Friends of Collon Church

Registered Charity Number 20152826

Our Story So Far

The Church was first opened in 1815 and was in continuous with its own rector until 1964
when it united with Ardee Union. It continued in use until 2013 when it was closed because
the electric wiring failed. This caused a crisis because Ardee Church could not meet the cost
of the repair. During 2013 the Church was closed and its condition deteriorated.

Late in 2013 a group of local concerned people came together and set up Friends of Collon
Church Limited. The Friends group was initially 12 members and others later joined bringing
the wider Friends group to about 20 people from all sides of the Collon village community.
The Friends group was immediately supported by the Conservation Office of Louth Co

In 2014 the Friends set to work. There was a very successful fund raising garden party
courtesy of the owners of Collon House. Work started on repairs to the side porches of the
building under the guidance of the Diocesan Architect with the help of funding from the
County Louth Conservation Office. Dry rot was identified and treated, the electric wiring was
repaired and the organ was repaired.

In February 2015 the Church was reopened for Church service.
The rest of 2015 was a year of study into the problem of how to do the work of properly
maintaining and restoring this listed building based on modern conservation principles. In
this the Friends were ably assisted by the Louth Conservation Officer Angela Dullaghan and
the Armagh Diocesan Architect Stephen Leighton. It was decided to commission outside
reports to study the condition of the roof and plasterwork ceiling. These reports were done
by Frank Keohane, Chartered Building Surveyor from Dublin and Richard Ireland.
Plasterwork Specialist from London. The cost of these reports was supported by the Irish
Georgian Society and involved over a month of inspection of the internal roof space
between the ceiling and the outer roof, as well as a close up inspection of the plasterwork
itself. This necessitated scaffolding both outside and inside the building and the building of
supporting inspection gangways within the roof space. The inspection was very thorough
and allowed the production of detailed reports. The Friends were pleased to learn from the
reports that the structure of the roof timbers was basically sound and that the outside roof
and inside ceiling were separately self-supporting. In other words the reports indicated that
work can be done on the outside roof, and provided suitable procedures and precautions are
taken, present information is that this can be done causing as little disruption as possible to
the ceiling.

With these reports to hand the next step was to ask the Conservation Architect to produce a
detailed Specification and Schedule of Work to repair and re-slate the outer roof. This was
done and it is a substantial 80 page document including a detailed Health and Safety Plan
prepared by a Civil Engineer. It was completed in 2016 and was sent to a Quantity
Surveyor. The Quantity Surveyor prepared a detailed cost estimate based on the floor area
and on standard costings for this sort of conservation work. Based on the work of the
architect and surveyors a working estimate of €150,000 was arrived at, as an indicative
figure necessary to re-slate the outer roof. This figure was based on reports only, and was a
useful working figure to use as a fundraising target.

Also in 2016 a further grant was received from Louth Co Council to assist with repointing the
stonework in the east façade. This was done to stop water penetration over the East window
as recommended by the surveyor. This was done over 8 weeks in the summer of 2016 and
the entire east facade was re-pointed using traditional lime mortar as recommended by the
Conservation Officer and the Conservation Architect. A further grant was also obtained from
the Irish Georgian Society and was used to install lead flashing over the east window.
From 2014 to 2016 the Friends group held many community fundraising events. There were
3 garden parties in 2014, 2015 and 2016 held in Collon House by kind permission of Michael
McMahon and John Dunne. The Ardee Concert band played at two of these events and the
Lourdes Brass band from Drogheda played at the third. During the winters of 2015 and 2016
the Friends organised Christmas Concerts in the Church given by the organist and choral
arranger David O’Shea. These were successful and enjoyed by all. In June 2015 the Friends
assisted the Church of Ireland with an evensong service. These events showed that the
Church is acoustically very suitable for music events.

