One of Ringaskiddy’s old landmarks is the Oratory located on the main street, and one of the smallest churches in the dioceses of Cork and Ross.
In the late 1800’s this was a League of the Cross Hall. The League of the Cross Society was a temperance movement in line with the original Fr. Matthew Temperance Society. The hall was also used for concerts, functions, card drives, handicrafts including crochet, knitting and sewing, dressmaking etc.
The records show that on St. Patrick’s Day 1883 a Ball and Soiree was held there commencing at 9pm with an admission charge of 4 shillings. The Secretary’s name displayed on the ticket was D.B. O’Flynn.
Circa 1915 the local residents made a request to have the hall used as a chapel. Locals had to walk to Shanbally for Sunday and weekday masses. In 1923 the building was refurbished and enlarged. The work was done voluntarily by local people including shipwrights who made the seating and joinery from pitch pine kindly supplied by Palmer Bros. the adjoining Boat year. Retired navy man William James was one of the leaders of this initiative and he crafted the statue of Christ carrying the Cross from local sea sand and gravel. He also made the pillars near the front door and the belfry containing a ship’s bell recovered from the stricken White Star Liner The Celtic which floundered on the rocks near Roches Point in 1928.
In more recent times the altar was replaced and crafted by a local man Martin O’Donoghue. This unique altar came from a 250 year old piece of Sweet Chestnut kindly donated by the Newenham family of Coolmore.
The little church, because of its simplicity and style, has endeared itself to generations of Ringaskiddy people and countless visitors from far and wide.
Earlier this year, major renovation work commenced on the church. Much needed remedial and re-construction had to be done. One of the imperatives of the undertaking was the conservation and protection of all its distinctive artefacts and original features. Gladly this work has proceeded at pace under the watchful eye of Rev. Fr. Sean O’Sullivan PP and the Oratory Fundraising committee headed up by Mr. Wojciech Garbuz. It is hoped to have it re-opened for Christmas ceremonies. Full credit must be attributed to all concerned including the Building Contractor, the Architects and Engineers.
On Sunday morning last the Shamrock G.A.A. Club, the oldest Club in the area, dating back to 1898, made a generous donation to the Committee.
Of course, like all such projects, a debt will have to be paid off after the re-opening. Hopefully, people will include a donation among their Christmas gifts for 2014.