Church of St Thomas, Inishmore, Galway, Ireland

The Church of St Thomas on Inishmore is a 19th century Protestant church built sometime between 1845 and 1859 to serve the small Church of Ireland congregation on the island. It appears there had been a sizeable Protestant population on the island since the time of the Confederate Wars, this was due to the stationing of Cromwellian soldiers at Arkin’s Castle in the 1660s. Seventy troops were continually based on the island for many years to quell any rebellion and over time some of the soldiers settled there. By the time of Griffith’s Valuation of the Aran Islands in 1837 there was a protestant Church in Kilrornan and also at least one school which would suggest and ongoing sizeable community. There were also two Protestant clerics on the island. It does appear that numbers had dwindled by the early part of the 20th century, this is evidenced by the Commissioners of National Education who wrote in 1914, ‘the number of Protestant children on the Inishmore Island is very small, and they have the opportunity of attending the national schools on the island, which are open to children of all denominations.’ This suggests two things, firstly a familiarity between the communities necessary for island life but also a dwindling presence on the islands. Tensions would have inevitably developed after the formation of the Land League on the island, which brought its inhabitants in direct conflict with the Digby’s who had owned much of the island for the preceding 200 years. The 1911 census reveals only 10 people of a Protestant faith on Inishmore, most of whom may have left in the 1920s and 30s. Inevitably the roof of the Church of St Thomas was removed and the church fell into ruin.

GPS: 53.12195, -9.6688

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