Belfast Telegraph

Artist's 10,000-mile journey to see Northern Ireland church window she made in 1964

By Alf McCreary

A Northern Ireland-born artist has returned to see her stained-glass window in a Rostrevor church more than half-a-century after she created it.

Paddy Robinson, originally from Bessbrook in south Armagh, created 'The Tree Of Life' window in 1964 when she was a 19-year-old student at the Belfast College of Art, training under Edward Marr.

The beautiful artwork was presented to St Bronach's Church of Ireland as a gift from Isobel Foster Kennedy, a benefactress of the church, and installed in 1965.

It was placed there in memory of Colonel Donald and Grace Kennelly, who lived in St Bruno's House in Rostrevor.

However, by that time Paddy had emigrated to Australia, where she trained in engraving and became a distinguished stained-glass artist with many commissions Down Under and elsewhere.

She returned briefly to Northern Ireland in 1969, where she saw her work in the Rostrevor church for the first time.

Her recent return to the church was a special event, her arrival in Rostrevor reading like an artistic detective story.

Two of St Bronach's parishioners - Shelagh Roberts and Pauline Coffey - had spearheaded an initiative to raise funds for urgent repairs and restoration of the church, which dates from 1821.

£120,000 has been raised in the past three years, and the women have carried out research on the various windows, plaques and other historical artefacts. They discovered through the internet that the only living artist with a connection to the church was Paddy.

When they discovered she was coming back home for a visit, they invited her to Rostrevor.

Paddy, who also made a nostalgic visit to her native Bessbrook during her recent trip, said: "Although I trained at the Belfast Art School, I always felt at home in the Bessbrook and Rostrevor area, and I still do.

St Bronach's Church is scheduled to reopen after its renovation later this year.

Belfast Telegraph

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