Fr John Donworth,parish priest of Kildimo/Pallaskenry, travelled to Kilkenny on Tuesday to bid for a stained glass window which went up for auction at Fonsie Mealey’s auction rooms in Castlecomer.
Fr Donworth said: “A parishioner saw the stained glass window, measuring 40in by 13in, on the internet for sale and identified it as the same one that was in the previous parish church located at Old Kildimo. After the old church closed, that glass piece was never seen since. I was informed and immediately contacted the parish finance committee, and it was decided that we should buy the piece which was by the famous stained glass maker, Harry Clarke.”
The parish church at Old Kildimo was deconsecrated around 1970, with the opening of a new church in the village in 1971. There was anger at the disposal of fittings from the old church, including the Harry Clarke stained glass and the exhumation of two priests who were reburied near the new church. The old church building is now a garage.
Fr Donworth said: “The parish priest at the time was taken to the High Court by some people in the parish. I hope the return of this stained glass window will heal old wounds and not re-open them again.”
During this week’s auction, Fr Donworth had to battle to bring back the teasured stained glass. “It was valued between €7,000 and €10,000. There were two bidders online and two more seated behind me. Bids went up by €500 and I eventually got it for €12,500. But with commission, it cost us €15,000.”
Fr Donworth said the auctioneer would not identify who the vendor was other than saying it was “a person of impeccable character”.
“The auctioneer said he was told that the window had been given to the architect who designed the new church in Kildimo,” said Fr Donworth.
He said there were other Harry Clarke stained glass pieces in the old church, but these were broken up into smaller pieces for use in other windows in the new church. “People did not realise then how valuable the Harry Clarke stained glass was,” he said.
Emmett O’Brien, a member of Limerick City and County Council who lives in the parish, said everybody is delighted an important part of local heritage was being restored.