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:

 

Chapter III - 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.

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 the State.

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:

Here Lyethe The
Body Of The Rev.
William Wolverfton,
Who Departed This
Life The 11 Of
December, 1767.
Aged 64.
He Was 44 Years
Priest Of This
Parish.
R.I.P.


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, at Ballinacor.

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.

Parish Church, AvocaThe 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.

Ballykillageer ChurchNext 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.

Templerainy ChurchThe 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 Barranisky Churchhillside 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 little templed.

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."

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