Thaddeus Moriarty, Daniel O’Brien,
John Murphy, John MacHale,
By Michael P. Linehan.
CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY of Ireland No. Bh461a (1948).
Ah, see the fair chivalry come, the companions of Christ!
White Horsemen, who ride on white horses, the Knights of God!
They, for their Lord and their Lover who sacrificed
All save the sweetness of treading where He first trod!
— LIONEL JOHNSON.
REV. DOCTOR RICHARD CREAGH,
Archbishop of Armagh, 1525 — 1585.
It is a remarkable fact that County Limerick gave
two Archbishops to the Irish Church in the Sixteenth century and that both
these Archbishops were destined to suffer martyrdom. Six years after the birth
of Doctor [Blessed] Dermot O’Hurley in the parish of Knockea, Doctor Richard
Creagh was born in the city of Limerick. His parents were pious middle-class
people, his father being a merchant who trafficked in spices and saffron, the
latter being then very much in demand for dyeing wool. When young Creagh showed
signs of developing a vocation for the priesthood everything possible was done
by his relations and friends to dissuade him from a course, which was only
likely to lead him to persecution and an early death. But he persevered, and we
find him in 1551 in Louvain studying for the priesthood. He proved a brilliant
student and became zealous as a preacher, a teacher and a writer. On his
ordination, he returned to his native city with the idea of founding a school
for the edification of the Irish gentry but Providence decreed otherwise. He
was ordered to proceed to Rome.
When he arrived there, His Holiness the Pope informed him that he was to be appointed Archbishop of Armagh and he was consecrated on Low Sunday, 1564. At midsummer, he left the Holy City to take over the care of his archdiocese, and having travelled as far as Antwerp found it impossible to get a ship for Ireland. He therefore returned to Louvain for a while. When eventually he did succeed in starting on the sea journey a violent storm necessitated the ship’s entering Dover. From there Doctor Creagh started out for London and arrived at that city in time to witness the arraignment of the saintly Bishop of London, Edmund Bonner, for his refusal to take the Oath of Supremacy. From London, Doctor Creagh proceeded to Drogheda. He reached that latter city on January 18th, 1565.
Within an hour of his landing, he was arrested while in the act of offering the Holy Sacrifice in a nearby monastery. He was sent back to London and forced to submit to an interrogation by Sir William Cecil in Westminster Hall. From there he was taken through the streets of London to the Tower amid the scoffs and insults of the London mob, and was placed in a most loathsome dungeon in complete darkness. He was kept there for some time, but was eventually moved to a more lightsome and commodious dungeon. He was forced to submit to a further interrogation before the Recorder of London on Saint Patrick’s Day, and was informed by the Lieutenant of the Tower that if he were prepared to recognise Queen Elizabeth as head of the Church his archbishopric would be restored to him. Doctor Creagh’s answer was that the Catholic Faith was dearer to him than life itself. Shortly after this, he found it possible to walk out of the Tower in circumstances that recalled Saint Peter’s escape. For three days, he wandered through London although there was a hue and cry for him throughout the city, and a reward of 300 ducats offered for information leading to his re-arrest. He obtained passage in a boat to the continent and eventually reached Louvain.
After a short stay in Louvain, he proceeded to Spain
hoping through the good offices of the Spanish ambassador in London to get
permission from the English authorities to proceed to his Archdiocese. While
there, he received an order from Rome to proceed to Ireland. By August, 1566,
he was back in Ulster again and for the next seven months performed his
pastoral duties. On the 20th of April, 1567, he was betrayed into the hands of
the English by one O’Shaughnessy for a considerable sum of money. He was
brought to trial before a Dublin jury who found him “not guilty” and declared
for his acquittal. - The jurymen were immediately imprisoned and heavily fined
for their decision.
The Archbishop was not, however, released from custody, and after close confinement in Dublin Castle for a period of six months, he again managed to escape. His spell of liberty was, however, short. He was recaptured, transferred to England, and again lodged in the Tower, where he remained for the following seventeen years. But even from there, through the instrumentality of trusted agents, he was able to exercise a partial control of his archdiocese, appointing delegates and vicars, settling disputes and issuing faculties. In the tower itself, he presided over theological conferences of his priestly fellow-prisoners from which it was possible to give direction to the English Catholics on such matters as the Oath of allegiance and attendances at heretical services.
