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ABOUT ST COLUMBAS – The Building and History
Welcome to the website of the OTHER Drumcliffe, also with the St Columba appellation, like Sligo– quite why is an ecclesiastical mystery! It is linked with tradition that St Columba or a St Columcille witnessed around the Burren. St Flannan, St Senan, St Colman are more local likely names! This is a town with a Franciscan tradition and before the construction of St Columba’s Church in 1871, Anglicans worshiped in the old Franciscan Friary.
The attractive “Decorated Victorian” style building was the first Anglican church to be built within the new Church of Ireland dis-established in 1870, and along with the nearby “Sixties” Rectory commands a special view over the River Fergus in the heart of Clare’s main market town, Ennis.
An excellent two manual pipe organ, fully exercised under the skillful and long-standing Nigel Bridge inspires weekly worship there and the naturally excellent acoustics also allows for occasional other musical and cultural events.
Visitors are always welcome outside worship hours when Rector, Chancellor Bob Hanna often gives impromptu tours of what is the key church in Drumcliffe Group with Kilnasoolagh, one of only two Church of Ireland parish groupings in County Clare, the other being Killaloe.
General Sir Bindon Blood is perhaps the most famous name associated with the Ennis Anglican scene. Part of a famous family producing clergy, soldiers and farmers, his is the more celebrated of two men with the same name, though the striking large west window was installed in memory of his older 19th century family member. Other stain-glass in the chancel of German and English origin mark a famous rector Julius Henry Griffith DD and four of his deceased children.
A real treasure in the chancel are the 24 ceramic and mosaic figures of Biblical and Celtic saints portrayed by parishioner Catherine Amelia O’Brien during the ‘Thirties. This is one of the most unique personal works by a parishioner anywhere in our national Churches, and is a source of amazement for tourists. Later a leading member of the Tower of Glass stain-glass studio in Dublin, her work is seen in Churches around the country including Christ Church, Dublin and in Aras an Uachtarain in Phoenix Park. She died in 1963.
A contemporary Brigid Ganley, formerly O’Brien, from Dublin, contributed three large canvas figures from the Old Testament for the home church of her father and her aunt. Wall tablets in tribute to names such as Gore, Keane, Crowe, Vere O ‘Brien, and Blood recite a history of the leading families who patronised the Victorian St Columba’s Community. Names of parish sons who died or served in the holocaust of the First World War are listed beside the oak choir stalls installed in their memory. The main reading desk and accompanying minister’s chair, both nicely embellished with carvings are, ironically, Presbyterian in origin, salvaged on the closure of that tradition decades back.
A foyer and meeting hall, with kitchen and toilets were wonderful additions to the Church completed in the ministry of the former Dean Maurice Talbot , who continued Parochial ministry on his retirement from St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (His Ennis years were 1980-’83). These were constructed from space at the rear of St Columba’s, adding to, rather than taking away from the ambiance of architect Francis’s Bindon compelling design. Bindon, working to the instructions of pioneering Rector Philip Dwyer between 1868 and 1871, managed to include on the roof of St Columba’s, a Celtic cross and Round Tower (Chimney flew !) The Blood family mausoleum, in the shape of a pyramid, sits in the grounds of the Church, land given by the family who lived nearby along the River Fergus. The church enriches the Georgian splendor of Bindon Street, Ennis’ finest thoroughfare.
See Kilnasoolagh for details of this ancient church , linked with the history of the Inchiquin-O’Briens ‘of Dromoland Castle and the Fitzgerald’s of Carrigoran.