The island of Ireland is, sadly, filled to the brim with deserted buildings. Churches, houses, coastguard stations, apartment buildings, bus depots, cinemas, garages, and pubs have all been left to rot in an array of hauntingly sad, if not beautiful, ways. 

One photographer, a person who prefers to remain anonymous but describes themselves as 'Indiana Jones meets Father Ted', has set themselves the challenge of snapping some of these decrepit beauties for their Instagram account, Abandoned West Cork.

Promising to take 'only photos' and leave 'only footprints', the account holder shares stunning photographs of these time capsules left to decay across the country.

The account is a showcase of dining rooms with cups of tea still sitting on the table, half-read books left bookmarked on bedside tables, chairs stacked high in forgotten schools, and - the one that caught our eye - a church with stainless glass windows designed by one of Ireland's finest artists.

Abandoned Art
Posting a series of photos of the windows to Instagram, Abandoned West Cork's account holder wrote: "These have got to be the most beautiful abandoned stained glass windows I have ever seen.

"The windows were designed by Catherine Amelia O'Brien (1881-1963), arguably one of Ireland's finest ever stained glass window designer. Her work is internationally famous and the National Gallery of Ireland hold her drawings and notebooks.

"She died while working on a commission from the then-president Éamon de Valera for the private chapel of Áras an Uachtaráin. Amazingly these windows are still in near perfect condition although I fear without intervention they won't be for long.

"Unlike the organ in my previous post, these windows are national treasures and should be treated as such. The arts are the greatest achievement of the human race and I don't want this small piece of that achievement to be forgotten.

"I don't normally ask things like this but please share this post in your stories or tag any relevant organization that you can think of, they need to be seen by someone who has the power to preserve them."

Authenticating the windows
Kathryn Milligan, an IRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Art History and Cultural Policy, told RTÉ Lifestyle that she believes the windows to be the work of Catherine Amelia O'Brien, one of Ireland's finest stained glass artists.

"There are four works in the NGI [National Gallery of Ireland] collection which are preparatory drawings or cartoons - in stained glass terms, this refers to the drawing used as a guide for making the actual window," she explained.

"There is a piece in the Irish Times from April 2nd, 1936, that illustrates two of the windows (the left and right lights) - before they were installed in the church, they were exhibited at An Túr Gloine. It also states that they had been made by 'Miss K O'Brien' - the artist was more frequently called 'Kitty' than Catherine.

"It is also of relevance that the windows were commissioned by 'Mrs. Dorman (sister of Mr. Lennox Robinson)' as their father had been a clergyman in that church, and Robinson was a key figure in the literary revival."

The drawings of the windows, named The Pilgrims Progress, are in the National Gallery - you can see a copy here.

Catherine Amelia O'Brien
Born in 1881 at Durra House in Ennis, Co Clare, Catherine moved to Dublin to study at the Metropolitan School of Art under the tutelage of A.E. Child and William Orpen.

In 1906, she went to work in Dublin's famous An Túr Gloine [ATG], a studio ran by Sarah Purser who Milligan describes as "a highly accomplished portrait painter who founded the glassworks studio so as to encourage the art in Ireland and ensure that Irish ecclesiastical buildings were decorated with Irish-made glass and mosaic work".

When she joined ATG in 1906, O'Brien had already worked with Purser on a window for Loughrea Cathedral. 'The Sower' is among her best-known works, though perhaps a more interesting fact is that in 1931 she was commissioned to create a window for the De La Salle School in Singapore, and this remains the only piece of Irish stained glass in that county. 

Following Pursuer's retirement, O'Brien took over as director of the studio and bought it outright in 1944. One of her last commissions was for the private chapel of Aras an Uachtaráin but, unfortunately, she died in 1963 before the windows were completed.

O'Brien's life was commemorated with a beautiful window that was erected in her honour in the St. Laurence O'Toole Chapel of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. The memorial piece was designed by Patrick Pollen, who had rented space from O'Brien in Pembroke Street, and who donated much of the material to the NGI. 

Abandoned West Cork
We got in touch with the mystery photographer of Abandoned West Cork to speak about the decaying church, the Instagram account and their thoughts on Ireland's forgotten architecture.

How did your account come about?
My interest was sparked on a visit to an abandoned town in Italy a couple of years ago. When we returned from our holiday I started noticing more and more abandoned buildings around here.

Then, one day, last year I went into an old ruined farmhouse without doors or windows to take some photos and was shocked to see furniture and family photos still in there. There was even a half-empty bottle of whiskey and two glasses on the table.

The human story that had been left behind really affected me. At the time I was trying to get to grips with a sudden shocking family bereavement and in a way that I can't really explain I felt a sort of empty bond seeing what had been left behind. I think it became a good distraction to what I was going through and somehow spiraled into what it is today.

Is there a reason you prefer to remain anonymous?
There are a few reasons, first and foremost, even though my intentions are to just take photographs and sometimes document things of historic interest before they are lost, that might not be the way everyone will perceive it and living in a small community it just takes one person to be unhappy at what I am doing and my family and work-life could suffer as a result. 

How do you feel about Ireland's many abandoned buildings?
I'm quite shocked at how many there are. What is most upsetting is the amount of abandoned houses I have seen that with very little work would be quite habitable and they are just being left to rot.

There are people living in direct provision centers, there are people living on the streets and this country. That not only makes no sense to me, but it is immoral.

Do you have a favourite photo?
I have a lot of favorite buildings now but I think the first time I was lost for words was when I came across the spiral staircase in the Good Shepard Convent.

As for a favorite photo, I love the one I use for my profile of the armchair in a floor of greenery but I think there are a few that I have taken more recently (some that I haven't posted yet).

Tell us about the church with stained glass windows by Catherine O'Brien?
Most of the buildings I visit, I research their history before I post the pictures. With this particular church, I found out afterward that the playwright Lennox Robinson lived in the rectory behind the church. The windows are dedicated to his parents and he commissioned Kitty O'Brien to make them.

Next steps
When we asked the unnamed photographer about the response to the posts, they told us that numerous people had been in touch to help, including the owner of an Instagram account called Stained Glass Ireland and a Church of Ireland rector.

On the advice of Kathryn Milligan, who describes the windows as some of O'Brien's "most accomplished windows" and insists that every effort should be made to save them, we have forwarded the information on to both the Crawford Art Gallery and the NGI.