On one occasion, the Lieutenant of the Tower attempted to compel all Catholic prisoners to attend heretical services in the Tower Chapel, and strapping Doctor Creagh to a chair had him taken bodily into the chapel. When the preacher began to attack the Catholic Faith, Doctor Creagh refuted him and was so forcible in his interruptions that his captors had to take him out of the chapel as they had brought him in. Then he was accused of having committed rape against the daughter of an officer of the Tower, but when the girl was asked to testify against him she declared that he was innocent, that he was a saint and had never as much as touched the hem of her garment.
On the 16th of October, 1585, Doctor Creagh died from the effects of poison that had been concealed in his food, having first received the Last Sacraments from a fellow-prisoner, Father William Crichton (or Creighton). He lies buried within the precincts of the Tower.
BOETIUS EGAN, O.F.M.,
(Boetius MacEgan) Bishop of Ross. (1647-1650)
Buttevant is today a quiet country town on the main
Cork-Limerick trunk road, midway between Mallow and Rathluirc. It was not so
quiet on Wednesday, February 9th, 1641, for on that day there rode into it the
army of the Irish Catholic Confederation under Lord Mountgarret (Richard
Butler, 3rd Viscount Mountgarret). The chroniclers, telling of this event,
describe Buttevant as an “ôuld towne belonginge to the Earls of Barrymore,
in the Barony of Orrery, where there was a great and ancient residency of
abbots, friars and priests.” Occupying the north-eastern corner of this “ôuld
towne” was the large and extensive Franciscan Friary of Saint Thomas the
Martyr, which had been founded in 1251 by David Oge de Barry, Lord Justice of
Ireland. In 1570, that Friary and its property had been leased to Sir James
Barry, Viscount Buttevant, but as the Franciscan records in the Bibliotheque
Royale at Brussels go to show, these Barrys were good Catholics and as far
as they could, favoured the -Friars.
In Queen Elizabeth’s reign, however, the Friars were expelled from the Friary, but they continued to live in the neighbourhood, and in 1603 reoccupied their convent and repaired it. The Guardian of the Friary at the time of the arrival in Buttevant of Lord Mountgarrett’s army was Frater Boetius Eganus. (Brother Boetius Egan) He and his Community had a hearty welcome for Lord Mountgarret, - and when the latter’s army took the road again for Mallow the records say it left Buttevant “with ten thousand prayers and benedictions from the Friars for its success.”
When by 1642 representatives of the Irish Catholics
met at Kilkenny to found the Confederation, Friar Egan was one of the delegates,
and we find his signature appended to Acts agreed to by the Confederation dated
the 10th, 11th and 12th May, 1642. He acted as chaplain to the army of Owen Roe
O’Neill and at Benburb, he pronounced absolution over the kneeling army
immediately before it advanced to its brilliant victory. After the battle, he
was delegated to carry the banner taken from Munro’s Scots to the Papal
Nuncio Rinuccini who was then at Limerick.
Friar Egan was a native of Duhallow, in County Cork, and received his priestly education in Spain.
In 1649, Cromwell arrived in Ireland
and Friar Egan had by now been appointed Bishop of Ross. In January, 1650,
Cromwell captured Mallow Castle, and having brought all the country from Mallow
to the Suir under his control he turned over the remainder of Cork County to
the tender mercies of Lord Broghill. Broghill had been trained in the school of
murder and rapine, which had earned for Morough (Murrough) O’Brien, 6th Baron
of Inchiquin, the title of Morough of the Burnings. Under his tutelage all Cork
county was laid waste and the Catholics were hunted with savage ferocity.
Bishop Egan was forced to go “on the run” in the more distant and abandoned
parts of his diocese.
One day returning to the lonely retreat in which he had for months lain concealed in company with some Catholic soldiers he was overtaken by a troop of Broghill’s cavalry and captured at - the ford of Sullane, near Macroom. Broghill was at this time investing the castle of Carrigadrohid on the Lee. He had the Bishop brought to him and offered him not only pardon, but bribes and promise of patronage and security if he would renounce the Catholic Faith. Friar Egan rejected these offers with disdain. He was then brought to Carrigadrohid and Broghill offered him his life if he would persuade the garrison to surrender. When Brother Egan arrived before the castle, instead of doing as Broghill wished, he exhorted the garrison to fight to the death. He was immediately abandoned to the fury of Broghill’s soldiery. His arms were first severed from his body. He was then dragged along the ground to a neighbouring tree and was hanged from one of its branches with the reins of his own horse. His martyrdom occurred on the 6th of May, 1650. The Louvain record of the Franciscan Order thus briefly notices this great man: “Pater Boetius Egan, Momoniensis, Epus. Rossensis orthodoxae fidei streniuis defensor et assertor; pro qua an, 1650, glorioso martyrie vitae finem et coronidem imposuit.” (Father Boetius Egan, of Munster, Bishop of Ross, was an upholder and strenuous defender of the orthodox faith; for which in the year 1650, gained a glorious martyrdom, the end and crowning achievement of his life.) The Rinuccini Manuscript commemorating his death, styles him a veritable “seraph of the seraphic Order, and a most glorious martyr.”
