In the late nineteenth century Annagry was part of the Parish of Lower Templecrone in the Diocese of Raphoe. Fr. Bernard Walker was parish priest in Kincasslagh at the time and Fr. Daniel Sweeney was his curate. A decision was made to build a church in Annagry. The responsibility became Fr. Sweeney’s. The joinery work was provided by Joseph Colhoun of Derry and the labour was given voluntarily by the people of the area. The Architect overseeing the work was E. J. Toye. The church was blessed by Most Rev. Dr. Patrick O’Donnell Bishop of Raphoe on October 14th 1894. The sermon was to be given by Monsignor McFadden P.P. Donegal but he fell ill, so Bishop O’Donnell gave it instead.
A gallery was added in 1903 and the church was dedicated to St Mary Star of the Sea. The Parish of Annagry was formed in 1945. Fr. Paddy Carr P.P placed an order for a set of handcrafted stained glass windows to replace the original ones on both side of the altar for the new parish church. Luckily they took a considerable amount of time to complete, because on the morning of February 4th 1946 St Mary’s was hit by lightning. The lightning entered at the back of the church and left a hole in the wall above the altar on its exit. The painting of the crucifixion on the wall behind the altar, all the windows and a statue of the Sacred Heart were damaged. While the church was been repaired all church services were held in the local Ancient Order of Hibernians hall. The church was reopened in November 1946 with its new stained glass altar windows.
According to several local sources, the windows were the work of celebrated artist Evie Hone and were installed by Harry Clarke Studios. This studio made approximately one thousand windows after the death of its founder Harry Clarke in 1931, and continued in business until 1973. After getting to know Clarke’s work and his fondness of deep blue colours I was of the opinion that somehow he had influenced the artist with his deep shades of blue.
They didn’t resemble any of Evie Hone’s creations up to that date.
But how could this be?
A fellow historian unearthed an article written by an art critic in the Irish Press on November 27th 1946. It stated that the windows were made at John Hogan Studios in Dublin. Resulting in further research I found that John Francis Hogan worked with Harry Clarke as an assistant. He had a bad accident in which he came close to losing his arm. Harry took him on as an apprentice and taught him the trade. Hogan set up his own studio in 1945 and worked there until he emigrated to California in 1958.
I sought the help of Ireland’s foremost expert in stained glass artistry who was of the opinion that William J. Dowling who worked with Harry Clarke could have created the Annagry windows. With the absence of relevant parish receipts we may never know who was responsible for this work of art.
This history can be seen on a information board at the entrance of St Mary’s Star of the Sea Church, Annagry, Co. Donegal.
Written by Jimmy Duffy 2013