During the week I received a query relating to Mark Hill from County Clare, a Christian Brother whose teaching career ran from the late 1860s to 1919 when he died. His name was not familiar to me and so I referred to the Annals of the local Christian Brothers monastery which I was allowed to copy some years ago. The Annals provide useful, if somewhat sporadic details relating to the affairs of the Christian Brothers in Athy. Unfortunately for extended periods the designated annalist failed to keep the record up to date but nevertheless what remains is helpful for an understanding of what happened in the Christian Brothers schools in Athy from 1861.
An entry in the Annals for 1863 noted that at the beginning of the year Michael Lawler ‘who showed himself a warm friend from the commencement’ offered to pay for the gas consumed in the Brother’s Monastery and to continue doing so during his lifetime. It was a commitment Michael Lawler, by then a Justice of the Peace, renewed on 5th November 1885.
Another generous benefactor was Patrick Maher of Kilrush, whose daughter was for a time Superioress of the local Convent of Mercy. He donated the sum of £400 to help finance the building of the school rooms in St. John’s Lane prior to the arrival of the Christian Brothers in August 1861. Patrick Maher, who was also a generous benefactor to the local Sisters of Mercy, made many other financial contributions to the Christian Brothers over the years for various improvements to the schools and the monastery.
In 1865 the local G.P. Dr. Thomas Kynsey paid for the provision of a house library for the Christian Brothers. In April 1880 J. Delaney of Market Square died and left the sum of £100 to the Christian Brothers. Strangely a week later his own son Denis also died and in his will he left the Christian Brothers the sum of £20.
An interesting entry for March 1901 referred to the sale of a property in Duke Street by Miss Ferris of Woodbine Cottage to a sitting tenant, John E. Duncan. Apparently she had willed the property to the Christian Brothers but shortly before she died the property was sold for £200, a price considered to be excessively low, thereby depriving the Christian Brothers of a valuable bequest.
For a period of five weeks starting in November 1918 the Christian Brothers schools were closed due to the influenza epidemic. Brother Alipius Cummins, a novice in the monastery, fell victim to what we now refer to as the ‘Spanish flu’. Having failed to get a trained nurse in Athy or Dublin the Brothers turned to Minnie Murphy who had served in France during the First World War. Referred to in the Annals as ‘Sr. Flora of the Square’ Ms. Murphy took charge of the patient for 4 nights. He eventually recovered and the Annals noted ‘she took no fee, though a professional trained nurse. For this charitable act the Brothers are deeply grateful.’
In 1925 the Annals recorded the success of Edward Behan at the examinations for executive officers and he was subsequently appointed to the Customs and Excise. It noted ‘his success was of considerable advantage to the community, adding as it did to the prestige of the schools and demonstrating the efficiency of the teaching. He was at the time of his appointment nearly 20 years of age. His education had been to a great extent ruined through his having been interned for over 12 months in the troubled times.’ This is the first reference I have found to the internment of Edward Behan. Was that internment during the War of Independence or the Civil War? Can anyone help me identify Edward Behan?
John Bealin, formerly of Stanhope Street, died in New York on St. Stephen’s Day 1924. In his will he left the sum of £200 to his former school in Athy. His father Mark Bealin had a bakery business at 2 William Street and was secretary of the local committee set up in the town to build the original school premises for the Christian Brothers. He died in 1866 and on the subsequent remarriage of his wife, his three sons, including the 14 year old John, emigrated to America.
These are just some of the persons who over the years helped the Christian Brothers to maintain a presence in Athy. There are many more unnamed and forgotten individuals without whose assistance the early Christian Brothers schools in Athy could not have continued. As to the original query regarding Brother Mark Hill I discovered that he came to Athy in 1892 and five years later was appointed Director of the local Christian Brothers community. He moved to Kells, Co. Meath in July 1900. The only other entry in the annals concerning Brother Hill noted how he organised a bazaar in Easter week 1900 to help pay the cost of building a new oratory in the Christian Brothers monastery.