REV. ROCHE MacGEOGHEGAN,
Bishop of Kildare, 1580—1644.
Not all the Catholic Bishops who, by their zeal and energy for the Catholic Faith in the Elizabethan-Stuart period, earned the crown of martyrdom were granted that crown. One of these, the saintly Dominican who is the subject of the present article, died full of years in Kilbeggan in 1644 and was buried with all due civil and religious honour in his own cathedral. He was born about the year 1580, and at baptism was called after his father, Ross, who was the chief of the sect of the MacGeoghegans of Moycashel or Kinelfiacha. His mother was the daughter of Dempsey, Viscount of Glenmalure, and his birth is said to have taken place at the ancestral home of the Dempseys at Clunagoon. Like many Irishmen of his generation, young MacGeoghegan was sent to the continent to be educated, his Alma Mater being the Irish College at Lisbon. On the death of his father he was summoned home to administer the paternal estate, but he chose, instead, to proceed to the University of Coimbra to complete his education, and while there be joined the Order of Saint Dominic, his name in religion being Rocchus de Sancta Cruce (Roche of the Holy Cross). For eight years, he was attached to the Dominican Monastery at Salamanca. At the end of that period, in 1614, the General of his Order, being anxious to revive the spirit of the Order in Ireland selected Father Roche MacGeoghegan for this mission.
The Dominican Order in Ireland at that time had
reached its lowest ebb, having only four Fathers in what had once been a most
flourishing province. Even these could not carry on a community life but spent
their time assisting as best they could the secular clergy in the various
dioceses. Father MacGeoghegan in a short time set up several Dominican houses
in different parts of the country and founded a novitiate at Orlake, in the
barony of Costellagh in the County Mayo. His activities were not long in
bringing him to the notice of the government. He was reported as an emissary of
Rome, his name was put in the Hue and Cry and a certain Captain Lyons was
sent to Mayo to arrest him. He managed to escape from the west to Dublin where
he laboured assiduously for the salvation of souls, his labours resulting in
several remarkable conversions. As a result of private conferences which he organized,
Sir Edward Herbert, Baronet and member of the Privy Council, with all his
family was converted to the Catholic Faith. Sir Arthur Blundell,
Vice-Treasurer, through Father MacGeoghegan’s preaching declared that only in
the Catholic Church was there hope of salvation, and on his death-bed received
the last sacraments from the saintly Dominican.
When all this became known a second writ for his arrest was issued, but he escaped in disguise from Dublin to the West. It was customary at this period for great crowds to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Well of Saint Brigid in the county of Roscommon. Father MacGeoghegan took advantage of these gatherings to instruct vast numbers in their faith. Judge Gosport being present at one of his sermons resigned his Judgeship, with its salary of £400 a year, and was received into the Church. The Provost of Trinity College, Richard O’Donal, son of the Lord of Duharegan, being moved by the exhortations of Father MacGeoghegan, renounced the Provost-ship and was reconciled to the Church, and the list of his converts includes the Protestant Vicar-General of Kildare, Thaddeus O’Donellan.
The Government had, by now, become alarmed at the result of his activities. It was declared an act of felony to harbour him, and a reward of £200 was offered for his arrest. The chase became so hot it was thought desirable that he should leave the country. He resigned his office of Provincial and proceeded to Belgium where for many years he laboured in the erection of a convent of his Order for Irish students at Louvain. In 1629, he was promoted to the vacant see of Kildare.
In that year there were in the whole diocese of Kildare only three native priests. The new bishop energetically set about remedying this state of affairs. He revived the old schools, and in a few years, the ancient diocese of Saint Brigid had a numerous clergy, second to none in the island for learning and piety. Through the years of his episcopate, Bishop MacGeoghegan was continually subject to persecution by the minions of the government and dogged by their spies, and again he was forced to go “on the run.” To all these sufferings, he added many acts of voluntary self-denial, frequently sleeping on the bare ground and otherwise mortifying himself. He sold everything he possessed to relieve the distress of the poor, and it was his custom to distribute food and other alms with his own hands. He restored and consecrated the ancient cathedral of Kildare and performed there the sacred ceremonies of religion with solemn pomp. As has been said earlier, he died at Kilbeggan in 1644 after a lingering illness. In his will, he bequeathed to the poor the price of three horses, the only earthly wealth he possessed. He was mainly instrumental in restoring the Order of Saint Dominic in Ireland at a period during which the heroism of its martyrs was to shed fresh lustre on the Irish Church.
