Ballyshannon celebrates
historic organ restoration

St. Patrick’s Church, Ballyshannon will reverberate with music, history and pride on Sunday night at the re-dedication and blessing of Ireland’s second oldest church organ.

St. Patrick’s Church, Ballyshannon will reverberate with music, history and pride on Sunday night at the re-dedication and blessing of Ireland’s second oldest church organ.

The Most Rev. Philip Boyce, Bishop of Raphoe, will officiate at the ceremony which takes place a 7.30pm. The blessing will be followed by a concert with special guest organist Ronán Murray, all of the parish choirs and guest soloists.

Fr Cathal Ó Fearraí, PP, told the Democrat: “We are looking forward to a tremendous celebration on Sunday night. The restoration of the organ is the last part of the restoration of St Patrick’s Church, which was founded in 1795. It’s all part of a major programme undertaken throughout the parish since 1998. Over €3m was raised in all, and we’ve been able to renovate the church here, St. Mary’s Church in Cashelard, renovate and extend Kilbarron House, renovate Sheil House, and extend the Abbey Cemetery.

“In 2002, the organ was dismantled and put into storage. We held a public meeting about four years ago and it was decided to go ahead and restore it, because of its historic value.”

Parishioners raised €212,000 to pay for the restoration of the historic organ, which dates from 1858 and was built by the celebrated Henry Bevington. Trevor Crowe, who carried out the restoration works said: “The organs of this leading nineteenth century English organ builder were noted for their fine musical qualities, and were to be found in a number of Irish Cathedrals and churches from 1850 onwards. Over the years, most of these organs were rebuilt and altered beyond recognition, and so far as I know the Ballybrack and Ballyshannon instruments are the only ones to survive in their original form.”

Fr. Ó Fearraí, says that, although all the building and restoration works are done now, the celebrations won’t finish on Sunday night.

“We hope to have the debt for all these works completely cleared by the end of this year. It’s really something that everyone can take pride in. Thanks to everyone, especially the very hardworking fundraising committee here in the parish and to all the parishioners for their ongoing support over the past 12-13 years.

“The very last part of the jigsaw will be the publication of the history of the parish. Dr Geraldine Carville is working on that and we hope to have that out before the end of the year. She has written a number of parish histories and has also chronicled the history of the Cistercian Abbey at Assaroe.”