About the Parish of Kinawley-Killesher


Kinawley Church

Saint Naile’s Church, Kinawley

The church in Kinawley is dedicated to Saint Naile, a sixth century saint and friend of Saint Columcille who founded a church here. The ruins of the east wall and two side walls of a medieval church have survived. It appears to have been quite a large church for this period, measuring 65 feet by 20 feet. A holy well, Tobar Naile, is situated nearby. A pilgrimage to this holy well was part of the traditional Bilberry Sunday celebrations on the last Sunday in July each year. William Hague designed Saint Naile’s Church. The lowest tender for the work was £1,625 and building began on 30 November 1873. The work ran over cost and the building was only completed with the support of Bishop Conaty and the hard work of the curate Fr. Bernard O’Reilly, a native of Lurgan, who not only helped to raise money but did some of the manual work himself. Like all of Hague’s churches this is a fine church, built with substantial stone walls and is aesthetically pleasing both inside and out. The church was dedicated by Bishop Nicholas Conaty on 19th February 1876. Improvements were carried out on the building in 1976, while Father Liam Gaffney was curate and again in 2000, while Father Gerry Comiskey was curate and was re-dedicated by Bishop Leo O’Reilly on 4 August 2002.

 Swanlinbar Church

Saint Mary’s Church, Swanlinbar

The first Saint Mary’s church was built along the Claddagh River in 1828, the land having been leased from Major Thomas Burrows to the parish priest at the time Father Philip Kiernan for an annual rent of £5. In 1868, the parish priest Father Peter Whelan, refused to pay the annual rent. When the sheriff arrived to seize the property in 1869, he was met by over 1,000 men armed with a great variety of weapons. The rent continued to be paid  however until 1940 when Father Patrick Mallon reached an agreement with the owners making a final payment of £59-14s-4d. Renovations were carried out on Saint Mary’s church in 1927 and gain in 1959 which cost £21,000. Swanlinbar, being a border town was affected by the ‘Troubles’ and on 8 December 1874 this fine church was destroyed by a bomb which had been placed on the floor of the church. The church had to be demolished and the new Saint Mary’s church was rededicated by Bishop Francis Mc Kiernan on 15 August 1978. The new church, which has a floor sloping towards the altar, is a modern design which was influenced by the Vatican Two directives on liturgy. Hubert Duffy was the architect. The church can seat 600 people and it has a day chapel which can seat 60 people. In the year 2000, while Father Hannon was parish priest, a Prayer and Peace garden was developed in the church grounds to mark the Jubilee Year.

 Killesher Church

Saint Patrick’s Church, Killesher

There was a church at Killesher in 1837 which was known as the ‘Crossroads’ church. The present church was built in the decade after the Great Famine. A plaque on the church wall reads ‘Dedicated to Saint Patrick. A.D. 1857.’ Fr. Patrick Smith, a native of Larah, was parish priest at this time. Saint Patrick’s church is a small rectangular building with a square based, squat bell tower adjoining it. It has narrow gothic windows with plain stained-glass. The floor slopes gently towards the chancel. A gallery was added sometime after the church was built. The Stations of the Cross are attractive ones with fine wooden frames. The confessional was donated by Father John Mc Grail and the teachers of the parish in 1953. The Catholic population was small and therefore the two churches which were built in Killesher parish in the decades after the Great Famine were small too.


Saint Lasir’s Church, Wheathill

There was an early Christian settlement at Killesher which was dedicated to Saint Lasir. There is a graveyard at this site, on a north facing hill slope. There are ruins of a church, which is probably a post-Reformation one, in the graveyard. Nearby is a holy well dedicated to Saint Lasir. There was a chapel at Wheathill in the year 1835. The present Saint Lasir’s church was built in 1874 while Father James Cleary was parish priest. He was a native of the parish of Kilmore and he was parish priest of Killesher from 1866-1875. A sexton’s house was built to the rear of the church. St. Lasir’s church is a rectangular building with narrow gothic plain glass windows. The window in the chancel is a large gothic one, divided into three sections, with stained glass depicting Mary, Queen of Heaven, the Eucharist and the Lamb of God. The small chancel may have been added sometime after the church was built. The church is a simple structure without ornate details and has an intimacy only to be found in small churches.