THADDEUS MORIARTY, O.P.,
The Dominican Priory of Holy Cross, Tralee, was originally built and endowed by John Fitzgerald, Prince of Desmond, in 1243, that is seven hundred and five years ago. John Desmond and his son Maurice were interred in the Abbey in 1261, and three hundred years later another John, Earl of Desmond, died as a Dominican of Holy Cross. In 1540, the Priory was suppressed by Henry VIII, but its final desecration and ruin was the work of Cromwell’s soldiery in 1652. By 1756, there were only two Dominican Fathers in the vicinity of Tralee. Towards the end of the eighteenth century a small band of the fathers attempted to establish a community at Knockanure, but were requested by the then Bishop of Kerry to take up parochial duties in various parts of the diocese. Then, in 1861, Doctor David Moriarty, Bishop of Kerry, restored the Dominicans to Tralee and on September 14th, 1871, the present church was opened.
During the seven centuries of its existence many distinguished names have been listed on the role of Holy Cross Priory, not the least distinguished of these being that of Father Thaddeus Moriarty, who was hanged in Killarney on October 15th, 1653. Father Moriarty was born at Castle Drum in the vicinity of Tralee. The date of his birth is uncertain, but in 1629, he was a student in Spain. In 1651, he was prior of Holy Cross. That was the year that saw the fall of Limerick and the death of the Cromwellian, Henry Ireton. He was succeeded by Lieutenant-General Edmund Ludlow, who made himself responsible for the “pacifications’ of Kerry. The execution of all priests and friars was part of this plan of “pacification” and Prior Thaddeus Moriarty was one of the victims. The following is an extract from the panegyric on Father Moriarty by another famous Kerry Dominican, Father Dominic (Daniel) O’Daly (1595-1662).
“He was a man
distinguished for his knowledge of theology, and also for his virtues and noble
character. Captured by the heretics (who for a long time previous had known him
by reputation), never did a bride go more joyfully to her nuptials than he went
to prison, nor was a hungry man more anxious for a banquet than he was for the
gibbet. On hearing that he was sentenced to die, he pressed and kissed the
hands of the messenger who brought the news, and distributed money among his
jailers and the soldiers who were to lead him to the gallows. Before being
hanged, he lifted the minds of the Catholics who were standing around with a
beautiful discourse on the excellence of the Catholic religion, the inconstancy
of human life, the uncertainty of the hour of death, and of martyrdom as the
most secure road to Heaven. What filled the minds of the onlookers with wonder
and admiration, was his countenance after life was extinct. Though wan and
emaciated in appearance, owing to his long detention in prison, it seemed to be
transfigured after death and even to emit rays of light, so that the very
executioners confessed that it was like the face of an angel. He indeed gave a
singular example of humility and patience during his whole life and was never
known to be angry.
“He showed such patience during his suffering in prison that the heretics said he was a fool, for he despised life so much that when he was stripped and flogged he patiently bore it all and did not even give the slightest sign that he felt pain at all, being led just like a lamb to slaughter. He answered all the questions put to him by the judge, with so much freedom and candour, that even his enemies confessed that he knew not how to tell a lie.
“When the judge asked him why he did not obey the edict of the government, he answered that he was bound rather to obey God, and those who held God’s place in his regard, who had commanded him to exercise his priestly functions. The judge was warned by his wife to have nothing to do with the blood of this innocent man, but his answer was that he was compelled to shed it, as otherwise he would expose himself to danger. Indeed, in every way, the holy man showed himself an apostle and a true disciple of Christ, following in His footsteps, with all the marks of the true minister eloquently described by Saint Augustine. He was put to death on October 15th, 1653.”
One of the most treasured possessions of the present Dominican Priory in Tralee is an old chalice which bears the inscription, “Orate pro Carolo Sughrue qui me fieri fecit pro Conventu Traliensi—Priore Thadeo O’Moriarty, 1651.” “Pray for Charles Sughrue who happily had me made for the Tralee Convent — Prior Thaddeus O’Moriarty, 1651.” This chalice was found accidentally by Doctor David Moriarty, Bishop of Kerry, who restored it to the Dominicans when they returned to Tralee in 1861.
Dean of Ferns, 1655.
They knelt around the
The matron and the maid.
