Our parish today was formed from the medieval parishes
of Clondegad and Kilchreest and they have been administered together
since the late seventeenth century at least. Two of the Islands in the
Fergus Estuary – Coney Island (Inishdadroum) and Deer Island (Inis
Mor) are included in the parish of Kilchreest. James Frost in his notes
on the parishes includes Coney Island in Kildysart parish, but in his
list of townlands in 1641, it is included in Clondegad parish, being
then the property of the Earl of Thomond. In 1664 its rated occupier
was Nicholas Parsons1
In 1704, in the reign of Queen Anne, every Catholic priest remaining
in Ireland was ordered to register his name, abode, age and parish.
The registration took place in Ennis on 11th July 1704. Each priest
had also to provide two sureties to be of good behaviour. The parish
priest of Clondegad on this occasion was Rev. Thomas Cloghassy and his
sureties were Turlough O’Brien, Ballycorick and Captain Peter
Local tradition tells us that there were Mass houses in Mount, Lanna,
Lavalla and Gurtygeheen at various times during the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries and possibly earlier. There are no visible remains of the
Mount Mass house which stood on the old road leading through Knapogue
and Mount from Ballycorick Bridge to the Poulaphuca Lavalla road. It
stood on the south west corner of the third field, coming from the four
cross roads at Garry’s shop, on the right hand side, a thatched
Fr. Timothy Breen was Parish Priest from 1846 to 1853 and it was during
this time that both the birth and marriage registers were commenced.
These were also the famine years so the place of worship continued to
be a ‘few wretched cabins knocked together to make a temporary
In 1853 Fr. Michael Dinan was appointed Parish Priest of Ballynacally.
It would appear that he was a very active man both politically and religiously.
During his tenure two churches were built within a very short space
of time and he was also active in the O’Connell Monument Committee
It could be suggested that contacts made politically were of benefit
when it came to fundraising in his own parish.
On 26th March 1858 it was reported in the newspaper – ‘The
Limerick Reporter and Tipperary Vindicator’ – that a site
for a new church had been given by Thomas Rice Henn of Paradise. The
same gentleman also gave £50 towards the building, a considerable
sum at that time6
The same newspaper reported that in October 1859 the people of Ogonnelloe
donated £17 including £1 from the pastor Rev. Michael Bourke
for a new church in Ballynacally7
The neighbouring parishes of Kildysart and Coolmeen were not found wanting
and in March 1860 they gave £36.13.3 towards the fund.8
In May of the same year the people of Tulla donated £30 towards
the building fund.9
One may be permitted to assume that collections took place in other
parishes also and at fairs and markets as was the custom of the time.
It could be also reasonable to suggest that contributions came from
overseas, from emigrants from the parish or from their descendants.
In April 1858 tenders were sought for the building of the church which
was designed by W.E. Corbett, Esq. C.E.10
The building was to be 108ft long, 35ft wide and transept about 65ft.
There were to be two lateral chapels, a decorated rose window at each
end with a statue in front, a side porch and buttresses – the
entire cost was estimated to be about £1500.11
No record was found of who the builder was but one deceased local man
was of the opinion that it was a man named Harte and to keep his memory
alive he inserted a stone in the shape of a heart in the surrounding
wall. Incidentally this stone can still be seen today so it is an interesting
When one considers that this was barely ten years since The Famine and
also that a church was being built in Lissycasey at more or less the
same time, one might have some idea of the enormity of the task. However,
on going through the diocesan records of the 1850s it can be seen that
this was a period of church building and church renovation in the Killaloe
Diocese. New churches were built in Dysart, Inagh and Cree and restoration
work was carried out in many more.13
Ballycorick Church was dedicated to Christ the King on 17th February
1861 by Bishop Flannnery of Killaloe. It has been suggested that Christ
the King was in commemoration of the old church of Christ at Kilchreest.
The sermon on the occasion was preached by Fr. O’Brien P.P.V.F,
Kilfinane, and founder of the Young Men’s Societies. It was customary
at the time to bring a well-known cleric to preach in the hope that
many from outside the parish would attend and so add to the collection
on the day. In the case of Ballynacally it was hoped that “many
of the pious Catholic inhabitants of Ennis will visit the new chapel
and as the inhabitants of Ballynacally and the Ennisites have always
been on friendly terms and have some commercial dealings together, perhaps
the latter would remember these things and by their donations help to
complete the work”. The collection on that Sunday in 1861 amounted
to £160 so one can only imagine the number in attendance on the
Fr. Dinan also acknowledged “the liberality of many Protestants”
who assisted them with their subscriptions. The local newspaper, “The
Clare Journal”, was full of praise for Fr. Dinan who “although
laboring under the greatest disadvantage from the remoteness of the
locality from any place where the necessary materials for so great a
work could be procured and the want of adequate means, had succeeded
by indomitable perseverance in erecting a suitable temple for the Lord
in this small and rather poor parish”.15
The plaque over the main door of the church bears the following inscription;
Ecclesiam hanc Christo. Dicatam erigi fecit Rev. Michael Dinan 1860.
The latter was promoted to Kilrush in 1868 and became V.G. of the diocese.
