Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Paul Dempsey former C.B.S. Athy pupil and new Bishop of Achonry and other notable clerics

It was announced last week that Fr. Paul Dempsey, Parish Priest of Newbridge and former pupil of the Christian Brothers School Athy is to be appointed Bishop of Achonry. Having mentioned in recent Eyes on the Past the number of past pupils of my old school who have illustrious careers I wonder if there has been any previous Episcopal appointment amongst the one-time youngsters of Athy’s local schools or families connected with Athy. There have been a number of clerics who held high office including Monsignor William Murphy, Rector of the Irish College in Rome who died in 1905. He was a brother of ‘Pip’ Murphy who had a butcher shop in Emily Square and his sisters included ‘Gypsy’ Murphy who also lived in the Square. Monsignor Murphy is today commemorated with a marble tablet on the wall of the Church of Sant Agata Dei Goti in Rome. Another local man who headed up a clerical college was Monsignor Patrick Boylan of Barrowhouse. He was a noted scholar and theologian and the author of several books and was Vice President of Maynooth College from 1922-1934. He was Parish Priest of Dun Laoghaire for 40 years and retired from that position shortly before he died in November 1974. His father was principal teacher in Barrowhouse National School and his mother also taught in the same school. During my time as a local councillor and while I was chairman of Athy Urban District Council the Council honoured Walter Empey, then Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath and Kildare and later Archbishop of Dublin. Although born in Dublin his grandfather was a well remembered resident of Athy who carried on business as a painting contractor from his premises in Leinster Street. A prince of the Catholic Church with a connection with Athy, this time through his brother Fr. Maurice Browne who served as a curate in Athy, was Cardinal Michael Browne. Cardinal Browne visited Athy soon after he was appointed a Cardinal in 1962 when he called on his fellow priests in the local Dominican monastery. This was almost three decades after Fr. Michael Browne, then a Dominican priest, had given the annual retreat in the local Sister of Mercy Convent in Athy. Another local link with Bishops of the Catholic Church was provided by Dr. Andrew Quinn, Parish Priest of Athy from 1853 to 1879. His brother James was the first Bishop of Brisbane in Australia whom he helped to encourage a number of nuns and novices from Athy’s Convent of Mercy to travel to Australia to open a Sisters of Mercy Novitiate in Brisbane. Another brother of Athy’s Parish Priest was Bishop Matthew Quinn who was appointed the first Bishop of Bathurst Australia in 1865. A noteworthy member of the Catholic priesthood was Fr. John Miley, a native of Narraghmore who was a friend and travelling companion of Daniel O’Connell on O’Connell’s last trip to Rome. Fr. Miley was with O’Connell when he died and in accordance with O’Connell’s wishes he took the casket containing his heart to Rome before accompanying the liberator’s remains back to Ireland. Fr. Miley delivered the funeral oration for Daniel O’Connell in the Pro Cathedral Dublin. The Narraghmore-born priest who attended the Quaker School in Ballitore was appointed rector of the Irish College in Paris in 1849 and later became Parish Priest of Bray where he died. I understand Fr. Dempsey’s parents came to live in Athy from Carlow when the future Bishop was 7 years of age. He attended the local boy’s primary school and later Scoil Eoin before entering St. Patrick’s seminary in Carlow. Paul was the youngest of four children of Tony and Berry Dempsey who lived in Milltown just outside Athy. Both parents died in 1994. Fr. Dempsey’s father Tony was employed in Shaw’s Hardware shop in Duke Street and later operated a small shop in St. Vincent’s Hospital. Paul sat his Leaving Certificate in 1988 and I believe that amongst his classmates was my own son Francis. I cannot find a record of any past pupil of Athy’s local schools who served as a Bishop of the Catholic or Anglican churches prior to the announcement of Fr. Dempsey’s appointment. However, it is quite possible that former pupils of Athy’s Model School did serve in such a position and if so I would welcome hearing of them. Athy and south Kildare have over the years witnessed many young local men and women entering the religious life. The Christian churches, Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist have all welcomed and benefitted from those new entrants amongst whom was the future Bishop of Achonry Paul Dempsey.

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