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Mary Cassin

Building began on the Parish Church in Tullaherin about 1840. Prior to this, Mass was celebrated in a Mass House in Lawlor's field behind Denieffe's house. At that time the Parish formed part of Thomastown Parish and the last P.P. of the combined parish of Thomastown and Tullaherin was Rev. Laurence Murphy who was a brother of Dr. Myles Murphy, Bishop of Ferns, and nephew of Fr. Michael Murphy of 1798 fame. After Fr. Murphy's death in 1847 the parish was divided and Tullaherin became a separate entity. At this stage Tullaherin did not include the Chapel of Bennettsbridge or that area of the parish north of the Gowran Road. These were added from Danesfort in 1857 to form the parish as we know it today.

Rev. John Phelan: 1847 – 1872. In 1847 Fr. Phelan was appointed P.P. of the newly formed parish. He was born in Lisdowney in 1797. He studied at Burrell's Hall, Kilkenny and was ordained in 1826. Having served firstly in Co. Care he returned to Ossory in 1829 as C.C. in Rosbercon and afterwards in Muckalee, Danesfort and Mooncoin before coming to Tullaherin. He died in 1872 and is buried inside the parish church where a monument was erected to his memory. This was removed from the church some years ago during renovations.

Rev. John Knaresborough: 1872 - 1882. The Knaresboroughs were once one of the great civic families of Kilkenny viz. 'Archdekin. Archer, Cowley, Langton, Ley, Knaresborough, Lawless, Ragget, Rothe and Shee.'

Fr. Knaresborough was born at Dunmore near Kilkenny in 1808. He studied at St. Kieran's College and after his ordination he ministered in the West Indies, where he was Vicar General of the island of Demerara. He returned to Ossory in 1850 as C.C. Tullaherin. He was appointed C.C. Danesfort in 1863 but returned to Tullaherin in 1872 as P.P. He died in February 1882 and is also buried inside the Parish Church. His gravestone was either removed or covered over when the chapel was being re-floored in the 1950's.

Rev. Edward Rowan: 1882 – 1883. Fr. Rowan was born in High Street, Kilkenny in 1823. After his studies in St. Kieran's he was ordained in March 1847. He was first appointed C.C. St. Mary's Parish. He became P.P Tullaherin in 1882 but resigned a year later to join a religious order in Belgium. He died in Paris in 1892.

Rev. James Holohan: 1883 – 1888. Fr. Holohan served as P.P. Tullaherin for five years after his appointment and was transferred to Rosbercon as P.P. in 1888, where he ministered for many years afterwards.

Rev. Peter Nolan: 1888 – 1895. Fr. Nolan was transferred to Inistioge in 1895.

Rev. James Conway: 1895 – 1908. Fr. Conway was born in Kilmacow and educated at St. Patrick's College Carlow. He was C.C. in Castlecomer and later Cuffesgrange before coming to Tullaherin as P.P. in 1895. He died in October 1908 after a short ilness.

Rev. William Connolly: 1908 – 1919. Fr. Connolly was also a native of Kilmacow. Having studied at St. Kieran's College, he was ordained in 1880. He served as C.C. in Castletown, Ballyhale, Gathabawn and Windgap before coming to Tullaherin as C.C. in 1908. Shortly afterwards, on the death of Fr. Conway, he was appointed P.P.

He was actively involved with his parishioners in a dispute which arose in 1916 between the landlord, Mr. Davis of Dangan and Summerhill and eighteen of his tenants. At this time all the other tenants of the area had been granted purchase of their holdings by their landlords but Mr. Davis would not grant the same to his, refusing at one point to even meet them. A committee was formed locally of which Fr. Connolly was the chairman. He led many delegations to fight their case - he even addressed a meeting of Kilkenny Co. Council on their behalf in 1917. In December 1917 a meeting was held in Bishopslough (where Lennon's sheds are now) which was attended by a crowd, estimated by the papers at 10,000, which included the editors of 'The Kerryman, Kilkenny Journal and Kilkenny People.' Fr. Connolly introduced the main speakers, William T. Cosgrave M.P. and Laurence Grinell M.P., both of whom spoke at length and pledged their support for the tenant's cause.

Fr. Connolly, however, did not see this dispute to its conclusion, as he died on 13th May 1919 and is buried in Tullaherin.