His former parishioners travelled to Kilrush in August 1869 to present
him with an address and testimonial in recognition of his huge contribution
to the parish.16
According to a plaque in the church the stained glass window made by
Mayer of Munich, the Stations of the Cross and the bell were presented
in 1872 by Mrs. Susan McMahon, Ballynacally in memory of her husband
The centenary celebration of both Ballycorick and Lissycasey churches
was held in November 1960 at Ballycorick. Dr. Rodgers presided with
priests from the surrounding parishes and from St. Flannan’s College
in attendance. In the sermon, preached by Fr. M. Kirwan, St. Flannans
College, the determination and relentless endeavour of Fr. Dinan were
praised as was the enduring faith of our forefathers.17
In 1970, the first major renovation work since its erection was carried
out on Ballycorick Church at a cost of over £20,000. The cut stone
walls were re-pointed and new windows giving greater light were installed.
The interior was brought up to the needs of the new liturgy. The base
of the marble altar, which had been erected by Rev. A. Clancy P.P. (1907-1921)
with the aid of subscriptions from the parishioners, was retained. New
seating was purchased for the main aisle and central heating was installed.
The gallery at the back of the main aisle and the altar rails were removed
and the baptistery was relocated to the side of the main altar. A new
belfry was built by local stone-masons to the right of the church. The
stone used for this was transported from the Factory Cross. The contractor
for the renovation was Michael Halpin, Ennis but there was much voluntary
labour throughout the project. The architects were Dowling and Co. Ennis.18
As the millennium approached it was obvious that another major renovation
work was necessary. Dampness had become a problem in the later years
of the twentieth century. This time the contractor was Paddy Carmody,
Lissycasey and the architect was Tom McGahon. Work began on Monday 4th
March 2002. A new roof was put in place while still retaining the old
slates. The stained glass window was completely restored and it remains
the focal point of the sanctuary. The walls were dry lined and the sacristy
was renovated and extended with a meeting room overhead. A huge fundraising
drive was launched with parish auctions, a fashion show, table quiz,
golf classic, concert and a levy on parishioners. Many parish organisations
contributed by holding fundraising events and there were donations from
parishioners and friends living elsewhere. So successful were all these
ventures that the overall cost, just under €500,000, was met within
the very short space of time of just under two and half years.
The church was dedicated by Bishop Willie Walsh on Sunday 22nd Oct.
2002. Mass was celebrated in the Community Centre, Ballynacally, while
the restoration work was being carried out.
Just a few months ago, thanks to the work of three parishioners, John
McNamara, Joe Gavin and Pat Moore, the sanctuary lamp was restored to
its former glory, with the reconstruction of the original principle,
where it can once again be lowered and raised on a pulley system.
To commemorate the building of Ballycorick Church 150 years ago, a celebratory
Mass was held on 19th November 2011, the Feast of Christ the King. The
celebrant was Fr. Tom O’Dea A.P. In his opening address, he said
how happy he was to be in the church of Christ the King, Ballycorick,
having come there six years ago from a church of Christ the King, in
Phoenix, Arizona. Fr. Tom blessed the building with water from St. Martin’s
Well brought by Frances O’Shea. The choir conducted by Mrs Geraldine
Halpin, was in full voice and there was much lay participation, in the
Readings, the Prayers of the Faithful and the Offertory gifts, all of
which reflected the history of the church. For the homily, Mary Hester
shared her knowledge of the parish by telling the story of the church
through its one hundred and fifty years. In concluding, she said “We
remember and salute our forefathers, who made it possible for us by
their labour and commitment, to have a place of worship to be proud
of and we ask God to ensure that our descendants will cherish it always.”
Jim Garry, chairperson of the Pastoral Council, thanked all who had
helped to organise the celebration of such a special occasion. He also
urged parishioners to get involved in parish affairs as the future of
the church rests with the laity.
Local Lore Regarding the Site of the Church
When Fr. Dinan was looking for a site on which to build the church,
it is probable that the landlords in the locality would have been approached.
The two main landlords were the Balls of Fortfergus and the Henns of
Paradise. It was Thomas Rice Henn who donated the site and £50,
but the site was in full view of the Ball estate. The Balls were not
too pleased and it is said that they sowed a plantation of trees –
known as the Round Wood – to screen them from looking at the church.
It is also said that the stone wall leading from Fortfergus back gate
to near the village of Ballynacally was also built around this time,
the object being to keep the masons busy, so that they would not be
available for church building on a voluntary basis.
Looking at Ballycorick Church to-day, one wonders from where the fine
stone came from. Once again, local lore is the only source available
to this writer. The stones were brought by boat from Canon Island up
the Fergus to the quay at Ballycorick Bridge, just a few hundred yards
from the site of the church. This seems credible as river travel in
this area at that time was flourishing and more available than any other
Prior to the 1970 renovation, it was the norm for families to occupy
the same seat every Sunday. These seats were ‘bought’ by
householders, who paid what was known as ‘seat money’, at
some point in the early days of the twentieth century. Our older generation
can still remember clearly where they sat in the church. Tradition relates
that a seat was reserved for the Henn family of Paradise because of
their generosity in the 1850s. It has not been confirmed if they ever
occupied it, they being of the faith of the Church of Ireland.
Another tradition remembered by this author was the reading out by the
priest of the contributions made by the parishioners to collections.
The memory is not of how much was contributed, but of the names of the
townlands – fascinating for a young child. It would be of great
interest to this author to hear of any traditions or stories relating
to Ballycorick Church, so that they may be included and added to this
Mary Hester 2012