Monsignor Paddy Finn, Parish Priest of St. Mary’s, Haddington Road, Dublin and a native son of Athy, died on the 22nd day of May 2013. Following a requiem mass in his Parish Church his remains were brought back to his home town for burial alongside his parents Mick and Doretta Finn.
The Finn family lived in Woodstock Street where Mick Finn had a garage in what is now Pearsons. The family home was in the adjoining house in what was then known as Barrack Lane. Paddy Finn attended the local Christian Brothers school and was in the Leaving Certificate class of 1955. He was ordained to the priesthood in May 1962, just three months after his father had sadly died. Fr. Paddy retained a great interest in his home town and greatly valued friendships which he retained over the years with his classmates.
One of those classmates, now living in England for many decades, sent me an email following Monsignor Paddy’s funeral. Michael Behan, formerly of St. Joseph’s Terrace, recalled young days spent in Athy when the future Monsignor ‘travelled the town with a satchel on his back filled with potential comic swaps which came to him courtesy of relations in America.’
Fr. Paddy, as he then was, first contacted me about 18 years ago when he was Parish Priest of Dunlavin, Co. Wicklow. He sent me on a copy of the Dunlavin Parish magazine which had an article on Canon John Hyland, a former Parish Priest of Dunlavin who left Athy in 1813 to enter the seminary in Maynooth. I was subsequently able to write an article on the two Athy men who although separated by 130 years were linked by youthful years spent in Athy and appointments to the West Wicklow parish of Dunlavin.
By a strange coincidence Monsignor Paddy Finn was Parish Priest of St. Mary’s, Haddington Road when he died and where one of his predecessors was Monsignor Michael Hickey of Kilberry, Athy. Monsignor Hickey died unexpectedly while Parish Priest of St. Mary’s in the early 1920s. About eight years ago I was privileged to meet Paddy Finn here in Athy and to accompany him as he visited some old haunts on the west side of the River Barrow. He had previously reminded me several times of what he felt was my apparent reluctance to cross the Crom a Boo bridge in search of people and events to include in my weekly column. I finished the article which I subsequently wrote on the Athy born cleric in Eye No. 612 by noting that with his help the apparent neglect of the western bank of the River Barrow had been corrected.
Another matter which I only now became aware of through Michael Behan’s email was Monsignor Paddy’s criticism of the local Heritage Centre for its lack of coverage of the contribution made by locals in the War of Independence. Paddy never voiced that criticism to me, but yes, it is a fair comment about that part of our shared history which I have been trying for years to highlight.
I last met Monsignor Paddy Finn about four weeks before he was struck down by the illness which necessitated his subsequent lengthy hospitalisation. Both of us, avid book readers, met in Dawson Street, Dublin and adjourned to a nearby cafe for talk, almost inevitably about Athy, its chequered history and the characters and the nicknames of our own place. He recalled his classmates of the 1955 Leaving Certificate class, many of whom have since passed away. Michael Behan, Jim Blanchfield, Ger Noonan, Sean Usher, Tony Taaffe, Aidan Brophy, Ray Webb, Frank McCarthy, Micheal Dooley, John Lynch, Tom Fleming, Paddy Tierney and Brian Lawler.
To my regret I was unable to attend Monsignor Paddy Finn’s funeral as I was chairing the annual general meeting of the Federation of Local History Societies in Waterford that same day. Paddy Finn, who was a regular reader of this column, will be sadly missed. He is now back in his home town amongst the people he knew, sharing a grave with his beloved mother and father in St. Michael’s cemetery.
Ar dhéis Dé go raibh a anam.