Thursday, 31 December 2015

Father Prout

Today is the birthday of Francis Sylvester Mahony known as 'Father Prout'. With a nom de blog like mine, the thought came to me that I ought to make some tribute to the author of The Bells of Shandon. As it turned out, his story brings side-lights into many of the stories that I have already published.

The Catholic Encyclopedia gives a good biography upon which the authors of wikipedia have been unable to improve and which the Diocese of Cork and Ross has adopted in its entirity. The most notable points are that having studied with the Jesuits in Clongowes Wood, he spent a few years as a novice with them and became a teacher of rhetoric at his own school, the great Canon Sheehan being one of his pupils, but he was dismissed for leading some of the students on a drunken outing to Celbridge. He studied in a variety of Continental Seminaries and was ordained at Lucca in Italy in 1832, against all advice. He returned to his native Diocese, where he served as a zealous and hardworking hospital chaplain during a cholera epidemic, where he won the life-long friendship and admiration of Father Mathew, the Capuchin Temperance campaigner. Among the ecclesiastical misadventures of 'Father Prout' was to be the attempt to have Father Mathew made Bishop of Cork!

The misadventure that led to Father Mahony's leaving the Diocese - and the active Priesthood - was his campaign to be given the living of 'the brickfield chapel,' that was to become St. Patrick's Church on the Lower Glanmire Road, then a chapel-of-ease to the Cathedral Parish. Father Mahony had been the principal fundraiser for the building of the new Church, which, I think you'll agree, is a fine building, and a magnificent achievement that was virtually the first new Church built in the City in two generations. The disappointment of Father Mahony, who had proved himself apostolic and capable, was understandable, especially when met with the immovable object of Bishop Murphy (r. 1815 - 1847).

He moved to London and held his own amid the literary greats of the time, although his name is now 'writ in water.' We read in The Catholic Encyclopedia: "Dowered with a retentive memory, irrepressible humor, large powers of expression, and a strongly satiric turn of mind, an omnivorous reader, well-trained in the Latin classics, thoroughly at home in the French and Italian languages, and a ready writer of rhythmic verse in English, Latin, and French, he produced... an extraordinary mixture of erudition, fancy, and wit, such as is practically without precise parallel in contemporary literature. The best of his work appeared in "Fraser's Magazine" during the first three years of his literary life. He translated largely from Horace, and the poets of France and Italy, including a complete and free metrical rendering of Gresset's famous mocking poem "Vert-Vert" and Jerome Vida's "Silkworm". But his newspaper correspondence from Rome and Paris is notable chiefly for the vigours of his criticisms upon men and measures, expressed, as these were, in most caustic language."

The Catholic Encyclopedia is not noted for its forgiving tone towards renegades but it expresses itself generously towards Mahony: "Although for thirty years Mahony did not exercise his priestly duties, he never wavered in his deep loyalty to the church, recited his Office daily, and received the last sacraments at the hands of his old friend, Abbé Rogerson, who left abundant testimony of his excellent dispositions."

His roguish humour caused him to adopt the name of a certain Father Prout of Watergrasshill as his nom de plume.

The original Father Prout had been forced from his Diocese (Cashel) on account of a wrangle with Archbishop Butler over his refusal to agree to the amalgamation of his Parish, which he described as "the greatest injustice since the partition of Poland." Fortunately, he was welcomed into the neighbouring Diocese of Cork by Dr. Moylan.

Mahony's fictional Father Prout seems no less sanguine, although he claimed to be a French-educated parish priest, the son of Dean Swift and Stella, who writes works such as The Apology for Lent in scholarly praise of fish!

When he died on 18th May, 1866, as we have read, fortified by the rites of Holy Mother Church, his body was taken back to Cork for a Solemn Requiem Mass in St. Patrick's Church "the church which", in the words of his biographers, "was the dream of his impetuous youth," as his biography says, from where he was taken to his family vault in St. Ann's Churchyard, Shandon, to be buried in the shadow of the bells he immortalized.

