William Carleton Society at Sandford Parish Church

William Carleton Society at Sandford Parish Church


The William Carleton Society based in the Clogher Valley and Monaghan came to Dublin to mark the 144th anniversary of the death of the famous 19thC Irish author from County Tyrone. Carleton grew up as a Catholic, but would later convert to Protestantism in the Anglican church. He was the youngest of fourteen children born to a small farmer in  Clogher. Dr Frank Brennan a member of the Executive Committee met us at Castleknock and gave our coach party a guided trip through the city centre, starting with the Phoenix Park with its numerous historical monuments and associations going back hundreds of years. We passed Aras an Uachtaráin, the Polo Grounds, Phoenix Cricket Club, the oldest cricket club in Ireland and Dublin Zoo, also taking in the Wellington monument.  We then travelled along Dublin’s quays, with views of Collins Barracks which I have fond memories of, now part of the National Museum of Ireland. On the other side of the Liffey we saw Heuston station and the HSE Headquarters at what was Dr Steevens’ Hospital, with St Patrick’s Hospital and beside it Guinness’ brewery. We saw the Four Courts and crossed Grattan bridge travelling towards City Hall and what was once the headquarters of the British administration In Ireland, Dublin Castle, now in use for the state’s Presidency of the European Union.

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Reverend Precentor Noel Regan

On then to the two cathedrals, Christ Church where there was a festival on in the grounds and St Patrick’s Cathedral where the Reverend Precentor Noel Regan from St Macartan’s Cathedral in Clogher provided some useful background about the two buildings. We moved on through the former Jewish area and into Ranelagh which developed as a genteel middle class suburb after the Act of Union. At Sandford Church we were addressed by a local teacher, who is a member of the congregation, on the history of Sandford church and its connection with Carleton. Susan Roundtree, an architectural historian, also spoke about the development of 19thC Ranelagh and brught along an old map of the area from 1870, which showed Woodville, a row of houses along the Sandford Road close to the entrance to Milltown Park, where Carleton had spent his final years.

1870 map shows Woodville

1870 map shows Woodville

 The residence at Woodville, (beside the entrance to Milltown Park) is now demolished. In his latter years Carleton was friendly with a Jesuit priest Fr Robert Carbery, who was based at Milltown Park. Brian Earls reminded us that in the last weeks before his death in January 1869, the priest offered through Carleton’s wife Jane to give him the last rites of the Catholic church. In response, in one of his last communications, the author told the Jesuit:

“For half a century & more I have not belonged to the Roman Catholic religion. I am now a Protestant and shall will die such”     (LA15/319 DJ O’Donoghue papers, UCD Archives)

We then went to Mount Jerome cemetery for a short ceremony to commemorate the 144th anniversary of William Carleton’s death, followed by a short tour of the graveyard. We travelled to lunch at O’Briens at Sussex Place, Upper Leeson Street, one of Patrick Kavanagh’s haunts, which as a 1900’s grocery and bar reminded him of Carrickmacross. The journey to lunch took us through two Georgian squares (Fitzwilliam and Merrion) and past Leinster House and Government Buildings. Finally after lunch Frank Brennan brought us into Donnybrook and Ballsbridge, passing the British Embassy, AIB and the Aviva Stadium otherwise known as Lansdowne Road. We passed the Grand Canal Theatre, National Convention Centre, and saw some relics of the Celtic Tiger on our route home. Thanks to all who came and I hope you enjoyed the day.

At grave of William Carleton

At grave of William Carleton

The William Carleton Society is a partner in the Shared History, Shared Future project run by Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council through the EU funded South West Peace III Partnership Programme and this activity is being delivered through it.

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A draw tonight for the Dons but if you are looking for a match report, look further down! I am going to reflect first of all on how my past was catching up with me today, taking in Dublin, Belfast and of course London, where the League Two match was played. I started the day in Dublin and as I began my journey northwards this afternoon, passed Milltown Park, where the Jesuit Provincialate is based. The complex used to be used for the training of Jesuit priests but now many of the buildings are leased. The Irish School of Ecumenics has its headquarters there. I was investigating the story of William Carleton, which I will be writing about on Saturday when we visit Sandford church.

I was on the trail of a Fr John Carbery SJ, who was based at Milltown Park and was in touch with Carleton, a neighbour, before his death in 1869. I was given some helpful information about the Jesuit archives. As I left the building I saw a rugby pitch which is now leased to nearby Gonzaga College, where I went to school for two years. In those days, the school rugby pitches were beside Glenmalure Park, home of Shamrock Rovers FC. I have written about their history and revival at Tallaght here.

Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon

Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon

In conversation with a Jesuit brother, I discussed how the order has decided to withdraw from the Sacred Heart parish in Wimbledon, where I grew up, owing to the shortage of priests. It was during my schooldays at Wimbledon College from 1963 that I started following Wimbledon FC at Plough Lane, then in their last season in the Isthmian League, having won the FA Amateur Cup thanks to Eddie Reynolds.  The following season they entered the Southern League first division as semi-professionals. Tonight as I followed them live on Sky Sports, I was wearing a Wimbledon supporters’ badge dating to the 1974/75 season when they were Southern League champions.

I went to (the) Chelsea to watch the match: my local bar on the Lisburn Road in Belfast. Another London connection! Anyway the televisions were showing some music channel but the bar staff kindly offered to turn over to Sky so that I could see the Dons in action, minus the commentary. I was delighted to see Jack Midson getting the opening score and then making it a double strike thanks to a penalty. His was one of the few recognisable names as the players came out of the tunnel before the kick-off. AFC Wimbledon were then unlucky I thought to concede a goal to Port Vale just before half time, making it 2-1. A lucky bounce on a well-struck drive eluded the keeper Neil Sullivan.

Jack  MIdson

Jack Midson

The second half saw some good chances for AFC Wimbledon including an effort by Midson that could have brought his hat-trick but was ruled offside. Then a bad back pass by Mat Mitchel-King and a mistake by Sullivan saw Port Vale equalising 2-2. The Dons held out against the league leaders and manager Neil Ardley will be pleased enough to come away with one point. But the Dons are still perilously close to the bottom place in the table and need to start winning a few games if they are to escape relegation back to the Conference. A full report on the match “Plucky Dons Deny Vale” can be found on the club ‘s website.