Fr. Anthony Gaughan, author of several well researched and well written books on Irish historical figures and places has written a four volume account of the Archbishops and priests who served in the Archdioceses of Dublin from the 17th century to 2011. Interested as I was in the priests who served in the Parish of St. Michaels I culled the following information regarding those priests from Fr. Gaughan’s books.
The 17th century list of priests is principally got from official records of ‘Popish Priests’ compiled for the purposes of the act which sought to banish priests from Ireland. The first name recorded is that of Fr. John Fitzsimons who was Parish Priest in Athy in 1697 and recorded as living there in 1704. Interestingly, Fr. Fitzsimons was ordained by Archbishop Oliver Plunkett who is now one of the saints of the Irish Catholic Church.
Daniel Fitzpatrick was recorded as the Parish Priest of St. Michael’s in 1744, even though he was then living across the border in Queens County. James Nell, or Nele, was Parish Priest from 1771 until he died on 28th October 1789.
Maurice Keegan served as a curate in St. Michael’s Parish for seven years from 1780 until he later returned as Parish Priest, which position he occupied from 1789 to 1825. The parish church was burned down in 1800 and Fr. Keegan claimed compensation, which with funds collected locally was used to finance the building of the Parish Church which stood until 1960.
The list of curates who served in St. Michael’s Parish commences with the name of Christopher Burke, 1838-1840, followed by Andrew Colgan who apparently served as curate for part only of 1840. The listing of curates seems incomplete as the next curate recorded was Daniel Forrest who in 1853 stayed one year in Athy and later took up the presidency of St. John’s College in Sydney, Australia. His replacement was James Gaffney whom Gaughan describes as a member of the Royal Irish Academy and a writer. Unfortunately I have not yet succeeded in finding out any details of his literary work. He was joined two years later by James Doyle and in 1857 Thomas Doyle became the third curate in St. Michael’s Parish. The family name of Doyle was one to which the Athy parishioners obviously became well accustomed as another James Doyle came to the town as a curate in 1862. Seven years later he was appointed Parish Priest of the Parish over which he presided until his death on 17th November 1892. James Doyle’s curacy overlapped with that of Michael Curran who served in Athy for four years from 1868. Three years after he departed from the parish Fr. Curran died at the young age of 32 years. Yet another James Doyle joined the parish in 1874 and served for 13 years. Sharing part of that time were fellow curates James Brennan and Thomas Brennan. Laurence Farrelly replaced James Brennan and the existing curates were replaced in 1881 by Edward Dunne and James Carroll, neither of whom were there in 1892 when William Duggan arrived to serve as the Parish curate. He remained in that position for 16 years before transferring to another parish and returning in 1917 as Parish Priest of nearby Castledermot. William Duggan’s name is noted in the ‘History of Athy Golf Club’ as one of the group of people who came together to establish the local golf club.
Perhaps the saddest indictments of the unhealthy living conditions in Athy at the turn of the 20th century were the entries for Laurence Doyle, born 1870 in Annamoe, Co. Wicklow who was ordained in February 1896 and Mark Doyle, born in Graigue, Co. Kilkenny in 1869 and ordained in October 1892. Both died in Athy while serving as young curates in the parish of St. Michael’s. Mark Doyle died on 16th January 1900 aged 31 years and his namesake Laurence Doyle who transferred from Moone parish to replace him died age 32 years on 1st August 1902.
.....TO BE CONTINUED AT A LATER DATE