These are the first lines of a poem describing the holocaust of Catholic lives offered up in Wexford in October, 1649, following the occupation of that city by the army of Cromwell. “It was the 11th of October, 1649,” writes the venerable bishop of the diocese of Ferns, Doctor Nicholas French (bishop from 1645-1678). “On that lamentable day my native city of Wexford, abounding in wealth, ships and merchandise, was destroyed by the sword, and given a prey to the infuriated soldiers by Cromwell, that English pest of hell. There, before God’s altar, fell many sacred victims, holy priests of the Lord; others, who were seized outside the church, were scourged with whips; others were hanged; some were arrested and bound with chains; and others were put to death by various most cruel tortures. The best blood of the citizens was shed; the very squares were inundated with it, and there was hardly a house that was not defiled with carnage and full of wailing. In my own palace a youth, hardly sixteen years of age — an amiable boy — as also my gardener and sacristan, were cruelly butchered; and the chaplain, whom. I caused to remain behind me at home, was transpierced with six mortal wounds.”
One of the priests who escaped from the bloody shambles was the Rev. Daniel O’Brien, the Dean of the diocese. He had been educated and ordained in the Irish College of Compostella in Spain, and ever afterwards cherished such an affection for Spain and its people that he was popularly known as Father Daniel the Spaniard. He was a zealous prelate and had a remarkable number of conversions of Protestantism to his credit. He led a most holy life and so won the affections of his flock that they would have willingly shed their blood his defence.
After the fall of Wexford, he lay hidden in the house of a nobleman in the neighbourhood but continued stealthily to exercise his sacred ministry. Cromwell’s spies were constant in their endeavours to ferret out the hiding-places of the Catholic clergy. They noticed a number of persons proceeding to the house where Father O’Brien had refuge, and surmising that the Holy Sacrifice was being celebrated, they approached unperceived in a boat and threatened death to any person who left the house.
The officer in charge then commanded that the priest
should be delivered up or otherwise he would order his soldiers to shoot down
all those in the house. At this, the venerable Dean came out from the room in
which Holy Mass had been offered and addressed the officer: “Why do you trouble
those good people who have done nothing wrong? I am the priest who has offered
up the Holy Sacrifice; if that is a fault, it is all mine.”
He was at once seized, and everything he had was taken from him. The officer was particularly insistent in obtaining the chalice. He filled it with ale and triumphantly drank the ale. It is related that he had scarcely done so, when he fell down in a terrible paroxysm, roaring and moaning aloud in an agony of pain. It is further related that the holy priest, seeing his misery, and filled with compassion for him, made the sign of the Cross over him and his pain was immediately relieved. The officer returned the chalice to Father O’Brien, and ordering his soldiers to march away, he allowed Father O’Brien to remain unmolested.
In the succeeding years the venerable Dean was repeatedly arrested and thrown into prison, but though the influence of some of the friends of the Governor of Wexford the Catholics were able to secure his release. Finally, in 1655 sentence of death was passed upon him. Because of his long sufferings and his repeated imprisonments, he had become quite disabled and almost unable to stand. He received the intelligence of his forthcoming martyrdom with unfeigned delight and the night before his execution, his strength returned in almost miraculous manner so that he was able to walk erect to the scaffold.
From that striking pulpit, he addressed the assembled crowd, exhorting them to be devoted children of the Faith and of the Holy Church and then laid down his life for his Master on Holy Saturday, April 14th, 1655. Two other priests were hanged with him—the Rev. Luke Bergin of the Cistercian Order and the Rev. James Murphy, a secular priest. The three had been tried by a jury of Protestants who returned a verdict that no crime had been proved against them: but the judge, haying informed the jury that there no greater crime than to be a Catholic Priest, a verdict of guilty was immediately pronounced. The bodies of the three holy clerics were buried within the ruins of Saint Francis’ Monastery outside the walls of the city, and according to a manuscript History of the Irish Bishops, by Doctor John Lynch, a brilliant light was repeatedly seen emanating from the spot where they were interred.
EAGLE OF THE NORTH
(Father John Murphy) Cork.
The summer of 1845 was a fair one, so fair that the harvest of that year promised to be the richest gathered for a generation. Suddenly, in one short month, in one week it might be said, the withering breath of a demon seemed to sweep the land, blasting all in its path. In one night whole tracts of potato growth changed from smiling luxuriance to a shrivelled and blackened waste. Hunger and famine stalked the land. People travelled from the rural parts to the towns and cities to buy food in the markets.
