Post 1169 Norman settlement established at the ancient Ford of Ae (Ath Ae)
1215 The Black Friars, also called ‘Order of Preachers’ (O.P.), one of the four mendicant orders of the Catholic Church founded by St. Dominic. Dominic gave his followers a rule of life based on that of St. Augustine. The members of the Dominican Order did not belong to any one house and could be sent anywhere on preaching missions.
1224 The Dominicans first arrived in Ireland.
1253/1257 It was traditionally believed that the Dominicans came to the medieval settlement of Athy in 1253 but the seventh centenary of their arrival was celebrated in Athy in 1957. Those first Dominicans whose names have not been recorded were like the earliest settlers in this area French speaking Normans. The Dominicans were the second Catholic order to establish a monastery in the vicinity of the ford on the River Barrow. Some years earlier Richard de St. Michael, Baron of Rheban, had invited the Crouched Friars or Friars of the Holy Cross to establish a hospital and a monastery on the left bank of the River Barrow to the north of the laneway now known as St. Johns.
1288 Within 30 years of their arrival the Dominicans hosted the first of several provincial chapters in the Athy Priory. Further chapters were hosted in 1295 and 1305. Clearly the Athy Priory buildings were large enough to accommodate the Dominican delegates who travelled from all over Ireland for these chapters.
1290s Richard Le Porter donated an acre of land to the Dominicans in Athy.
1308 The village of Athy was attacked and burned by the Irish. There is no record of what happened to the Dominican Priory.
1309 Several members of the Crouched Friars including Thomas the Chaplain, William son of Thomas Baker, Laurence Cook, John the Prior of St. Thomas of Athy, Thomas Haywood, John Miller and Friar Maurice of Athy were indicted for coming by night to the fishing weirs belonging to the Dominicans and by force of arms taking away a net with fish, the property of the Friars, to the value of 100s.
1315 Edward Bruce, brother of Robert King of Scotland, landed at Larne on 25th May with the intention of conquering Ireland. Proclaimed King of Ireland and assisted by some Irish he marched south burning Dundalk and defeating the Lord of Trim before arriving at Ardscull just outside Athy. The Anglo Normans fought Bruce at the Battle of Ardscull on 26th January 1316. Although Bruce was undefeated heavy losses were incurred on both sides. The Anglo Norman leaders killed in battle were buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery while the Book of Howth records ‘of the Scot side were slain Lord Fergusse Andersane, Lord Walter More and many others whose bodies were buried in the Abbey of the Friars Preachers of Athy’.
1317 Irish Chieftains petitioned Pope John XXII complaining that the English Courts in Ireland were not available to the Irish natives except where the cause of action lay against them and that the killing of an Irish person, whether lay or religious, by an Englishman, was not punishable by the Courts. Even more offensive to the Irish Chieftains was the claim by the non Irish clerics that it was ‘no more sin to kill an Irishman than a dog or any other brute. And in maintaining this historical position some monks of theirs affirm boldly that if it should happen to them, as it does often happen, to kill an Irishman, they would not on that account refrain from saying Mass, not even for a day’.
1347 The Black Death erupted in Ireland with upwards of one quarter of the population dying. There were several more outbreaks of the disease in the succeeding 40 years. Records do not survive showing its impact on Athy but the medieval village folk and the Dominicans could not have escaped the plague.
1357 The name of the first recorded Dominican Prior in Athy is noted as Philip Pereys. There is no record of his Dominican colleagues.
1358 The Irish again attack Athy resulting in peace negotiations involving the settlers and the Irish represented by the O’Mores and the MacMurroughs. The resulting peace was shortlived as in the following year Lord Ormond led an expedition against the O’Tooles, MacMurroughs and the O’Mores ‘in the leys of Athy’.
1370 The O’Mores again attacked and burned the town and monastery of Athy.
1417 The White Castle, built by Sir John Talbot to house a garrison charged with protecting the Bridge of Athy.
1453 John O’Lalor, Dominican Friar Athy who studied theology at Oxford for several years and afterwards Lector at Athy was granted dispensation, on account of illegitimacy, to have rule of a monastery on 3rd March 1453. He was appointed Abbot of Baltinglass by papal provision subject to the charges against the present Abbot being substantiated and his profession into the Cistercian Order.
1488 Friar Maurice Fierry of Athy was dispensed from the law of the Order so that he might ride a horse, wear linen, carry a knife and eat meat.