The Reliques of Father Prout, is perhaps his most famous work and it is in that collection that his true claim to fame, The Bells of Shandon, is to be found as part of The Rogueries of Tom Moore.

In my opinion, it is the true anthem of Cork, although the words of The Banks and Beautiful City were handed out to every school child in the city by the Lord Mayor last year! The Bells has none of those shameless hussies pressing wild daisies and Beautiful City lifts "the sweet bells of Shandon were dear to my mind." I may stand on a Shandon Belle ticket in the next mayoral election!

The clip consists of that fine ecumenical anthem Iníon an Phailitínigh (a Kerry song, mind you) and a verse of The Bells sung by Seán Ó Sé, whose own voice is another contender to be the true anthem of Cork!


With deep affection
And recollection
I often think of
Those Shandon bells,
Whose sounds so wild would,
In the days of childhood,
Fling round my cradle
Their magic spells.
On this I ponder
Where'er I wander,
And thus grow fonder,
Sweet Cork, of thee ;
With thy bells of Shandon,
That sound so grand on
The pleasant waters
Of the river Lee.

I've heard bells chiming
Full many a clime in,
Tolling sublime in
Cathedral shrine,
While at a glibe rate
Brass tongues would vibrate —
But all their music
Spoke naught like thine ;
For memory dwelling
On each proud swelling
Of thy belfry knelling
Its bold notes free,
Made the bells of Shandon
Sound far more grand on
The pleasant waters
Of the river Lee.

I've heard bells tolling
Old "Adrian's Mole" in,
Their thunder rolling
From the Vatican,
And cymbals glorious
Swinging uproarious
In the gorgeous turrets
Of Notre Dame ;
But thy sounds were sweeter
Than the dome of Peter
Flings o'er the Tiber,
Pealing solemnly ; —
O! the bells of Shandon
Sound far more grand on
The pleasant waters
Of the river Lee.

There 's a bell in Moscow,
While on tower and kiosk o !
In Saint Sophia
The Turkman gets,
And loud in air
Calls men to prayer
From the tapering summit
Of tall minarets.
Such empty phantom
I freely grant them ;
But there is an anthem
More dear to me, —
'Tis the bells of Shandon
That sound so grand on
The pleasant waters
Of the river Lee.

First published on the St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association blog in December, 2010.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Forget not the Boys of Kilmichael

General Tom Barry's account of the Ambush at Kilmichael includes the following reference:

"...At 3 a.m. the men were told for the first time they were moving in to attack the Auxiliaries between Macroom and Dunmanway. Father O'Connell, P.P., Ballineen, had ridden out to hear the men's Confessions, and was waiting by the side of a ditch, some distance from the road. Silently, one by one, their rifles slung, the IRA went to him, and then returned to the ranks. Soon the priest came on the road. In a low voice, he spoke, 'Are the boys going to attach the Sassanach, Tom?' 'Yes, Father, we hope so.' He asked no further question, but said in a loud voice, 'Good luck, boys, I know you will win. God keep ye all. Now I will give you my Blessing.' He rode away into the darkness of the night..."

Patrick Canon O'Connell, was born on 4th March, 1864, at Knockane, Dunmanway, and was ordained a Priest at Maynooth on 24th June, 1890. He had been appointed Parish Priest of Enniskeane in June, 1918 and was created a Canon on 4th July, 1934. He died on 31st January, 1946. When he rode out to minister to the Volunteers that night in November, 1920, he risked not only his life but possibly the disapproval of his Bishop, Dr. Coholan, who, a fortnight later, excommunicated all - Volunteers and British Forces alike - participating in ambush, kidnap and murder. Canon O'Connell was to risk his life once again when he met the Volunteers in the dead of night at Castletown Kenneigh Graveyard to bury their dead.

As we remember 'in song and in story' the Boys of Kilmichael, let us also remember Canon O'Connell.

