Remembering Fr Thomas Haynes, Ahiohill priest of Famine times

The Bible tells us that its “a holy and wholesome thought” to pray for the dead. It’s also an important part of our Christian and Irish tradition that we honour and respect the burial places of people who have died. And this includes the graves of people who no longer have relatives among us.

Recently, the burial place of of one of one of the priests who served the Parish of Desertserges during the Great Hunger has been restored.

Fr. Thomas M. Haynes was ordained to the priesthood at Bayeux, France, and came to this parish from Lower Glanmire – which would correspond to all of the present day Glanmire Parish. Local legend maintains that Fr. Haynes died soon after an exorcism  – expelling an evil spirit from a terrible woman – ”Maire  Gaedhlach”, who lived locally. In fact, he died at the height of the Famine on 6/6/1847.

The Cork Examiner of June 14th carried the following report:- “On Sunday, 6th inst., of fever caught in the faithful discharge of his arduous ministerial duties, Rev. T. Haynes, P.P., Deserserges, near Bandon, beloved and respected by all who had the pleasure of his aquaintance. He lived the poor man’s friend and died the faithful devoted priest of the Altar to which he was so long and worthly attached.”

Until recently, his gravestone looked like this:-

Grave of Fr Thomas Haynes before restoration. The inscription reads (but in Latin) “Here lies Reverend Thomas M Haynes. Rest in Peace. AD 1847.”

The original limestone headstone has been preserved but carefully cleaned and restored by Charles O’Sullivan, Clonakilty. It is 170 years since Fr Haynes died. New kerbs and chips have also been laid.

May Fr Haynes and all who have gone before us rest in eternal peace.

Founded on faith in Mary: building Enniskeane Church

The parish church of Enniskeane and Desertserges was the dream of Father Daniel Coveney who was parish priest in the parish from 1867 until his death in 1877. Fr Coveney grew up in Tracton Abbey Parish and studied for the priesthood at the Irish College in Rome. He was ordained there in 1839 so he returned to serve in Ireland as a priest in what was to be the most difficult time in Irish history — the Great Famine was about to unfold its devastation on the land and its people.

When Fr. Coveney came to Enniskeane, the people went to Mass in a chapel which stood just north of Enniskeane on the right of the road going up to Gurteenroe. This chapel was probably built in the late 1700s and was by then in disrepair. Fr Coveney persuaded the then Duke of Devonshire to donate land for the new church. He donated 17 acres which were intended to accommodate the church, a presbytery, stable, and grazing for the priest’s horse. The Duke also contributed a generous donation of £250 towards the cost of the building.

Fr Coveney entrusted the design of the church to Richard Evans of Cork. Evan had just completed building a church for Crosshaven parish (near Fr. Coveney’s native parish). History doesn’t record who the builders were but, in all probability, it was built under the oversight of Evan by local labour. The stone was drawn by horse and cart from a “nearby quarry”.

On Sunday, May 7th, 1871, the foundation stone of the new church was laid and blessed by Bishop of Cork, Dr William Delany. This stone is on the external wall of the church — behind the altar.

Foundation stone of Enniskeane Church

The inscription on the stone is in Latin and it echoes two aspects of Fr Coveney’s life. His experience in Rome and his devotion to Our Lady. It reads: (more…)

Ah, that’s brass: a missal stand restored

It’s good to give thanks! That’s not original because the bible and the Christian tradition are peppered with this motif. But we don’t always heed it.

A few days ago I collected from a craftsman in Cork city a Missal Stand belong to our parish which I had left in to be repaired several months ago – indicating that there was no hurry with it. [A missal stand is used to support the missal on the altar, ie the book which contains all the prayers for each Mass.] It is a good few years since it was used. It had been put to one side because it was damaged as a result of a bad fall which snapped off the ledge that supports the book.

It was repaired by what is now the only form in Cork working with brass. Murphy & Quinlan is based off Douglas Street in the heart of the South Parish and John and Barry have kept alive a craft which was once practised by up to four firms in Cork. John is lamenting the fact that when they retire, it will probably mean the end of this great skill in Cork.

