As part of Wexford Borough Council tidy town volunteer scheme Wexford Lions Club was asked if we would take on a maintenance project in the town. We were offered a choice of a few prominent sites and we gladly accepted the Selskar Abbey project.
Selskar Abbey’s foundation goes back to 1190 at least when a monastery was established by Alexander Roche, a returned Crusader from Christian campaigns in the Holy Land. There previously stood an old church dedicated to St Peter and St Paul. There is some evidence of pre Christian pagan happenings on the site but little of this is known. During the Protestant Reformation Henry VIII of England suppressed the monasteries and Cromwell finally destroyed it in 1649.
A Protestant church was built on the grounds in 1818 and was in service up to the 1960’s. Due to falling numbers, the church closed and to avoid payment of rates, the roof was removed and the church soon became a ruin. The property was subsequently endowed to the Borough Council.
The Council had in mind for us to keep the Abbey tidy and litter free but on reflection the Club felt that we could do a lot more. We set about a programme of repair and research and documentation and collating of existing data relating to the burials in these historic grounds.
Under close guidance of conservation experts we set about the removal of feral sycamore growth, spraying of pathway weeds, tree pruning and repainting of entrance iron gates and railings.
A dedicated group collated burial data, grid referenced graves, recorded all grave stone writings and photographed each grave stone or marker. With an increasing interest in genealogical research, the information recorded by Wexford Lions Club is invaluable to any person researching their family tree in Wexford. Many well known Wexford families are interred in Selskar Abbey, amongst them, Dorcas Catherine McGee, mother of Thomas Darcy McGee, one of Canada’s founding fathers.
We have made application for grant assistance for professional grave railing repairs/replacements, creation and erection of 2 new information notice boards, stone grave surrounds repairs and wall lintel repairs. We are hoping for grant approval in Spring 2012 and for work to commence immediately thereafter.
In consultation with the Borough Council we will work to see the Abbey brought back to its former glory and make it open to townspeople and tourists alike.
The year 2012 promises to be a busy one for us and one where Wexford Lions will continue serving the community.