Rev. Cornelius McNamara: 1919 – 1922. Fr. McNamara, a native of Windgap and former President of St. Kieran's College, was appointed P.P. Tullaherin (From St. Kieran's) in succession to Fr. Connolly. He too became involved in the protracted dispute with Mr. Davis. Although he admitted he knew little about the sale and purchase of land, he nevertheless devised a scheme which finally solved the Tullaherin land dispute in the Autumn of 1920. So successful was his plan that it was eventually adopted in most parts of Ireland as a means of solving the unpurchased land problem.

Fr. McNamara was also responsible during his short stay in Tullaherin, for considerable renovation to the Church and parochial house, including the installation of the stained-glass windows. The house was by this time in such a poor state of repair that the priests were forced to live in the houses of their parishioners for a period. To raise funds for repairs, Fr. McNamara ran a Parish Bazaar, which was a novel idea at the time. The Bazaar is still remembered by the older people of the parish and was an outstanding success.

Fr. McNamara was made Canon and transferred to Castlecomer in October 1922.

Rev. Jeremiah Drennan: 1922 – 1946. Fr. Drennan was born in Conway Hall, Kells in January 1863. He was brother of John Drennan who presented the first set of black-and-amber jerseys to the Kilkenny hurling team. He was educated at St. Kieran's College where he was an outstanding student. He continued his studies at Maynooth and was ordained on June 24th 1888. From 1888-1890 he was professor at Kilmacow College School and the principal of Johnstown College School from 1890-1893, after which he was appointed ADM. Seir Kieran. In 1922 he was appointed P.P. Tullaherin. In 1926 he became a Canon of the Diocesan Chapter and 11 years later Precentor. In 1936 he was appointed Canon Theologian and in 1943 he succeeded Rt. Rev. Monsignor Cavanagh as Archdeacon of Ossory.

During his 24 years in Tullaherin he contributed immensely towards the relief of poverty and distress and was closely associated with all the charitable organisations in the parish. He was also founder of the Bennettsbridge Coal and Boot Fund. He was a staunch nationalist and a fluent Irish speaker. He took a keen interest in the movement for the revival of the Irish language. He was interested too in gaelic games; schools hurling and the Kilfane Handball Club in particular. He was a strong temperance advocate. He was also president of the National Benefit Insurance Society of Ossory from 1926-1934, during which time the various national health insurance societies of the County amalgamated.

In addition to all of these he was a historian of note and spent much of his spare time wandering around the antiquities of Tullaherin. When the present graveyard was being levelled in 1938 he noted in the graveyard register 'that judging by the immense amount of stones, including hearth flags, found it would seem to have been the site of a village in former times.' He also discovered a stone inscribed with a 'Marigold Cross' (i.e. an early Christian Burial stone). This has since disappeared [and subsequently relocated, see 'Tullaherin' article]. Unfortunately all Canon Drennan's papers were destroyed after his death and so his vast historical knowledge was lost to the parish.

When he died on July 19th 1946 he was the oldest serving priest in the Diocese. On his death Paddy Jackman wrote the following lines in his memory.

And now he is quietly sleeping
Where the palm trees gently wave,
And the round tower throws it's shadow
Across that hallowed grave.
In a lonely country churchyard
He is sleeping now content,
With the tower of Tullaherin
For a lasting monument.

Rev. Cornelius Bergin: 1946 – 1953. Fr. Bergin was born in Levally, Co. Galway in 1889. He studied at St. Kieran's and was ordained in June 1914. He was first appointed curate in Borris-in-Ossory and in 1937 became ADM. Seir Kieran. He was appointed P.P. Tullaherin in 1946. During his time in the parish he founded a Branch of the Legion of Mary. He died suddenly in his garden on December 16th 1953 and is buried in Tullaherin.

Rev. Patrick Nolan: 1954 – 1961. Fr. Nolan was born at Templemartin, Clara. After his studies at St. Kieran's he was ordained in 1915. He served firstly in Hexham and Newcastle and on returning to Ossory he served as C.C. in Windgap, Danesfort and Ballyhale. In 1947 he was appointed PP. Clogh and was transferred to Tullaherin in 1954. He died on May 6th 1961 after a long illness.

