The Rector of St Augustine’s Parish Church on Londonderry’s ancient city walls was counting his blessings after a tree in the church graveyard was felled by high winds on Wednesday morning.
It happened around half past ten as Storm Ali battered the North West. The tree fell outwards, onto the city walls, damaging the historic railings around St Augustine’s and part of its boundary wall though fortunately no one was injured in the incident. Elsewhere, a man was killed by a falling tree in County Armagh and a woman died when a caravan was blown off a cliff in County Galway. The storm force winds cut power to thousands of homes across Ireland and felled scores of trees, closing roads in many areas.
‘The Wee Church on the Walls’ - on the site where Saint Columba is believed to have founded a monastery almost 1,500 years ago - is a popular attraction for tourists to Derry, but its Rector, Rev Canon Malcolm Ferry, said they had opted not to open the building on Wednesday morning because of severe weather warnings. “Thankfully,” he said, “we decided to close because of Storm Ali, so there were no church volunteers around and no visitors – otherwise it could’ve been disastrous. We're thankful no one was injured or worse ”
“St Augustine’s is one of the jewels in the city’s heritage crown,” the Rector said, “so we’re anxious to have it restored to its previous state as quickly as possible. First, though, the full extent of the damage will have to be assessed and determined.”
Canon Ferry said he was grateful for the support shown to him and his congregation by clergy from elsewhere in the Church of Ireland and other civic leaders in the city.