Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Rev. Philip Knowles and Dave Henshaw

I have just heard the sad news that Rev. Philip Knowles has died. Rev. Philip, former Dean of Cashel, came to live in Athy following his retirement as Dean of the Church of Ireland Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and St. Patrick’s Rock. I first met Rev. Philip when I visited the Bolton Library in Cashel some years ago. The library had a unique collection of rare books and incunabula which had been acquired over the years by Theopilus Bolton, a native of County Mayo who was appointed Archbishop of Thurles in 1729. Bolton was a leading ecclesiastical figure who had served as a Canon of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin when Dean Swift was the Dean. His vast book collection was not his only legacy for the County Tipperary town as he employed Sir Edward Lovett Pearse to design and oversee the construction of the Bishop’s palace which in more recent years was utilised as the Cashel Palace Hotel. My visit to the Bolton Library which housed not only Bishop Bolton’s books, but also books which once formed the library of Archbishop King of Dublin, was greatly facilitated by Dean Knowles. We had never previously met, but he kindly gave me a hugely interesting tour of the Bolton Library which was then in a sadly perilous state. The library was small, but in terms of its book holdings was comparable in many respects to the more famous and better known Marshes Library in Dublin. I did not meet Rev. Philip again for many years and it was only when he took up residence in Athy that I got to know the Church of Ireland cleric. His love of music, especially church music, provided him with an abiding interest which led to the formation of the In Cantorum choir. The members of Athy Lions Club were especially grateful to Rev. Philip and the members of In Cantorum for their voluntary involvement in raising funds for local Lions charities. Our paths crossed in recent times when I had the opportunity to talk at length with Rev. Philip, ill for some time past. He spoke of his family background and how he came to be ordained. Conversing with him I was hugely impressed by a man who many could rightly regard as a deeply religious person. He was a truly good man and on his passing all of us, whether Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist or any other shade of belief, will have lost a gentle caring man of the cloth. Rev. Philip’s death occurred a few days after an announcement was made in relation to the collection of funds to carry out repairs to the steeple of St. Michael’s church. The church at the top of Offaly Street was consecrated on 15th September 1841 and two months later work started on pulling down the old church which was then located in Emily Square. Local builder, W. Cross, started work on building the church steeple in June 1856. I can remember some time in the 1950s extensive work being carried out on the steeple of St. Michael’s Church. Steeple jacks hung from ropes slung from the top of the steeple as they worked on the 100-year-old structure. They presented a most unusual sight as they worked away for a number of weeks. I wonder did anyone take a photograph of those steeple jacks at work? Given Rev. Philip Knowles’ connection with St. Michael’s Church, where he served in a temporary capacity for some time after retiring from Cashel, it would be a wonderful tribute to this good man if Athy residents of any religious persuasion would consider contributing to the steeple fund in memory of Rev. Philip. Another good man leaving us soon, but happily returning to his native town of Athlone, is Dave Henshaw. Last weekend Dave was the recipient of many tributes at a surprise going away party held in his honour in Paddy Dunnes. He fully deserved the tributes as Dave with his late wife Pat made a huge contribution to community life in Athy over the years. He was one of the founders of Age Action in Athy and more recently served as a Director of Athy Heritage Company. Dave, a go ahead person, was always willing to participate in community affairs and was never afraid to take the initiative in projects promoting Athy. We wish him well as he returns to Athlone. After attending a function in the Shackleton Museum last week, organised by the local Dragon Boat Club, I came away marvelling at how our use and enjoyment of the waterways in and around Athy has grown in the last few years. It is part of a revival of largescale community involvement in the town, evidenced by community spirit which I have witnessed developing slowly but gradually over the years. Rev. Philip Knowles and Dave Henshaw made their contribution to that reawakening of community spirit during their time with us.

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