History Of St. Philips
The Beginnings of the Parish
A Dublin writer described Clonsilla, in the 1890’s, as follows: “There is nothing worthy of the name of a village or hamlet…The railway station…alone has preserved it from utter oblivion”
When the first “new” parishioners arrived here in the late 1970s, and for many a year after, we may have had the railway station but we had no trains. Initially there were only two 39A buses daily running from town to St. Joseph’s Hospital, Clonsilla.
Prior to the creation of Mountview Parish, the area which the parish now occupies was divided between Blanchardstown (east of the Blakestown Road), Lucan (west of the Blakestown Road) and Porterstown (Shelerin Road).
Gardaí were from Blanchardstown if you were east of Blakestown or Shelerin Road (Blanchardstown Road South side of the road), otherwise Lucan. First Dublin Corporation built Fortlawn Drive and later the (now disbanded) Dublin County Council built Whitechapel Estate. Fortlawn Estate was then finished as Brennan and McGowan built Blakestown Estate (now Woodvale). Phase 1 of Hartstown followed (now Inglewood).
All were within the parish and Phase 2 of Hartstown became Oakview but is outside the parish boundaries. Lohunda Park then followed and the nucleus of St Philip’s parish was born. The big houses of the area were in decline and only one – Mountview House – (which houses the health centre and which was originally known as Limelawn House) remains standing.
The site of the current Hartstown Park was essentially a dump for builders’ rubble and held the ruins of Hartstown House until pressure at the time of the famous Dublin West bye-election led to the commencement of works which eventually gave us the park and games facilities which exist today. People moving out to their new houses, from Blanchardstown, Cabra, Finglas and “flatland”, might have have been shown by their council officer or estate agent where the Blanchardstown Centre was to be – we waited nearly twenty years for it! (It was eventually built in 1996 and officially opened on 16th October).
In 1978, the then Archbishop – Archbishop Ryan – set up a number of new parishes to cater for the developing area of Blanchardstown. The boundaries of our parish were set. In the beginning there was no church, no school, no shops, no fire station and little work – only houses. Where could we shop? Where could we educate our children? Where could we pray?
Shops were in Roselawn or Blanchardstown until the Mountview Shopping Centre opened in 1982; schools were in Blanchardstown or Coolmine, depending on the child’s age. As for prayer, there was a choice between Porterstown Church and Blanchardstown.
Probably the first business in the parish was “Willie’s Pet Shop” which still survives on the Blakestown Road, opposite the GAA Club. Even if you weren’t buying a pet or supplies, there was always a welcome at Willie’s and many a parent spent a few minutes there getting the “humours” off a child.
The first years were hard in many ways – we suffered from lack of facilities; poor roads; the 80’s were years of high interest rates and massive unemployment; those lucky enough to have a mortgage could, at one stage, face interest rates of 20% which, when compared to today’s rates, are unbelievable; telephones were a rarity with a waiting list of up to 4 years for a connection and mobile phones were literally out of science fiction; every estate had its public telephone kiosk or box and these lasted into the early 90’s when they became more and more uneconomic as more and more people got telephones in their homes. A stroll up the Hartstown Road would come to a sudden end a few hundred yards past where Hartstown Community School now lies, where the road suddenly ended with a chasm of about thirty feet between it and the Huntstown Road across the divide, with a stream running through at the bottom.
Up to the early 90’s the area was ravaged by unemployment with up to 70% of adult males unemployed in some estates. In one estate, during the late 1980s, one road was reputed to have only one adult in employment.
At that time the majority of pupils leaving second level education could feel confident that they were facing a lifetime of unemployment. Since the arrival of the Blanchardstown Centre, reputedly the largest in the country, the employment situation has completely reversed.
The bleak 1980’s were not without hope, however. Easter Monday, 31 March, 1986 saw the “Mountview and Blakestown Grand Easter Parade”, designed to show what was available for the youth of the two parishes and augmented by some outside bands.
The parade was led by the Lord Mayor and Princess of Blakestown, followed by the Summer Project (which is still going strong), the Army Pipe Band, Whitestown Football Club, Mountview Camogie Club, a display from Superquinn on decorated lorries, the Irish Dancing Class (in costume), Blakestown (Pegasus) Youth Club, Irish Boy Scouts and Beavers of Ireland, the Camping Club, Irish Girl Guides and Brigins of Ireland, Tallaght Youth Band and Majorettes (sponsored by the Mountview Shopping Centre), Gaelic Football Club, a display from the Mountview Youth Club, the Karate Club, the Mountview and Blakestown Drama Groups, a display from the Corduff Youth Club and Ladyswell Community brought up the rear. Included in the day’s entertainment were the “Easter Bonnet Competition” and the “Blakestown Brat” Competition. It would be interesting to have feedback on how many of these groups continue in existence, even if with a change of name.
Opening of our Church
That opening day of the Church on Sunday, 30 November, 1980 – I can’t remember the weather but it was unlikely to have been sunny and warm, – saw a packed church as Archbishop Dermot Ryan, during our first Mass, handed the keys of the church and parish of St. Philip over to Fr. Dennehy to an amazing round of applause. There was a sense of pride which I have rarely, if ever, seen in the parish since – this was our first step to becoming a community.
