On October 1st 1904 St Chrysostom’s Church suffered a devastating fire. We’ve recently been given a transcription of an eyewitness description by an Irish student who was living in Ashburne Hall, which at that time stood opposite the Church on Conyngham Road. It makes fascinating reading:
It was the first night after I came back , and when I went to bed I thought I thought I heard a great deal of noise, but concluding that this was only the contrast between a busy town and the wilds of Kenny, with only the wash of little waves in the harbour and the distant roar of the Atlantic swells, to which I had become accustomed, I resolved to try not to listen and went to sleep. Hardly had I done so when I was waked with the startling announcement that “it” was blazing, and not knowing what or where “it” might be, I was in my sitting room in an instant and there saw one of those sights which leave an impression for the rest of one’s life. The whole roof of the Church was is flames, and no one who has not seen such a thing can imagine the volume of fire that rolled up with ceaseless rage, the great clouds of thick smoke, the sparks falling in showers, slate after slate crashing down from the roof, glass cracking and splintering as the fire shot out through window after window. In the glare of the flames we could see hundreds of peoples looking on, while several engines were spouting what looked like most ineffectual little streams of water, but small though they were they gained the victory at last.
We could see the firemen in their helmets, trying to open the door and jet the hose inside, at first they failed, the flames drove them back, but at last they got it through and turned the water onto the inside of the building. Through the windows we could see the seats burning in rows of flame, while great blazing pieces of the roof kept crashing down amongst them. We watched it for nearly three hours and by that time the little streams of water had done their work and the fire had sunk down into a smouldering glow, with only a little spurt now and then.
It was curious to see afterwards how the little passage from the side chapel to the chancel was entirely unburnt, and when we went over the ruins a few days later there stood two chairs with a piece of carpet lying over them, without a sign of fire anywhere about. While I was watching the fire I often thought of our own fire brigade, and wondered how far we should all keep our heads and do the right thing if we had a conflagration like that in the house. Until one sees it one does not realize its quickness, or the confusion caused by the incessant rage and the smoke and falling sparks. I hope we shall never have such an experience, but meanwhile I am always glad to see the brigade practising and taking it seriously, for the only thing that is any use in case of fire is to have the presence of mind which comes from having thought beforehand what is to be done.
Through the hard work and fund raising of the congregation the church was rebuilt and two years later, on 1st October 1906, the church was rededicated.