SIXTY YEARS to the day after it was formally blessed and dedicated and opened by Bishop James Staunton, his most recent successor was back at the parish church in The Ballagh on Friday. Bishop Denis Brennan re-dedicated the church of St. John the Baptist, which was originally opened on July 1 in 1951.
The need for a bigger and better place of worship to replace the since demolished old church in the yard of the parochial house was recognised by the clergy as far back as 1917. However, it was not until early 1949 that the first sod was cut and the work was not completed until nearly two and a half years later.
The reaction to the finished building was very positive, with commentators noting that the belfry was visible for miles around with seating inside for at least 400 worshippers. With its stained glass windows, choir gallery, simple Gothic style and roof of Bangor blue slates, the parishioners who helped raise the £ 24,000 ( almost €35,000) it cost to build had every reason to be proud of it.
However, by 2006, it was clear that work would be required to bring it back to a proper state of repair after dampness seeped into the walls. It was expected that the work cost €450,000.
Cuts or no cuts, sodden plasterwork had to be stripped back and replaced, with the walls around the gallery in the worst state of repair.
The parish council fretted that borrowing €60,000 would not meet the bills and they were very grateful for a bequest from the late Eugene Sinnott of Kilahard in Blackwater which came to the rescue.
With the help of the Sinnott estate, a fine job has been completed under the direction of Arklow contractor Dermot Reid. An extension has been added and the church bell has been mechanised. Monica Gahan from Boolavogue painted and generally restored the Stations of the Cross. Sheridan Stained Glass Creations were called in to refurbish and repair the windows, as well as installing windows made by Anthony Roche of Blackwater for confession boxes and sacristy doors.
C&M Delaney were responsible for replacing the old heating system. Paul Hempenstall of Gorey was responsible while steel fabricators Paul and Philip Cullen from The Ballagh made handrails. Other contributions were made by locals Paidh Doyle (demolition of chimney), Martin Ryan (wardrobes), Yvonne Jordan of Ferns ( interior design), John O'Grady ( painting), Arthur O'Leary & Associates of Gorey (planning) and Dromore Construction of Gorey (footpaths and car park).
In the end the total bill came to just over €500,000.