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Kilkee
Catholic Church
By Paddy Nolan, Kilkee

The Church of the Immaculate Conception and St. Senan, dedicated on July 21st 1963, is the second Roman Catholic Church to be built in Kilkee. The first was the Church of St. Senan built in 1831. Although it lasted for 132 years, the growth of the town meant that, even by 1894, it was seen to be inadequate. In that year Fr. Michael Quinlivan, P.P., died, and bequeathed 1000 towards the erection of a new church in Kilkee, (acknowledged by a wall plaque in the church to himself and his sister Elizabeth). By 1963, this bequest had grown to 20,377; the remainder of the 140,000 required came from local fundraising efforts and from Kilkee people in America. The dream was realised in some style. A thoroughly modern church replaced the traditional cruciform shape of St. Senans. This is the story of that design.

On November 14th, 1940, in an operation code-named "Moonlight Sonata", 449 German bombers left Brittany to attack England. Coventry was target 53. Coventry Cathedral was destroyed in the air-raid, the only British Cathedral to suffer this fate in the war. Six hundred architects applied to enter a competition for the new design. Of these, 219 finally submitted entries. The winner was Bosie Spence, (later knighted). The new Cathedral Church of St. Michael, Coventry was consecrated on 25th May 1962. Based on this plan John Thompson designed the Kilkee Church. The first sod was cut by Canon Grace on 15th July 1961, a full year before Coventry Cathedral was consecrated. Thompsons advanced thinking is obvious, underlined by the fact that the Spence design had caused "a storm of protest", in 1954.

Features include "saw-tooth" walls focusing light on the high altar; stained glass windows, each telling a story; the great 14 panelled crucifixion window over the entrance, a device of additional red colour being injected into each window from the entrance to the altar, tracing lifes journey.

On the same day that he dedicated the Kilkee Church, Dr. Rodgers also dedicated St. Flannans Church at Garraun, Lisdeen, Kilkee, saying "….two new churches in one parish, surely a unique record for any Irish Parish." This was a replacement for the old Lisdeen Church, described by Dr. Rodgers in 1963 as "….probably the oldest church still in use in the country; it was there in 1760 and probably several years earlier." It was effectively the parish church of the combined Kilferagh and Killard for many years.

Signal dates are:
1813: Doonbeg Church built by Fr. Patrick McInerney
1831: Kilkee Church built by Fr. Michael Comyns
1854: On the death of Fr. Comyns, the parishes were again separated, after nearly 200 years. They would be known as Kilkee and Doonbeg
1870: Bealaha Church built. From here on, Kilkee and Doonbeg Parishes each had two churches

 

Kilkee: Historical Background