1513 The 8th Earl of Kildare while watering his horse at the River Griese near Kilkea was wounded by one of the O’Mores of Leix. He was brought to Athy where he died. That same year Athy was again subjected to attack by the O’Mores.
1515 King Henry VIII grants a charter to the inhabitants of Athy enabling them ‘to erect, construct, build and strengthen the same town with fosses and walls of stone and lime.’ The Charter provides for the annual election of a Provost by all the inhabitants on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel. The erection of town walls was to be financed by customs collected on all goods sold within the town.
1535 On 9th June an Order suppressing the Augustinian Monastery at Graney, Co. Kildare was issued. Graney was the first religious house in Ireland to be suppressed.
1536 Publication of the ‘Ten Articles’, the confession of faith of the Anglican Church.
1539 The Dominican Monastery in Athy was suppressed on 19th August 1539. That same year Donald Kavanagh had burnt the Dominican’s Monastery so that when a jury sat to determine the extent of the Dominican property it found all the buildings destroyed, there being no other buildings there except what ‘are convenient for the farmer’.
1540 Robert Woulff, Athy Dominican Prior, withdrew with his small community of Friars. They left the Dominican House in Athy to find employment either as curates in the neighbourhood or moved to Connaught to take refuge in friaries which were outside the control of King Henry VIII.
1543 In December a detailed inventory of the former Dominican property in Athy found that it consisted of a Church, bell-tower, chapterhouse, dormitory, a large hall, three chambers and a kitchen, cemetery, an orchard and a garden containing 1 acre. It had two fishing weirs in the town, six cottages and ten acres of arable land. On the banks of the river Barrow there were two acres of arable and six acres of waste land. In Tullaghgorey in Co. Kildare it possessed one mill, and in Mullingrange Co. Kildare seven acres of arable land. On 24 January 1544 Martin Pelles, the constable of Athy was granted the lands and property of the Dominicans, in capite forever, at the annual rent of 2/8 Irish money. The property was later to pass to Robert Lalor of Mountrath by grant of Gerald FitzGerald Earl of Kildare.
1549 The first Act of Uniformity prescribes the use of the Book of Common Prayer. The Act of Uniformity together with the Act of Supremacy constituted the key statutory provision for the establishment of Protestantism in Ireland.
1557 Acts passed for the plantation of Leix and Offaly.
1575 The Protestant Chancellor of Leighlin reported ‘a great pestilence laid waste Wexford, Dublin, Naas, Athy, Carlow and Leighlinbridge’.
1577 O’Moores and O’Connors massacred at Mullaghmast while meeting with the English under guarantee of safety.
1584 Dermot O’Leary, Archbishop of Cashel, was executed on 20th June.
1594 Walter Reagh Fitzgerald, son in law of Fiach McHugh O’Byrne and his sons, attacked the home of the Sheriff of Kildare at Ardreigh Castle killing the Sheriff’s family and some servants.
1600 John Dynmor in his ‘Treatise of Ireland’ states ‘Athie is divided into two partes by the Ryver of Barrow over which lyeth a stone bridge, and upon it on a castle occupied by James Fitz Pierce ..... the bridge of the Castle ..... being the onelye ways which leadeth into the Queen’s County’.
1613 The Catholic King James I in an attempt to strengthen the Catholic majority in the Irish House of Commons creates 46 new boroughs and grants Athy a new charter. It provides for the setting up of a Borough Council, the annual election of a Town Sovereign and the right to nominate two Members of Parliament.
1614 A proclamation was issued against toleration of popery. All priests, friars and other members of clergy must leave Ireland before 30th September.
1617 On 16th December a further proclamation for the expulsion of Catholic clergy was issued.
1623 Oath of Supremacy required to be administered to all officers in corporate towns.
1626 Archbishop Ussher and twelve protestant bishops condemn toleration for Catholics declaring that ‘to grant the papist a toleration or to consent that they freely exercise their religion and profess their faith and doctrines was a grievous sin.’
1627 By this year there were sizeable Dominican communities once more in Dublin, Kilkenny and Mullingar. Athy was re-established and records for this year also show a Dominican priory at Inchaquire, Ballytore. Records refer to twelve friars living in the Castle at Belan, who are believed to be members of the Athy community.
Circa 1638 A chalice of this period is inscribed ‘Thomas Ronayne’ and ‘Dom. Conv. Athy’.
1641-’49 During the Confederate Wars, Athy, because of its strategic importance was besieged, captured and recaptured by in turn Catholic Confederates, Royalists supporters of Charles I and Parliamentarian forces.
