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.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Michael Wall's Memoirs

During the past week I read a publication edited by Kildare poet, Ann Egan, in which a number of our senior citizens published their memories of times past.  Among the contributors was Michael Wall of Chanterlands. 

This week I am giving over the Eye on the Past to some extracts from Michael’s memories of when he was a young boy in County Mayo.

“In the early twenties the War of Independence was raging and like most people of that era, my father was an ardent supporter of Sinn Fein.  To counter the British hold on the country, Sinn Fein set up their own Courts and administered justice, the best possible.  The Court for South Mayo was in Claremorris and my father cycled to these Court sessions.  The Judge was a local Solicitor – later to become Lord Chief Justice for Ireland – Conor Maguire.  My father and one other acted as his Court clerks.  When a client was convicted for some offence he was hooded and kept “incommunicado” for one week and was fed bread and water.  Prisoners were never molested in any way.  After one week they were released and warned to behave themselves.  As a result of these courts there was very little crime in the area.

As a result of my father’s activities he became known as the local Sinn Fein activist.  To use a mafia term, the local R.I.C. Sergeant put the finger on him and he became ‘a marked man’.  One night they raided the village and searched the house looking for my father.  My mother was terrified but they pushed her aside and felt the bed clothes.  ‘The bed was warm but the bird had flown’.  He took to the hills and was ‘on the run’ for a few days.

My next memory as a child was being taken out of bed and being hoisted up by a dark stranger.  He tells me I’m a grand wee lad.  I tell him – you’re a ‘quare aul lad’.  He tells me I have great use of my tongue.  There is also another stranger present.  He is the leader of the South Mayo Flying Column.  Men from this column used to train in one of our sheds and used dummy rifles.  Both these men were involved in a major ambush in West Mayo.  Some weeks later sadly the ‘quare aul lad’ was killed.” 

Michael’s grandmother had a grocery shop in Ballinrobe and here he takes up her story.

“Business was booming during the War years.  She sent one son to train in Edenderry as a cabinet maker;  another went to Rome to train as a Franciscan.  The third and youngest son she kept at home and bought a car for him for hire work.  Around about 1920 number two son was being ordained in Killarney and the family set off for Kerry.  To get there was just a nightmare journey as the War of Independence was at its height and many bridges had been blocked or blown up.  They criss crossed from one county to another but finally got there.  Number three son was just sixteen at the time.

Often in those days the ‘Black and Tans’ called to the bar for drinks and failed to pay.  The Granny let them know what she thought of them.  One day when my uncle was out on a call he was captured by them and for one week he was forced to drive them around the country.  He returned safely however, much to the relief of the family.  Some weeks later the I.R.A. called him in and told him that they knew of his exploits with the Tans.  He replied that it was at the point of a gun.  He drove them around for another week.  During the Civil War both Grandad and Uncle were captured and taken prisoner for one week by the anti-treaty factions.  Grandad always called them – the Bolshevics.  They were not harmed but the car was burnt out.

Tension was very high in that part of South Mayo in 1923.  The local Parish Priest spoke out against them (I.R.A.) at all parish functions, much to their great discomfiture.  As a result of such opposition they torched the local Post Office and then proceeded to the church armed with tins full of petrol.  The Parish Priest met them in the Church and threatened them with ‘fire and brimstone’ so that they moved on.  About that time the Anti-Treaty Group (I.R.A.) made an attempt to torch the local workhouse.  My Grandad and Uncles were making hay in a field close by and seeing smoke issuing from the building they rushed in and were lucky enough to extinguish the fire.  They certainly weren’t ‘flavour of the month’ in certain quarters in South Mayo.”

In 1929 Michael’s parents bought a farm in County Laois and the Wall family moved to Mountmellick which Michael described as “a colossal house, single story in front and rising to two stories at the back.”  It was, he later discovered, a safe house for Republicans during “the troubles” and during the Civil War was often home to anti-treaty forces.  During the 1926 election the Mountmellick house, which the Walls were to take over three years later, was district headquarters for Fianna Fáil.  De Valera was a frequent visitor, while Countess Markievicz and Terence McSweeney’s widow stayed there for the duration of the election campaign. 

Another important episode in Irish history was recalled when Michael wrote of his grandmother who as a youngster going home from school one day saw a man surrounded by soldiers being escorted to the local R.I.C. Barracks.  He was Captain Boycott of Lough Mask House and on the next day the man who gave the word “boycott” to the English language departed from the local railway station for his home in England.

Recalling such memories gives an immediacy to the re-telling of Irish history which academic theses can never hope to do.  My thanks to Michael Wall for allowing me to share his very interesting memories of times past with my readers. 

