Monastery Spire and the College Church and the recycled stone
In or about 1936 the monks of Mount St Josephs decided to build a spire on the church and in 1941 to builds a college chapel. Acquiring cut stone for these projects was going to be a big undertaking. After the civil war and the war of Independence there were a lot of estate houses left in ruins. Many had been built by great stonemasons and there were many sources of this stone around.
The stone for the spire was being collected as early as 1923 when according to Monastery records 80 pounds was paid in wages to men working on Templemore house which was part of Lord Cardon’s Estate. The stone steps leading from the church to the guesthouse came from there and were erected in aug/sept 1923.
All through 1923 there were payments made to men who worked on the demolition of Glasshouse in Shinrone . This stone was later to be used on the spire. Clonearl House in Daingean was burned down by rebels in 1846 and remained in a ruined condition until the Land Commission took it over. In 1927 the monks paid 100 pounds and ten shillings for the house and in 1929brought back a lot of the stone to Mount Heaton. There is a record of wages , board and lodgings for 2 men between May and October of that year. Most of the stone was used during the building of the spire 6 years later. They also removed the stone from the church in Birr barracks to use for the spire. Some of the stone also came from Tullamore Jail in 1937 which caused some controversy as the hospital was being built at the time and they were quarrying new stone for it .
The Tipperary town army barracks which housed up to 10,000 troops at its height was closed in 1922 and a lot of the stone was bought by the Monastery . It was decided to remove the Garrison Chapel , number the stones and rebuild it as the college chapel but when they brought it back the architect decided to build a newly designed chapel. A father Dooley from Clareen was an expert with dynamite and they say that all the stone came down undamaged. The monks went by tractor and between 1936 and 1942 removed all the stone that they bought. Also in the 40s they bought some of the stone from Debsborough House in Nenagh to use for the college chapel.
The spire was completed in 1938 but not without sacrifice . .On the feast of John the Baptist on 24 June 1936 two men lost their lives when they fell from the scaffolding. They were Johnny Ryan from Milltown who left a wife and son behind and Brother Columbus Maher who was a Master Blacksmith and was the one who made some of the fabulous gates you see to this day. They went up in a pulley lift which was used for carrying stone to the top, but the weight of the two men was too much and one of the steel ropes broke. Both men were unconscious after the fall but died shortly afterwards. Johnny Ryan was a prominent member of the old IRA and the tricolour was draped over his coffin as it was taken away.
The pictures above were taken about 1937/38 when the spire was being buit. The group below were the monks and workers who worked on the spire. The two other pictures are of ( Ned) Edward Brophy who was the main contractor for both the spire and the college church.