Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

(Ad maiorem Dei gloriam)
The Glories of Graigue

St. Clare’s Roman Catholic Church, Graiguecullen
Image taken by Tom LaPorte
The Glories of Graiguecullen
Meanderings in the Parish
By Rose Madder

Page 1


The parish of Killeshin, of which Graiguecullen is the most populous centre, boasted of nine Catholic Schools in the year 1824. One of these was a classical school, and another, a private boarding school for boys conducted in the mansion now known as Everton House.

There is no need to dwell here on the difficulties and poverty of teachers and pupils in that dark period before the emancipation bill became law — its history is familiar to all. Suffice it to say that the number of schools is an indication that education was sought after in the parish.
It is noteworthy, too, that the buildings used as school, according to the diocesan records, were, with the exception of one, substantial stone buildings, in happy contrast with the mud cabins, lean-to sheds, and cow houses which did duty in many other parishes.
The diocesan records relating to this period, giving particulars of the number of schools, pupils, records and qualification of the teachers, the subjects taught and the textbooks used are contained in Dr. Brenan’s recent authoritative work on the subject “The Schools of Kildare and Leighlin.”
Many progressive steps have been taken since 1824, but, in too many places throughout the country the schools are still dismal and unhygienic buildings unfit for the needs of the present generation.
This, alas, is too true a description of the schools at present existing in Graiguecullen, and it is with the object of helping the fund now being raised to remedy this state of affairs that this booklet is presented to the public.

December, 1937.


Known for many a year as Carlow-Graigue the people of this little townlet of Leix, a couple of decades ago, to testify their loyalty and undying regard for a well loved pastor changed its name to Graiguecullen.
Father Hugh Cullen was the priest thus honoured and his memory is still kept green in the hearts of the Graigue people as well as in the name of their village.
Hugh Cullen: Married Edith or Ellen Chamberlain, having three sons and four daughters:
Gerald Cullen, who went to the US;
Edmond Cullen, who married into the Kehoe family and died 1914.
Rev Hugh Cullen (1863 - 1917), PP Carlow-Graigue;
Mary Cullen, who married John Barry, having seven children;
Fanny Cullen, who died 14 Jul 1929;
Ellen Cullen, who died in 1915;
Kathleen Cullen, who was a nun in Co Mayo and died in 1921.
  • Lying in the deep valley of the Barrow it is geographically situated in Leix but for the sake of convenience it has been incorporated within the Carlow Urban Area and shares in the amenities of that town.
    In sporting fields, however, it is loyal to the County of the O’Moores and the Graigue men have proved themselves to be no mean asset to the Leix hurling and football teams.
    In the past the lot of those residing in the streets adjacent to the river has been y no means pleasant during a wet season.
    The river Barrow often overflowed its banks and, in the case of those whose dwellings were only a single storey in height, flight was the only remedy.
    Happily, progress has made a difference here. Improvements were effected by the Barrow Drainage, and under an extensive housing scheme, upwards of one hundred and twenty commodious well built sanitary dwellings have been erected, each with a garden attached, and into these, the inhabitants of the flooded areas have been transferred.
    The old type of dwelling still exists in a few streets, but very soon, it is hoped, these, too, will disappear, and modern houses for all will take their places.
    The old church in Maryborough street which served Graiguecullen for may a year, has been superseded by a handsome Gothic building, the romantic story of which will be told in a later chapter.
    This new church adjoins the convent of Poor Clare Colletines, and the foundation stone was laid on Ascension Thursday, 1928, by Most Rev. Dr. Cullen, of happy memory, and this same prelate opened and dedicated it to St. Clare, in October the following year.
    The Very Rev. James Fogarty, P.P., Portarlington, was then in charge of the parish of Graiguecullen and his name will be ever inseparably associated with Saint Clare’s.
    He was transferred to Portarlington in December, 1936, and had then accomplished a good deal in the way of embellishing the interior of the Church.
    The sanctuary is exceptionally beautiful. The high altar of pure white marble, with tall gleaming candlesticks and crucifix of silver, stands out in relief against a back-ground of light vari-coloured marbles inset with rich red panels of Tunisian marble. The two side altars have mosaic panels of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady to relieve their whiteness, and a magnificent marble altar rail encloses the sanctuary.
    Within the rails on the Epistle Side is the Grille, behind which the community of Poor Clares assemble to hear Mass and receive Holy Communion.
    On the wall of the transept at this side is a replica of a Monstrance set in a marble shrine. This marks the position of the actual Monstrance on the Altar in the Nuns Chapel. Where Our Lord is enthroned, and where the faithful daughters of Saint Clare engage in Perpetual Adoration.
    A strikingly devotional Way of the Cross in marble, adorns the walls of the church. Outside, to the left of the main door, is a plot where the bodies of four former parish priests are now laid to rest. A simple granite stone records their names.

    The Wheels of Time
    Political Opponent’s Victory
    Memorial Shelters Patriot Priest’s Grave
  • [Originally Published in “The Irish Catholic.”]

    A most unusual scene took place at Graiguecullen, Carlow, on the evening of Thursday, July 8, 1937, when the bodies of four former parish priests of that place were removed from their resting place in the precincts of the old church, and borne in oak coffins remained for the night in St. Clare’s Church.

    On the following morning the Bishop of the diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Keogh, presided at the obsequies and gave the final Benediction and recited the prayers over the grave in the grounds of St. Clare’s where the four coffins rest side by side.