In 1646 the Papal Nuncio Pietro Scarampi went to Athy ‘to salute his proper General (Owen Roe O’Neill)’. In an attack on the Confederate held town of Athy Thomas Preston, directed canon fire against the White Castle and succeeded in breaking the walls of the castle. He then moved the cannon on the same side of the river and directed it against St. Dominicans Priory. The Catholic Confederates who had occupied the Friary left, leaving the prior Thomas Bermingham and his Dominican colleagues in occupation. Daphne Pouchin Mould in her 1957 booklet wrote ‘The prior was Father Thomas Bermingham, a man of great holiness, and who, when the attacks began, set up a wooden cross on the top of the tower. He called both friars and soldiers to prayer in the chapel, and told them: “Your cause is just. God is obliged to help and assist you, and I assure you as a religious man, your adversaries and will not win the place at this time.” Eye-witness accounts state that the cross remained undamaged in spite of the attackers’ shooting at it, and there is also an account of St. Dominic appearing over the tower. The date of this vision was 15 September, 1648, the feast of the wonder working image of St. Dominic in Soriano, and it is said that it was seen both by defenders and attackers.’
1649 Oliver Cromwell arrived in Ireland on 15th August. At Drogheda, the scene of his first military success against the Catholic Condederates, Cromwell had the entire garrison, including six priests, slaughtered. Amongst them was Richard Ovington, sub prior of Athy who was beheaded.
Prior Thomas Bermingham was a prisoner in Dublin. He was sentenced to transportation to Barbados but on payment of a large fine was instead exiled to the continent where he died in 1655.
It is believed that the Athy Dominicans sought sanctuary in Derryvullagh bog, known locally as ‘the Derries’. The prior of Athy in 1651/’52 was Redmond Moore, a distinguished theologian who was ordained in Spain in 1638. Exiled to the Continent in 1652 he later returned and was prior in Athy from 1661 to 1662. Later arrested he was imprisoned in Proudfoot Prison in Dublin where he died in 1669.
Another Athy Dominican who suffered imprisonment was Joseph Carroll, Prior of Athy in 1664 who was imprisoned in Dublin between 1668 and 1669.
1654 Government order forbidding the observance of Christmas. The following year a further order banned the observance of Easter holidays.
1655 Government orders that all Quakers be arrested and that Quakers from Dublin and Waterford should be transported to England.
1666 The Act of Uniformity orders the use of the revised Book of Common Prayer. Schoolmasters are required to be licensed by a Bishop of the Established Church and all public office holders must take the Oath of Supremacy acknowledging that the King of England rather than the Pope was the Supreme head of the Church in England and Ireland.
1679 Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, arrested in connection with the Tiths Oates ‘Popish Plot’ He was executed in London on 1st July 1681.
1685 Richard Cuddihy came to Athy where he was prior from 1685 to 1688 and again from 1691-1697.
1691 Battle of the Boyne
Despite the defeat of James II at the Boyne the Dominicans of Athy seem to have weathered the anti religious storm and while Fr. Cuddihy was the sole Dominican in Athy in 1691, three years later there were four Dominicans there. By 1697 only two Dominicans remained, the Prior, living for the most part in Athy, the other priest, Edmund Shiel, living in Killelan and acting as an assistant to the Parish Priest of Castledermot.
1694 Act passed prohibiting Catholics from educating their children abroad or opening schools at home. Under the same legislation Catholics were forbidden to own a horse worth more than £5.
1698 Commencement of the transportation from Ireland of the Catholic clergy. The Dominicans were out of Athy for the next three or four decades.
1704 Act passed imposing penalties on Catholic clergy entering the country. Earlier in the year an Act ‘to prevent the further growth of popery’ was passed restricting Catholics from buying land. The Test Act also passed and required all priests holding public office to take communion in the Established church within three months of taking up office. This effectively excluded Catholics and Dissenters from public office.
1705 English Parliament declares illegal the saying or hearing mass by anyone who has not taken the Oath of Adjuration. This oath required the renunciation of the Popes’ spiritual and temporal authority, the renunciation of Catholic doctrine and the Stuarts claim to the English throne.
1719 The Penal Laws appear to have relaxed somewhat and the Toleration Act was passed recognising the educational and religious liberties of Protestant Dissenters exempting them from penalties which previously applied in common with Catholics
1720 Mass houses were permitted and one such Mass house was located in Chapel Lane. An official report of 1731 noted that there were two Diocesan priests but no Dominican friars in Athy.
