The 'Iron Church' - the most beautiful church in Ireland?

Not far from my parental home town of Carrickmacross in county Monaghan is the little village of Laragh which I visited this week with my brother Michael. Famous for its industrial heritage and the birthplace of General Eoin O'Duffy, its most striking feature is the Anglican church of St. Peters. Situated on the summit of a high rock (hence its name 'Peter' = 'rock' in Greek), in a wooded gorge with a river of cascading waters at its base, its architecture of a tall slender tower, a weathercock-topped spire, and fish scale roofs, gives the impression that one is in an Alpine village rather than amongst the drumlins of south Ulster.
But what is even more unusual, and which is unique in Ireland, is that this ecclesiastical building is made from corrugated galvanised iron. Such churches, known as 'Tin Tabernacles', were built in 19th century Britain during the industrial revolution to cater for the huge increase in urban populations caused by the demand for workers in the new factories. These buildings could be quickly erected from factory-made prefabricated metal sheets. They were Industrial Churches for an Industrial Age to serve an Industrial Congregation.
The church was deconsecrated in 1962 and fell into dereliction until an ambitious programme of restoration was begun in 2012 by the recently formed Laragh Heritage Group.
As it was Christmas, I wanted to ensure that I visited a church and I was always enthralled by the beauty of St. Peters.

It was built by the owner of the nearby Laragh Mills, which was the first mechanised spinning mill in Ulster providing employment for c300 labourers, spinners and weavers.
However relations between the owner James McKean and his predominately Catholic workforce was never good. A man of strict temperance and with a strong Protestant religious conviction, he would complain about the drinking excesses of the local people. In the winter of 1884, the workers went on strike for better pay and working conditions as well as time off for the observation of Holy Days of Obligation. McKean refused and locked out the strikers. The Lockout continued until the spring of 1885 with McKean trying to entice Protestant workers from his other mill in Rockcurry to take the place of the Catholic rebels. It might explain why he had St. Peters built- a Protestant place of worship that was constructed within a year due to it being made largely from prefabricated metal sheets.

As aforementioned, Laragh is also the birthplace of General Eoin O'Duffy, leader of the Monaghan Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (IRA)who became its Chief of Staff in 1922. He is most famous though as the leader of the short-lived (1932-33) Irish fascist movement known as the Blueshirts

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