Hardly a day goes by without someone asking, how long will the scaffolding be up on the Rock of Cashel, on and off since the early 1970s?
Well it might be there a little longer than we think. Just before he died John Knightly, gave us a small pamphlet titled The Chapter-Books of Cashel Cathedral by Rev. St. John D. Seymour.
The pamphlet contains snippets from the afore mentioned Chapter-Books and on the second last page highlighted by John are a couple of paragraphs which go a long way toward answering those questions. Here and there through the minutes there occur some notices of that wonderful specimen of Hiberno- Romanesque work, Cormac’s Chapel. In 1695 it was ordered that “ye doore going into King Cormac’s Castle which is made up with lime and stone, be opened, and one of boards made” ; and three years later it was ordered that the workmen engaged on the cathedral were to put up the doors from the body of the church to Cormac’s Chapel. In 1868 the economist was authorised to expend the fee paid by Mr. Scully for the building of his monument (Scully’s Cross) in pointing the roof of Cormac’s Chapel and otherwise protecting it from damp; while a further sum of £15 was to be expended if it appeared feasible to use this building for the celebration of Divine Service while the cathedral was closed. The Cathedral on the Rock comes before us again. In 1803 a sum of money not exceeding £10 was to be paid to Archbishop (Broderick) to be expended by him in repairing some of breaches in the building, and in preserving it from dilapidation.
In 1843, Lord Dawnes, Commander of the District, asked permission to use that part of the Rock of Cashel, commonly called the old Deanery House, as a military post and also to fortify such outer parts of the churchyard as might be deemed necessary. The fortified turret in the south-west corner of the enclosure may possible date from this period; but what part is referred to as the “old Deanery House” we cannot say.
In 1867, on the eve of Disestablishment a last attempt was made by the then Dean of Cashel (John Cotter Mac Donnell) to restore the ancient cathedral at a cost of £7,500. Of this £3,200 was to be expended in roofing and restoring the choir, as well as rebuilding the east end; and the balance of £4,300 was to be spent on the nave and transepts. The plans for this are in the chapter chest. He proposed roofing-in the entire building, but as before only the choir and chancel were to be used for Divine Service. However, the Chapter refused to sanction this due to “insufficient funds.”