The Ballad of Kilmichael

Oh forget not the boys of Kilmichael,
Those brave boys both gallant and true.
They fought with Tom Barry's bold column,
And conquered the red, white and blue.

Whilst we honour in song and in story,
The memory of Pearse and McBride.
Whose names are illumined in glory,
With martyrs that long since have died.
Oh forget not the boys of Kilmichael,
Who feared not the ice and the foe.
Oh the day that they marched into battle,
They laid all the Black and Tans low.

On the twenty-eighth day of November,
The Tans left the town of Macroom.
They were seated in Crossley tenders,
Which brought them right into their doom.
They were on the high road to Kilmichael,
And never expecting to stall.
'Twas there that the boys of the column,
They made a clear sweep of them all.

The sun in the west it was sinking,
'Twas the eve of a cold winter's day.
When the Tans we were eagerly waiting,
Sailed into the spot where we lay.
And over the hill went the echo,
The peal of the rifles and guns.
And the smoke from their lorries bore tidings,
That the boys of Kilmichael had won.

The battle being over at twilight,
And there in that glen so obscure.
We threw down our rifles and bayonets,
And made our way back to Granure.
And high over Dunmanway town, my boys,
They sang of the brave and the true.
Of the men from Tom Barry's bold column,
Who conquered the red, white and blue.

There are some who will blush at the mention,
Of Connolly, Pearse and McBride.
And history's new scribes in derision,
The pages of valour deny.
But sure here's to the boys who cried, Freedom!
When Ireland was nailed to the mast.
And they fought with Tom Barry's bold column,
To give us our freedom at last.

So forget not the boys of Kilmichael,
Those brave boys both gallant and true.
They fought 'neath the green flag of Erin,
And conquered the red, white and blue.
First published on the St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association blog in November, 2010.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Saint Colman of Cloyne (24th November)

From Fr. Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy, (1854), at pages 246 and following:


The first of these sees was founded by Saint Colman about the year 580. Colman was of royal extraction by his father's side whose name was Lenine or Lenin and brother to one of the Saints Bridget. He is sometimes surnamed Mitine, whence it is to be inferred that he was a native of the district called Muskerry in the county of Cork. The time of his birth is not known but it was probably about the year 522. He seems to have devoted his early years to the study of poetry and we are assured that he was domestic poet to the prince Aodh Caomh, who was raised to the throne of Cashel about the middle of the sixth century, and that he was present, together with Brendan of Clonfert, at his inauguration in Maghfemyn between Cashel and Clonmel. Colman soon after, in accordance with the advice of Saint Brendan, renounced his worldly pursuits and is said to have repaired to the school of St Jarlath at Tuam. Some say that he was the disciple of St. Finbarr of Cork but it is not likely as Colman must have been much older. Colman died according to some in the year 601 or to others in 604. His festival is marked at the 24th of November. It appears that St. Colman became an eminent scholar as he has left a life of St. Senan of Inniscathy written in Irish metre and in an elegant style. He was also a great proficient in the science of the saints.

[Another account of St. Colman's life is to be found here.]

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Pilgrimage to the grave of Little Nellie of Holy God

To conclude our pilgrimage to Cork City we made a unique and precious pilgrimage to the grave of Little Nellie of Holy God.  This heroic young soul should be know to all but may not yet be known to you.  If you don't know of her, you can find accounts of her life here, here and here.

Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J., visited her grave in 1911.  His account can be found here.

Little Nellie should be better known, better loved, better honoured.  Her memory, like her earthly remains, seems to suffer the same fate as Holy God abandoned in the tabernacle.