But back to our missal stand. John did a lovely job of cleaning it, polishing it, replacing the ledge for the missal and then lacquering it – making look as new. He commented, in passing, that it must be very hold. I asked him if he thought the beautiful shapes and engraving were cut out of the brass plates. He said, no, the main part was hot moulded — probably in the 1800s when they had no electric tools — and then the ornamentation was engraved on the other side by hand.

This gave me a renewed appreciation of the beautiful workmanship that created this stand, the time it took to make it, and the spirit in the hearts of the people who made it, commissioned it, polished it down through the years and all the people who prayed near it — as well as all my former colleague priests who have offered Mass beside it.

The engraved face of the Missal Stand at Enniskeane Church

I used it at Mass in Enniskeane Church again today. I also prayed a prayer of thanks for all the people who have helped maintain and adorn our churches through the ages in praise of God. I also gave thanks for the gift of the craftspeople who help us to see that God is beauty.

The reverse of the missal stand

‘New’ altar for Castletown Church

In discussions in recent years about St. Joseph’s Church, Castletown Kinneigh, we were unable to say precisely when was it dedicated. Browsing the Fehily Chalice story and local lore in recent years I had surmised that it was sometime in the 1860s or 70s.

I was in the church today when the team from Hickeys Headstones, Ovens, took apart the altar that was constructed in 1991. And to confirm that date, inside the structure we found bundles of a newspaper which was used to hold the plaster of Paris while it dried to bond the bits of marble!

1991 Newspaper found embedded in the altar in 2016

Newspaper found embedded in the altar in 2016

As you can see, it dates from Jan 7, 1991.

I don’t think the workmen expected the altar to be taken apart again! Inside the cavity in the altar we also left this:

Cigarette pack from 1991 found inside the altar!

Holy Smoke! Cigarette pack from 1991 found inside the altar!

But, thankfully, they also left something precious.
Leaning against the block work which they built in the centre — and around which they then built the altar with marble slabs –– and down on the ground, I found the original altar stone for the church.
Canon Law stipulates that a permanent altar in a church must have a first class relic of a saint embedded in it. (This continues the link between the Universal Church and the local church building.) These relics were, in the past, almost always brought from Rome for a new altar. The small relic is then embedded and sealed in a stone – or a slab of marble – which was then placed into the altar.

When they disassembled the Castletown Altar in 1991, they put the altar stone into the new altar. A blessing.


The stone itself is a blessing — but maybe as important is that it confirms when the church was dedicated.
The inscription on it reads:
R(ight) Rev(erend) W(illiam) Delany
Bishop of Cork
A. D. 1859

So there we have it — written in stone!

The church and altar were dedicated 157 years ago. Thanks be to God.

— Fr. Tom Hayes PP
Parochial House, Enniskeane, Co Cork

Blessing of Ahiohill’s new Grotto on Aug 14th

Work on the graveyard extension at Ahiohill is nearing completion. The extension provides new and extra space for burials in the cemetery in the grounds of the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The new Grotto to Our Lady is also finished – the statue is now installed.

The Grotto will be dedicated and the cemetery blessed at Mass to be celebrated there on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady.

The principal concelebrant at the Mass will be Bishop John Buckley on Sunday August 14th at 7pm.If the evening is fine, the Mass will be celebrated in the cemetery — if it’s wet, Mass will be in the church.

All welcome.

Fr Pat Walsh PE with Micheál Dullea, builder, at the new Grotto in Ahiohill.

Fr Pat Walsh PE with Micheál Dullea, builder, at the new Grotto in Ahiohill.

Built in 1871 … Enniskeane Church

“WITH our present issue we give an illustration of the new Catholic church, the erection of which has just been commenced by the Rev. Dr. Coveney, P.P., at Enniskean.”

So begins an article published in “The Irish Builder” in 1871 describing the building of our parish church. The full text is in the attached PDF file here. Our church is now 145 years old. Thanks be to God for all who built it for us.

Irish Builder enniskean_church_1871