After a gap of nearly 170 years, the crowning detail was put on place last Saturday at the Church of St Mary of the Visitation, Killybegs, when an elegant spire was hoisted into place on top of the church’s 120ft tower.
The delicate lifting job was carried out by local crane hire company, Gallagher Marine Ltd, and was completed within three hours between 7am and 10am. without a hitch.
The spire was fabricated by Henry McGinley & Sons Ltd. of Moville and, before it was put in place, it was slatted in readiness for slating. An estimated 3,000 slates will be needed to cover the structure.
The steel structure is 57ft high but, when a cross has been put in place on top, it will add 65ft to the height of the tower.
A spire was part of the original design for St Mary’s by London architect, John Papworth, but lack of funds at the time meant that it was not constructed at the time.
Another feature of Papworth’s design which has been included in the €2,8m refurbishment project is an elegant apse at the back of the altar, completing and enhancing the sanctuary area.
When the first mass was celebrated in the original church, on Christmas Eve 1844, the building still lacked a proper floor and parishoners brought wisps of straw and rushes on which to kneel on the cold ground.
Work on the present project started after Easter 2011 and it was originally hoped to have the contract completed by Easter this year. However, gales and heavy rain during the winter slowed progress.
It is now planned to have the church handed back to the parish by the end of this month. Bishop Philip Boyce has confirmed that her will perform the official rededication ceremony on Friday, June 1st at 7pm.
Architects for the refurbishment are Mullarkey Pedersen of Derry and the main contractors are McCann Bros. of Omagh. Seventy per cent of the sub-contractors are from Donegal.
The project has entailed a massive fund-raising campaign and, to date, €1.8m of the total of €2.5m has been collected locally. Most of the money was raised by planned giving and there have also been a number of fund-raising events, most notable of which was a week of prayer by two local “hermits” on an offshnore island in Donegal Bay last summer.