Happy St. Patrick’s to all readers at home and abroad

Church Concert

On Sunday next, March 19th., the first ever concert will be held in St. Bartholomew’s Church, Athea starting at 7pm. Artists appearing include: Domhnall de Barra & Friends, Athea N.S. Children, Donie Lyons, Daisy Kearney, Margaret Carroll, the Church Choir, John Joe Tierney Set Dancers, Josephine O’Connor Set Dancers, Fr. Tony Mullins & Friends, Nora Butler  (All-Ireland Champion singer ) & Athea Wrenboys.  There will be a raffle at the interval and the Wrenboys will make a collection. All proceeds to the Lourdes Invalid Fund. Some seats on the right hand aisle will be reserved for those performing. It might be advisable to bring a cushion!!

Coffee Morning

A Coffee morning in aid of the Lourdes Invalid Fund will take place in the Con Colbert Hall on Wednesday 22nd March from 9am to 1pm. Your support would be greatly appreciated.

Church Gate Collection

In aid of Crumlin Hospital on Saturday 25th/Sunday 26th March at all masses. Your support would be appreciated

Progressive Card Drive

At the Top of the Town on this Thursday, March 16th at 9pm. In aid of the Lourdes Invalid Fund. Raffle on the night with spot prizes. Your support would be greatly appreciated.

St. Patrick

By Fr. Brendan Duggan 

In the USA in 1932 there we 451 churches dedicated to St. Patrick, including the five Cathedrals of New York, El Paso (Texas), Lead (South Dakota), Rochester (NY) and Corpus Christi (Texas). Old St. Patrick’s in South Manhattan was the former first church of NY before St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built.

There are 65 churches in Canada including the Cathedral of Hamilton, Ontario. In Australia St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, Basilica of St. Patrick in Fremantle, W. Australia, plus seven other churches, including the Cathedral of Parramatta.

In South Africa, a St. Patrick’s church was founded in Grahamstown between 1839 and 1844 and named a Pro-Cathedral in 1847. There is a St. Patrick’s church in Johannesburg and a Cathedral in Kokstad and Kroonstad, plus two more churches to St. Patrick and an Anglican St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Johannesburg.

In Pakistan there is the Cathedral of Karachi plus the famous St. Patrick’s Christian Brother’s School, a Parish church in Karachi, and the church in Sahiwal.

In Ireland we have many churches dedicated to St. Patrick, St. Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin (1191) is now the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. With its 43 metre spire it is the tallest and largest church in Ireland.

There are two St. Patrick’s Cathedrals in Armagh, both Catholic and Anglican. The Anglican Cathedral is built on the Hill of Macha, the site of Patrick’s original church in 445AD.

In Limerick Diocese we have 2 St. Patrick’s churches in Dublin Road and Ardpatrick.

The Rock of Cashel contains the ruins of St. Patrick’s Cathedral dating from 1101 when it became a religious centre. Following the Reformation it became a part of the Church of Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Holy Well in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, next to Marlfield village. There are over 3,000 holy wells in Ireland and St. Patrick’s is one of the largest, revered for centuries. Legend has it that Patrick stopped off at this valley on his journey through South Tipperary and Waterford where he is reported to have converted the King of Munster to Christianity at the Rock of Cashel. St. Patrick’s Well is reported to have many curative properties in local belief and folklore. Drinking the water from the well may cure ailments like sore lips, sore eyes and other chronic diseases. The water that flows through the well never freezes. The well itself has been enclosed by a circular wall. Standing on a small island in the pool is the small sandstone cross, thought to date back to the 8th century. The cross was moved to its current position it the 1960’s.

Finally we have St. Patrick’s church in Tournafulla.

As one can see the Irish emigrants brought St. Patrick’s memory to many countries and gave him due honour by dedicating churches to him. We also have numerous other churches dedicated to St. Patrick including seminaries in Maynooth, Thurles and Carlow.