1735 A prior of Athy was appointed, but there are no details of who he was.
1743 Two Dominicans, both from the neighbourhood of Athy, returned to Ireland from the College of San Clemente in Rome. Thomas Cummins and Dominic Dillon are thought to have lived in the vicinity of Nicholastown. Despite the fact that religious intolerance was on the wane John Jackson, a local magistrate, was required to report to the Dublin authorities. On 6th March 1743 in response to concerns about the ‘growth of popery’. He stated: ‘I cannot find that there is or has been any popish priests or regular clergy in this corporation. The priest lives in the Queens County about 2 miles from the town’. The priest referred to was Daniel Fitzpatrick, Parish Priest of Athy for 46 years until his death in 1758 at the age of 80 years.
1754 The Dominicans returned to Athy. The prior Thomas Cummins had a chalice made for the convent to mark the occasion. It bears the inscription: ‘Fr. Thos. Cummins Ords. Praed. Me Pecit Pro Suo Conventu Athyensi A.D. 1754’. Thomas Hanlon from Roscommon joined Thomas Cummins and Dominic Dillon in their thatched priory in a lane off High Street [now Kirwan’s Lane off Leinster Street].
1756 The Dominican historian Thomas Burke visited Athy. Scarcely a trace of the original Dominican Priory was in existence. He reported that while priors of Athy had been regularly appointed they could not live in the town as the largely non Catholic inhabitants bore ‘a perverse ill will’ towards them.
The Dominicans in Athy did not have their own chapel but assisted the Parish clergy in the Parish Church located in Chapel Lane.
1758 Archbishop Richard Lincoln of Dublin accused the Dominicans of attempting to take over the Parish of St. Michaels following which the Dominican friars left Athy for a time. Thomas Cummins later returned and was Prior in 1767, with Friar Michael Cummins who arrived from Rome in 1759. Until 1794 the Irish Dominicans still had three foreign colleges for the training of recruits and of the three it was San Clemente in Rome which supplied most of the Dominicans for Athy Convent. James Dunne and James O’Brien both returned to Ireland from Italy about 1779. Fr. Dunne was to serve in Athy for eighteen years until his death in 1797. Fr. O’Brien came to Athy from time to time. By 1780 the Dominican House in Athy was the only friary of any order in the Archdiocese of Dublin, apart from those in the capital city itself.
Fr. Thomas Cummins who died in 1788 aged 88 years is buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery as is Fr. James Dunne who died in 1797 aged 45 years.
The Dominicans resumed their work as curates in the local Parish Church and were also helping out in nearby Castledermot when required.
1810 Archbishop Troy of Dublin, himself a Dominican and his assistant Bishop Murray, visited Athy and the Dominican Priory.
1812 John Kenneally appointed Prior in Athy. The earliest surviving account book of St. Dominic’s Priory revealed how much the Dominicans relied on the two annual collections in the Parish Church and on the Dominican Quest. The Quest was an important part of Dominican life placing reliance on the charity of the local people. The annual Quest extended to Monasterevin, Dunlavin, Kilcullen, Castledermot and as far away as ‘Glendalough’.
1835 The Dominicans moved from their laneway house to a larger single storey building at No. 82 Leinster Street where an adjoining building served as the Dominican Chapel.
1842 John Kenneally, whose nephews also served in Athy, died in 1842 aged 78 years. Buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery his tombstone relates how he reared a brother and four nephews, all of whom were ordained for the Church.
1844 Athy’s Workhouse opened 9th January. Over 1200 inmates die in the Workhouse during the Great Famine.
1846 The Dominicans purchased Riversdale House, approached from Duke Street via Tanyard Lane. Built in 1780 by Lewis Mansergh the property included a walled garden, some stables and 4 acres of land.
1850 The Dominicans moved into Riversdale House and adapt some of the outhouses for use as a church.
1885 The Dominican visitator Fr. Towers reported on the Dominican Chapel: ‘Notwithstanding the absence of architectural beauty and proportions it is very devotional and worthy of its holy use.’
1886 Fr. John O’Sullivan ordained in 1881 came to Athy in 1886 where he remained until his death in 1932, apart from 7 years from 1910. For long periods he was the only Dominican in Athy. Fr. O’Sullivan was much loved by the people of Athy and his sudden death while saying Mass was a great shock to all. He was buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery close to the grave of Canon Mackey who was his life long friend. The following year a Lourdes Grotto designed by Fr. Michael Kinnane C.C. and Brother Dolan of the local Christian Brothers and dedicated to the memory of Fr. O’Sullivan, was unveiled.
