8th May 2018 – Unexpected Drama: The History of Holmpatrick Church

by Morgan Llywelyn

Morgan Llywelyn

by Morgan Llywelyn
(Skerries Historical Society Meeting – May 2018)

Unexpected Drama: a history of Holmpatrick Church

Despite the summer hiccoughing its way towards us at last, a good crowd of Skerries Historical Society devotees gathered in the Bowling Club on one of the first really beautiful evenings of the year to listen to noted historical novelist, Morgan Llywelyn, presenting ‘Unexpected Drama: A History of Holmpatrick Church.’

What was so unexpected about it? Church history turns out not to be the dry and dusty subject that you might expect – there was enough intrigue to fill several episodes of Fair City with a fair few murders thrown in for good measure.

First of all it was those marauding Danes who sacked the monastery on Church Island back in 798. Then there was the English King, Henry II who tried to claim property owned by Holmpatrick Priory in 1383. Luckily Prior John Randolph was able to prove the king had no right to it under the law. A couple of centuries later, Henry VIII was too wily for the Priory – he ordered the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537 and grabbed everything.

The land and buildings ended up being let to a wine merchant, Dirrick Huiberts Verveer. During the 1641 rebellion, this merchant was set upon and murdered when a priest came to the former priory to say mass. His sister in law also died. So much for the sixth commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill’.

Verveer’s brother in law, curate at Holmpatrick, was also robbed at this time but at least he survived.

Just a hundred years later, in a story which seems inspired by Cain and Abel, a local fisherman, James Cappogue, was hung drawn and quartered for the murder of the then Hompatrick curate, Rev Anthony Tanner. But Cappogue went to his death maintaining that it was Tanner’s brother, William, who had put him up to it. William managed to persuade the court that he was innocent and got off.

Fortunately things settled down in the nineteenth century though there was still plenty of excitement with the building of a new church to serve the Protestant congregation around Holmpatrick. It was designed in the Gothic Revival style by Dublin born architect James Edward Rogers who specialised in church architecture until the Irish Church Act of 1869 which disestablished the Church of Ireland, cutting off some of its funding which led to a slow down in commissions. Rogers gave up his architectural practice and devoted the rest of his life to painting and book illustration. Skerries is very lucky that Holmpatrick Church was built before Rogers retired from architecture as it’s a beautiful building which will be celebrating its 150th anniversary later this year. There will be a flower festival in August and an Open House in October to allow those who wouldn’t normally venture inside to appreciate the church and its history.

Report by Oona Roycroft