Iconic local bricks spark new arts project at St Mary’s, Crumlin
A fascinating evening celebrating the iconic Dolphin’s Barn bricks in the last public building to be built with them, saw the launch of a new arts project celebrating the lives of the people of St Mary’s Parish in Crumlin. The arts project, which will capture the memories and stories of St Mary’s parishioners in ceramics, was launched last night (Thursday March 9) by Dublin City Council Historian in Residence, Cathy Scuffil, whose online talk on Dolphin’s Barn bricks during lockdown inspired the project.
Such is the interest in Dolphin’s Barn bricks that people came in good numbers despite an orange weather warning which brought cold, wet conditions. Many members of the local community came to hear Ms Scuffil speak and the audience included people from across the community, some of whom had never been inside St Mary’s before.
The project is being supported by a grant from Dublin City Council’s Neighbourhood/Voluntary Arts Scheme and by Ulster University. Ceramicist and Ulster University lecturer, Michael Moore, saw Cathy Scuffil’s online talk and contacted St Mary’s Rector, the Revd Ruth Noble, with the idea for the project. He will work with parishioners old and young, of long–standing and new to the parish, to gather information and memories and support the creation of works in clay that tell their stories. This approach mirrors one taken at the time of the building of St Mary’s. The pulpit is decorated with small carvings which reflect life in the parish at that time. There will be an exhibition of the finished ceramic panels created by the parishioners and Michael at the end of the year.
The ‘new’ St Mary’s Church, which opened in 1942, was built with the last of the distinctive biscuit yellow coloured bricks which were made from local clay and came from the brickworks which was located just down the road on the site of Crumlin Shopping Centre. The bricks are one of Cathy’s great passions and so giving a talk in St Mary’s was like a dream come true for her. Highlighting the powerful link between the church and the built and social history of the area she said: “You’re in the building constructed with the last of the bricks from the company that featured so much in our community. A huge effort was made in the construction of St Mary’s to feature the brick and it has weathered extremely well. It has been an absolute honour to talk about the bricks in the building built of them.”
Ruth Noble added: “This literally is the last of the Dolphin’s Barn brick in a public building. So this is why it’s so special. It’s quite remarkable that we have a building like this and just a short way from where the clay was quarried”.
St Mary’s parishioner, Janice McAdams, said they jumped at the chance to be involved in an arts project when Michael Moore contacted them. “This project will be about us in this community – telling our stories and doing it through clay. People, generally older members of the community, have lots of stories about St Mary’s,” she commented.
“This is all about clay,” Michael Moore added. “I heard Cathy’s lecture during lockdown and I knew I wanted to do something with clay. This will be a collaborative project where ceramics is the focus because of the building but it’s all about the people.” Working with Michael parishioners will create a mural of ceramic panels. He hopes to bring the finished work on tour but ultimately its home will be in St Mary’s.
Dolphin’s Barn bricks were used in buildings throughout Dublin, including the Player Wills factory on South Circular Road and many local authority housing projects, and there was another brickworks at the canal so you can find buildings made with Dolphin’s Barn Bricks in towns like Tullamore and Mullingar also. There was a great surge in building works following the War of Independence and in the early days of the Free State which gave support to the Dolphin’s Barn Brick Company giving employment to large numbers of women and men from the Liberties, Dolphin’s Barn, Inchicore and Crumlin Village. However, Cathy said, bricks started to go out of fashion in the 1940s with the arrival of concrete products and the company closed in 1944. Launching the project, she donated two bricks, one Dolphin’s Barn brick and a rarer Mount Argus brick, to the parish. “I love when people explore their history in different ways. To think my talk could lead to a project like this,” she concluded.
If you would like more information about the art project or, as a past or potential future parishioner of St Mary’s, like to get involved in the project, please contact the Revd Ruth Noble email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 087 052 3450.