'This is the epitome of community spirit’: Taoiseach praises Cork volunteers during visit

'This is the epitome of community spirit’: Taoiseach praises Cork volunteers during visit

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath TD, An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin T.D and Mayor fo Cork County Cllr Gillian Coughlan with Save Our Steeple Volunteer Jason Byrne examining some of the graves that were discovered during restoration work at Templebreedy Graveyard. These graves were hidden in overgrowth for years. A famine mass grave was also discovered during restoration work by the volunteers.

A project which has seen volunteers come together to try to preserve the ruins of an 18th century church in a Cork village, has come in for praise from the Taoiseach who described the project as “the epitome of community spirit.”

On Saturday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin visited Crosshaven, where he met with volunteers involved in the ‘Templebreedy Save Our Steeple’ project at St. Matthews Church (formerly Teampall Bríde or Templebreedy) just outside the village.

Minister Michael McGrath, County Mayor Gillian Coughlan and Virginia Teehan, Chief Executive of the Heritage Council also attended.

The project was set up by volunteers after Storm Ophelia in 2017 to consolidate what remained of the ruins of St. Matthews Church, built in 1778, on a site that previously had been a monastery.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath TD, An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin T.D with Save Our Steeple Volunteer Jason Byrne examining the grave of Jonathan McGrath who died when the RMS Leinster was Torpedoed in 1919. The grave was discovered during restoration work at Templebreedy Graveyard. These graves were hidden in overgrowth for years. A famine mass grave was also discovered during restoration work by the volunteers. PIC Darragh Kane
Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath TD, An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin T.D with Save Our Steeple Volunteer Jason Byrne examining the grave of Jonathan McGrath who died when the RMS Leinster was Torpedoed in 1919. The grave was discovered during restoration work at Templebreedy Graveyard. These graves were hidden in overgrowth for years. A famine mass grave was also discovered during restoration work by the volunteers. PIC Darragh Kane

Volunteers have fundraised to acquire reports needed to inform plans for the site and they hope to start works there early next year.

It is hoped that in the future, the site could be utilised as a wedding or service venue.

Cllr Audrey Buckley who has been involved with the project from the start said that in order to complete works on St. Matthews Church they are currently working on a report to submit to the Department of Heritage.

“Our hope is to complete all consolidation works on St. Matthew’s Church and put in proper measures for approved ground cover for the church. Our hope is more weddings and services could take place at this idyllic location.”

Speaking on his visit, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin praised and thanked the volunteers for their work.

“This is the epitome of community spirit, individuals and groups joining together to preserve and protect their local heritage for current and future generations. 

"The dedication of volunteers and the innovative approach has reclaimed the area for the community and has unearthed the deep history of the church and the burial site. It shows what can be achieved in such a short time when communities are involved at the heart of a project.” 

The site, which includes a graveyard, overlooks the entrance to Cork harbour and is situated on a looped walk focussed on Crosshaven.

Save Our Steeple Volunteer Anita O’Riordan grooming the sheep that were part of the clean up before An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin'd visit to St Matthew's Church Templebreedy. PIC Darragh Kane
Save Our Steeple Volunteer Anita O’Riordan grooming the sheep that were part of the clean up before An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin'd visit to St Matthew's Church Templebreedy. PIC Darragh Kane

It is one of the key graveyards for the military heritage of Cork Harbour with burials connected to British Military and naval personnel.

Volunteers have conducted a careful clean-up of the graveyard in recent months through ‘GoatScaping’ & ‘SheepScaping’ with goat and sheep herds brought in to graze on the site.

Volunteers say that this has controlled the worst of the dominating vegetation on the site but say the scale of the graveyard makes sustainable conservation, care and maintenance a high priority.

During his visit, the Taoiseach also visited Crosshaven House and Crosshaven Tennis Club.

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