Historic Strabane Church celebrates 125th anniversary
14 September 2020
A number of items from the beautiful Church of the Immaculate Conception in Strabane, which this week celebrates its 125th anniversary, are to go on display in the church on Tuesday September 15.
Last year, the Church secured a grant of £375,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to fund restoration work on the building, which was originally built in 1895, funded by the people of the local community. The project is being delivered through the Lottery's Parish Church Restoration and Inclusive Participation Programme (Living History in the Community).
The display items will give a taste of what's to come next year when the church restoration project is completed and the full exhibition goes permanently on display. To mark the anniversary a Special Blessing will be held on Tuesday to celebrate the place the Church has occupied at the heart of the local community over the centuries, its heritage and its architectural beauty.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Brian Tierney, will visit the Church this week as part of the historic celebration. Speaking ahead of his visit he said: "I am delighted to see that one of Strabane's most iconic historic buildings is to benefit from this investment in its restoration. The Church is a beautiful building and this week we have the opportunity to celebrate its place in the history of the area and in the lives of the parishioners who have cared for it so diligently over the years."
Curator at the Tower Museum, Roisin Doherty, said it was timely on the anniversary to give a sneak preview of some of the historic objects to go on display later next year. "We are delighted to be able to help tell the story of this lovely building which is finally being restored to its former glory," she declared.
"The church is special in that it really belongs to the people of the Strabane area who, despite the poverty of the time, put what little they could spare into its construction. It still retains that place at the heart of community life, and we look forward to the completion of the project and the permanent display of some of the beautiful artefacts in its collection."
The foundation stone of the Church of the Immaculate Conception was laid on 9 November 1890 and the work on the building took five years to complete, organised by Rev Hugh O'Hagan the local Parish Priest. Parishioners in Strabane weekly paid towards the costs, which amounted to £18,000, and also contributed to the beautiful wood carving that adorns the building.
Father Declan Boland is Parish Priest at the Church, and he is immensely proud of the role his parishioners have played in progressing the work on the building which has a special place in their hearts. "This Project is 'Our Noble Heritage'. We have in the Church of the Immaculate Conception a building of outstanding beauty whose design and architectural features are second to none," he explained. "Since 1895 generations of our people have worshipped here and have found peace and consolation in God's presence.
"It's an iconic building in which our people have the utmost pride and admiration. To maintain its beauty and quality for this generation and many to come we have had to embark on very extensive renovations which are now underway. The history and heritage of the church is now being very skilfully developed so that many people will become aware of the many artefacts and features of the church which will now be professionally put on display.
"The people of the parish are justifiably proud of all of this and are supporting us in every way possible. I am deeply humbled and so very proud of all our parishioners."
Paul Mullan, Director, Northern Ireland at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: "The National Lottery Heritage Fund is delighted to support the restoration of the Church of the Immaculate Conception. This project will not only restore the historic fabric of the church but will also bring the heritage of the church to life through the display of important collections like this.
"It's a great way to mark the Church's 125th Anniversary and ensure the local community have the opportunity to share in the celebrations and have a greater understanding of its unique heritage. We're grateful to National Lottery players for enabling us to support important projects like this."