There was an early start to Easter Sunday when in the chilling cold of our unusual March weather a hundred or so hardy souls gathered on the top of the Moat of Ardscull. The occasion was the now annual Ecumenical Prayer Service which brings the community together on one of the principal feast days of the Christian calendar. This year several African churches were represented alongside the mainstream churches as voices were raised in song atop the ancient man made mound of Ardscull.
The pleasant surroundings gave little hint of the troubled past of the “hill of the shouts” which was first recorded in the Book of Lecan as the site of a battle between the Munster men and the Leinster men in the early years of the second century.
Holinshed in his Chronicles of Ireland recounted the burning of the village of Ardscull in November 1286 and the murder 23 years later of Lord John Bonneville near to the village. Bonneville was buried in the church of the Friars Preachers in nearby Athy as were many of Edward Bruces supporters and followers following the battle of Ardscull in 1315. Somewhere between Offaly Street and the River Barrow in what was once the Friary of the Friars Preachers lie the remains of those killed almost 700 years ago in or around the village of Ardscull.
Ardscull is the location of a deserted borough being one of those many early Irish settlements which once enjoyed borough status. It was described at one time as having 160 burgages extending over quite a considerable area. There are now no traces over ground of the village but a short distance south east of the Moat lies a graveyard within which there is a raised area probably the site of the Church of Ardscull. This church was noted in the 13th Century as being part of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.
As we took our leave following the Ecumenical service the Moat of Ardscull was returned to the rooks high in their perches in the trees above us. The sound of battle which once echoed in and around Ardscull is no more while the singing and praying voices of separated churches will hopefully return in a year's time as a community comes together again to pray.
At 12 o'clock on Easter Sunday the extended family of Sr. Rita Murphy who died in America on the 6th of March came together in St. Michael's Parish Church. Sr. Rita was the grandaughter of James McNally who for over 60 years was Sacristan in our Parish Church. I wrote of my memories of James the Sacristan in December 1993 in Eye on the Past No. 66. Sr. Rita, who as a lay person was known as Irene, was born in 1937 and lived for the first 13 years of her life with her grandfather James and the Mullery family in Convent View. She attended school with the local Sisters of Mercy and made her Confirmation in St. Michael's Church in 1948. Two years later she went to live with her parents in Dublin and at 16 1/2 years of age she entered the religious life as a postulant with the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity in America. She was to spend the next 59 years of her life in the Convent at Carrollton, Ohio where she was Superior from 1981 to 1992. Sr Rita served in many capacities as teacher, as School Principal and as Coordinator of Education in the Steubenville Diocesan Office of Education. As Superior of the Convent of St. John's Villa in Carrollton she was regarded as a kind, considerate and efficient administrator and Superior. Sr Rita Murphy passed away on the 6th of March of this year and was interred in the Convent burial grounds three days later.
The large family group which came together to attend the 12 o'clock mass in St. Michael's Parish Church on Easter Sunday did so mindful of Sr. Rita's links with Athy and the part played in her early life by her grandfather, James McNally, whose contribution to the church was marked by the presentation of the “Bene merenti” papal medal in 1953.
James McNally and his grandaughter Sr Rita are today remembered, one for his contribution over many decades to the town of Athy, the other for her contribution over 59 years to education in the American town of Carrollton, Ohio.