In 2017 the focus was on active fundraising to aim to raise money to repair the roof. The
official fundraising campaign campaign was launched in May 2017 by Mairead McGuinness
MEP, and Prof Christine Casey of Trinity College Dublin in a well-attended event which
received good coverage in the local media. There were generous contributions from home
and abroad and over €7,000 was raised. The garden party was again held in Collon House
supported by the Lourdes Brass Band from Drogheda and over €5,000 was raised.
In autumn 2017 there was support from a music event organised by Martin and Dorothy
Alioth of KenDu Music, and from a lecture organised by Michael Reid and given by Prof
Terence Dooley of Maynooth University on Irish “Big Houses”. In December 2017 there was
a significant centenary commemoration of James Emerson VC, killed in action in 1917. This
was a particularly memorable church service with colour parties from the Irish Defence
Forces, the Inniskilling Regiment, the Royal British Legion and the Organisation of National
Ex-Servicemen. In addition to the organ played by Wendy Strahan and Revd Joyce Moore
the music was enhanced by the trumpet playing of Gillian Shields and the pipes played by
Vincent Murray

In 2018 active fundraising was continued towards the roof repair target of €150,000. There
were several enjoyable and well attended fundraising events. The opera singer Eugene
Ginty and his friends - singer Sandra Oman and harpist Ciara Taaffe gave a wonderful
concert in April – made more memorable from having been postponed from March due to
the snow storm named Emma. Dorothy Alioth and her singers gave a lovely concert in May
and also sang at the Christmas carol service in December. The garden party was again in
Collon House in September, supported by the Lourdes Brass Band and was well attended.
The Friends group joined with other village groups during the summer to prepare a Collon
presentation for the 2018 “Pride of Place” competition. Judges visited Collon village in
August 2018 and were shown around 10 village venues, including Collon Church. A video
presentation was done by drone, and a power-point presentation was given backed by a 10
page booklet. The Friends joined numerous other groups for the final event at the local GAA
Club – Mattock Rangers. Friends later helped to represent Collon at the Pride of Place finals
in Cork City Hall in November at a gala dinner organised by Louth Co Council and attended
by groups throughout the country.
In October the Friends group received excellent news that the roof repair project had been
approved for a grant of €80,000 under the Town and Villages Scheme 2018. As a result of
this grant Friends were delighted to complete the year by declaring they had successfully
achieved the fundraising target of €150,000.

During 2019 we worked with Louth Co Council and our professional advisors to locate
contractors re-slate the outer roof, while to assist with fundraising a further Garden Party in
Collon House was held in May 2019, assisted by the Lourdes Brass Band
Also in May 2019 in order to comply with public procurement policy a request for tenders
from building contractors was publically put out on eTenders for 3 weeks. There were no
replies to the public request for tenders on the eTender system. After the public procurement
procedure was satisfied we continued to search for suitable contractors and five contractors
were interviewed during summer and autumn 2019. Finally in November 2019 we were
pleased to locate and agree terms with a suitable contractor and the roof work was planned
to start in March 2020.

Church services ceased in February and the roof repair work began in March. However
Covid restrictions caused the work to stop until June when it recommenced. In June and July
the slates were removed and the roof was covered with weather proof membrane below the
new slates. Repairs were done to the gutters and to the wooden wall plate timbers and
rafters. Within the roof space it was discovered repairs were needed where the main frame
truss timbers intersect the walls. The main trusses were strengthened by purpose made
steel extensions and rebuilt roof plates. Internal scaffolding and a central catwalk with
harness rail was inserted in the roof space to allow safe access. The access door was
replaced on the north side and a dormer window was inserted on the south side. New lead
flashing was installed over the east parapet. At the end of 2020 the Friends were delighted
to announce that the replacement of the outer roof was complete and the building was
effectively watertight.

In early 2021 the Friends were occupied with repairing and replacing the original parapet
stones over the east window. These stones had become unstable and were removed in the
1980s. It was possible to salvage and re-use 40% of these stones, and matching stones
were designed and made by McMonagle Stone, Mountcharles, Co Donegal. The re-erection
of these stones was a skilled task and thanks are due to McMonagle Stone, Johnston
Construction and to the stone mason Anthony Rafferty. The replaced parapet stones look
very well and much enhance the appearance of the east façade.
In 2021 a successful application was made to the Historic Structures Fund operated by
Louth Co Council, and a further grant of €70,000 was awarded to repair and restore the
internal plasterwork. In autumn 2021 this work is proceeding.
The Friends group continue to welcome all financial help to maintain and repair this
important and historic building. Future work will be installation of bathroom facilities, and a
small kitchen / canteen to make the building more suitable for visitors.