They fell in the streets never to rise again. Ravenous creatures prowled round barn and storehouse stealing corn and potatoes and cabbage and turnips — anything they might eat. The very fields had to be watched by a man, gun in hand, or the seed would be rooted up and devoured raw. Into this scene came the Established Church of Ireland with its offer of food and soup if only the hungry would accept membership of that church. If in such circumstances there were perverts, can they be blamed? Take the parish of Goleen in Cork City. Here the parson was also the local landlord and a bigot. He had a double lever, the fear of starvation and the fear of eviction. Every day saw more and more defections from the Catholic Church. Then one day there rode into the parish on a fine black hunter a new priest. He set about providing food and plenty of it for the starving people. The loyal Catholics were heartened, the leakage was stopped, and those who had fallen away were reconciled to their Church. And what a reconciliation! Up to the gates of the parsonage they were marched and there where the devil’s work had been done it was undone. So did Father John Murphy, — Black Eagle of the North, beat the ‘soupers’ of Goleen.
The scene changes to a clearing in the virgin forests
of Canada, many years earlier. There a French-Canadian priest has pitched his
camp. He has no flour to make Hosts for the Holy Sacrifice and then down the
little stream that bordered the clearing there drifted a birch-bark canoe
paddled by an Indian. He shared his flour with the priest who was surprised at
the soft cadences of the Indian’s English. And no wonder, for the Indian was
born not on the banks of the Saint Lawrence but on the banks of the Cork Lee,
yes, the River Lee in Cork. It was John James Murphy, one time an
officer in the navy, now a hunter in Canada. In the course of his journeyings,
the Cork-man had fallen in with a tribe of Red Indians and had thrown in his
lot with them. They initiated him into their tribe, crowned him with feathers
and dressed him in all the accoutrements of an Indian brave.
To them and to all of the Five Nations he was known as the Black Eagle of the North.
In Black Eagle’s wanderings through the forests, he came one day upon a green glade in the centre of which was a statue of the Blessed Virgin. And there in that silent glade there came back to him the faith and the teaching of his childhood. Perhaps the spirit of some martyred Jesuit was hovering around that neglected shrine.
So he returned to his tribe, washed off his war paint, relinquished his chieftain’s features and started off on a long trek, down the Hudson River, across the broad Atlantic, over the European continent to Rome, to commence his studies for the priesthood.
It was a red-letter day for the group of young priests. Yesterday they had been ordained. This was the morning of their first Mass. Among them was the one-time midshipman, the Black Eagle of the North, now Father John Murphy. He had nobody to help him to say his First Mass, and so he rang the bell that was placed, outside the vestry door. There several older priests were waiting to help the newly-ordained. The first of them, a very old man, who had been reading his office when the bell rang, stood up and accompanied Father Murphy to the altar. They both bowed to the Cross, mounted up the steps, and then looked at one another, in that side chapel in Saint Peter’s. The assistant priest, a retired French Canadian missioner was that same missioner to whom the Black Eagle of the North had given wheaten flour in the heart of the Canadian forest to make Hosts for that same Sacrifice which he himself was now about to offer in the very centre of Christendom.
Cork today has many monuments to the zeal and
charity of Father John Murphy.
He was responsible for the founding of the Mercy Hospital in 1857. He brought the French Sisters of Charity to the North Infirmary and found the money that built their Church and Convent.
He was responsible for the building of the lovely church of Saints Peter and Paul. He was appointed Archdeacon of Cork in 1874, and in March, 1883, he went to his eternal reward.
May he rest in peace.
REVEREND JOHN MacHALE,
Archbishop of Tuam, 1834-1881.
John MacHale was born in Tobbernarine, a village on the eastern slopes of Mount Nevin in County Mayo, on Quinquagesima Sunday in the year 1791. He died in the Archbishop’s House, Tuam, on November 7th, 1881. His long life, therefore, coincided with some of the most stirring events in recent Irish history, and his part in those events was no unworthy one. He was seven years old when General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert’s French landed in Killala, and an ineradicable impression was left on his boyish mind by the fact that the priest who had baptised him and whose Mass he had often attended, Father Conroy, was arrested for the assistance he had given the French, tried and hanged on a tree in Castlebar.
Young MacHale’s education began at a hedge-school at Lahardane. Here he learned to read and write English and acquired an elementary knowledge of Latin. In his later years he used to tell that at the age of five or six he wore a score around his neck, a piece of wood on which notches were cut by his parents whenever he was overheard speaking Irish at home, and for which he was punished by his teacher when he reached school.
It should be noted that this was a “hedge-school” practice because the story has often been quoted as evidence of the means taken by the later national school system to kill the Irish language. John showed so much ability at the hedge-school that rumours of it reached the ears of Doctor Dominick Bellew, Bishop of Killala. The latter’s interest in the boy was aroused and in 1807 the Bishop nominated him as a recipient of a bursar in Maynooth College. In those days, there were neither buses, nor trains, nor even stage coaches connecting Maynooth with the West of Ireland and young John MacHale travelled the long journey on horseback. His college life was so successful that even before his ordination he was chosen to fill the Chair of Dogmatic Theology during the temporary absence of the professor.