    The body of Father James Maher, who died in 1874, was found to be in a wonderful state of preservation. He was a remarkable man, and he is still remembered and revered for his work for his downtrodden fellow-Catholics.
    The following is a brief sketch of his character :—
    On May 24, 1793, James Maher was born at Donore, Co. Carlow. Whilst he was still an infant his parents removed to Kilrush, Co. Kildare, and in this county the youth grew up, receiving his elementary education at a Quaker school in Ballytore. From there he entered Carlow College, and in 1816 he went to Rome, where he was ordained in 1821. Returning home, he laboured for six years in Carlow and Kildare, and from the former town he went to take charge of the parish of Leighlinbridge in 1827.
    In three years’ time he was translated to the more important combined parish of Paulstown and Goresbridge.
    During his sojourn in Carlow he had come immediately under the eye of the great “J.K.L.,” and that wise and holy prelate soon appraised the merit and fine qualities of the young curate at their true worth, and so it is not surprising to find, in 1833, Dr. Doyle expressing a wish to Father Maher that he should return to Carlow.
    Dr. Doyle was aware at the time of the seriousness of his malady, and felt his strength failing, so Father Maher resigned his parish and took up residence in Braganza, the unpretentious palace of the prelate.
    Kindred souls, they had the welfare of their Catholic people at heart, and when “J.K.L.” passed to his eternal reward in 1834, Father Maher took up the pen and fought the battle of Catholicism and the poverty-stricken in the tradition of his patron.
    A collection of his letters was published shortly after his death, edited by Dr. [afterwards Cardinal] Moran, who was at the time Bishop of Ossory. This great friends, who was destined to be Archbishop of Sydney, also wrote a foreword to the collection.
    Subsequent to Dr. Doyle’s death Father Maher acted as Administrator in Carlow, and later joined the professorial staff of Carlow College. He was appointed parish priest of Killeshin, of which Graigue forms portion, 9n 1841.
    This year was a historic one on account of the memorable election fought in Carlow between “young” Dan O’Connell, son of the Liberator, and Colonel Bruen, a Protestant landowner.
    Father Maher, at the head of his people, threw himself wholeheartedly into the fray. Described as having a rugged nobility of features and a voice clarion clear, he was everywhere, coaxing, cajoling, entreating, commanding. The weak-kneed and the recalcitrants quaked in his presence.
    The great man himself was there, and thousands thronged to hear the fiery eloquence of O’Connell, but, to Carlow’s lasting shame, it was in vain, and Col. Bruen was returned by the narrow margin of nine votes.
    It was a sad disappointment and well night broke the heart of Father Maher. He had a severe illness, and on recovering was granted two years’ leave of absence to recuperate. This he spent in Rome. He had not long resumed his official duties when the sorrow and hunger of ’47 was on the land and his heart bled for his people. He gave away practically all he possessed, and one story of his charitableness which occurred about this time and is still related in the humble home of Graigue may be repeated here.
    Father Pat Maher was a cousin to Father James and at the time of the following incident was acting as his curate. An ill-clad, shivering wretch presented himself to the priest, begging for clothing. Father James had but the coat he was wearing, but Father Pat possessed an overcoat and this was hanging in the hall.
    Unable to refuse a plea that was obviously genuine, Father James forthwith wrapped the miserable creature in the coat, and the latter went his way calling down blessings on his benefactor.
    Poor Father Pat ! The taking of his overcoat was the last straw, and when he discovered his loss he fled to the Bishop begging for a transfer, which the Bishop, very human and very humane, granted. Father Pat, with the remnant of his wardrobe, went as curate to Kildare, to return to Graigue as P.P. on the death of his cousin, and after five years to share his grave. He died in 1879.
    Returning to Father Maher. The President of Carlow College, realising how the holy priest neglected himself in the cause of charity, offered him the hospitality of the college and he lived there for some years, beloved and reverenced alike by staff and students.
    On Holy Thursday, April 2, 1874, the aged priest was called to his eternal reward. Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral, Carlow, by his friend, Dr. Moran. His Eminence Cardinal Paul Cullen was present, and the Bishop of the diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Walsh, and Dr. Lynch, his coadjutor. Two hundred priests were in the choir, and a huge congregation overflowed the church. Accompanied by these, the remains were brought to Graigue church, and on the Gospel side of the High Altar laid to rest.
    His cousin, as I have said, later shared his grave, and two other priests — namesakes also — were also interred within the precincts of the church. The first of these, Father Daniel Byrne, succeeded Father Pat Maher as pastor in Graigue, and died in 1897. Father George Byrne was his successor, and he was buried in 1909.


    This article would not be complete without a reference to the church where the four rested for the brief space of a night. In 1841 the supporters of Col. Bruen, elated by the success of their candidate, decided to erect a memorial to perpetuate the victory. This memorial took the form of a church, a gem of Gothic art, erected on part of the Bruen estate.
    There it stood for eighty years, for the latter part of which it was an empty shell, the parish church of the town being more than ample for the needs of the Protestant congregation. The graceful spire of the church was plainly visible to the Poor Clares in their convent across the water.
    The Mother Abbess, learning that it was unused, mobilised her spiritual forces and stormed heaven for its purchase and transfer to a site adjoining the convent, for use as a parish church. At length her bullets, as she termed her “Aves,” won the day and in 1927 the church was purchased by the then parish priest [Father Fogarty] for re-erection in Graigue.
    Eight years ago it was completed and dedicated to Divine worship, and under its shadow the remains of Father James Maher and his three successors in the pastoral charge of Graigue now rest.
    Graigue has ever revered its pastors and perpetuates the memory of one in its very name, for it is now known as Graiguecullen in honour of the priest who came after Father Geo. Byrne — Father Hugh Cullen.
    What a splendid demonstration of love and loyalty to our Holy Faith and to God’s anointed ones was evinced by the crowds that followed those four simple coffins from the old church to the new, and what holy rivalry there was, for every man in the parish wanted to help to bear them on his shoulder !

    Source: The Glories of Rose Madder.

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