Rev. Patrick Corcoran: 1961 – 1965. During Fr. Nolan's illness Fr. Corcoran was ADM. and on his death was appointed P.P. He was born at Clodiagh, Inistioge. Having completed his studies at St. Kierans he was ordained on August 14th 1921. He ministered firstly in Liverpool and was recalled to Ossory in 1931 to serve in the parish of Clontubrid and afterwards in Ballyhale and Windgap before coming to Tullaherin in 1960. He died on May 25th 1965.

Rev. Thomas Greene: 1965 – 1971. Fr. Greene was born in Grennan, Thomastown in 1885. He was educated at St. Kieran's where he was ordained in 1910. After his ordination he served for ten years in Newcastle-on-Tyne before returning to Castlecomer as C.C. He was afterwards C.C. in Kilmacow, Rosbercon, Callan, Windgap and Mooncoin before his appointment as P.P. of Tullaherin in 1965. He quickly became a familiar figure in the parish, when although 80 years old, he pedalled his bicycle around daily visiting the houses of his parishioners. He was appointed Canon in 1968 by Bishop Birch. The new church in Bennettsbridge stands as a lasting monument to his ministry in the parish. He died on March 15th 1971 at the age of 86, having served the church for 61 years.

Rev. James Murphy: 1971 – 1981. Fr. Murphy, who was C.C. at the time of Canon Greene's death, was then appointed P.P. He was born in Mucklee and educated at the local National School where his mother was a teacher. He continued his education at St. Kieran's College and studied for the Priesthood at Maynooth where he was ordained in 1939. He served in Hexham and Newcastle for 4 years before returning to Ossory to become C.C. in Urlingford and later in Clara and Glenmore. During his time in Clara he was professor of classics in St. Kieran's. He came to Tullaherin as C.C. in 1961. Under his guidance St. Bennet's Hall was built with voluntary labour. He also gave invaluable assistance to Canon Greene when the new church in Bennettsbridge was being built. During his own time as P.P. he was responsible for renovating the church in Tullaherin and for building a new parochial house. He was closely involved with the Bennettsbridge Festival which for many years was a great fund-raising event in the parish.

Fr. Murphy was a founder member of the Ossory Adoption Society and was also a member of the Cursillio movement which sought to involve lay people more in the affairs of the Church. After a period of poor health he died on October 21st 1981.

Rev. Patrick Bergin: 1981. On the death of Fr. Murphy Rev. Patrick Bergin, a native of Freshford was appointed P.P. He was educated at St. Kieran's and Maynooth where he was ordained in 1946. He taught in St. Kieran's from 1947-1961 and was bursar there for many years. He served in Danesfort, Urlingford and Erril before his appointment to Tullaherin in 1981. Under his care and that of his curate Fr. James Murphy who is a member of the Ossory catechetical team and is also closely associated with the lay fraternity movement, the parish continues to prosper.

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The following is a list of the Curates who served in the parish, from its foundation to the present day

James Corr 1847 -1849  
John Quaney 1849 -1856  
John Knaresborough 1856 -1863  
T. Delahunty 1863 -1867  
John McGrath 1869 -1872  
William O'Keeffe 1872 -1877  
Richard O'Keeffe 1877  
J. Heneberry 1878  
M. Delaney 1880  
K. Fitzpatrick 1880  
James Holohan 1883 Later P.P.
Michael Cody 1886  
Michael Rowe 1886  
P. Walsh 1895  
William Connolly 1908 Later P.P.
A. Lowry 1915  
James Carrigan 1916  
Patrick Healy 1933  
Noel Sandvoss 1943-1946 RIP 5.3.1956
P. Nugent 1946-1960  
Ed. Rhatigan 1959-1961  
Patrick Corcoran 1960 Later P.P.
James Murphy 1961 Later P.P.
Patrick Comerford 1971 -1974  
Patrick O'Farrell 1974 -1976  
John Hynes 1976 -1978  
Jerry Joyce 1978 -1983  
James O'Dwyer 1983 -1984  
James Murphy 1984  


