Westmeath-

3 October –

athlone-castle
Athlone by Richard Lovett, circa 1900

J.G. Conmee. Glanduff, 1902;

‘The Feast of St. Francis was a day of great devotion in the Barony, and fifty years ago it was the custom for a crowd of its good people to gather into the St. Francian Church at Luainford [Athlone] to keep not only the day itself, but even its Vigil.

The whole night before a throng of country people sat up in the little church, and passed the time in the familiar and homely practices of piety then so dear to them. Foremost among these was the Rosary – the decades being “let round” by men or women of recognised social or spiritual superiority – not within a mild contention now and then as to whether it was Pat Ryan’s or Mrs. Murphy’s turn to officiate, or whether the fifth “dicket” had or had not been said.

But when this and other devotions were fulfilled, Johnny McKay would be requested to play a “pious chune in honour of the night that was in it.” This the Barony minstrel, himself a man of much faith and exemplary life, never failed to do, discoursing a “linked sweetness long drawn out,” with a wealth of expression and tremulous pathos that made many of his hearers, as they testifide, “turrible devout.” But even in these days there were not wanting cynics who declared that Johnny could not play a hymn “if you were to kill him,” and that the sacred melody he palmed off on the congregation was nothing else than an adagio rendering of “The Hare in the Corn.”’

Old Times in the Barony

Father John Conmee, 1847-1910, was Rector of Clongowes Wood College when a six year old James Joyce was enrolled  there in 1888. Joyce would later depict Conmee, under his own name, in both Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses.

Advertisements

One thought on “A Vigil for the Feast of Saint Francis in Athlone

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s