Parish History

Our Lady of the Rosary Parish

Harold’s Cross was located in the Catholic parish of St Nicholas Without before becoming part of the new parish of Rathmines in 1823 and later being constituted as a parish in its own right. Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Harold’s Cross, was constituted from the parishes of Rathmines, Rathgar and Terenure in 1935. The new parish church was built in 1938 on the lands of Mount Harold House and the ground floor of the original house forms part of the Pastoral Centre.

Cros-Araild The Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev. Edward Byrne D.D. took the initiative in the matter. When the house and grounds of Mount Harold were announced for sale, he instructed Canon Fleming, Parish Priest of Rathmines, to purchase the holding. The purchase was completed on 11 August 1931 and the ownership duly transferred to the ecclesiastical authorities.

It was then decided to erect a temporary church. However, it was not until 1935 that a new Church at Foxrock, Co. Dublin, was built, which allowed Canon Fleming in the summer of that year to arrange for the taking down of Foxrock’s former tin church, and its re-erection in Mount Harold. The temporary church was solemnly blessed by Archbishop Byrne on 24 November 1935 and the first Mass was celebrated by Fr Percy McGough, the first Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Rosary, Harold’s Cross. (Canon McGough served in this role until his death in 1954.) Harold’s Cross parish then began a new history with the “Little Tin Church” to fill the needs of the new parish. It was a day of jubilation in Harold’s Cross. All the houses along the Green and the main road were decorated lavishly, and a wonderful reception was given to the Archbishop when he reached the parish boundary.

When the process of re-erection was almost complete on 30 September 1935, His Grace constituted Harold’s Cross into a new parish, giving it the title of Our Lady of the Rosary. Meanwhile, work on a new splendid Church began and in 1938 it was finished, giving us the beautiful church we now have. It can hold approximately 1,600 people! The ornate stained-glass window over the main altar, depicting Our Lady of the Rosary, was installed at the beginning of the new millennium.

Corpus Christi 1957
Corpus Christi Procession, 1957

Brief History of Harold’s Cross  

Harold’s Cross is rich in association and dates from the 10th century AD. Legend has it that a village sprang up on the site of a battlefield - the village of Harold’s Cross.

Harold’s Cross gets its name, according to F.E. Ball in his History of County Dublin, from a cross erected to mark the extent of the lands of the Archbishop of Dublin and to warn the Harold family of Rathfarnham not to encroach. Harold’s Grange is named after the same former Viking family. The Cross was located in the ancient parish of St. Sepulchre, near the major Harold’s Cross Road crossroads/junction leading to Rathgar, Rathmines and Kenilworth, on the road to Terenure/Rathfarnham. Due to its relatively high position relative to Dublin, it was considered a place of resort from the miasma of the city, and many people from the city came to Harold’s Cross for the betterment of their health up until the 19th century, generally staying in lodgings.

Harold’s Cross was raided in 1594 and burnt by Walter Reagh Fitzgerald. It is remembered, in the naming of Emmet Street, as the hiding place of Robert Emmet after his failed rising in 1798. The population of the parish was 1,101 in 1831, more than doubling to 2,789 in 1841. Harold’s Cross was incorporated into the Rathmines Township when it was formed in 1847, becoming the Rathmines & Rathgar UDC in 1899, and amalgamated with Dublin Corporation in 1930. Politically it has never stood on its own.

Rivers and Houses

The land of Harold’s Cross was mostly held between the Earl of Meath and the Archbishop of Dublin in the 16th century. Initially, the Green was commonage around which the village was located. Many of the houses were small cabins. The commonage also held the Archbishop of Dublin’s gallows. Two rivers ran through the village, the Poddle along the line of the Kimmage Road toward the city, and the Swan which had a parallel path but turned south and followed what is now Leinster Road toward Rathmines. Both are now mostly culverted. The presence of the Poddle encouraged milling and Joseph Archer in his Statistical Survey of Co. Dublin, in 1801, lists eight mills in Harold’s Cross, for various manufacturing purposes: paper, flour, corn, wire, etc.

Later a number of large houses were constructed around the green, mostly with the appendage of ‘Mount’, reflecting the parish’s considered high position, and their names are remembered today but no longer as houses; Mount Argus (church and monastery), Mount Jerome (cemetery), Greenmount House (the hospice), Mount Harold (the Catholic Church) and Mount Drummond and Mount Tallant (housing). The remainder of the village lands were farmed with two orchards, one small one called Madgin’s Farm, where the Casimir Road/Avenue area was built, and a larger one called Buckley’s Farm where the Poor Clares and Mount Drummond are now.

