Have you ever wondered about stained glass? Dr David Canon, a retired head of department at the National College of Art and Design, has worked on an updated version of The Gazetteer of Irish Stained Glass and recently gave a talk for the National Churches Trust.

He was one of the original authors along with Nicola Gordon Bowe and Michael Wynne who have since deceased. For the talk he was focusing on stained glass in the North of Ireland and some really interesting back stories on artists involved.

Lua Breen, for instance, who designed and made the stained glass in Saint Brigid’s church on the Malone Road, benefited greatly in his career by replacing windows which had been destroyed in bomb attacks. Richard King, who made the Harry Clarke studio windows in Saint Malachy's college, left the medium and in later life took it up again but used a very different abstract style. Having got out of the clutches of the studio, he did not have to use its house style.

Ethel Rhind and Wilhelmina Geddes were part of the An Túr Gloine studio in Dublin which was set up to develop a local stained glass industry in Ireland and to stop works being imported. They made some of the stained glass windows in Townsend Presbyterian Church off the Falls.

Women stained glass makers are less well know than the men but there were quite a number of women stained glass makers around. Wilhelmina went on to make windows in Ottawa, Canada and Ypres, Belgium and has a blue plaque at her residence in Marlborough Park South.

AN TÚR GLOINE: The mesmerising work of Wilhelmina Geddis in Townsend Presbyterian Church.

AN TÚR GLOINE: The mesmerising work of Wilhelmina Geddis in Townsend Presbyterian Church.

Dr Canon spoke of a concern among the stained glass fraternity about what will happen to windows such as the Harry Clarke Window of 1927 in the Dominican Convent on the Falls Road as a decline in the numbers within religious orders means many of these chapels are unused —  yet the windows are of great significance.

Artist Neil Shawcross has a made a number of stained glass windows such as the ones in the Ulster Museum. On my church visits, I came across one in Saint Bartholomew’s, Stranmillis, but did not know that the large seventies work in handblown rose glass in the Methodist Church on the Donegal Road — which was refurbished after a bombing — are also his. Neil’s granddaughter is currently helping Dr Canon collate all the information on the windows he created.

Dr Canon is focusing his retirement on cataloguing stained-glass in Ireland and is still looking for prime examples that can be identified as a specific artist for consideration.

The book has two thousand five hundred listings listings, photographs and some written pieces and can act as a reference for curious stained glass lovers everywhere. 

Historic Environment Records of Northern Ireland at the gasworks site also revealed they hold the stained glass archive of original illustrations and drawings of the Clokey glass studio (mostly from designs by Olive Henry) but do not necessarily know where all the actual pieces of stained glass are. 


Back to contemporary Belfast, Culture Night, which morphed into something else a few years again, has morphed again. This Friday, Saturday and Sunday (17-19 September), it will take the form of an Ogham Grove in Writers Square and open from 10 am to 10 pm. Is it Culture? We shall see.  

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland have opened an interesting funding stream for individual artists of all artistic disciplines and all types of working practices from minority ethnic and migrant backgrounds, including people in need of international protection. Part of the criteria is you must have made a contribution to artistic activities for a minimum of two years and live in Northern Ireland.  See their website for full details.