1914-1918 John Crotty O.P., former Prior of Athy, appointed Chaplain to Irish soldiers imprisoned in German Prison of War camps. There he renewed acquaintances with Athy men Michael Bowden, Michael Byrne and Martin Maher. These men died in Limburg Prison of War Camp before the end of the war and were part of the 122 or so men from the town of Athy who died in the Great War.
1955 A statue of St. Dominic donated by Georgie Farrell of Spring Lodge was unveiled by the Dominican Provincial, Rev. J.E. Garde O.P. During the ceremony honours were tendered by a detachment of F.C.A. under Captain J.J. Stafford and Lt. P. Dooley. The occasion was unique, if not in the whole Dominican Order, certainly in the Irish province. Although every Dominican Church possessed a statue of St. Dominic, it rarely happened that there was a solemn dedication of a public monument to the saint.
1957 The seven centenaries of the Dominican Order in Athy was celebrated.
1962 Fr. Philip Pollock, Prior of Athy from 1961-1967 and again from 1972-1975, oversaw the building of a new church for the Dominicans in Athy. The grotto erected in 1933 was removed and a complex roofed church erected after the laying of the foundation stone on 8th December 1963. Funds for the new church were collected locally, throughout Ireland and America, which latter country Fr. Pollock visited on a fundraising mission. The new church was blessed and opened by the Dominican Provincial, Fr. Louis Coffey on 17th March 1965.
1973 The small T shaped Church building opened in 1850 was demolished in 1973. Neither the main aisle nor the transepts were more than 16 feet wide. There were two galleries, one close to the priory entrance, the other at the end of the South transept and near to the bell tower which was erected in 1898.
1983 A new Priory was built between 1983 and 1984 by local building contractors D&J Carbery. The old Priory was demolished to ground floor level in 1984 and the structure then re-roofed to give the Dominican Hall which was opened in May 1985.
2015 The Dominican community consists of Fr. John Walsh, Prior, Fr. John Heffernan, Fr. Gerard O’Keeffe and Fr. Jim Candon. On 22nd November the Dominican Order will vacate their priory and church in Athy and the only Dominican presence in the town will be the Lay Dominican Chapter which will continue to meet each month for prayers and reflection.
PRIORS OF ATHY
1357 Philip Pereys
1374 Henry Mody
1539 Robert Woulff
1648-49 Thomas Bermingham
1651-52 Redmond Moore
1661-62 Redmond Moore
1664 Joseph Carroll
1683-85 Thomas Brennan
1685-88 Richard Cuddihy
1688-89 Patrick Marshall
1691-97 Richard Cuddihy
1754 Thomas Cummins
1756-59 Dominic Dillon
1767 Thomas Cummins
1793 James V. Dunne
1799 James T. O’Brien
1802-12 John Gogarty
1812-20 John Kenneally
1820-23 Walter Brennan
1824-42 John Kenneally
1843-49 Laurence Cremmin
1850-53 William D. Donnelly
1853-61 Laurence Cremmin
1861-62 William D. Donnelly
1863-77 Thomas J. McDonnell
1877-80 Dominic Matthew Fulham
1880-84 Thomas Nicholas Duffy
1884-87 George Thomas Hughes
1887-90 Francis Purcell
1890-96 Thomas Pius Boylan
1896-00 John C. O’Sullivan
1900-03 Thomas Crotty
1903-06 John C. O’Sullivan
1906-08 James P. Dowling
1908 Stephen A. O’Kelly
1908-11 Patrick McCormick
1911-17 Raymund Kieran
1917-20 John Kiely
1920-27 W. Benedict Costello
1927-33 Francis Ryan
1933-36 Raymund Kieran
1936-42 Paul McKenna
1942-48 Jordan M. Noonan
1948-51 Pius M. Cleary
1951-57 W. Marcolinus Colgan
1957-60 Sebastian Casey
1960-61 Dominic O’Neill
1961-67 Philip Pollock
1667-72 Henry Peale
1972-75 Philip Pollock
1975-81 Leo Clandillon
1981-86 James Harris
1986-89 Anthony Roche
1989-92 Stephen Hutchinson
1992-98 Ailbe Henry O’Connor
1998-00 James Donleavy
2000-07 John Heffernan
2007-15 Joe O’Brien
2015 John Walsh