May I take the opportunity of wishing the readers of “Eye on the Past” a very happy Christmas and every good wish for the New Year.

Hannah Spellman

Ever since my younger brother Seamus was killed in a car accident on the Dublin road just outside Athy in November 1965, the eleventh month in which we commemorate the dead has held for me an extra special significance.  Especially so when to the long list of those who have passed through this life has been added the name of another who was near and dear. 

Last week a grand old lady passed away in her 95th year.  She was my mother-in-law, Hannah Spellman.  I first met her 37 years ago when she was living in the heart of Connemara.  A Cork woman and proud of the fact, she first came to Connemara just four years after the founding of the Irish Free State and remained there for 46 years amongst the Gaelic speaking community of Fermoyle and the neighbouring villages of Gleanicmurrin, Seanafeistin and Knockadoo.  It was there among the rugged beauty of the Connemara countryside that she reared her family.

I remember my first trip to Connemara in a Morris Minor car which I had borrowed from my father.  Most of us, although I wasn’t at that time, are familiar with the main road out past Barna, Spiddal and Tully and on to Carraroe, but to get to Fermoyle I had to turn off at Rossaveal and wend my way another seven or eight miles deeper and deeper into the Connemara countryside.  By then the road was tarred, but just a few years previously it was nothing more than a graveled roadway.  Small cottages and bungalows were visible on the hillside, clustered together as if to protect themselves against the encroachment of the heather cloaked bog which surrounded them. 

Half way on the road to Fermoyle the one-roomed schoolhouse where the Spellman children and their scattered neighbours had attended National School was pointed out to me.  It was another three miles or more to Fermoyle Lodge and to a “townie” who had leisurely walked to his school and sprinted home at lunchbreak, it was a bit of a jolt to be told that Connemara youngsters walked three or four miles to school each day, hail, rain or snow.

My introduction to the Connemara way of life in the late 1960’s coincided with the last days of an older generation which had seen life under English rule and the emerging Irish Free State.  Stories of Black and Tans and the escapades of Johnny Broderick, a Galway I.R.A. man and a family relation, was told against the backdrop of Fermoyle Lodge which World War I General, Kincaid Smith had often used as his fishing and shooting lodge.

The Spellman house was a céili house for the locality and at night time the local men (why never the women I now ask myself) gathered in the kitchen swopping stories, local news and jollity and smoking tobacco pipes.  Every now and then somebody would get up and go to the back door and stand there looking up at the sky as if checking the weather.  Nothing would be said as the back door was closed and the weather gazer stepped out into the dark.  He always returned, apparently cheered and warmed, and it was sometime before I came to realise that the neighbours invariably brought with them a bottle of poitín which was carefully concealed in the bushes away from the house.  Poitín making was, and probably still is, a tradition in the area, but ever mindful of the need not to implicate neighbours, the potent concoction was never brought indoors.  Hence the constant toing and froing between kitchen and the garden where the treasured bottle was laid on the ground as gently as a new born babe in its first crib. 

I remember the names of some of those men, all of whom have long passed on.  The commonality of surnames in the West often required references to one’s antecedents so that identification could be properly and quickly made as conversation flowed.  So it was that a man from Connemara was seldom simply called Sean or Pat.  He invariably also bore the name of his father or grandfather, if required, as it generally was, to distinguish him from another of the same name.  Hence Joeín Paudge Séan Dan was a well known figure in Fermoyle village and all the names were needed to distinguish him from another Joeín.  Tom Máiread was a gentle quite spoken boat man whom I got to know in that part of Connemara.  Tom was the son of Máiread and Mick, the son of Pat Mór, who was known as Mike Pat Mór and his good wife was known as Máire Pat Mór. 

It was amongst the Gaelic speaking Connemara folk that Hannah Spellman, the Doneraile born Cork woman came to live.  She spoke no Irish and over the years, whether through choice or otherwise, she never lapsed into the native tongue, even when conversing with her neighbours.  They spoke Irish to her which she apparently understood and replied in English which they equally seemed to understand and both continued the conversation in different tongues without any apparent loss of meaning or understanding on either side.  The first time I witnessed this it was a mesmerizing experience but both parties seemed to regard their linguistic exchanges as perfectly normal. 