Mount Jerome Cemetery

Mount Jerome was opened in 1836 as a Protestant cemetery, accepting all religions from the time of the Spanish Flu epidemic after the First World War. There is a small enclosed section near the entrance but outside the cemetery walls reserved for those who were Muslims. The original house partially remains, having its upper floor removed, and is used as the cemetery office. A Protestant chapel had been built in the cemetery, which is now used for all services. Among those buried there are Thomas Davis, John Millington Synge, Jack B. Yeats, William Wilde, father of Oscar Wilde, many of the Guinness family, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Lord Longford of Gate Theatre fame, Thomas Drummond (Under-Secretary) and many other famous notaries.

Religious Orders

Mount Argus was bought from the widow of the previous owner, Joseph Byrne, by the Passionist Order in England to set up a monastery and novitiate in Dublin in 1856. Originally they used the existing three storey brick house and a single storey chapel attached but by 1878 this was replaced and subsequently extended with the existing monastery and church. The monastery has lately been sold for redevelopment and a new modern monastery was recently built across from the church.

The Sisters of Charity and Mother Mary Aikenhead bought Greenmount House in 1845 after she was advised to move to the country for the good of her health. The sisters set up their motherhouse and novitiate there before it was converted to a hospice in 1879 upon the removal of the motherhouse to St. Anne’s in Milltown. The hospice has been extended over a number of years (and is still expanding).

In 1804 the Poor Clare sisters from Dorset Street came to Harold’s Cross to open an orphanage. This was completed in 1806 and was called San Damiano. The building consists of an extension to a building dating from the 1700s. The orphanage closed in 1977. They also provided schooling for those in their care and the existing new school was constructed in the 1970s.


As said, Harold’s Cross was located in the Catholic parish of St Nicholas Without before becoming part of the new parish of Rathmines in 1823 and later being initiated as a parish in its own right in 1935. The new parish church was built in 1938 on the lands of Mount Harold House and the ground floor of the original house remains as the Pastoral Centre, now renovated.

In the civil parish of St. Catherine, the Church of Ireland church located beside the gate to Mount Jerome Cemetery was erected in 1838 as an Episcopal Church before returning to the Church of Ireland in 1903. It was deconsecrated in 2001 and since 2003 it acts as a Russian Orthodox Church dedicated to Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.


Harold Park was the original village green, while the bridge over the canal, built in 1790, was first named Clanbrassil Bridge. In 1935-6 it was rebuilt and called Robert Emmet Bridge after the patriot who was captured in Harold’s Cross. After a failed uprising in Dublin in 1802, Emmet chose to remain in hiding in the Wicklow mountains so he could be close to his “bright love” who lived in Harold’s Cross. Emmet in fact spent a month hiding in Harold’s Cross, before finally being discovered and executed in public.

Robert Emmet House, so called because Robert Emmet stayed there in Chicken Lane, later renamed Mount Drummond Avenue, was knocked down and is now the site of apartments for elderly people.

Mother Mary Aikenhead came to Harold’s Cross and founded one of Dublin’s best known landmarks, namely Our Lady’s Hospice, while St Clare’s Convent was founded across the road in 1803. Mount Jerome Cemetery was originally the residence of the Shaws of Bushy Park.

Mount Argus was acquired by the Passionist community in 1856 and Fr Paul Mary Pakenham (a nephew of the Duke of Wellington) was the first rector. The monastery was built in 1860. A new entrance from the Kimmage Road was donated by the Dublin Metropolitan Police in 1908/9 and the Garda Siochána did likewise when the new car park was put in, by supplying a double gate at the entrance.

Fr Charles lived and died in Mount Argus. In 1938 his body was raised as part of the apostolic process for beatification and his body was transferred from the cemetery to the church in 1949. Mount Argus became a parish in 1974. Fr Charles was raised to sainthood in 2007.


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Building Hope
Pilgrim God, we give you thanks and praise.
You constantly journey with us even in our darkness and doubts.
We seek your way of loving kindness to walk together as one family.
Open our eyes to recognise you in the faces of one another,
in the breaking of bread and in the splendour of creation.
May the risen Christ sow seeds of hope and new life deep within us.
May our hearts and minds be filled with your Word, bringing forth truth, justice and peace.
May the Holy Spirit working in and through us do much more
than we can dare to imagine as we live out our baptismal calling in humble and loving service.
We make this our prayer through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.
St Laurence O’Toole, pray for us.
St Kevin, pray for us.
St Brigid, pray for us.

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