He was ordained priest on the 26th, July, 1814, and in the following August was appointed lecturer to the Chair of Dogmatic Theology. He continued on the staff of Maynooth College until 1825.
The British Government had endowed in 1814 the Kildare Place Society to assist popular schools with grants and to establish model schools. In the schools so assisted all religious teaching was to be excluded, but the Bible without notes or commentaries, was to be used as a schoolbook in the higher classes.
In theory, the schools were non-denominational; in practice, the system was one of thinly-veiled proselytism. Doctor James Warren Doyle of Kildare and Leighlin, the famous “J.K.L.” and Daniel O’Connell had already attacked the activities of the society. They were now joined by Professor MacHale who, under the pen-name of “Hierophilus” (‘lover of the holy’), addressed a letter to the Catholic clergy of Ireland warning them of the insidious nature of the methods of the society. This letter was the forerunner of many others of the same type and in the same strain and they gave evidence of the coming of a new type of Catholic priest who would no longer be content to exist on sufferance and in silence but who would speak out boldly in defence of Catholic rights and privileges. They were the beginnings too of Doctor MacHale’s contribution to the creation of an education system that would be acceptable to Catholic Ireland. And this contribution was no little one.
His attack on and criticisms of the National system of education were primarily responsible for bringing into being our present system of primary education, a system which is not a state system but a state-aided system specially suited to the beliefs and traditions of our people. Not alone in the field of primary education but also in that of secondary and university education did Doctor MacHale leave his mark. He introduced the Franciscan Brothers, the Irish Christian Brothers and the Mercy Nuns into his Archdiocese. He condemned the proposals of the Government as embodied in the university scheme known as the Queen’s Colleges, and played a very big part in the creation of the Catholic University.
Ecclesiastical Career. —
Professor MacHale was appointed coadjutor Bishop of Killala in March, 1825, and succeeded to the See on the death of Bishop Waldron in 1834. During these years, he was responsible for the building of the cathedral in Ballina. A month later, he was nominated to the vacant archdiocese of Tuam. During his long occupation of this historic metropolitan see, he spent himself in the spiritual and material needs of his flock earning from O’Connell the title, “the Lion of the fold of Judah.” Even during his lifetime, his white marble statue subscribed for by the clergy of the archdiocese was erected outside his cathedral. It was unveiled by A. M. (Alexander Martin) Sullivan, who said in the course of the unveiling address:
“As the eagle may gaze on the sun, so may the eye of John of Tuam look into the whole of his past life, and find no inconsistency there to dazzle or dim its vision, no public act that he can regret or wish blotted out.”
His figure was almost legendary in the Ireland of
his day. “As far back as the living memory of man extends,” wrote The Times
in his obituary notice, “his name has been identified with the most stirring
events in the political life of his country.”
And Nuàla Costelloe, his biographer, thus sums up his life’s work: “All his energies and all his talents had been devoted unsparingly to the moral and material welfare of his people. His successes were those of a strong man, and his mistakes those of an honest one. He earned the gratitude of his country for his sturdy fight for her liberties and independence for more than half a century, and the people of his own archdiocese did well to inscribe his statue Connacia Grata.” (Connacht Gives Thanks or ‘the Grace of Connacht’.)
SHEEHAN OF DONERAILE
Patrick Augustine Sheehan.
On Rosary Sunday, October 5th, 1913, the Angelus
bell was ringing in Doneraile. In the Bridge House, the parish priest lay
dying. He heard the bell, and being told it was the Angelus, remarked: “It is the
passing bell.” In a few minutes, he would ask the question inscribed on his
memorial cross, “Where dwellest thou, Rabbi?” By his passing, Doneraile lost a
beloved pastor, his country a great Irishman, and literature the most
outstanding ornament of his time.
The life story of Canon P. A. Sheehan can be told in a few lines. Born in Mallow on March 17th, 1852, he was educated in Fermoy diocesan college and Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Ordained in the Cathedral, Cork, on April 18th, 1875, he was loaned to the diocese of Plymouth until 1877.
