A campaign has been launched to help renovate one of Donegal town’s most iconic landmarks, Donegal Parish Church, whose tower and spire are in urgent need of repair.
The church, which was built in 1828, is one of the oldest buildings in the historic town centre and it is the second most photographed building after the nearby Donegal Castle.
The church tower and spire are an instantly recognisable feature on the Donegal town skyline. Every year, thousands of tourists visit the church and enjoy the peace and stillness away from the bustle of the streets, shops and hotels around the Diamond.
The building is not simply an historic landmark; it is also home to a living community of faith, who seek to worship God and share the love of Christ with the whole community. This is done most tangibly through events like the parish’s community carol service, community open days, and the work of the Mustard Seed—a volunteer-run community tea room and prayer space along the riverside at New Row.
The interior of the church has been largely unaltered since 1889, although the tiled floor was painstakingly restored in 2015. The church and hall benefited from a €60,000 disabled access scheme in 2014 and, last year, the church interior was extensively repaired following a Christmas Day lightning strike.
Now, the tower and spire need attention. The mortar between the stones has failed, allowing damp to penetrate the structure and damage the stonework. In some places, the mortar is up to 90 per cent defective and flakes of stone are beginning to come loose from the tower. Urgent action is needed to repair the stonework and to re-point the entire tower and spire.
The Archdeacon of Raphoe, Ven. David Huss, said it is specialised work, which comes at a price.
He said: “The cost of the entire repair project is estimated at €150,000. To our great disappointment, we were recently turned down by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for a grant under the Structures at Risk Fund. To date we have received no funding from local or national government, although we continue to explore these avenues and to engage with our local elected representatives and grant-making bodies.”
The parish is organising a number of fundraising activities over the next months. These will include a parish dance in the Abbey Hotel from 9pm to midnight on Friday 4th May. On Sunday 10th June, there will be a sponsored walk from Glebe National School, starting at 3pm. And on Saturday 11th August the parish will hold an evening cruise on Donegal Bay Waterbus, starting at 7.30pm. It also hopes to run an art exhibition and silent auction in the summer.
More details on all of these activities can be found at the parish’s new Facebook page, ‘Save our Spire Donegal’, which will also have details of how donations can be made.
Archdeacon Huss said: “Any support will be greatly appreciated. Together we can ensure that this much-loved landmark stands tall and continues to serve the community for many years to come.”