My late father’s interest in history was known to me for as long as I could remember. Some of his books lay on a bookshelf in my bedroom and others were to be found around the house. Among those was a most prized possession, a limited edition reprint (500 numbered copies) of John Begley’s Diocese of Limerick produced in 1993. This is a history of the Roman Catholic diocese that was published in three successive parts, 1906 for Ancient and Medieval, 1927 for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and 1938 for the last that covered the period from 1691 until contemporary times. Begley was a priest serving in the same diocese and the entire project continued through his clerical career. The first book appeared when he was a curate in a Limerick city-parish and he was a parish priest in Kilmallock when the second was published and had moved to Bruff by the time the third was completed. Aside from the monumental work itself, the fact that John Begley also served as parish priest in Dromcollogher surely must have increased my father’s interest in what his research had produced.
In the decade preceding the reprinting by O’ Brien - Toomey, I seem to remember my father had gotten a loan of copies of the original edition and gone about making copies of these. To do so, he used an archaic photocopier that worked by making images of original documents on pink translucent sheets and then printing these onto paper using hot rollers. It was a clunky method of operation and, unlike today’s ever-reliable and user-friendly machines, the results could be hit and miss. Even so, evenings were spent photocopying those loaned books and other printed matter that included even a map of the farm he owned and worked. Today, I wonder if the reprints were all the more appreciated after that toil and I believe that he attended the launch of the new editions. Bishop Jeremiah Newman, a school friend of my father’s from his time at Dromcollogher National School (not the present-day one on the Buttevant road but an earlier one that once was beside what is now the Plunkett Heritage Centre, formerly part of the town’s creamery), would have been there too since he wrote his preface for them.
In the later years of his life, my father took to writing some historical essays of his own and John Begley’s books were much read as source material. Those are being kept in a secure place now since they were so prized that I would not want to lose them. After all, they have become family heirlooms at this stage but they were not the only books that were used for reference. A falvour of the writings follows.
For a few years, my father took an interest in the life and time of an eighteenth-century priest named Fr. Nicholas Sheehy. The fact that the man was martyred was part of this as was the fact that there were local connections in West Limerick. The latter took part of the story to these parts and that is told in The Life and Execution of Fr. Nicholas Sheehy. Accompanying this tale is an article on the genealogy of this victim of a blatant miscarriage of justice. My father’s efforts were rewarded by publication in the Vale Star and caused him to continue his explorations of history to the point that he started working with a computer to write them down, thus leading to what you find here.
In his later years, my father explored his interest in a person who could be called the patron saint of West Limerick: St. Ita. She came from a royal family living in present-day Co. Waterford and was inspired to dedicate her life to God. That took her from her family home to Killeedy near present-day Raheenagh. The remains of the monastic school remain in the graveyard where both my father and mother were laid to rest. There is a statue of St. Ita there too and the memory of the saint is kept more than well alive by the local people. My father did his part to extend that by collecting various stories in his writings and some appear here already.
This website was set up to retain my father’s writings for posterity. In addition to what he wrote on Fr. Nicholas Sheehy and St. Ita, there also is material on diverse subjects like the Danes in Munster and the Knights Templars. There is more to come about St. Ita to complement what is here already and that is not all. For instance, the Reformation was another subject that gained my father’s attention and I found a sheet of paper with a story handed down from a neighbour too. Because of this, this little project is not finished yet. For now, thanks for coming.