St Aloysius Church, Breaffy, Castlebar in Co. Mayo

The last blessing in the old St Aloysius Church was given by Fr. A. Devine C.C. in 1976. This church had served the people of Breaffy as a place of worship for almost 150 years. A week after that last mass, the walls were pulled down and the work on the new church began.

The scant parochial records for the early part of the 19th century suggest that St. Aloysius was originally a thatched building built by the Browne family for their workers. The school for the worker's children was built at the same time. A stone in the wall of the school indicated 1830 so this could have been the date of the construction of both church and school. From historical records it is certain that the church was there on the 1st April 1834.

The records of the school in the National Archives state that the school plot was not divided from that of the chapel. Fr. Patrick Gibbons was the parish priest at that time. The Parochial Records show that in 1844 it was a functioning chapel.

A member of the Darcy family, New Forest, County Galway, directed in his will that £10 a year for ever be paid to the priest who reads Mass at the Chapel at Breaffy- the money to come from their Fisherhill estate at Breaffy. The school was located inside the demesne wall, which marked the boundary of the church grounds on the south and west, were the main road now runs. The demesne wall was very high and a doorway allowed the workers from Breaffy House easy access to the chapel for mass.

The first major alterations to the church took place in 1891when an extra window was added to the length of the church and the side door was put in. A gothic type doorway was the feature on the frontage and an arch with cut stone hood extended up to the belfry. The stone-work was carried out by Thomas Cummins. His name together with the date of 1885 were carved on: the holy fonts, one on either side of the main door and the baptismal font inside the church.

Thomas Cummins was a stonecutter by trade and he was also employed at the building of Breaffy House. Up to 1930 the church was only half filled with seats and that same year there was a purchase of 48 new seats. A new altar rail, a new vestment press, four new statues and a large statue of Our Lady together with improvements in the church grounds brought the church up to date. Back in 1954 more repairs were necessary when the church was partly re-roofed and repaired, a new gallery erected and a new floor with tiled centre aisle laid down. The circular stained window was donated by the Moran family.

The only priest to have been interned inside the church was Fr. Francis Moran, he was buried outside the altar rails under the centre aisle. He died in 1895 at the age of thirty-eight.

Article by Brian Hoban