Another puzzling aspect of Connemara life for “a midlander” was the ease with which a few houses perched precariously on the side of a Connemara hillside could be referred to in conversation as “the village”.  The first time I came across this I was puzzled when Mrs. Spellman, referring to a neighbour in the village, pointed across the open expanse of Connemara bog to the far hillside where three isolated cottages could be seen.  That I learned was the village of Fermoyle, unadorned by the presence of Church, pub or post office.  Indeed these facilities were to be reached only by travelling at least eight miles down the road which led in the direction of Rossaveal.  The willingness of the Connemara folk to bestow civic status on a few isolated cottages was in a way similar to the American practice of designating anything larger than a crossroads as a city.

As befitting someone who had spent her entire adult life among the Connemara’s, Hannah Spellman was a gifted story teller.  How often I heard the stories of the poachers, pronounced “poochers”, who netted the river for salmon to the disgust of the rod-men and the local boatmen.  The dangers of the Connemara hills and bogs was recounted in the story of her husband John Spellman who was lost in freezing fog for two days but kept himself alive by continuously circling around a large rock until the fog had lifted.  She was also a great advocate of the literary works of Canon Sheehan who as Parish Priest of Doneraile had baptised her in the local Church.

To my shame, although I had talked of doing so, I had never recorded her stories of life in Connemara.  Some weeks ago I mentioned the possibility of organising an oral history project in South Kildare which would help to record experiences, stories and past happenings of this area so that future generations might better understand their past.  The response to that piece would indicate that there may be enough people interested in pursuing the idea, and hopefully arrangements can be in place in the new year to start the project.  More information about that at a later date.

Hannah Spellman was laid to rest in Bohermore Cemetery in Galway last week, a few months short of her 95th birthday.  Her life was a long and happy one and as the cortege passed the mass grave of those who died in the K.L.M. crash off Shannon in 1954, I thought of those unfortunate men, women and children, some of whom were never identified, whose lives were cut short in such a violent way.  To live a long and happy life is a privilege which not everyone is destined to enjoy.

Death of Rev. Francois Murenzi / Jimmy Doyle / CBS Class Reunion

This week the Church of Ireland in Athy suffered the tragic loss of its recently appointed pastor, Reverend François Murenzi.  Everywhere in town this week there was a measurable sense of heartfelt sorrow for the young man of religion who tragically died following a car accident.  For his wife and young children it is a personal tragedy of immeasurable proportions.  For the local Church of Ireland community it is a serious blow comparable to that suffered by a previous generation whose Rector, Rev. F.S. Trench died following an accident in Offaly Street in November 1860.  It was Reverend Trench who had the rectory in Church Road built and the first major refurbishment of that fine building was undertaken by the Church Body shortly before Rev. Murenzi’s introduction as Bishop’s Curate of Athy on the 18th of July this year.  The sad coincidences which mark the deaths of Rev. François Murenzi and that of one of his predecessors Rev. F.S. Trench are a reminder of the strong links which bind us together as one community, especially so in times of tragedy such as this.  May he rest in peace.

Just a few short weeks ago a school colleague of mine passed away following a long illness.  Jimmy Doyle, like myself, attended the Christian Brothers School here in Athy and from school Jimmy left to join the army where he spent a number of years.  Later on he worked in the I.V.I. Foundry in Leinster Street.  As I wrote that last sentence I wondered if there was any need for me to indicate where the factory was located.  It closed down about 15 years ago, perhaps even less, yet today there are no visible traces left of what was once an extensive factory premises.  [I’m sure many of the younger generation don’t even know what the I.V.I. was]  Jimmy Doyle left the I.V.I. in 1966 or thereabouts following the death of his father Andrew who had been employed by Kildare County Council.  The late Mossy O’Sullivan, Engineer in charge of South Kildare, took Jimmy onto the County Council payroll in place of his father Andrew and Jimmy remained with the Council until he retired earlier this year.  He ended up as a road ganger under current road engineer, Dave O’Flaherty, whom I understand has been in that position with Kildare County Council for the past 28 years.  Jimmy married Rose McCarthy and is survived by her and his sister Mary who lives in Limerick.  His brothers Pat and “Thrush” Doyle predeceased Jimmy.  May he rest in peace.

