Aiden Feerick B.A., M.A.G.I.

The church

There are only a handful of tin churches in Ireland and each one of them is significant to their local congregation as well as being architecturally and technically important.

The Catholic Church in Rear Cross Co Tipperary is still in use today and has a very interesting story of how a Methodist Chapel in Wales was repurposed as a Catholic Church in rural Tipperary.

In 1886, Fr William McKeogh was appointed Parish Priest of the Kilcommon, Hollyford and Rear Cross, a very large parish on the Tipperary/Limerick border straddling the Slieve Felim mountains. There was no church in Rear Cross at that time and the faithful had to walk miles to attend Mass on Sundays. In the 1880, Fr McKeogh had been sent to America on a mission to collect money for the new Cathedral in Thurles. He was very successful and collected about £4,000 which he handed over the Thurles Cathedral building fund. According to local lore, he held back about £400 which he soon put to good use.

How he heard about the abandoned Methodist chapel in Wales, we do not know. In any case, he went there, bought the Church at a cost of £440, had it dismantled and shipped it to Limerick. The parishioners went to the quay and loaded the “flat packs” and took them back to Rear Cross and erected it in the autumn of 1887 on a previously built concrete plinth.

The exterior of the church is corrugated iron, popularly called tin; the interior is lined with wood and insulated with jute. The original Chapel was designed in Switzerland and the spire has a Germanic feel.

In 2000 it was completely restored and is the focal point of the village; the regional road from Thurles to Limerick (R 503) passes through it.