The Carysfort Story
Ours is the “United Parish of Booterstown and Carysfort”. What, then, of Carysfort?
The Church, Christchurch, was demolished in the early 1960s and no trace of it now exists – the busy Dun Laoghaire to Dublin main road running through its former site in Blackrock. It was united with Booterstown in 1944 when Rev. E. M. Bateman, M.A., (later Canon of St. Patrick’s Cathedral) was appointed Incumbent of the Group (for a separate Select Vestry existed afterwards).
In 1959, the Town and City Parishes Commission of the General Synod decreed that Carysfort Church should close. This decision was greeted with dismay amongst some of the Carysfort congregation who considered that the reasons given for its closure were invalid, i.e. mainly the proximity of other local Church of Ireland buildings and an insufficient congregation to warrant its retention. It should be remembered that, in 1959, closure of churches was a relatively infrequent occurrence, at least in Dublin. In the 1980s we are more familiar with “retrenchment” and many churches have shared the fate of Carysfort – St. Luke’s, St. Peter’s, St. Kevin’s, St. Barnabas, St. James’s and so on. Yet many would argue that the corporate body of the Church of Ireland is stronger than ever and that these closures, given present economic conditions are inevitable.
So it was that in March, 1960, a group of Carysfort parishioners contested the decision to close the church, in the High Court at Dublin. Basing their argument on the fact that Carysfort was a “Trust Church” and as such could not be closed under the usual procedures of the Church of Ireland, Counsel for the plaintiffs asked for an order that the closure be revoked. This was refused by Mr. Justice Thomas Teevan and the case was lost by the plaintiffs. The fate of Carysfort Church was sealed.
Looking back historically, after the church closure in 1960, one must sympathise with both sides in the dispute. The faithful parishioner, appalled by the prospective loss of his or her Parish Church, and those who must decide the overall Church strategy, unpopular though it may be. In 1984 we are so inured to shocks – closures of huge industries almost overnight etc. that we perhaps cannot understand the feelings in 1960 of a small group of parishioners who fought “tooth and nail” to save their church building, but it was a traumatic event for the whole Church of Ireland at the time – 24 years ago.
On a perhaps happier note, the new Parochial Centre in Booterstown Parish, erected in 1967, was, as previously noted in this history, by unanimous wish of Booterstown Select Vestry named the “Carysfort Hall”. So, in a sense, the sturdy old church, Christchurch, Carysfort, has arisen in a new way “phoenix-like” from the ashes (or rather rubble) to serve future generations of the parishioners of our united parish of Booterstown and Carysfort.