The Christian Brothers School which Jimmy and I attended was also the alma mater of 15 young classmates who comprised the 1966/1967 Leaving Certificate class.  I understand they will be having a Class Reunion dinner in Tonlegee House on Saturday, 29th November where they will be joined by their former teachers, Brother Dalton, Mick Hannon and Mick Kelleher.  Tom Doyle of Ballyshannon is one of the principal organisers of the event and he tells me that Martin Miller, formerly of Burtown, will be there, as will local builder Jim Lawler and Matt Page, formerly of Bray and now a teacher living in Kilmallock in County Limerick.  Not too far from him is Kevin Ryan, Vice President of Limerick University who will be joining John Fingleton, now of Portlaoise and John Fitzpatrick, formerly of Geraldine and now living in Dublin.  Michael Perse, an E.S.B. official living in Kill went to the C.B.S. from the Coneyboro, while Frank Fingleton made the daily trip from St. Joseph’s Terrace and on this occasion will travel from his home in Balbriggan in Co. Dublin.  With them will be Joe McNamara of Stanhope Street, now an E.S.B. official in Portlaoise and John Kelly, son of the late Alex Kelly who is a teacher in North Kildare.  Tony Murphy of Ballylinan will have a short journey to make, as will Christy McKenna, formerly of McDonnell Drive who now lives in Castledermot.  Paschal O’Flaherty, whose father Jim worked in the Post Office before moving as Post Master to Greystones, is now in Limerick and will join his former class mates on the 29th.  Missing will be Paschal Stynes, formerly of Leinster Street.  He is a doctor based in Australia and understandably is not expected to be able to make the trip on this occasion.

It is nice to see the Christian Brothers Alumni keeping in touch, and perhaps just as important, given the times in which we live, by coming together with their former teachers, giving lie to the oft repeated claims made against the religious orders in Ireland.

News of a rowing regatta organised by Athy Rowing Club prompted a search through the archives for the last reported reference to a similar event in Athy.  Just eight years after the ending of the Great Famine the Athy Regatta was revived after a lapse of some years.  It took place on Friday, 15th August 1856 with six races.  The highlight of the Regatta was the competition for the Silver Challenge Cup, confined to two oared boats, the property of persons living at least 12 months in the town of Athy to be rowed and steered by local residents.  The Regatta continued each year until 1861, when it was believed, for whatever reasons, that it was not to be held again.  This was particularly upsetting to two locals, Daniel Cobbe and Francis Dillon who had won the Silver Challenge Cup, renamed the Corporation Challenge Cup the previous year, and demanded the right to challenge all comers to a race on the River Barrow.  They apparently made arrangements for a boat race which they duly won, thereby claiming the Challenge Cup for the second year.  Faced with the same official reluctance to hold the Regatta in 1862, Cobbe and Dillon again issued a public challenge and succeeded for the third time in a race against two other local lads, Delaney and Keeffe.  Cobbe and Dillon then claimed the right to keep the Corporation Challenge Cup, having won it three times in succession thus bringing to an end the Athy Regatta Races.  I wonder what happened the silver cup which Cobbe and Dillon retained?

I end this week by recalling the invitation which issued from the Select Vestry of the Athy Union of Parishes for the introduction of the Reverend François Murenzi by the Archbishop of Dublin at St. Michael’s Church, Athy on Friday, 18th July last.  How tragic it is to realise that the expectation and joy of that summer day has given way in just four months to grief and sorrow.  Our deepest sympathy goes to the family of the late Reverend François Murenzi and to the Church of Ireland members of our local community.

Fund Raising for and Building of St. Michael's Parish Church

It was 1952 when the senior curate in Athy, Fr. John McLaughlin, addressed what the local newspapers described as “a well attended and representative meeting” of parishioners in the Christian Brothers School one Friday night.  It was the first night of a campaign which would continue for over 20 years to give Athy a new Parish Church.  Fr. McLaughlin or “Fr. Mac” as he was affectionately known came to Athy in the summer of 1948, a senior curate to the ailing Archdeacon McDonnell.  It was not long before Fr. Mac gave proof of his rare business acumen and genius for organising.  This was not surprising, given that his sibling was Thomas McLaughlin who as a young engineer left Ireland in December 1922 to work with the German firm of Siemens Sehuckert.  Thomas McLaughlin recognised that electricity was the key to Ireland’s economic development and he it was who suggested and developed the Shannon Electrical Scheme which was completed in 1929.

Fr. Mac was a former I.R.A. man who fought in the Irish War of Independence and I have before me a press report of April 1950 which under the headline of “1,000 Veterans Parade Athy” described how Fr. McLaughlin addressed veterans drawn from eight midland counties who had arrived in Athy for the Easter Parade organised by the County Kildare Old I.R.A. Association.  He welcomed them as men who had fought for Irish freedom, but claimed that they had failed miserably in not handing on to their children the splendid tradition of faith and fatherland for which they fought and which was passed on to them by their parents.

