Establishment of the Church of Saints Alphonsus & Columba
This church was built between 1855 and 1856 by Fr. Bartholomew Sheridan who was then Parish Priest in Dun Laoghaire (then known as Kingstown). The construction of this church commenced either years after the Great Famine and barely a year after the Dublin to Kingstown railway line extension to Bray had been completed.
In 1882 the architect George Ashlin, who by then had built his home in St. George’s Avenue, Killiney, added the imposing spire to the church. This spire is a landmark over the entire countryside and is particularly visible when exiting the M50 to Cherrywood. The spire is octagonal rising from a pyramidal base above the belfry to a finial decorated with crockets.
The church is built in the French Gothic style to the plan of a cross. It is constructed of granite ashlar, with windows set high up in the walls of the nave. The granite tracery is a feature of the building. Under the bell tower at the centre of the west end is the main entrance which has a large pointed door-case with several sets of hood-mouldings, or dripstone, above it.
The interior of the church is a gem to behold. The stain glass windows bring to the church an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. The carved mouldings surrounding the tabernacle and on the pulpit depict scenes from the Bible.
The organ was built by Bevington of London around 1860. It may be the only sizable instrument by the leading and highly regarded 19th century organ-builder to survive intact and unaltered to this present time. To hear this organ played by a true musical artist is to listen to music at its best.
More details about our church organ available here...
To those people in 1856 who gave to us today such a beautiful church to honour God and pray in his Eucharistic presence we owe a great debt of gratitude.
Related Parish History articles...
Extract from ‘A Short History of Dublin Parishes’
“Meanwhile Fr. Sheridan (then P.P. of Kingstown) had secured a Church site among the gorse and boulders of the slope of Killiney Hill and a new Church, of very presentable dimensions and architecture, was creeping up, one knew not how for there was neither collections, meetings nor bazaars.”
The neighbourhood was no longer the desert it had been since the Reformation, but was gradually being seized upon for building plots, on which handsome and commodious villa residences were being run up rapidly and in a thrice Killiney and Ballybrack became the most fashionable summer suburbs of Dublin. The extension of the railway line from Kingstown along the coast, the fresh sea and mountain air, and the unrivalled beauty of the view in the Wicklow direction contributed much to the development.
But the Parish Priest was equal to this occasion and in 1856 the new Church at Ballybrack was solemnly opened and dedicated to Saints Alphonsus & Columba. Immediately Fr. John Harold moved up from Cabinteely to take charge of the new Church. This arrangement continued until the death of Fr. Sheridan in 1862 when rumours of a dividing up of the parishes became prevalent. The division, however, did not take place until a year after the vacancy, 1863, when Glasthule, Dalkey and Killiney were erected into a new parish with Fr. John Harold first P.P. and Cabinteely and Little Bray were given to him to administer.
While Fr. Harold was still curate in Killiney he built the Parochial House and the school within the church grounds.
A Killiney Childhood Remembered...
I was born at home in Killiney in the dying days of the horse and carriage era. My father, the late Paddy Dowd, owned a dairy farm. My late sister, brother, and I were all brought to Sts. Alphonsus and Columba’s Church Ballybrack in my father’s horse and trap to be babtised.
I received my First Holy Communion when I was six and I was driven to Sts. Alphonsus and Columba’s in Hall’s horse drawn cab. By the time I was about to make my confirmation World War II was raging across Europe and we had to walk to the church as only one or two residents in our part of the parish had petrol for their cars. Regrettably, by then our own horses were old and were needed to draw the milk carts to both Ballybrack and Dalkey. I was driven to my wedding in Sts. Alphonsus and Columba’s in a saloon car, as, by that time, petrol was more freely available.
In those days, Killiney Village had eight shops, a Post Office and a pub. The war changed things here and, sad to say, today we only have one public house and one grocery shop. Recently our post office closed down and is a great loss to the residents.
I joined the church choir at seven years of age and have continued to join each successive choir as they were re-organised. The current choir is the longest-running to date and I hope to attend until I am unable to climb the stairs to the gallery.
My aunt’s baptism appears on page six or seven of the very first books of baptisms in 1863, also listed are my uncles Peter (1865) and Michael (1867). My father was baptised in Dalkey Church, as it appears that in those early days Baptism alternated between Dalkey and Ballybrack chapels and the week in which you were born decided where you would be baptized.
My daughter joined the original Ballybrack Fold Group in 1973; she was married in Sts. Alphonsus and Columba’s in 1980 and both my granddaughters were baptised in Ballybrack in 1984 and 1986 respectively. My son-in-law was a collector at the church door for many years. Our family has had a very long and happy association with Sts. Alphonsus and Columba’s.