A FAMILY fun day filled with entertainment and delicious food will be held in August to raise funds for the restoration of Arles church.
The parish barbecue on Sunday 20 August will be held in the beautiful surroundings of Coolanowle Country House and organic farm in nearby Ballickmoyler, with lots of enjoyable activities for children and adults of all ages.
Starting at 3pm, the event promises live music and dancing, a barbecue with a moth-watering range of organic foods, a teddy bears’ picnic, face painting and a variety of entertainment for children. Tickets cost €20 but children will have free admission.
The award-winning farmhouse at Coolanowle, where the family day will be held, was voted one of Ireland’s ‘top ten farm stays and rural retreats’ last year. Set on three acres of natural woodland with ponds, it is renowned for organic traditional food and the tranquil beauty of its grounds.
The parish barbecue and family day is organised by Arles Parish Church Project Group. Tickets are available from any committee member or from the parish centre between 9am and 1pm, Monday to Friday. People can also contact the parish centre on 059 8625456.
As the Church of the Sacred Heart in Arles prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary next June, the family day is just one in an ongoing series of events to raise funds for restoration work.
Renowned for its towering spire that can be seen for miles, the church was dedicated on 24 May 1868 by the bishop, Rev Dr Walsh. Completed for £3,000, it was designed by George Ashlin and EW Pugin, son of world-famous architect Augustus W Pugin.
Built in the Gothic style, the church has an amazing steeple that towers over beautiful surrounding countryside. The impressive structure, an estimated 22.8 metres high, is enhanced by the elevated site and can be seen day or night for long distances.
The foundations for the massive building, not just in height but also in width and length, must have been planned very carefully as no cracks have appeared in the walls since 1868. Large embankments to the west and southeast have helped to steady the building ever since.
The church was lavishly constructed in cut limestone, which was carried by horse and cart or donkey and cart from Stradbally quarries about 12 miles away. It was cut and shaped on site as required and the mortar must have been of very good quality, as it did not ravel over the years. The church was constructed by local tradesmen, stone cutters and masons, whom history has proved to be great masters of their trade.
As part of the 150th anniversary restoration plans, a detailed conservation report was prepared by conservation architect Michael O’Boyle, partly funded by the Heritage Council’s community heritage grant scheme.
The report addresses the condition of the building and gave recommendations for priority repairs, providing a roadmap for future restoration work.
The fundraising committee initially worked under the guidance of Arles parish priest Fr Brian Kavanagh and later under Fr Pat O’Brien, parish administrator and current PP Fr Pádraig Shelley. The committee engaged Mr O’Boyle of Bluett & O’Donoghue Architects to oversee the restoration work.
A large five-figure sum is needed to fund restoration work, which will include upgrading of two side roads at the church.