Two years later when addressing the public meeting in the Christian Brothers School Fr. McLaughlin indicated that £60,000.00 was required to build a new parish church.  The foundations he claimed could be laid within two years and the church completed by the end of 1956.  He spoke of the old Parish Church situated in Chapel Lane which was torched following the 1798 Rebellion and of the difficulties experienced by the local clergy in the years immediately thereafter in procuring alternative suitable premises in which to say Mass.  Eventually a site was obtained from the Duke of Leinster in the area known as “the Slough of Athy” which was marshy ground forming part of what was once the commonage of Clonmullin.  It was there the new Parish Church of St. Michael’s was built in 1808 and it was still in use when Fr. McLaughlin spoke at the meeting in the Christian Brothers School 144 years later.

As far back as 1908 consideration was given to replacing the early 19th century Parish Church and following a partial roof collapse in 1937 the issue became even more urgent.  It was around then that Fr. McDonnell, later Archdeacon McDonnell, arrived as the new Parish Priest.  In 1951 architects carried out a detailed examination of the church structure which confirmed that urgent remedial work was required which for substantial expenditure would only serve to postpone for a comparatively short time the issue of building a new church.

Fr. McLaughlin acted immediately.  Consulting Engineers were engaged to make trial holes at a number of sites in the town to consider their suitability as a location for a new church.  The Abbey at the rear of Emily Square, the site of the first Dominican Friary in the 13th century, was one of those locations, the others being the Old Mill site at Duke Street, a field at Greenhills, the Maltings in Stanhope Street and the grounds of the existing Parish Church.

In the meantime a weekly Parish Draw was inaugurated which attracted support from 2,700 parishioners and contributed almost £100 per week to the Church Building Fund.  The planned Giving Campaign, which is still ongoing, was inaugurated a few years later and with a combination of many other fundraising events the funds required to build the Church were painstakingly accumulated over many years.

On 24th September, 1960 the Parish Church of St. Michael’s which had served the people of Athy for over 150 years was vacated for the last time.  Immediately work began on demolishing the old structure to make room for the new Parish Church which by then was estimated to cost £150,000.  Also demolished was St. Joseph’s School where generations of Athy boys had started their schooling under the tutelage of the Sisters of Mercy.  The C.Y.M.S. rooms were next to be leveled to the ground, as were the adjoining buildings which had been used as part of St. Mary’s Secondary School.  The first sod on the site of the new church was turned by Fr. Vincent Steen, Parish Priest, on 29th September 1960 and on 15th October the following year Archbishop John Charles McQuaid laid the foundation stone of the new St. Michael’s Church. 

On Sunday, 19th April 1964 the new Parish Church of St. Michael’s was blessed and opened by the Archbishop of Dublin.  The Parish Priest, Fr. Vincent Steen, celebrated the High Mass on the day of the opening, assisted by local man Fr. Paddy Finn and by Fr. Seamus Conway.  The Parish Curates, Fr. Frank Mitchell and Fr. Joe Corbett assisted the Archbishop while the Master of Ceremonies for the day was their colleague Fr. Philip Dennehy who is now our Parish Priest.

Built at a cost of approximately £200,000 it had taken the main contractors, Messrs C. Creedon & Sons of Newmarket, Dublin, three and a half years to complete the new Church.  The architects were Richard Guy and Patrick V. Moloney of Dublin.  Approximately £90,000 had been collected within the parish for the Church Building Fund before the official opening, leaving the balance to be gathered over the following years. 

Designed in the Lombardic Romanesque style the Church had a seating capacity for 1,100, which capacity was subsequently reduced following changes to the layout of the Church interior.  The Church generally is constructed in brickwork, facing bricks being used as finishes to both the internal and external wall surfaces, with reconstructed stone dressings to window and door surrounds, eave bands and string courses. 

In the new church the windows of the transept had been donated by Mrs. J. Owens, Nicholastown, the windows of the nave by the Men’s Sacred Heart Sodality and the baptistery windows by the Women’s Sacred Heart Sodality.  The Tabernacle was donated by the employees of Bowaters Wallboard Mills, the sanctuary lamps by Athy C.I.E. station employees, the altar crucifix by the men employed on the building of the church and St. Joseph’s Shrine by a Mr. Byrne of Willesden, London.  [Can anyone tell me what was Mr. Byrne’s connection with Athy]  Incidentally Fr. McLaughlin, who 12 years previously organised the first meeting which would give us a new Parish Church, left Athy in November 1957 to become Parish Priest of Celbridge. 

Architecturally the Parish Church of St. Michael’s, Athy has its detractors, the common complaint being its size which many feel lacks scale, while its style is not to everyone’s likening.  Probably the fourth Catholic Parish Church in the town, St. Michael’s is the proud inheritor of a tradition extending back beyond the Penal Law decades and the pre-Reformation period when the first St. Michael’s Church served the medieval village of Ath Í.