Recalled to his native diocese of Cloyne, he served as a curate in Mallow and Cobh; and in 1894 was appointed parish priest of Doneraile. Perhaps it happened this wise, to quote ‘Daddy Dan’ of My New Curate: “The bishop sent for me and said with what I would call a tone of pity or contempt, but he was incapable of either, for he was the essence of charity and sincerity: “Father Dan, you are a bit of a litterateur, I understand. Kilronan is vacant. You’ll have a plenty time for poetising and dreaming there. What do you say to it?’”
To a priest of Father Sheehan’s romantic and literary turn of mind the parish to which he was appointed was in many ways ideal. Situated at the western end of that narrow stretch between the Nagle Mountains and the Ballyhoura Hills, which, tradition says, the mythical druid, Mogh Ruith, received as a reward from the grateful Munster men; every town-land in it is an evocation of the historic past. There is Glenanaar, where the mighty Finti battled with the sons of Morna (an inspiration for a later novel); Carron, where Lughaidh Macon (Mac Con) lost his throne and his poet; Kilcolman with its memories of Edmund Spenser, the Elizabethan poet, and Ballinamona with its memories of Edmund Burke, the eighteenth century statesman; Oldcourt where sleeps Father Eoin (Eoghan) O’Keeffe, the poet-priest of the penal days (1656-1726), and Bridge House from which the great Archbishop Thomas Croke, then Canon Croke, went to the Vatican Council and an Australasian Bishopric (He was bishop of Auckland from 1870-1874 and was then transferred to the Archdiocese of Cashel).
Father Sheehan was to do his part in adding to the fame of the area, for before his death Doneraile was to be a household word in five continents and a place of pilgrimage for lovers of literature drawn from many countries.
Canon Sheehan’s first literary venture, Geoffrey Austin, Student, (1895) seemed a failure, but it brought him an invitation to write a series of tales of clerical life for the American Ecclesiastical Review.
The result was My New Curate, which ran as a serial in the Review. It was an immediate success. Foreign scholars of prominence considered its picture of clerical life so perfect as to claim for it a place among the best of their various countries’ modern work of fiction. Thirty thousand copies of it were sold in eighteen months and it was translated into most European languages.
It would take more than a short article to describe the Canon’s other literary ventures in detail, but the appeal of his books can be gauged by, the following particulars — of their sales supplied by Longman, Green & Co. to Father Michael, O.F.M., Cap., and published by him in the Capuchin Annual of 1942.
Luke Delmege, 12,000 (1901);
Glenanaar, 11,700 (1905);
Lisheen, 11,600 (1907);
Blindness of Doctor Gray, 18,400 (1909);
The Queen’s Fillet, 11,500 (1911);
Miriam Lucas, 11,300 (1912);
Graves of Kilmorna, 13,000 (1915).
The gross total of the figures quoted by Father Michael is 102,800 for his ‘lesser’ works (that is, not counting My New Curate).
That the works had not simply an ephemeral value but deserve the title of great literature is thus shown by Father Michael. “German university students wrote theses on various aspects of Canon Sheehan’s writings, including his humour. Our students in the National University and in some of our ecclesiastical colleges are still presenting their theses on Canon Sheehan for the M.A. degree.”
But Canon Sheehan was not only a great writer.
He was a holy priest, a conscientious pastor, and a most lovable character. From the little infants who thronged around him when he visited their school, to Lord Castletown, the Protestant occupant of Doneraile Court, he was esteemed by all as guide, philosopher and friend. “At the time when, at Mr. (Augustine) Birrell’s request,” writes Lord Castletown, (Bernard Edward Barnaby FitzPatrick, 2nd Baron Castletown) “I was endeavouring to form a basis of consent between the various political parties for the building of a national university, I received immense assistance from my friend Canon Sheehan.” The Canon was mainly responsible for providing the town with electric lighting, and a new and up-to-date scheme for water supply. During his pastor-ship, practically every acre of land in his parish was transferred from the landlords to the farmers. He was the moving spirit in the local branches of the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Gaelic League. In those days, Doneraile was a favourite venue for Gaelic athletic tournaments and he has given these tournaments immortality in a paragraph in Parergra (published in 1908) and in the opening chapter of Glenanaar (1905).
Space would not allow us to quote all the tributes paid to Canon Sheehan’s literary genius even during his own life-time. These tributes came from such different types of men as William O’Brien, M.P., of Land League fame (1852-1928); Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of the U.S.A., son of the author of The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table; the Hon. D. H. (Dodgson Hamilton) Madden, Attorney-General and Vice-Chancellor of Dublin University and the American humorist, Joel Chandler Harris (Uncle Remus).
Sir F. C. Burnand described Canon Sheehan as one of the best-read men of his day,” while the famous Count Leo Tolstoy named him “the greatest living novelist.”
(Thanks to the Irish Messenger.)