The Parish of St. Laurence O’Toole, Kilmacud, was formed in 1964. The Parish was made up of Kilmacud and Stillorgan. Our first Parish Priest was Canon Harley.
Kilmacud takes its name from the Irish Cill Mochuda, the church of Mochud. Mochud was not a local man. He was from Munster, and is associated with the monastery of Lismore, Co.Waterford. He is said to have died around 703. So, why is this area dedicated to him? The answer is probably found in the many varied political developments of 12th century Ireland. Muirchartach Ua Briain was King of Munster and High King of Ireland at this time, and he controlled Dublin. Muichartach was also an enthusiastic supporter of church reform, which was bringing the Irish church into line with the reformed Roman church. It is quite probable that when the church was built here it was dedicated to this Munster saint out of deference to Ua Briain. Hence an outsider gave his name to this area.
St. Brigid is the saint associated with this area. She founded the monastery in Kildare in the 5th or 6th century, which became one of the “Big Three” – with Iona and Armagh. Emissaries from Kildare came to Stillorgan, and built their church on the site of the present Church of Ireland church, probably in the early 9th century. And, as was the case all over Ireland, it was a monastic church.A typical early Irish monastery consisted of a small church, cells for the monks, a refectory and a school. These buildings were enclosed by a wall and a ditch. On average churches were about 20-30 feet long and 15-20 feet wide, they were made from wood and roofed with thatch. The church at Stillorgan most likely resembled this model. A feature found standing outside the north west corner of the present church is a stone with Celtic engravings and a figure resembling an angel. It is thought this might be a remnant from the first church. The other feature from this church is a Holy Well. This is now under the road entering Merville.
With the arrival of the Normans in Dublin,Walter de Ridelsford was granted the lands of Bray, which correspond broadly with the Barony of Rathdown. This included Kilmacud. Walter was also granted lands in Co. Kildare, and around 1200 he founded a convent at Graney, in the said county. He then endowed the convent with the churches of Kilmacud and Bray. All that is known about the church at Kilmacud “is that it was held by the establishment until the dissolution of the religious houses.” (circa 1540) . Meantime, the Norman “owner” of Stillorgan, Raymond Carew, granted St. Brigid’s to the Priory of the Holy Trinity (Christchurch Cathedral) in 1216, together with the church fields. It was then attached to the mother church of Kill-of-the-Grange, and continued under it for the next 300 years.
After the dissolution of the monasteries, St. Brigid’s fell into ruin, and its lands were leased to various persons by the Chapter of Christ Church Cathedral. Kilmacud seems to have been in trouble even earlier. “It seems to have suffered the fate of many other churches – decay, poverty and lack of priests.” When Queen Elizabeth I’s reign ended in 1603 much of Ireland had been devastated by war and persecution. Consequently, the Catholic Church was weak and disorganized.While there was some initial hope that the new king would look favorably on Catholicism,( his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was a Catholic) this was wishful thinking. As early as 1605, the Lord Deputy issued a proclamation ordering all priests to leave the country. This had little effect, especially in the Pale.
The Pale was still largely detached from the atmosphere left over from the wars, and the Old English of the Pale jealously guarded their independence.They went so far as to show readiness to open churches to Catholics and to provide for the saying of Mass, so forcing the new government to recognize a ‘fait accompli’. These were the years when the Capuchins, Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians and Jesuits slipped across from the Continent to undertake the life of missionaries, living as fugitives among the people. And the Irish people remained Catholic. From time to time diligent government officials tried to enforce anti-Catholic legislation, but as long as discretion was shown by Catholics, the work of the Church could be carried on. Soon bishops educated at the Irish colleges on the Continent began to return to their dioceses. They held a synod at Kilkenny in 1614 where one of the aims was to reorganize dioceses and parishes. It is in this context that Kilmcud again emerged.
The Parish of Booterstown, 1616
The reorganization of the Archdiocese of Dublin saw the founding of the parish of Booterstown. It was massive in size, and included Irishtown, Donnybrook, Milltown, Churchtown, Rathfarnham, Sandyford to the top of Three Rock mountain, Dundrum, Kilmacud, Stillorgan, Galloping Green and Rockford via Newtownpark Avenue and Stradbrook Road. From there it stretched across to Seapoint and back along the coast to Irishtown /Ringsend.
The first parish priest, Fr. John Cahill, has been likened to an apostle. He carried no purse, nor did he have either a house or a church, but he was not a pauper. He regularly stayed with the Fitzwilliams, one of Dublin’s wealthiest Catholic families. They owned the castles at Dundrum and Merrion, and Fr. Cahill celebrated Mass for the faithful there. He also celebrated Mass in the houses of the Catholic landed gentry, including the Wolverstons of Stillorgan Manor. It is thought that Fr. Cahill died around 1650.
