Article from the Grange Parish Book suggested for reading this week (week 38)
Bishop Patrick O'Neill (Bishop of Limerick 1945 - 1958)
The book article on Bishop Patrick O'Neill was written by Mike Barry. Mike had good reason to take an interest in the life of Patrick O'Neill, as will become apparent from what follows here and from the article itself. Patrick's life was, indeed, a remarkable one.
Patrick O'Neill is remembered as the Bishop of Limerick (1945 - 1958) and for his prowess at Gaelic games, athletics and horsemanship.
The following are extracts from Mike Barry's article, which, hopefully, will encourage you to read his full article. Mike drew extensively from the Limerick Leader archives.
Patrick O’Neill was born in Grange, on the Fedamore side of the bridge just over the Camogue River, in what most Grange dwellers of modern times refer to as “Tony Barry’s house”. The same Barry/O’Neill house was the scene of the Grange Ambush in November 1920, and the house was heavily raked with machine gun fire from an armoured car which had advanced to the bridge just 100 yards away. Patrick, aged 29 at that time, was not in the house during the ambush, having received his ordination as a priest some five years previously, he was based in Maynooth during that occasion.
Shortly after his ordination in June 1915, Patrick returned to Maynooth to study for a Doctorate in Divinity. He was appointed to the staff of Maynooth and held the post of Professor of Moral Theology before becoming vice-president of the college in 1936. He became PP Bruff and St Munchin’s before he was appointed bishop on 15th December 1945. His consecration followed on 24th February 1946. The now Bishop O’Neill prepared the ground for the development of St Munchin’s College and moved to the bishop’s residence at Kilmoyle. Despite being a shy person, he was the driving force behind a great deal of diocesan work. He died suddenly in Kilmoyle on 26th March 1958 and is buried in the priests’ plot at Mount St Lawrence Cemetery.
The funeral of Bishop O’Neill was one of the largest ever seen in the county of Limerick, attended by thousands of mourners. The funeral ceremony itself at St John’s Cathedral was a ‘ticket only’ affair. The enormity of the event was an obvious testimony to the respect in which Bishop O’Neill was held and also a reflection of the Ireland of that era. The President, Sean T. O’Kelly, attended as did the Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera. Hundreds of fellow religious were in attendance in addition to representatives of the Irish Army, many other institutions and thousands of ordinary members of the public. It is recorded that the Papal Nuncio, His Excellency, Most Rev Dr Levame, vested in full robes, attracted widespread interest.
In his younger days, Patrick O’Neill was a renowned Fedamore hurler and athlete. He also had a great love of horse riding and regularly hunted with the Ward Hounds. The great Kilkenny-born sports journalist, Seamus O’Ceallaigh, who spent most of his life in Limerick, wrote an article in the week following his funeral on the sporting exploits of the younger days of Bishop O’Neill.
“When the Crozier fell from the lifeless grasp of a great Bishop of Limerick, the late Most Rev Patrick O’Neill, DD, there passed to his heavenly reward not only a great scholar and Churchman but a patriotic Irishman, who brought honour and renown to his native Limerick on hurling and athletic fields in days that cannot come again." [O'Ceallaigh]
“When Ireland’s national colours appeared at the Vatican for the first time, at the Beatification of Blessed Oliver Plunkett, they were presented by the then Dr O’Neill. At that time, the colours were banned in Ireland. At the ceremony of Beatification, the traditional bouquet, consisting of a beautiful arrangement of green, white and orange specially selected flowers, was presented." [O'Ceallaigh]
“Turning away from the graveside at Mt St Lawrence last Saturday, I met a pair of great Fedamore and Limerick hurlers – Willie Gleeson and Paddy Clohessy. The latter reminded me of a photograph in my possession of the 1912 Fedamore team, winners of the Murphy Cup and Medals, Infirmary and Band Challenge Cups, and Lyons Memorial Medals." [O'Ceallaigh]
“Dr O’Neill, too, was a noted athlete. His peak season was 1913 when he won the 120 yards Hurdles Championship at the Markets Field and followed this up by taking the All-Ireland title at the GAA Championships held at Mallow on July 20th, his time on this occasion 16 4/5th seconds. At the same meeting, he was second in the long jump, his distance 21 feet 4 inches. Other Limerick successes at that same championships were recorded by Jim Fahy, Michael O’Brien, John O’Grady and Tim Leahy." [O'Ceallaigh]
“Dr O’Neill had another great interest as well – a love of horses, and he spent many pleasant days hunting, mainly with the Ward Hounds. A fearless horseman, he had the reputation of finishing on a few occasions alone with the hounds. On one such day, he was the only member of the hunt to jump a broad river and be with the hounds to the end of the trail." [O'Ceallaigh]
Next week (week 39) we will suggest another book article for reading.
Kind Regards to All.
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