Kilbarron Church Conservation Plan 2023

West gable wall Kilbarron Church

We have received a grant offer through the Community Monuments Fund to further work on the conservation of Kilbarron Church. We plan to replace the fractured lintel over the entrance and conserve the west gable wall which is almost still intact after being ruinous for over four hundred years.

The Kilbarron Castle & Church Conservation Group (KC&CCG) wishes to thank Donegal County Council who made this possible by shortlisting us for the Fund and to the Heritage Council who have been of great support and funding over the past nine years.

Lintel over the entrance doorway which is shattered through weathering and which we plan to pin it or replace with local stone sympathetic to the original stonework of the church.
A wider view of the entrance doorway which has been dated to the early 15th Century.

We must also thank our hard working committee and the supportive landowners and also the local community and wider diaspora who have been generous in their support and contributions to the wider projects.

The group had a site meeting with Martin Reed from the National Monument Service along with Dr Joe Gallagher, Donegal Heritage Officer and Contractor Michael McGroarty. There too in attendance were KC&CCG Conservation Architect Geraldine McManus and KC&CCG Archaeologist, Tamlyn McHugh. KC&CCG committee members; Molly Reynolds, Martina Needham, Philip Cleary, Ruth Cleary and Fergus Cleary. The meeting was to discuss the retention or not of the cracked lintels over the entrance doorway and at the base of the west window. It was decided that the group will need the advice of a structural engineer. We hope to begin conservation work in July.

Left to Right: Martin Reed, National Monument Service; Tamlyn McHugh KC&CCG Archaeologist; Archaeologist; Molly Reynolds, KC&CCG Committee member; Michael McGroarty KC&CCG Contractor & Stonemason.

Kilbarron Church is situated just off the road between Ballyshannon and Rossnowlagh. It was founded by St Barrainn in the 7th Century who was a kinsman of St Columcille. The ancient church gives its name to the ecclesiastical parish of Kilbarron of both Catholic Church and Church of Ireland.

Seen left to right: Tamlyn McHugh,KC&CCG Archaeologist, Martina Needham, Committee member; Dr Joe Gallagher, Co Donegal Heritage Officer; Michael McGroarty, Contractor & Stonemason; Molly Reynolds, Committee member; Geraldine McManus; KC&CCG Conservation Architect; Martin Reed, National Monuments Service.

Work completed on East wall of Kilbarron Church

The conservation work on the east wall of the church was completed in October 2022.. The ivy that was putting the wall out of shape has been removed and all the stonework reset and repointed using recommended lime mortar mix.

The conservation work on the east wall of the church was completed in October 2022.. The ivy that was putting the wall out of shape has been removed and all the stonework reset and repointed using recommended lime mortar mix.

Conservation Architect Geraldine McManus discussing the mortar mix with Michael McGroarty
Scaffolding in place and work begins

Our thanks to the stonemason Michael McGroarty ably assisted by Dermot who carried out the work and to Mary Roper, the landowner, who gave permission to carry out the conservation work on her property.

A view of the work progressing inside the east gable wall of the church

The work began in late August 2022 and was in progress until mid- October. The plan involved resetting the stones and re-pointing the stonework with lime mortar which would have been used in the original construction. One unexpected discovery made was finding a very large Ivy rood inbedded deep into the north east corner of the gable(see below) Lastly thanks to the hard-working committee and especially to the Heritage Council who part funded the project.

Michael McGroarty with the Ivy root removed from the wall September 2022
Outside of the east gable wall before and after conservation work
View of Inside of the eastgable wall before and after conservation work completed October 2022.

Heritage Week 2022 The Heritage & Bio-diversity of Kilbarron Church

Old Kilbarron Church

We held our Heritage Week Events on Sunday 21st August at the Abbey Mill Tea rooms starting at 2pm.
Now you might wonder why did we not hold the event at Old Kilbarron Church -well at the time we thought that the conservation work at the church may have begun and it would not fit into our Health & Safety guidelines to have people on site. However we plan to have a follow up event in the summer of 2023 at the church.

Abbey River

The event began with an introduction by Ruth Cleary who told us about the efforts of the group to improve the biodiversity of the evironment inside the ruins of the church by removing invasive species such as bramble and allow the return of wild flowers She ten spoke about the special bio-diversity of the Abbey River system which has been largely undisturbed since the 19th Century and has an abundance of plant species only found in the Donegal Bay area,

We then had a short walk to the nearby Catsby cave where in the secluded glade masses were said, clandestinely during Penal times in Ireland.

Ruth Cleary explaining the story of the Catesby Cave

The group then walked to the other side of the Abbey Mill to the Abbey Well which is dedicated to St Patrick and where Ruth Cleary told the group of the plant species found on the Erne estuary.

St Patrick’s Well

Afterwards the group returned to the meeting room where they heard three presentations firstly on the history of Kilbarron old Church by Fergus Cleary and later a talk on the role of Inland Fisheries Ireland by Gerry McCafferty and a talk on the efforts to save the migrating fish species of Atlantic Salmon, Sea trout and Eels by Dr Milton Matthews. Aterwards we were all treated to some light refreshments in the Abbey Mill Cafe which is entirely run by a dedicated band of Volunteers

Many thanks to all who attended and to the volunteers who all helped to make the day such a success.

Here are some pictures of the Heritage Week event:

Talk by Milton Matthews and Gerry McCafferty on the Erne Inland Fisheries

Heritage Week 2021 Event

Heritage Week 2021 Report, the Committee were active at Kilbarron Church and presented virtual events on Zoom including a virtual tour of the Church ruins along with the Castle from the sea.