Pilgrimage in honour of Blessed Thaddeus McCarthy

The members and friends of Blessed Thaddeus McCarthy's Catholic Heritage Association made a pilgrimage again this year to the Cathedral of Ss. Mary and Anne in Cork City for a Traditional Latin Mass. The report of the Mass last year can be found here. Several accounts of the life of Blessed Thaddeus can be found here, here and here. One of the insights we received from the sermon at today's Mass was the idea that Blessed Thaddeus, like St. Thomas Becket, was converted by the graces of the Episcopal office from a worldling who co-operated in the use of ecclesiastical authority for worldly conflicts, to one whose sanctity adorned his Episcopal state. Blessed Thaddeus died in the odour of Sanctity in the year 1492 and was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 26th August, 1895.

The Cathedral of Ss. Mary and Anne is a stunning amalgam of early gothic revival architecture, its elegant traceries carry more than a hint of strawberry hill, and an austere modern gothic sanctuary extension. Details of the history and architecture of the Cathedral can be found here, here and here.

Cork Rosary Churches 5 (Mayfield)

The final of the Rosary of Churches was completed in that fateful year 1962, only 9 years after the building campaign was announced. It was the Church of Our Lady Crowned at Mayfield. Surely it was a crowning achievement of the Bishop and the people of Cork.

The Parish website gives a detailed history of the building. What is interesting to me is the that the shape of the sanctuary echoes the truest 'modernist' Church in the city at Turner's Cross.

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!
First published on the St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association blog in October, 2010.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Cork Rosary Churches 4 (Dennehy's Cross)

The fourth of the Cork Rosary Churches was completed in 1960 and dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Ghost it is sometimes also known as the Church of the Holy Spirit, Dennehy's Cross. It was the seventh new Church in Cork, of a total of eleven, designed by J.R. Boyd Barrett and the third of the four Rosary Churches built to his design. It is to the west of the Church of the Assumption, Ballyphehane, and to the south of the Church of the Ascension, Gurranabraher.

To my eye, it is the best of the Rosary Churches and certainly the most conventional. Compared with Boyd Barrett's first Cork Church at Turner's Cross it represents a great retreat from modernism. In materials and basic elements it is very like the Franciscan Church in Liberty Street completed in 1955, just two years before construction of the Church of the Descent of the Holy Ghost began, except for neo-baroque elements that the single central dome is more articulated and the facade is faced in stone while the body of the Church is completed in brick.

The Parish's website states the following: "Our church is situated at the junction of two very busy thoroughfares, Model Farm Road and Wilton Road in the western suburbs of Cork city. Built as one of a rosary of churches on the edge of the city, as it was at that time, it is dedicated to the Holy Spirit.

Built on an old quarry and some adjoining pasture land, the site was blessed by the Bishop of Cork, Dr. Cornelius Lucey in November 1956 and four years later the site had been transformed: a large brick and limestone church with its distinctive dome rising 140 feet [42.67m], designed by J.R.Boyd Barrett and built by Pat Shea & Co., now dominated by the surrounding area.

The Church of Descent of the Holy Spirit, with a seating capacity for 1,100, was blessed and opened on Sunday, 25th September 1960, the feast of St. Finbarr, patron saint of the diocese, by Dr. Lucey

The dedication of the Church of the Holy Spirit, the first in Ireland, was highlighted by the magnificent Pentecost altar mosaic, which was designed and executed by the Italian artist Romeo Battistella, who was attached to International Mosaics of Roscommon.

The church is neo-classical in style with a plan of a Latin cross with nave and transepts, 193 feet [58.83m] long and 98 feet [29.87m] wide. A large bronze lantern stands on top of the copper-sheeted dome, surmounted by a 24-foot [7.32m] high cross. The design is reputed to have been influenced by the churches Dr. Lucey had seen during his visit to the Eucharistic Congress in Spain.

