Situated between Clonmany village and the Gleniven Waterfall Park in the Inishowen Peninsula, St Columba’s Church is an integral part of the social, cultural and ecclesiastical history of the parish. Although roofless for nearly a hundred years there is a strong wish that the existing character of the church be maintained as a ruin. Its stones and its graves stand testament to the passing of time and of changing circumstance.
A new committee St Columba’s Conservation Group was formed in 2015 to promote the project, raise the funds to preserve what remains of the Old Church, maintain it as a safe structure in this historic landscape, and make it accessible to the public.
Phase 1 of the conservation work is now completed. The vegetation has been removed from the top of the side walls, gables and bell-tower and they have been sealed and plastered with lime mortar; the old, almost rotten, wooden lintels over two doors have been replaced by new pre-cast concrete lintels; and two new wooden tower windows on each side were installed to complement the salvaged one in the centre. The scaffolding and fencing have been dismantled and the building is now safe to visit and its life prolonged.
Phase 2 of the project is ongoing. The boundary wall is being repaired and the graveyard maintained with the help of volunteers and a local Social Employment Scheme. An information panel, part-funded by a 2017 Heritage Council grant, was erected in Spring 2018. A research project recording the multi-layered history of the site is also underway. Some articles already appear under History and the Conservation Group hope to publish these and more in booklet form at a later date.
Final phase The floor surface inside the Church has been resurfaced. A new lintel was installed at the vestry entrance and breaches in the boundary walls repaired with the help of a 2018 Heritage Council grant. Several prominent graves have been identified with markers.
St Columba’s Straid Conservation Group wish to acknowledge Heritage Council grants and the generous donations received from Friends of the Old Church, as well as the support given at local fundraising events. The Old Church at Straid has now been made safe for future generations and the information panels chronicle the history.
The conservation of St Columba’s Straid will encourage those who are genuinely interested in their local history, and bring home to all of us a knowledge and appreciation of what we have.
The people of Clonmany are proud custodians of our heritage.