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Harry Clarke Windows

Dr. Nicola Gordon Bowe visits Gilford

Gilford was host recently to the eminent Stained Glass author and lecturer Dr. Nicola Gordon Bowe.  This Arts academic, from photographs and from records in Trinity College, Dublin had earlier defined the work of the Clarke Studios in Dublin, previously not attributed to St. John’s in Gilford. 
Dr.Gordon Bowe has a special interest in and has researched widely the work of Harry Clarke, the Clarke Studio and the early 20th century stained glass revival. 

This lady is currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Ulster.

After two stained glass windows were researched for the sesquicentennial celebration publication, The Church and Community of St. John the Evangelist, Gilford, it was then realised that the church was privileged to have two spectacular windows.  In essence, Ken Ryan of the Abbey Stained Glass Company, Dublin, described these as of exquisite craftsmanship and indeed ‘part of our Irish Heritage’.

The earlier window depicts St. Catherine of Siena – a memorial window dedicated to Henry and Catherine Gourley, single light: c1922. 
The inscription reads:

In loving memory of Henry and Catherine Gourley

Henry 1819.1890        Catherine 1827.1878


A second window depicts Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette – a memorial window dedicated to Katherine Gourley and Jane Gourley Boyle, a single light: c.1929.  The inscription reads:

In Loving Memory of Katherine Gourley & Jane Gourley Boyle

1853.1928                               1858.1914


When Dr Gordon Bowe was visiting Mrs Christine Wright at Gilford Castle, to launch an Art Exhibition, she availed of the opportunity to visit Gilford Chapel to view the two windows partly designed by the eminent artist Harry Clarke during his short life.  Incidentally, he was born in 1889 and died in 1931 shortly after the death of Katherine Gourley whose memorial window is found in Gilford.

Apart from the exquisite overall design and quality of workmanship at the studio of Joshua Clarke & Sons, the hand of Harry was identified in the expression of several of the faces and in the stigmata’d hand of our Lord in The St. Catherine window.

His signature use of blue hues particularly in the later window depicting Our Lady of Lourdes was characteristic of the man. T

here were several other features in both windows typical of the distinctive style of the international award-winning expert in the medium of Stained Glass.   During the early 1920s the artist was reckoned to have been at the height of his creativity.

These two hidden treasures, in the Sanctuary of the Gilford Church, are much appreciated by the clergy, congregation and visitors.  The windows have now become part of the heritage trail.  Dr. Gordon Bowe was also impressed by the general pride taken by the worshippers of the recently refurbished church.  Dessie Teggart, a member of St. John’s community, was on hand to photograph her visit.

It is understood that staff at the F.E .McWilliams Gallery plan to invite Dr. Gordon Bowe to give a talk on Stained Glass in the near future.

Meantime, Anne Cairns author of the sesquicentennial book would still be interested in hearing from representatives of the late William Boyle Gourley, who gifted both windows.  The memorial windows are dedicated to his parents and his two sisters.  And the community of St. John’s Church, Gilford, is ever grateful to the judgement and generosity of this man, who left Gilford as a boy of nine years of age and settled in Paterson, New Jersey, USA.

It is ironic that, W.B. Gourley as he styled himself, became an eminent counsellor at law and yet never forgot his Irish roots in the ‘Scrogg’ overlooking the church where his legacy of two such treasured gift now rests.







Bob Cairns, Dr. David Davin, Dr. Gordon Bowe, Anne Cairns and Fr. Martin McDonagh



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