Eight Bells in Memory of Sam Maguire in St Mary’s Church, Dunmanway

A truly unusual and historic community project is under way in Dunmanway, County Cork, based at the Church of Ireland parish church – Saint Mary’s – and started by the local rector, the Reverend Cliff Jeffers.  Eight bells, to be known as ‘The Sam Maguire Community Bells’, are to be installed in the church in memory of one of the famous parishioners – Sam Maguire – whose name is given to the cup awarded each year to the winners of the All-Ireland Football Championship.  Also known as ‘Sam’ or ‘the Sam’, the cup, modelled on the Ardagh Chalice, was first presented in 1928.

The bells, two of them brand new and inscribed with Sam Maguire’s name, have now arrived at the church and, on Saturday, 17th June, at an Ecumenical Service, they were named and dedicated by the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton.  It had been hoped that he would be joined by the Most Reverend Dr John Buckley, Bishop of Cork and Ross, but other duties in the diocese made this impossible.

This naming and dedication was the first and preparatory part of the celebrations.  The bells will now be raised to the tower and installed there during the summer.  On Saturday, 9th September the CEO and President of the Gaelic Athletic Association, together with sponsors and local guests, will join local clergy and Bishop Colton once more, for a Service of Thanksgiving.

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 parish churchyard in Dunmanway.

Having explored the possibilities, the parish 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 the story of Sam Maguire and the history of the town are told.

The themes selected with the help of Dunmanway Historical Association and local people are :

  • Sport.
  • Wars and Revolution.
  • Agriculture.
  • People of Dunmanway.
  • Migration.
  • Religious Traditions.
  • Education and Arts.
  • Industry and Commerce.

These themes will be developed into story boards (posters) in part of the church 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.  Already, groups of parishioners have been learning the art of bell-ringing (campanology) on a temporary and moveable ring of bells set up in the church.

Bishop Colton said:

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, as well as remembering the history of events and times themselves.  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. Events and projects that nurture opportunities for reconciliation and community-building in the Ireland of today will be important. This very imaginative community project which reaches out beyond the Church of Ireland parish to other churches, community groups, and national bodies –  the idea of the local rector, the Reverend Cliff Jeffers – does exactly these things, in my view.

The rector, the Reverend Cliff Jeffers, explains:

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.

The Sam Maguire Community Bells (Photo: George Maguire)

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