Memorable Events in our Parish
The papal visit in 1979, was the first all-embracing parish event but on a more local level we would have to record the first Baptism, first Communion and first wedding to be held.
Baptisms in our parish, prior to 19 March, 1978, were entered in the register of Corduff Parish and after that, up to 13 June, 1979, in the register of Blakestown Parish, which at that time was housed in a temporary church on the Blakestown Road.
The first Baptism recorded of a parishioner was that of Wayne Patrick Nulty, 12 Blakestown Cottages, who was baptised by the late Fr. Joe Madden of Blakestown Parish. The first Baptism registered in our parish was Lisa Mary Byrne of Blakestown (now Woodvale) who was baptised by Fr. Dennehy on 7 June, 1979.
Whether the Baptism took place in the school hall or in Fr. Dennehy’s house is not recorded. The first Baptism to be held in our church was that of Karen Teresa O’Leary of Site 141 Blakestown Estate.
The first Confirmation ceremony took place on 8 June, 1980 with Bishop Dermot O’Mahony doing the honours. It is probable that this took place in the school hall.
The first marriage ceremony in the parish was on 24 May, 1980 when Vincent West from Co. Fermanagh and Hilary O’Connor from Co.Monaghan were married by Fr. Dennehy while the first marriage in our church took place on 10 January, 1981 when Camillus Cole and Bridget Smullen from Kinnegad, Co. Westmeath took the plunge.
A memorable but rare event of a non-religious nature in the parish life was the famous blizzard of Friday, 8 January, 1982. People rose to the sight of three or more feet of snow, with more falling by the second in blizzard conditions. Cars could not move and the area was officially cut off until midday of the following Monday.
This was a traumatic period in the Dublin area generally and in the new and then remote suburbs in particular. The storm did, however, bring out the best in people. Paddy Gaffney and his two sons, who then delivered milk which they collected in Navan, couldn’t get there and got a delivery elsewhere. They drove through the night in atrocious conditions and went along the main roads which were, to a limited extent, passable, with extreme care, to commercial vehicles. They stopped outside our estate, with the snow still falling heavily, and went in with the crates of milk held by hand between them to their regular customers and when doing their delivery asked if there were any mothers with young babies in the area who might need milk (not necessarily customers) – truly a case of Christian commitment.
From Bricks and Mortar…
The Clergy, religious and laity of our parish and their various trials and tribulations over the years have been mentioned above. Many of the various groups operating in and services provided in our parish have been referred to.
But what of the church itself as we celebrate 25 years? It is true that a church, without the clergy, the religious, the people and the services attached to it, is nought but a concrete block shell. It is right that we address these other issues first, but we should also say some words about the fine building which serves and calls us all.
When Fr. Dennehy took the keys from Archbishop Ryan, he took the keys of a solid block construction with electric radiators, the modern Stations of the Cross, presented by the Archbishop (which were either loved or hated) and the concrete walls softened only by the tapestry which still calls out “Lord! Show us the Father”.
Fr. Dennehy’s concentration was on building the parish and associated bodies to make a parish of our church and of softening the surround by growing (and cutting) grass.
Things were settling down when the late Fr. Kevin McDowell replaced Fr. Dennehy and he concentrated on having the appearance of the Church softened and made more homely. Under his stewardship the timber backing was placed in the sanctuary behind the altar and the effect was amazing. The traditional “stations” he got from a convent that was closing and, after treating for woodworm and having “gold paint” liberally applied by fingers, they were erected and added further to the softening of the internal appearance. He was, if I remember correctly, also the one who added the various grottos dedicated to the saints to the back of the church. His most visible achievement to the casual passer by is the metal cross which adorns the outer wall of the sanctuary.
Fr Hogan in his time, as well as concentrating on the gardens, encouraged and supported a few willing parishioners to run a raffle to pay for the upgrading of the heating and the difference, when the gas heaters replaced the radiators, was greatly appreciated. In 2005 he had the flag poles installed in the front garden, provided floodlighting for the front of the church and expanded the committee room into the main entrance hall. These activities were largely if not totally funded by another raffle, which he again encouraged and supported, early in the year.
Finally a feature from the beginning of the parish, which has, I believe, continued without interruption, is the annual pilgrimage to Knock and to Lourdes, with a special pilgrimage to Rome in the Jubilee Year of 2005.
Fr. Philip Dennehy 1978 – 1986
Fr. Kevin McDowell 1986 – 1991
Fr. Des Hogan 1991 – 2007
Fr. Pat O’Donoghue 1981 – 1983
Fr. Andy Sheahan 1983 – 1988
Fr. Tom Colreavy 1989 – 1997
Fr. Pat Littleton 1997 – 2003
Fr. Patrick Okoroh 2005 – 2007
Fr. Patrick O’Byrne 2007 – Present
Fr. Michael O’Shea 2002 – 2004
Parish Pastoral Worker:
Mr. Clinton Maher 2009 –