The Joys of Spring

The seasons seem to be changing. Long ago, the coldest months of the year were the Winter months, November, December and January but they appear to have moved forward a month with February now being dragged into Winter as well. March is now, in reality, the first month of Spring and I could feel it in the air as I took my walk the other day. Birds were singing at the top of their voices and you could almost see the grass beginning to raise its head.  It brought me back to this time of the year, when I was going to school, and what it meant to us. If we had good weather in March, the first thing we wanted to do was take off our shoes and go  barefoot. When I say “shoes” I don’t mean like shoes today. We had either strong leather boots or wellingtons. The boots were heavy sometimes with steel tips and heels and even rows of nails or “hobnails” as they were called. They were never the right size. They might be hand-me-downs from older siblings or, if you happened to be the eldest like me, they were bought a size or two too big so you could “grow into” them. The wellingtons were much lighter but were very uncomfortable because they caused the feet to sweat a lot. Remember, in those days, we had two pairs of socks; one for Sunday and one for the rest of the week. You can imagine the state they were in on Saturday after being worn all the week. It was the custom to hang them up over the fire when going to bed at night. By morning they would be dry but as stiff as a board and we had to beat them off the hearth stones  to make them soft enough to wear. No wonder then that we wanted to experience the freedom from footwear as soon as possible. As soon as the first bit of fine weather came, the pleading started but our parents were of one word; no going barefoot until the first of April. That didn’t stop us and many pairs of boots and wellingtons were hidden in ditches not far from the house to be put on again returning from school.

One big sporting event took over all our attention towards the end of the month –  the Grand National. It doesn’t appear to have the same following now but back then it was the topic of conversation for weeks before the race. Everyone had their own fancy and tipsters were much sought after. They were in abundance and whether they knew anything or not , they gave a good impression of fellows with the “inside track”.  Almost everyone had a bet of a shilling or two on the race, some people backing more than one runner in the hope of having the winner. Postmen were busy taking bets to the local bookies. This was in the days before TV so we all gathered round the nearest radio to hear the big race. There were many commentators but two names stand out, the great Peter O’Sullivan and our own Micheál O’Hehir. They brought the race to life for us describing the tussle between horses, one now leading and then another until the final furlong when the excitement was fever pitch. You could hear the sound of the hooves on the ground and it was as if you were there at the rail at the finish. My mother had a dream one night before a running of the National in which she thought Pat Taffe was eating dinner with us. He said to her as he was leaving “these are quare times”. She told us about it in the morning. Now she hadn’t a clue about horses but I knew that Pat Taffe was riding a horse in the National called Quare Times. I told her to put a few bob on him but my father persuaded her that he had no hope and to keep her money. Sure enough, Quare Times won the race and my father had to keep out of the way for a while as my mother was fit to kill him. I managed to have sixpence each way on him though and was grateful for her dreaming the night before.

As I was writing this piece I heard of the death of Bishop Eamon Casey at the age of 89 in Co. Clare. I first met him in England where he was, without doubt, one of the very best priests looking after the Irish emigrants in London. I really got to know him later on when I returned from England. When I was president of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí  Éireann, in the ‘seventies, Eamon Casey was Bishop of Kerry and was also President of the movement in Kerry. In those days, most branches had the annual “social” and of course the Bishop and myself were invited. Myself and Noreen were usually seated beside him. He was one of the most charismatic men I have ever met with boundless energy and a zest for life that was overpowering. He had great compassion and cared for the poor and less well off in society. He loved music and entertainment and was often the first to start the sing-song. That he was held in such high esteem made his fall from grace so much more dramatic when the news of his affair with Annie Murphy became known and the fact that he had a son by the liaison.  His “sin”, falling in love with a woman, was a natural one for any man and, if we knew the horrors that were coming down the line, maybe we wouldn’t have been so fast to condemn him. He wasn’t the first cleric to father a child and he won’t be the last. The pity is that we lost a great spiritual leader who, I am convinced, would have gone on to  do great things. For me, I will remember the man I knew and became friends with  long ago. May he rest in peace

Domhnall de Barra