A Note on the History of Merrion Parish
An increase in the Catholic population in the Merrion area in the 1920s led the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Edward Byrne, to determine that a new church be built and a new parish established.
The site for the church was provided through the generosity of Mrs Anne Doyle of Eglinton Road, Bray. Mr Matthew McCabe donated the sum of £500 to purchase the freehold of the land from the Pembroke Estate.
The cost of building the church was over £200,000, a vast sum at the time; equivalent to several million euro in today’s money. A Committee to raise funds for the building was established with Canon E J Dunne, Parish Priest of Booterstown, as President. A major fund-raising event was a week-long Bazaar and Carnival held from 5-13 September 1925 in the grounds of the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy, Booterstown. A raffle was held, with the drawing of tickets by the Lord Mayor in the Mansion House on 31 October 1925. First prize in the raffle was ‘A Fully-Equipped 5-Valve Wireless Set “Gecophone,” with Loud Speaker and equipment complete, the gift of His Grace the Archbishop’ (Merrion Bazaar, Irish Annuals Press Ltd, Dublin 1925).
On Sunday 17 November 1940, shortly after the appointment of Dr John Charles McQuaid as Archbishop of Dublin, a temporary church, popularly known as the ‘tin church’ because of its tin roof, was opened on the site by Monsignor Francis Wall. The new archbishop having come from Blackrock College, where he was President, was described by Wall as ‘a fellow-parishioner’. Wall, evoking sentiments of both peace and battle, said:
It was fitting that the first prayers in that new chapel of Our Lady Queen of Peace should be offered for the new Archbishop. They prayed that peace might reign among them and that no sign of disunion would ever appear again in their midst and that foes who might assail them would be kept far away from them (The Irish Press, 18 November 1940).
Work on building the church, delayed due to the Second World War, began in 1951. The main building contractors were Farmer Brothers, Spring Garden Street, Dublin.
On 13 December 1953 Archbishop McQuaid officially opened and blessed the new church. Just one hour earlier, Mass was celebrated for the last time in the temporary church nearby. The temporary church was subsequently taken down and re-erected at Kilmacud in the growing parish of Mount Merrion. It would be a further ten years until Merrion was constituted a parish in 1964 and its first parish priest was Canon Scanell.
The church was designed by Simon Leonard of W H Byrne and Son, Architects. It is in the style of a Basilica with a façade finished in Dublin granite and limestone at the doors and windows. The marble High Altar is the work of the Earley Studios as are the stain glass windows, including the landmark rose window of Our Lady Queen of Peace over the organ gallery.
A notable feature of the church is the high circular belfry which is an adaptation of an Irish Round Tower. It is over 100 feet in height. The 23 cwt. bell for the tower was cast at the bell foundry of Matthew O’Byrne of James’ Street in Dublin.
The spacious interior of the church has a capacity for 1,800 people. The nave, 172 feet from entrance doors to the sanctuary and 58 feet wide, was designed so that the congregation had an unobscured view of the altar.
Following the liturgical changes consequent on the Second Vatican Council, and taking account of the reduced size of the congregation, a number of changes were made to the internal arrangement of the church but without interfering with the original integrity of the building