Dunmanway is at the very centre of West Cork and it is a very warm hearted centre with an active community life. Its most famous son is Sam Maguire a Protestant Nationalist and GAA Sportsman who was born and died in Dunmanway and is buried in the venerable Church of Ireland churchyard of St. Mary’s in the heart of town.
Led by the affable and active Rev. Cliff Jeffers the community of Dunmanway have progressed a unique project to commemorate Sam in the church where he is buried. So today the Sam Maguire Community Bells all lined up and waiting in St. Mary’s Church for the people of Dunmanway and bishop Paul Colton to come and bless them at 5.30pm. People from the local community are going to ‘name’ the bells with their themes, after which the bishop will bless them.
In 2016, following centenary celebrations of the 1916 rising, St. Mary’s Church of Ireland began to look at ways to commemorate Sam Maguire; the legendary sportsman and patriot who is buried in the churchyard in Dunmanway. After exploration of the possibilities, they decided that the Sam Maguire Community Bells would be installed in the tower of St. Mary’s Church. Each bell will be given a theme, through which tell the story of Sam Maguire and the history of Dunmanway.
The themes selected with the help of Dunmanway Historical Association and local people were :
- Wars and Revolution
- People of Dunmanway
- Religious Traditions
- Education and Arts
- Industry and Commerce
These themes are being developed into story boards (posters) telling Sam’s story and the history of Dunmanway town. One of the main aims of this project is to provide an amenity that can be used by all of the people of Dunmanway. The bells will be installed in the tower during the summer of 2017, and if you are interested in learning to ring them, you will be very welcome to come along and do so.
Samuel Maguire was born in 1877 in Malabracka, 6 miles north of Dunmanway town. He was a member of the Church of Ireland and attended Dunmanway Model School after which he went to Master Madden’s National School in Ardfield, Clonakilty who specialised in preparing people for the British civil service exams. He started working in the Post Office in London where he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and became a central figure in this intelligence gathering operation. Sam played Football for London Hibernians, he was their team captain and also served as president of their club. Sam inducted a fellow Post Office Clerk in London, Michael Collins, into the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) and the rest is history. There is a story to be told about his role in fighting for Irish Independence as the head of intelligence operations for the IRA in London and one of the driving forces behind the Gaelic Athletic Association which continues to play a major role in community building in Ireland and knitting together the Irish Diaspora abroad.
Following the signing of the Treaty making Ireland independent of Britain he returned to Dublin in 1923 to a job as a clerk in the post office. Sam, along with others, became unhappy with the pace of progress in the establishment of the Irish State. The government of the time became suspicious of his activities and he was fired from his job without a pension. At this time he was quite unwell with TB and after staying with friends in Dublin for about two years, he returned to Malabracka for the last six months of his life, where he died in relative poverty. Sam final resting place is in St. Mary’s Churchyard in Dunmanway.
To honour his contribution to the GAA and his dedication to his country, Sam’s friends erected a Celtic cross on his grave, and donated a cup to the GAA to be presented in his memory. Next year, 2018, will be the 90th time the “Sam Maguire Cup” will be presented to the winners of the All Ireland Senior football final. The cup is modelled on the Ardagh Chalice and the commission to make it was given to Hopkins and Hopkins, a jewellers and watchmakers of O’Connell Bridge, Dublin. The Sam Maguire Cup commemorates a person who may seem unusual from outside Ireland, a Protestant Nationalist closely associated both with the fight for Irish Independence and the GAA.
When the Sam Maguire Community bells are rung in Dunmanway, they will be able to be heard just like the existing bell except that they will all be different notes. There will be sound baffles which will be used to make them quieter for practices. Six of the eight bells have been donated to the project and came out of church in Llanelli, Wales, which was being closed. The other two bells are being cast in England to match the other six, these will have the name of Sam Maguire inscribed on them. The bells were prepared and have been fitted into the frame at local craftsman Martin Hough’s workshop in Drinagh.
Speaking at the dedication of the bells Bishop Colton said that “as we approach another sequence of centenary years of commemorations (1918-1923) it is, I believe, vital that we acknowledge the intervening 100 years: what we are now, what we have become, and how things have changed.” He added: “our focus here in this diocese will be forward-looking with special attention to reconciliation (not least reconciling memories) and fostering relationships for today and the times ahead.” This “very imaginative community project which reaches out beyond the Church of Ireland parish” did “exactly these things, in my view,” he said.
Events planned over the next few months to which everyone is welcome to attend:
Sat. 17th June, 5.30pm – Ecumenical Blessing of the Bells in St. Mary’s Church by bishop John Buckley and bishop Paul Colton before the bells are brought up into the tower of the church.
Sun. 3rd September – Open day from 2pm – 8pm, when the church and tower will be open to the public for people to come and see how the bells are rung.
Sat. 9th September 2pm – Official opening with the President and CEO of the GAA, as well as sponsors and local guests.
This project will be part of other inspiring initiatives that will promote Dunmanway as a place to visit to remember Sam Maguire. The cost of this project is approx. €55,000. €40,000 has been raised so far. We are open to donations being made from individuals or companies in the town—please contact Rev. Cliff Jeffers for further details. About half of the funding for the project has been provided by the GAA. (Croke Park)
The bells will be rung on Sunday mornings and also to mark special occasions like St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s eve, weddings and funerals for all traditions (if requested) and to celebrate special occasions and achievements in the town. The project has set up a Facebook page – ‘Sam Maguire Community Bells’ to keep you informed on the installation’s progress and also to keep you, the people of Dunmanway informed on what is happening with the bells in the future e.g. events, special rings, practices, etc.
The rector, the Reverend Cliff Jeffers, explained:
Sam Maguire was laid to rest in St. Mary’s churchyard (Church of Ireland) 90 years ago, and after the centenary celebrations last year we realised that we had done little to remember him. We chose to install the Sam Maguire Community Bells as a way of remembering Sam Maguire, of telling his story, and the story of Dunmanway town through eight different themes. As the people of Dunmanway learn to ring these bells together we hope that it will strengthen our sense of community and working together for the good of the home town of Sam Maguire.
Rev. Cliff as he is known in the town is universally liked in Dunmanway and is one of life’s natural communicators. Being a cleric in rural Ireland is not the gig it used to be with resources spread thinly and Cliff covers not just Dunmanway but churches and congregations at Drimoleague, Coolkelure and Drinagh which are collectively known as the Fanlobbus Union of Parishes so Reverend Cliff official title is Rector of Fanlobbus. His two Catholic counterparts Fr. Ted Collins and Fr. John O’Donovan over three churches and parishes.
One of the great features of Dunmanway is it is very relaxed, integrated and diverse community. It has traditionally had large Church of Ireland and Methodist communities and over the years many people from the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands and elsewhere have settled here attracted by the special ambiance and lifestyle of West Cork. It means that we are a diverse community embracing people of all faiths and none and the relaxed vibe of the area means that events such as the Sam Maguire Community Bells project are genuinely community events.
So as the peals peal in Dunmanway in the years to come we will remember Sam Maguire and this special town at the heart of West Cork which embraced this great Irish Patriot and Sportsmen and many more besides.
For more on Fanlobbus Parish and to donate to this project please see the website.