The sanctuary mosaic depicts the events of Pentecost, Acts.2: 1-4"

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!
First published on the St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association blog in October, 2010.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Cork Rosary Churches 3 (Farranree)

In 1958 the third of the Rosary of Churches on the outskirts of Cork City was built. It was the Church of the Resurrection, on what was then known as Spangle Hill and has now become Farranree. It is another of the 'hilltop' Rosary Churches, like Mayfield to the east and Gurranabraher to the south. Not the most elegant sight to my eye but it is notable all the same. As you stand on Patrick's Bridge and look to the west and the north it crowns the heights overlooking the city. A festival of flowers marked the golden jubilee a couple of years ago.

Fitzgerald Smith and Company, the Cork based architects on the project designed what was described as a basilica plan freely interpreted with an upward thrust intended to be symbolic of the Ressurection culminating in a 'fleche' or thin rooftop spire. At the blessing of the Church Bishop Lucey asked, is it too much to hope that as Christ's Ressurection began his glorious and triumphant reign after Calvary, so many this new Church of the Ressurection may begin for Cork an new era in which emigration and poverty and lack of housing and neglect of God's Commandments will be no more, in which religion and family life, trade, industry and the arts will flourish, in which he that sitteth on the throne can say of Cork: "Behold I have made thee and they people new according to My own Heart"?

The consacration was performed by the great Cardinal Cushing of Boston, whose connection with the Diocese of Cork and Ross, especially in connection with the Rosary Churches, is the stuff of legend.

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!
First published on the St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association blog in October, 2010.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Cork Rosary Churches 2 (Ballyphehane)

The first of the Rosary Churches to be completed was the Church of the Ascension, Gurranabraher, in 1955. The second was completed the following year, the Church of the Assumption, Ballyphehane.

While Gurranabrahar is visibly to the north of the city, Ballyphehane is one of the most successful of the mid-twentieth century planned suburbs to the south of the city and is the 'airport parish'. The names of the streets, after the leaders of Irish independence, reflect the era of the suburb's creation. Thus, for example, the Church of the Assumption is on Pearse Road.

The architect, J.R. Boyd Barrett, a dubliner, began his extensive Cork practice with the amazingly modernist Church of Christ the King, Turner's Cross, in 1931, a little to the east of Ballyphehane. Dr. Coholan, Bishop Lucey's predecessor, had a radical streak despite his arch-conservative reputation. As with his earlier 'Rosary' commission at Gurranabraher, Boyd Barrett was commissioned to design both Church and Parochial houses. He also designed the nearby school. Compared with his earlier work in Turner's Cross and Gurranabrahar, the Church at Ballyphehane is restrained and even conventional basilican form, but in the modern idiom.

For Kildare and Leighlin readers, they may see a similarity of the style with Boyd Barrett's only Church in that Diocese, at Daingean, Co. Offaly (1960). He was also responsible for the extension to the Church in Mountmellick, Co. Laois (1965), and for alterations in Stradbally and Vicarstown, Co. Laois (both 1963).

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!
First published on the St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association blog in October, 2010.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Cork Rosary Churches 1 (Gurranabraher)

I have previously said that Bishop Cornelius Lucey became Bishop of Cork on August 24 1952. By May 29 1953 he announced to a monster meeting in the City Hall that the City needed five new churches around its edge and that each would cost at lease IR£80,000. They were to become known as the Rosary Churches, each dedicated to one of the Glorious Mysteries.

Top of the first list of subscriptions in the July 1953 first issue of the Diocesan Magazine The Fold, another initiative of Bishop Lucey and the first such publication in the Country, was the Munster and Leinster Bank, having given IR£2,500. By the time that the last of the five was completed, the central fund had received IR£209,562 6s 4d and IR£1,300 13s 9d was left over.

When you consider the straightened circumstances of the people of Ireland, and especially the people of Cork, during this time, it is easy to see that these Churches, following initial joy, were carried through by hardship and sacrifice, leading to the glories we see today, truly deserve the title of the Rosary Churches.

A mere two years after the first announcement, the first of the churches to be completed was the Church of the Ascension, Gurranabraher, a well-known landmark in the city, situated majestically above the city.

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!
First published on the St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association blog in October, 2010.