Fr. James Mottley: Fr. Mottley was born in Kilfane. He was P.P. of Kilmacow and Mullinavat in 1748 when he was authorised by the Archbishop of Dublin to mediate in a dispute between the parish priests of Danesfort and Kilmanagh. There is a chalice which bears his name in Mooncoin Chapel. He died in 1756 in Upper Kilmacow. On the day he was to be buried a number of people came from Kilfane to bring his remains back to the burial plot. The people of Kilmacow, however, were determined that he should be buried in Kilmacow and it is said that a fierce fight took place between the two parties to decide possession of the corpse in which the horses drawing the hearse were reputedly killed. In the end the Kilmacow people had their way and Fr. Mottley was buried in the graveyard at Lower Kilmacow. The night before the burial his sisters composed his 'Caoine', which is still preserved in St. Kieran's College Library. Part of this 'caoine' or elegy is as follows:-

Get up, get your splendid bridle and saddle
Come home to Kilfane with myself
Where you will be welcome in your Father's residence
Where Peggy and Mary lived in their childhood.
And to your dear mother who suckled you as a baby
And lost plenty of gold for your fluent tongue.
Fr. James you are my own, for you I am sorry
We will watch you tonight as we did last night
And tomorrow my bright lock if possible
Until a great many people will come to visit you
Who will bring you home my dear love and no thanks to anyone.

There is still a small, square gravestone lying on the ground in the old chapel in Kilfane inscribed as follows:- 'Here lyeth ye body of Margaret Mottley alias Jones who died March ye 3rd 1735.' Carrigan says that it is thought that Fr. Mottley's maternal uncle was a protestant clergyman.

The Forristals of Ballyreddin: Fr. Michael Forristal was born in Ballyreddin in 1764 and in 1784 left for France to continue his ecclesiastical studies at St. Omer. After his ordination in 1790 he was appointed C.C. Inistioge in 1792. In 1794 he was transferred to St. Canices and in 1806 to Callan where he became P.P. Shortly after this he became a Canon of the Diocese. He died in 1820 and is buried in Kilbride Cemetery.

For some years prior to his death Fr. Forristal was assisted by his brother Fr. Philip Forristal O.S.F. who was born in 1758 and ordained for the Franciscans in 1786. He was appointed Guardian of the Franciscan Abbey in Kilkenny in 1787. When he died in 1829 he was the last Franciscan in the Diocese of Ossory. He is buried in Maudlin St. graveyard.

Fr. Philip Forristal (nephew of Michael and Philip above) was born in 1793 also in Ballyreddin. He studied in Maudlin Street and Birchfield before his ordination about 1819. He was C.C. Durrow and Galmoy before his transfer to the Rower in 1828 where he died on April 11th 1831. He is buried in Ennisnag.

Dean Michael Barry: Fr. Michael Barry was born in Sugarstown in 1854. He was an outstanding student and went directly from National School to St. Kieran's Seminary where he was ordained in 1877. He taught in the College for a number of years before becoming President in 1885. In 1894 he was appointed P.P. in Ballyragget. He was keenly interested in the Co-op movement and during his time in Ballyragget he set up a Co-op store in 1900 and a Co-op bank in 1901. In 1905 he formed the North Kilkenny Poultry Society for which he was specially commended by Horace Plunkett. He died on November 23rd 1926 and was buried in Ballyragget.

Bishop William Hayden: William Hayden was born in Bishopslough in 1868. He was educated at St. Kieran's College and later at the Propaganda College in Rome where he was ordained in 1891. He then went to Australia at the invitation of Cardinal Moran of Sydney (former Bishop of Ossory) where he served for a number of years in the parish of Burwood. On the creation of the new parish of Dulwich Hill he moved there to become its first P.P. In 1918 he was consecrated Bishop of Wilcannie Forbes NSW, a diocese in the desert area of Eastern Australia. He was keenly interested in Irish affairs and returned home several times. In September 1920 he received the Freedom of the City of Kilkenny.

In 1930 he was appointed Archbishop of Hobart, Tasmania, one of the most historic diocese in Australasia. He died there on 2nd October 1936 at the age of 68.

Fr. Thomas Hayden: Fr. Hayden was brother of Bishop Hayden and was also born in Bishopslough, on November 16th 1864. He was educated at St. Kieran's and at the Propaganda College in Rome and was ordained in 1889. He ministered in Australia and was President of St. Patrick's College, Manley, before becoming P.P. of Balmain, Sydney.