James II a Catholic King
In 1685 James II came to the throne. He was a Catholic, and Catholics immediately took advantage of the situation. A local chapel was built in the area of Booterstown. (The word “church” could only be used for State churches). It would have been similar to the houses of the Irish – very small and modest. The site of the chapel is that of the existing parish church. After the defeat at Limerick in 1691 the Penal Laws were introduced. These were not strenuously enforced at all times, and as long as discretion was observed Catholics could quietly practise their religion.
The Parish of Booterstown, 1787
The parish boundaries again changed in 1787. Booterstown, which included Blackrock, Stillorgan, Kilmacud and Dundrum, separated from Donnybrook. Some twenty-six years later Viscount Fitzwilliam provided £6,000 to replace the old chapel with a new church. In 1838 Dr John Ennis was appointed Parish Priest. The following year he wrote that “Easter was neglected only by a few, principally out of Stillorgan, a brewery rendering it a ‘drunken village.'” The establishment of the National Board of Education in 1831 meant that free elementary education would be provided for all children, irrespective of their religion. As a result a school was established on the Kilmacud Road. In 1853 the Sisters of the Sacred Heart arrived in Mount Anville. They opened a primary school in 1866, and moved to their present location on the Lr Kilmacud Rd in 1955. The new Parish Priest, Msg Forde, had already decided that a Chapel of Ease was needed in Kilmacud, and as the old Primary School had overcapacity he “decided to adapt and enlarge this building, and the result was the Chapel of SS Laurence and Cuthbert (1867). He built a residence for the Priest.” The total cost was £1,150. Fr James Rooney was transferred to Kilmacud from Dundrum as resident curate and remained until appointed to The Naul in 1883.
The Parish of Dundrum 1879
The next change of boundaries came in 1879. The Church of the Holy Cross was completed that year, and a new parish of Dundrum and Stillorgan was founded.
Nuns & Brothers
1881 saw a new development in parish life when the Carmelite Sisters purchased Kilmacud Manor on the Upper Kilmacud Rd, and founded the Monastery of St Joseph. “They have chosen to live in silence and contemplation – the deepest level where union with Christ bears fruit for all mankind.” The following year the Brothers of St John of God founded a hospital at Stillorgan Castle.
The Twentieth Century
At the beginning of the 1900s “the ordinary people of Kilmacud and Stillorgan lived in very modest circumstances … there was considerable under-employment in the area, especially among females.” The major events of the early century did not by-pass the area. Local men joined the British Army, fought in The Great War (WW1) where at least eight died in action. One man, a member of the Royal Irish Rifles, was wounded during Easter Week, 1916, while two from this area ended up in Stafford Gaol. During the Civil War houses were raided, and a number of men were wounded and killed. Meanwhile the Parish was continuing to develop. Funds were raised in 1923 by a five-a-side soccer competition in Shelbourne Park for the Stillorgan-Kilmacud Village Hall. In 1944 the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity founded a home for elderly ladies at Kilmacud House, at present a State immigration transit centre.
After World War II
After WWII Dublin began to expand. Kilmacud and Stillorgan mushroomed and the needs of the Parish took on new dimensions.The De La Salle Brothers started St Benildus College in 1966 to provide secondary education for boys. Five years later, 1971, the Sisters of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus opened St Raphaela’s to provide a similar education for girls. Fr Walsh C.C. saw the need to provide physical recreation for young people in the Parish and was instrumental in founding the Kilmacud GAA Club in 1959.
A few years earlier, in 1948, the chapels of ease at Kilmacud and Mount Merrion were amalgamated into a single parish. Sixteen years later, in 1964, Kilmacud then became a Parish in its own right.
The chapel in Kilmacud was now much too small for the growing population, and all recognized that a new church was needed. The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity donated a site, and the Church of St Laurence O’Toole was opened on December 14, 1969 by the Archbishop of the time Most Rev John Charles McQuaid. After the death of Canon Harley on January 13, 1981 Monsignor Val Rogers was appointed Parish Priest in June of the same year, a position he held with great distinction until he retired on his 75th birthday in 1995.
Monsignor Rogers was succeeded by Fr Michael Loftus who was installed by Bishop Donal Murray, Auxiliary Bishop at a most memorable ceremony during the Vigil Mass of the Feast of Corpus Christi June 14th 1995. Fr Loftus sadly died on 25th June 2007 ahead of time. Fr Liam Lacey was appointed Parish Priest on 15th September 2007. Fr Tony Coote became Administrator of Kilmacud in June 2010 until his untimely death in August 2019. Fr Joe Mullan became the Parish Moderator in December 2019.