On Sunday, June 10, about thirty-five members of the Fethard Historical Society visited Holy Cross Abbey for a guided tour with Willie Hayes. Welcoming us to the Abbey, Willie declared it a twofold pleasure to greet a Fethard contingent; firstly to a place that has such personal significance for him and, secondly, because he stills sees himself as a Fethard native, hailing as he does from Rathcoole, even though he now resides in Roscrea.
Throughout his talk, Willie referred to the similarities and the differences between the Abbey and the medieval Holy Trinity Church in Fethard which would have been built shortly afterwards. We also learned about the amazing restoration of Holy Cross undertaken from 1971 to 1975, at a time when people were probably much more inclined to build new modern churches than to invest money, time and energy in the regeneration of an abandoned ruin. Willie’s passionate commitment to the restoration of the Abbey and the support of the local community enabled that vision to become a reality.
We visited the side altar where one can see the relics of the true Cross from which the Abbey derives its name. These relics were stolen last October but were retrieved by the Garda Síochána in January of this year and are now safely ensconced behind reinforced glass and back where they belong.
Emerging into the June sunshine, we continued at a leisurely pace around the lovely environs of the Abbey while Willie told us more about the restoration, pointed out features of note on the exterior of the Church and told us about such tales as that of ‘The Good Woman’s Son’. We had a wonderful visit to the Abbey and we would like to thank Willie most sincerely for giving so generously of his time and knowledge.
The next part of our trip, very much in the spirit of a mystery tour, organised by Pat Looby, found us in the delightful surroundings of Philip Quinn’s Stone Mad Workshop. Philip, originally from Killenaule, is a sculptor working in stone and wood. Philip’s wife Liz welcomed us with tea, coffee and an array of homemade scones, blackcurrant jam, apple jelly and cream. Philip is currently working on a Madonna and Child figure in cypress wood sourced from Fethard! It was the perfect ending to a lovely afternoon and all that was left for us to do was to thank Philip and Liz for their hospitality and for welcoming us into what is a very special space.