Five girls of the Hayden family also entered religion. Two of these, Elizabeth -Sr. Stanislaus and Mary Agnes - Sr. Borgia were pioneers of the Brigidine Order in Australia in the 1880's. A third, Ann Marie - Sr. Gonzaga, born in 1866, entered the Mercy Order and when she died in 1971 she was Ireland's oldest nun - in her 105th year and the 88th of her religious life.

Rev. John Walsh - Kilbline. Born 1863 Died 1933. Ordained in St. Kieran's 1887, he served in Conahy, Ballyragget and Durrow as well as being Chaplain in Castletown. He retired in 1921 and died in 1933 and is buried in Tullaherin.

Canon Edward O'Keeffe - Castlefield. The ruins of the house where Canon O'Keeffe was born in December 1870 are on Mullin's land. He was ordained in 1895 and became P.P. Dunamaggin in 1922 and later Canon and he died there in his 97th year in October 1967.

Rev. Thomas Drea - Blackwell. Thomas Drea was born in 1897 and ordained in Maynooth in 1914. He served for six years in the House of Missions Enniscorthy (from whence Dr. Brownrigg came to be Bishop of Ossory in 1884). He served in Castletown, Galmoy and Ballyragget and was P.P. of Danesfort from 1947-1960 when he was transferred as P.P. to Lisdowney where he died in 1964.

Rev. Michael Drea - Blackwell. Michael Drea was born in 1886 and ordained in Maynooth in 1911. He served on the English Mission and returned as C.C. St. Canices and then Clogh and was ADM. St. Patricks before being appointed P.P Mooncoin in 1946. He died there in 1962.

Rev. John Joe Reidy. John Joe Reidy was born in Bennettsbridge where both his parents were teachers in the National School. He was ordained in St. Kieran's in 1941 and went to Hexham and Newcastle Diocese for 4 years. He was Junior Dean in St. Kieran's from 1946-1951 and later served in Dunamaggin, Mooncoin and Rosbercon. He was appointed P.P. Camross in 1975 and died there in 1977.

Rev. Thomas McEvoy - Ballyreddin. Thomas McEvoy was ordained in St. Kieran's in 1935 for the Diocese of Lismore, Australia. He is now retired and living in Australia.

Rev. John Murphy - Barronsland. John Murphy was ordained in Mount Mellery in 1945 and is now a member of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers serving in Liverpool.

Rev. Frank O'Gorman - Woollengrange. Frank O'Gorman was ordained in St. Kieran's in 1951 for the Diocese of Lismore, Australia where he is now serving in Millumba N.S.W.

Rev. Daniel O'Gorman - Woollengrange. Daniel O'Gorman was ordained in Dalgan Park in 1956 for the Columban Foreign Missions and has spent the last thirty years ministering in Korea.

Rev. Andrew Cassin - Bishopslough. Andrew Cassin was ordained in St. Kieran's in 1954 for the Diocese of Washington DC. U.S.A. and is presently serving in Leonardstown in that Diocese.

Monsignor Edward Norris - Woollengrange. Edward Norris was ordained in 1955 in St. Kieran's for the Diocese of Seattle U.S.A. where he is now serving in St. Ann's Parish.

Monsignor Eamonn Lyng - Bennettsbridge. Monsignor Lyng, whose late father was the Principal of Bennettsbridge National School, was ordained in St, Kieran's in 1958 for the Diocese of San Diego U.S.A. where he was appointed Monsignor in 1984.

Rev. Leo Norris - Woollengrange. Leo Norris was ordained in St, Kieran's in 1966 and served in Rathdowney, Mooncoin and St. Mary's. In 1979 he went to California.

Rev. David Gaffney S.J. - Kilfane. David Gaffney was ordained in Milltown in 1971 and is now serving in Jesuit House North Circular Rd. Dublin. The house where he was born - the pub at Kilfane - a landmark in the locality for many years, was demolished for road widening in 1985.

Rev. Richard Marnell – Rathcusack. Although not born in this parish, Rev. Richard Marnell, St. Patricks, has the distinction of being the first priest ordained within the parish. He was ordained by Bishop Laurence Forristal in St. Bennetts Church Bennettsbridge on 7th June 1983.

In the Shadow of the Steeple No. 1