I was sorry to read in last weeks newspaper of the impending departure of the Church of Ireland Rector Canon Leslie Crampton. He will be a great loss, not only to his parishioners but also to the wider community of Athy. Rev. Crampton is a man of extraordinary gentle demeanour and of what, some might describe as old world courtesy. He is an exemplary missionary, not only for his own Church but for the religious life in general. Nowadays, more than ever before, the laity look elsewhere rather than to those ordained for the Church for guidance and example. Canon Crampton is an exception insofar as he epitomises all that is good in a cleric at a time when clerical and indeed Episcopal example and guidance has not been as it should. His departure for the midlands will be a sad loss for St. Michael’s Church and for the town and district of Athy.
Continuing on the clerical theme, for some time now I have been researching the lives of two Catholic Priests, both of whom by coincidence were born in the Barrowhouse area. Monsignor Patrick Boylan at the time of his death was Parish Priest of Dun Laoghaire and a former Professor of Theology (I think) in Clonliffe College. He was the author of a number of books on religious topics. His father was principal teacher in Barrowhouse National School but I have little or no other information about the Boylan family.
The other priest was Rev. James Malone who was born in 1863 in Dunbrin and who following his ordination went to Australia in 1892. He served in a number of Australian parishes, eventually becoming Parish Priest of Geelong in 1919 where he remained until he died in 1948. Fr. Malone was the author of three books, including a book of poetry called “Wild Briar and Wattle Blossom” published in Melbourne in 1914. He also wrote a book published in 1915 and entitled “Talks about Poets and Poetry” and a book on his travels between Australia and the Middle East which he called “Purple East”. His writings earned him the praise of that famous Irishman, Cardinal Mannix, who referred to the Dunbrin-born Malone as the John Henry Newman of Australia.
Fr. Malone returned to Ireland in 1907 and the local newspaper of the day reported on the 1st of June that year that he was at home from Australia on a visit to his family at Barrowhouse. I believe he may also have visited Ireland in 1928, although I have no confirmation of this as yet.
His book of poetry “Wild Briar and Wattle Blossom” produced 22 years after he landed in Australia included such nostalgic pieces as “The Old Whitewashed Schoolhouse of Shanganamore” which opens with the following lines.
“Through the bogs of Dunbrin, leaping pool after pool,
‘Up and follow the leader’ ‘s the law of the school;
A plunge at the stile with the risk of a spill,
For the best bunch of cowslips on green Cowsey’s hill -
A race for the rath through the long meadow grass,
Though the boldest heart quakes at the dread ‘fairy pass’ -
A leap for the hazel, a rustling of boughs -
Hush ! it’s only the gadfly that’s driving the cows.
A gallop for life to the wild brake of briar,
For the fairies will kidnap the laggards who tire.
A fox breaks his cover beneath the furze-thorn,
And our hearts leap again at the sound of the horn;
A dive through the hedges - away o’er the bogs -
Ho ! the whipper-in holds us as well as his dogs.
On, on to the river, he’s foiled them at last;
So we halt in the furze, but the school-hour is past.
And that’s how the boy took his pathway of yore
To the old whitewashed schoolhouse of Shanganamore.”
I would like to hear from anyone who can give me background information on the families of Monsignor Boylan or Fr. James Malone or indeed the clerics themselves.
I had a number of phone calls in response to the recent reference to “The River Plate Fresh Meat Company Limited” sign exposed on the wall of Hacketts Bookmakers in Duke Street. One such caller wondered if the sign was of pre-Irish Free State vintage. In those days the British Colonial lifestyle saw American bacon imported into Ireland and sold at a penny cheaper per pound than home-produced bacon. American wheat was another import at a time when barley was the principal crop on Irish farms. Was it not, my caller wondered, that same era which saw the importation of Argentinean beef for sale in a local shop in Athy? Nobody has yet identified the persons involved in the River Plate Company or for how long it carried on business at the Leinster Street premises which was later occupied by local butcher Barney Day. I would welcome any information which might throw light on the subject.
Sarah Brennan of St. Joseph’s Terrace passed away recently. I knew Sarah as a very kind and considerate person who went out of her way to help many, who for one reason or another found themselves facing difficult times or seemingly insurmountable problems. She was a good friend to many and I was fortunate to have shared a friendship with her which extended back to the early 1980’s after I returned to Athy following twenty years of wandering. May she rest in peace.
Finally, I must mention, although I’ll return to the subject at a later date, the Pattern Day which takes place in Tubberara on Sunday, June 17th.