Renovation of St. Mary’s Church, Athenry into new Scout/Guide Den (1987)


By Seán Rice

Source: The Connacht Tribune 2-10-1987

APS-St. Mary's Renovation 1987-CtA small band of dedicated workers   in   Athenry  have transformed a dilapidated old building into a magnificent new quarters for scouts and girl guides in the area.

On Saturday next long months of planning and hard work will be brought to fruition when the town’s new Scout Den is officially opened by the Regional Commissioner of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland, Mr. Tommy Flaherty.

The project is a shining example of what can be achieved when a group of determined people have the will to pursue an objective.

The Church was established in 1828 on the site of St. Mary’s, the original Catholic parish church. The 700 years-old walls of that church form the ruined transepts of the present building and from the chancel of the present building can be seen King John’s Castle, a Norman Keep and a landmark to the town’s antiquity.

A huge challenge

The condition of the church, however, presented a huge challenge to the committee when they sought a den for the newly established Boy Scout Troop in the town. Even to reach it was an ordeal. But having battled their way through the decades of overgrowth scout leader Sean Lawless and cub leader Christy Caulfield felt it was worth following.

(Photos by Gerry Ahern)

Before Renovation – The Church Building and Cemetery





“We used to visit the old church as children when it was still being used by the  Church  of  Ireland  congregation and we were always fascinated,” said Sean. To him it did not seem right that it should be left there to become just another ruin.

A labour of love

Every spare moment of the seven men …Genry Ahern, Ned Waldron,  Christy  Caulfleld, Tommy   McNamara,  Tommy  Quinn, Gerry Farrell and Scan Lawtess, and indeed of cub leader, Mary Quiirn,, was spent in a labour of love on the old church.   Help was also given by Gerry Holland, Paddy Lyons, Pat Higgins, Joe Rooney, Paul Thompson, Jim Reidy, Christy Archer,

Under the guidance of Sean j Lawless, himself a builder, the roof, in which there was a gigantic hole and through which a huge ash tree grew, was repaired. The floor under which a heating system had originally been installed, the ceiling, the seats, the walls, which had originally been dry-lined lo prevent dampness,  were all tastefullv restored.

Before Renovations – The Church Interior


                                                                                              The Ceiling


                                                                                                 Floor Debris


                                                Stain-glass Window

A jungle of vegetation

Outside, a Youth Employment Scheme, under the direction of Willie Burke, extended the town’s sewerage and water supply to the building and cleared the jungle of vegetation that concealed  old   graves  and monuments, dating back to 1665.

After Renovation – The Church and Cemetery





After Renovations – The Interior


The sanded and varnished floor


New Lighting System


                                                                                   New wall panelling


                                                                             Restored church seating


                                                           New kitchenette


                                                                                        New toilet room


                                                                         New double-grazed windows


The bulk of the sponsorship came from the local Credit Union (£500); chemist  Frank O’Neill; Josie Murphy, publican; Vet, Frank Brody, Athenry Mart and Keane Kitchens of Ballyhaunis who installed the kitchen; John Lawless glazed the windows and made teak window frames. Paint, timber, toilets, sink units etc were supplied by other people.

Generous Sponsors of the New Windows


L-R: Mary Kelly (Kelly’s Pharmacy), Frank O’Neill (O’Neill’s Chemists), Josie Murphy (The Arch Bar), Frank Brody (Brody Veterinary Services), Tom Lane (Athenry Credit Union). 

Official opening


                     Members of the large crowd present at the opening


                                                                  Scout Leaders and Cubs and Scouts


         Regional Commissioner of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland, Mr. Tommy Flaherty, opened the new Scout Den


                                                                                The thronged church

The Committee were also loud in their praise of Cllr. Martin Lynch, a local member of Galway County Council who was always on hand to give advice and to seek assistance for them.


      L-R: Cllr. Martin Lynch, Rev. Mons. Michael Mooney, Rev.Leslie Forrest , Sean Lawless and daughter, Sharon.

The ecumenical blessing by Mons. Michael Mooney and Rev. Leslie Forrest of the restored building took place at 3.00 p.m. on Saturday, 3rd of October 1987 and Athenry’s 20 scouts, 30 cubs and 25 brownies had a new and wonderful home/den.

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