It was #HeritageWeek2021, 14-22 August, so the Conservation Group committee members spent the first morning of Heritage Week clearing by hand this years grass and weeds from the grounds of the ruins of Kilbarron church.

The first cut this year as part of the Don’t Mow Let it Grow to encourage wild flowers and pollinators,

Some committee members at Kilbarron Church

Day 2 of Heritage Week 2021 several members of the Conservation committee gathered again this morning to continue our work on clearing the grass from the ruins of Kilbarron church and hauling it away so that we give a chance for wild flowers to blossom next year.

One benefit of using old methods that we used to clear the ground, no strimmers, no ear defenders. so we can chat while we work; and we did a lot of that!

The Committee also presented Zoom sessions for Heritage Week including a a virtual tour of the Kilbarron Church site and Kilbarron Castle from the sea.

Cas an fhuaim air le haghaidh tráchtaireachta. Sound ON for commentary. 

Spealadóir ag obair= Sythesman)at work

The Committee also presented Zoom sessions for Heritage Week including a a virtual tour of the Kilbarron Church site and Kilbarron Castle from the sea.

Heritage Council / Creative Ireland funding 2019

Kilbarron Castle Conservation Group were recipients of Funding from the Heritage Council through the Creative Ireland Programme 2019 to undertake a Geophysical Survey of the castle site and it’s surrounding fields.

Kilbarron Castle Conservation Group were recipients of Funding from the Heritage Council through the Creative Ireland Programme 2019.

With this funding we were able to appoint Earthsound Geophysics of Claremorris, Co. Mayo to undertake a Geophysical Survey of the castle site and it’s surrounding fields with the aim of learning more about the site and to investigate if buildings once existed outside the castle ditch.

Earthsound Geophysics team on site.

The interesting results from the survey have complied in a comprehensive and hope to publish the report here soon.  

Details of the programme are on the Abarta Heritage website ==>

Boat Trip to see the ruins of Kilbarron Castle from the Sea.

The boat trip to see Kilbarron Castle from the sea took place on Sunday 25th August 2019 as part of Heritage Week.

The early start time was due to tide times so it was important to arrive in good time and the first boat left soon after 1.30pm. The boat men were Garrett Reynolds, Ken Henderson and Paul Reynolds who checked to make sure all were wearing their lifejackets. Each trip took about thirty minutes and because it was such a calm day there was very little swell and no soakings Afterwards there were light refreshments in the Marine Centre afterwards and a display about the Kilbarron Castle Conservation Project. See here some pictures of the event.

Clifftop view of the Castle garderobe
What looks like a doorway is actually the exit point for the garderobe- state of the art medieval sewage system!
Arriving back
Some of the people who took the boat trip and some who helped out on the day

Changes to Kilbarron Castle Facebook Posts

28 May 2019

We are now publishing posts on the history of Kilbarron Castle and our work for its conservation on our website as well as Twitter and Facebook. So you may see some changes in the way you see our work on Facebook. We hope that you find these changes will make it easier to follow our work.

Castle view across Donegal Bay toward Kildoney with Benbulben and Inish Murray island.
Courtesy Linda Cleary

Launch of Adopt-A-Stone Appeal

13 March 2019

We are currently fundraising to help conserve the Hourglass Wall at the site of Kilbarron Castle. It formed the north facing wall of the banqueting hall of the castle. It was a later addition to the complex.

Our idea is to get a life size image of the restored wall and add every contributor’s name to a a stone in the picture.

Defending Kilbarron Castle

1 May 2019

The ruins of Kilbarron Castle perched on a rocky promontory jutting into Donegal Bay and surrounded by cliffs on three sides lapped by the Atlantic waves.

The route to the castle on the landward side leads to a narrow causeway over a deep ditch. It must have been a very defensible location but perhaps not too sheltered or comfortable whenever there was a raging Atlantic storm!

In 1902 F. W. Lockwood submitted a paper on Kilnarron Castle to the Ulster Archaelogical Society. He mapped out the groundplan of the castle site denoting three substantial building: The gatehouse, which judging by the thickness of the walls possibly had an upper floor. This is the older of the three buildings.

The second building facing south may have been a banqueting hall as there is no beam holds in the remaining upstanding wall (Hourglass wall) indicating that there was no upper floor. The third building faces west and only has the remains of the foundations. Might this have been a store-house? The site was contained behind a curtain wall on three sides- the fourth is the cliff side which may have originally had a wall if so it has fallen into the sea since.

Lockwood’s ground plan showing location of the present ruins

AGM 2019

15 March 2019

Kilbarron Castle Conservation Group held their 2019 AGM last night. Over a dozen people in attendance. Officers for the coming twelve months are Chairperson Fergus Cleary, Secretary M. Storey, Joint treasurers M. Reynolds and B. MacAwley. The group discussed future plans for 2019/20 and with the prospects of little funding available this year in the heritage sector how best to keep the project progressing and how best to engage the local community and the wider public who consistently have shown interest in the project to date. We have a few ideas and will bring these to fruition over the coming year.

To reiterate the comments made by the outgoing chairperson for 2018/19
“Finally I would like to express many thanks to everyone for their help and donations over the past year, the Creevy Co-Operative for the use of the Marine Facility for our meetings and events, and the committee and officers in 2018-2019 who gave of their time enthusiasm and expertise to advance the project over the last year. “

Archaeology Ireland

18 April 2019

Reading recently the Spring issue of the magazine Archaeology Ireland when I noticed that the back page advertisement for the Heritage Council features Kilbarron Castle’s ‘Hourglass wall’

The Heritage Council have been very supportive of our project over the last few years and hopefully for us and many other conservation projects, will be in a position to offer grant aid in 2020.