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.