William J. Hayes has many fine publications to his name. He had a major input into the
restoration of Holycross Abbey in the 1970ʼs.
His recent book The Awakening of the Abbey must be one of the most thorough and expansive accounts of any restoration project in the country. Not alone does it give a comprehensive record of the restoration in
the 1970ʼs and 1980ʼs but it links it to the people and history of the parish and country.
The author ties in the story of the Abbey with the life of the area. As you walk through Holycross Village today you walk through history. The Former Protestant Church. High above the banks of the River Suir and level with the bell-tower of the Abbey is the former Protestant Church. This was the Church of Irelandʼs Parish Church up to the early 1980ʼs. It was built in 1821 and was dedicated to St. Michael.
The Church Board loaned £600 for its building. It is rectangular in shape and is aligned east/west with a bell tower at the west end. There are no windows on the north wall of the church. On this site there was
an earlier medieval church served by the monks of Holycross Abbey. An entry in the Church of Ireland records from 1684 states that the church ʻwas in good repairʼ. The graveyard around it is the oldest graveyard in the parish. Burials go back to the 12th century or even earlier. Prior to that it is the most likely site for an older Celtic hermitage. The place was then known as Ceall Uachtair Lámhann, meaning ʻThe Cell (or Church) of the Eight Handsʼ. How this name came about is told in a story found in the great
manuscript of Holycross, ʻThe Triumphaliaʼ, which was written in 1640.
In 1697 a law was passed that forbade burials in any place other than in a protestant graveyard. From about 1700 Catholics were buried on the south side of the protestant church. Priests were not allowed to officiate at the burial and this gave rise to the practice of the priest blessing a handful of soil at the house of the deceased. The blessed clay was thrown on to the coffin when it was lowered into the grave.
This church was the worshipping place for the last of the Armstrongs of Farney and Moyaliffe. One orphan whom they befriended during the Second World War was Kevin Dalton. He later became a clergyman and wrote a book entitled ʻThat Could Never Beʼ.The quote comes from Winona Armstrong Kemmis who thought Kevin could never be ordained for the Church of Ireland because he was a baptised Catholic and an orphan. He ended up being rector of the Church of Ireland Parish in Monkstown, Dublin! Other articles to follow.