Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Extracts from Michael Carey's Diary 1823 - 1867

Michael Carey, a resident of Athy in the first half of the 19th century, kept a journal in which he made short entries noting events of interest in the town. The first entry was dated 14th May 1823 and the last November 1862. It is possible that some of the earliest entries were made many years after the events to which they referred. The entries were made in alphabetical order without comment. The letter B takes up eight columns over four pages and include journal entries such as ‘Barrington C appointed to Athy School Nov. 19 1827’, ‘Beards, three young, went to Van Diemen’s Land April 19 1833’ and ‘Bell first ring at the chapel for the death of a man – Bradley Baker March 7 1830’. On 25 June 1834 and again on 26 June 1836 he noted ‘Gideon Ouseley was preaching in Athy.’ Ouseley was a Methodist preacher who had been invited by the Irish Methodist Conference to be part of a three many Irish speaking evangelist mission to the Irish poor. Ouseley sang and preached, mostly in Irish, to outdoor gatherings at fairs and markets. It was often claimed that evangelical preachers were not usually welcomed by Catholic clergy or provincial townspeople, but I had found no reports of any difficulties arising from Ouseley’s visits to Athy. Perhaps his evangelical meeting in Athy was not an open air event and may have been held in the Methodist chapel which was then located in the former Quaker meeting house in Meeting House Lane. Gideon Ouseley who made a remarkable contribution to the growth of Methodism in Ireland died in Dublin in May 1839. He was a native of Co. Galway, born of Anglican parents and had intended to become an Anglican minister. His conversion to become a follower of John Wesley occurred when he was 29 years old and the rest of his life was devoted to evangelical preaching throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. Another Irishman who spent years travelling up and down this country while taking journeys to England and America was the Capuchin Friar Fr. Theobald Mathew, often called the Apostle of Temperance. Michael Carey records on 23rd August 1840 ‘Father Mathew in Athy.’ Athy, once the home of breweries and distilleries and even now the home of malting, was a soldiers town and almost inevitably developed a reputation as a hard drinking town. The founding of the Ballitore Temperance Society in the 1830s by some of the Quaker residents of the village did not prompt a similar response from the people of Athy. This despite an apparent attempt to start a Temperance Society in the town when a local man, a self declared ex drunkard named Daniel Connolly, addressed a gathering on the evils of drink. ‘When I was a united Irishman ..... I was sent with a party of twelve men to attack the enemy ..... we went into a public house and got something to drink ..... it left me so insensible that the enemy came upon us ..... I alone escaped.’ As to Fr. Mathew’s arrival in Athy on 23 August 1840 his visit is dealt with in Fr. Augustine’s book ‘Footprints of Father Mathew’ in a single line ‘from Cork he went to Naas on the 14th and thence to Athy, Durrow and Freshford where on the 25th he added 10,000 to the Society.’ Some years ago I came across an account of a Temperance Society meeting in Athy addressed by Fr. Mathew which was held outdoors in the Commons of Clonmullin. I can’t find that particular reference as I write, but of interest is another reference to Fr. Mathew stopping in Athy quoted in ‘Ireland Sober, Ireland Free’ by Elizabeth Malcolm published in 1986. On a journey from Dublin to Cork the coach carrying amongst others Fr. Mathew stopped in Athy to allow the passengers to breakfast. ‘A few of the crowd that invariably watched the arrival and departure of the mail recognised Fr. Mathew and in a minute or two the cry went out on all sides. "Fr. Mathew is at the hotel." At once a crowd gathered around the coach and a hundred voices clamoured for the pledge ..... Fr. Mathew immediately began to give the pledge ..... but fresh accessions arrived every few minutes and it was not until five hours had passed that the Royal Mail was allowed to leave Athy.’ Fr. Mathew again visited Athy in October 1842 where it is claimed ‘he gained 12,600 recruits on the 21st and 22nd’. Strangely Michael Carey’s journal makes no reference to this second Temperance meeting of Fr. Mathew. The visits to Athy of the Methodist evangelist and the Capuchin friar were noteworthy events of their time, but remained unrecorded like so many other elements of the town’s story in the absence of a local press.

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