It gives me great pleasure to write a foreword for this splendid little booklet, Echoes of Ballingaddy which has been compiled in connection with the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Ballingaddy church. In particular, I would like to congratulate Catherine O’Mahony, the author of the booklet, for the huge amount of work she put into its preparation, in collecting information for it in the first instance, and then presenting it in such a clear and readable style.
As well as dealing with the ecclesiastical history of Ballingaddy, she treats also, to some extent, of the social history of the parish from remote times. That the district was inhabited from before the dawn of history she makes clear in her references to the ring-forts that still survive in the district. The proximity of Ardpatrick, where, according to a very strong tradition, St. Patrick himself founded a church, must have meant that Christianity came to the Ballingaddy area at a very early period. The first documentary record of a church in Ballingaddy, as Echoes of Ballingaddy informs us, occurs in the year 1302.
Located so close to Kilmallock, the great fortress town of the Munster Geraldines, the Ballingaddy district must surely have been affected to a greater or lesser degree by events in Kilmallock, a town which, over the centuries endured sieges, sackings and burnings. In the booklet we find a list of the old Irish and Norman Irish landowners in Ballingaddy parish whose lands were confiscated at the time of the Cromwellian Plantation.
Those sections of the booklet that deal with the affairs of the Church in the parish during the Penal Laws period bring home to us the fidelity of priests and people to the Faith in the face of persecution and oppression. Yet even when things looked hopeless the people were not without hope. A Gaelic poet and schoolmaster, Muiris Ó Gríofa, who was living in Ballingaddy in the 1770s, wrote in one of his poems:
Beidh cealla 's úird gan smacht ansiúd, gan scáth ná baol,
Beidh reacht na dtriúch mar chleachtadh ar dtús ag Pápa Dé. . .
that is: There will be churches and Orders without subjection, without fear or danger/The laws of the land will be as they originally were under God's Pope.
Catherine O'Mahony tells us the names of the priests who ministered in the parish in the difficult days of the dark 18th century. One of the priests, Fr. Paul Slattery, was a Dominican attached to the suppressed priory of the Dominicans in Kilmallock. He was ordained in Rome; and was a professor in Louvain and Brussels before returning to Ireland to minister in his native district. He is buried in Ballingaddy churchyard. It is well that the names of those Penal-days priests should be recalled and that they should be remembered with gratitude in our own days.
The booklet tells us how, eventually, the Penal Laws were relaxed and more tolerant days began to dawn, when Catholics could again practice their religion freely. The old pre-Reformation churches were no longer theirs - indeed most of them, as that in Ballingaddy, were now in ruins - and so they commenced to build chapels, or to adapt suitable secular buildings as Mass houses.
A very interesting report and letter from the Limerick Chronicle of 18th August, 1838, tells of the bestowing of a site for the erection of a new church in Ballingaddy in that year of 1838. The transfer of the site, as a gift, was a measure of the new tolerance that was abroad, for the donor of the land was a Protestant, Mr. C. Sanders, of Sanders Park, Charleville. In the course of a letter quoted in the Limerick Chronicle and reproduced in Echoes of Ballingaddy, Mr. Sanders said:
'I hope the parishioners of Ballingaddy will believe that the handsome edifice they design must always be a source of pleasure to myself, because by their acceptance of a site for its erection, they so far allow me to participate in the honour they do to religion'.
The booklet informs us that the consecration and blessing of the new Ballingaddy church took place on l5th August, the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, in the year 1838; and it conjures up an attractive picture of the congregation who packed the church on that great day 150 years ago. The various improvements to the church since then are detailed, as well as the names of the people who were involved in the improvements. This praiseworthy little publication, the work of Catherine O'Mahony, will, I know, be treasured as a mini-history of Ballingaddy and as a worthy souvenir of the celebrations marking the l50th anniversary of Ballingaddy church.
I dteanga Mhuiris Uí Ghríofa, agus i dteanga na nglún go léir a mhair sa pharóiste seo agus a d'fhan dílis don Chreideamh, ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an leabhrán fíor-spéisiúil seo. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an-éileamh air, agus go mbeidh cóip de i ngach teach sa pharóiste. Guím gach rath air, agus guím beannacht Dé ar an údar, Caitríona Uí Mhathúna.
Gearóid de Bhál, Sagart Paróiste
Teach an Pharóiste,
Féile Muire gan smál,
8 Nollaig 1988.
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