two wells. The owner of the farm will
be most happy to point out the hallowed ground to anyone who
should like to see it. This church was destroyed in 1798 and
in 1803 the church at Barranisky was completed, which served
as the parish church for years. During this time, the officiating
priest lived just where the family of O'Tooles live now, namely,
Gradual increase in population and other circumstances, made
it necessary to determine on a larger and more central position
for the church. Accordingly, the parish church of Newbridge,
as it was the designated, was built in the village. This edifice,
in course of time, became inadequate owing to the large colony
of miners that had settled in the district. To meet this exigency,
there was no time to be lost in the selection of a suitable site.
The choice lay between three, namely, the site on which the Protestant
church now stands, Avoca Hotel field, and the one which it now
occupies. At this period, the late Father Kearney, who was parish
priest, was invalid; consequently, all the active work which
the building of a church necessarily entails, fell upon the shoulders
of the late Father Smyth, C.C., who, by the way, occupied the
house which now serves as the Constabulary Barrack. It should
not be forgotten that the grandfather of the present Captain
Bayly, Woodenbridge, presented the material for the building
from his own quarry in Kilmagig.
parishioners vied with each other and particularly the miners,
in giving their valuable services towards the erection of God's
House. The foundation stone of the new church was laid in the
year 1860, and when the sacred edifice was completed the old
church was converted into the present National School. This explains
the presence of the cemetery at the back of the school-house,
in accordance with time-honoured custom of the country of uniting
church and cemetery, living and dead, on the same site.
On the death of Father Kearney, P.P., Father Smyth was promoted
to the pastoral charge of the parish and naturally came to live
at the Parochial House.
The Catholic population of Avoca parish is 3,320 approximately.
It is the largest rural parish in the Archdiocese, being seventeen
miles in length and seventy square miles in area. It contains
four churches, almost as many, you will say, as Glendalough with
its seven. However, the seven are ruins, while the four are in
good state of preservation.
There is, first of all, the Parish Church, situated within five
minutes' walk from the railway terminus. This is justly admired
by everyone as a fine specimen of Ornamental Gothic.
in order comes Ballykillageer Church, which is situated on an
immense height. One passes through Woodenbridge on the way, and
it is just tow miles, from the hotel or four from Avoca. Almost
thirty years ago, this church belonged to the parish of Arklow.
A coincidence occurred when the change was made, for not only
was Ballykillageer Church handed over to this parish, but in
addition, the late Father Barry, who officiated in this little
church frequently during the period of its existence, was transferred
with the church to this parish.
two remaining churches are situated at Templerainy and Barranisky,
respectively. The latter is three miles, and the former five,
from Avoca. If the visitor should feel inclined to inhale the
pure oxygen of the mountain breeze, he cannot do better than
take the road for Barranisky, which runs past the Avoca Hotel
on the right, then the road is fairly straight for one and a
half miles, when he takes a turn to the left, which will guide
him directly to that little hillside church which, to my mind, is
an ideal of its kind. When he enters the neat little church,
immediately he expresses wonder at seeing a perfect model of
a marble High Altar, the work of Earley & Son, and the princely
gift of Mr. Patrick Miley, Kilpatrick. It is not often, I presume,
that the inquirer will meet with such an agreeable surprise as
to behold this gem in a simplex, out of the way, but prayerful
The educational requirements of the district are also well catered
for. In proof of this assertion, it is only necessary to state
that there are in all six well-equipped National Schools, fortified
by an efficient teaching staff. With the exception of the Kilmacoo
and Redcross Schools, the remaining four are situated in close
proximity to their respective churches.
Such is a general outline of the parish in which it is our privilege
to "break bread to the little ones."