Restoration work to start next month on Raphoe Cathedral

Work on the long-awaited restoration of St Eunan’s Cathedral in Raphoe is to begin next month following the appointment of the construction firm, J.A. Gamble and Co Ltd, as the main contractor for the project.

Details were finalised at a meeting last week between the Dean of Raphoe, Very Rev Arthur Barrett, members of the Cathedral’s Select Vestry, architect Karl Pedersen of Mullarkey Pedersen Architects and Richard Gamble of J.A. Gamble & Co Ltd.

“I am delighted that we are now about to start these major renovation works to our historic Cathedral church,” Dean Barrett said. “This has been a long time coming. The Select Vestry have been planning these restoration works for a number of years and a huge amount of work has already taken place, especially in fund-raising for the project.”

The improvement work was originally meant to begin last April but the project fell behind schedule as the Covid-19 outbreak forced the closure of churches throughout Ireland. A number of fundraising events for St Eunan’s also fell victim to the pandemic, including a concert in St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry, a Bible-reading marathon in Raphoe Cathedral itself, and various smaller fundraisers.

However, last month’s announcement of an €80,000 grant from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht allowed the Raphoe Cathedral Restoration Project to get ‘back on track’ – albeit slightly behind schedule.

“We are so very grateful to the people of Raphoe,” Dean Barrett said, “and to so many other people and organisations who have very generously supported our fund-raising campaigns. The recent award of an €80,000 grant from the Historic Structures Fund and the Built Heritage Investment Scheme – administered through Donegal County Council – is a wonderful boost to all of our efforts, and has enabled us to start the works straight away.

“The plan is that between early August and the end of the year, the whole roof of the church will be replaced; the top of the Cathedral tower will be repaired; stonework, timbers and leadwork will all be restored, and significant electrical work will be carried out to the interior of the church.

“For fourteen hundred years,” Dean Arthur said, “Christians have been coming to this site to pray. The present church, itself, is over 800 years old. If we’re to preserve worship on this ancient and historic site, then this restoration work is absolutely essential. The restoration project is challenging, in the current financial climate, but I have been delighted by the response. I thank parishioners for their patience and generosity, and for their commitment to St Eunan’s Cathedral. And I thank the wider community, too, for their support for the project.

“The scale and ambition of the project have undoubtedly stretched us as a parish,” the Dean said, “but I feel a sense of privilege, too, that we have been able to contribute in such a meaningful way to Christian worship in Raphoe and to write our own chapter in the history of St Eunan’s Cathedral. To God be the glory.”

The photo below shows: (front, l-r): Richard Gamble (J.A. Gamble and Co. Ltd. – Main Contractors), Karl Pedersen (Mullarkey Pedersen Architects) Very Reverend Arthur Barrett (Dean of Raphoe);  (rear, l-r): Renee Goudie and Jim King (Raphoe Cathedral Select Vestry); not in photo – Geoffrey Devenney (Raphoe Cathedral Select Vestry).