Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Athy's Burial Committee of 1925 and St. Michael's Cemetery

The Nationalist and Leinster Times of 12th September 1925 carried a report submitted to the meeting of Athy Urban District Council by the Athy Burial Committee. The report provided under Michael Malone’s name mentioned Peter Hyland as the cemetery caretaker who ‘had the place in as good order as could reasonably be expected’. Reference was made to monuments in the cemetery erected by public subscription to Dr. Ferris, Fr. Mark Doyle, Fr. James Doyle and Canon Germaine. Dr. Edward Ferris who died on 25th March 1877, aged 65 years, was a medical practitioner in the town. He was also one of the 21 Town Commissioners elected by the ratepayers in the first public democratic election held on 5th July 1847 just a few years after the Athy Borough Council was abolished. Interestingly the local Parish Priest, Rev. John Lawler, topped the poll that day with 105 votes, sharing that position with local miller, Henry Hannon. Dr. Ferris obtained 104 votes. The crickeen holds the last remains of Dr. Ferris and his grave memorial reads, ‘Erected to the late Edward Ferris Athy by his numerous admirers to pay a last tribute of respect to his memory. The profession has lost an able physician and the poor a king and a generous friend.’ Rev. James Doyle who died on 10 November 1892, aged 64 years, was a curate in Athy for 17 years and Parish Priest of the parish St. Michael’s for 13 years. Rev. Mark Doyle died 16th January 1900, aged 31 years, seven years after his ordination. He was curate in Moone for 3 years and died in the fourth year of his curacy in St. Michael’s, Athy. Both their grave memorials were erected by the people of Athy and neighbourhood. Canon James Germaine’s memorial shows that he was Parish Priest of St. Michael’s Athy for 12 years prior to his death at 78 year of age on 18th April 1905. Again, his memorial was erected by ‘parishioners and friends’. The burial committee’s report of 1925 noted that ‘the north eastern portion of Old St. Michael’s Chapel had fallen’. The report claimed that the building was built in the 13th century by a member of the St. Michael family. An earlier member of the same family, Richard de St. Michael, who was Lord Rheban is believed to have built Woodstock Castle and Rheban Castle. Mr. Malone in his report to the Urban Council claimed that Sir William Prendergast and Raymond de Grace who fell at the Battle of Ardscull in 1315 were buried near the ruined chapel in St. Michael’s Cemetery. Other writers have claimed that those warriors with Edward Bruce’s men, Sir Fergus Anderson and Sir Walter Murray, were in fact buried in the grounds of the Dominican Abbey located on the east bank of the River Barrow. I mentioned two weeks ago the dangerous condition of the old chapel which we call ‘the crickeen’. The report of 1925 included the following reference ‘owing to the antiquity of this building and its associations we recommend the fallen portion to be rebuilt as far as the building materials present will allow and that a cement capping be placed on all the walls to prevent the further disintegration of the masonry.’ It is not clear if any of this remedial work was done, but work is now urgently required to ensure that an important part of Athy’s built heritage is preserved. Hopefully Kildare County Council who have charge of St. Michael’s Cemetery, will divert some small portion of its huge budget to finance remedial work on ‘the crickeen’. I came across an interesting piece of information in the report of the Commissioners Appointed to Enquire into the State of the Fairs and Markets in Ireland. The commissioners held public sessions in various market towns throughout Ireland and convened their enquiry in Athy on 16th December 1852. The Town Clerk, Henry Sheil, when questioned as to the town’s market days replied that the markets were held on Tuesday and Saturday every week ‘as provided for in the town’s charter’. The claim of a second weekly market on a Saturday is something of which I was not previously aware. Can anyone recall any reference to a market held on a Saturday in Athy? The launch of Vol. 4 of Eye on Athy’s Past was well supported on Tuesday night last. My thanks to all who attended and a special thank you to John MacKenna who acted as Master of Ceremonies and to Liam Kenny who launched the book with a most eloquent address. The contributions of both John and Liam drew much praise from those in attendance. Copies of the book are on sale in the Gem, Duke Street and Winkles of Emily Square.

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