Noble Patriot and Irishman

Sandwiched between two legendary figures in Clontarf’s history, Father Anatole Oster and Father Patrick Kenny, was a young priest from Ireland who only served the parish for two years (1899-1901). Little attention is paid to Father McDonald in the history of Clontarf, but judging from letters written by Clontarf resident Stephen Owen, I think he deserves a closer look. (I typed the content of the letters just as it appears in the transcriptions…among other issues, Mr. Owens was not a fan of punctuation.)

Father McDonald

St. Malachy Catholic Church – Clontarf, MN

On December 4, 1899 Stephen Owens writes from Clontarf to his niece in Skerries, County Dublin, Ireland:

Dear Niece Celia I will let you know what this Parish of Ours is doing at Present Our Priest the Rev. Father McDonald is holding a three Days fair in the Town Hall. We have a nice one in the Town for the Benefit of Our Church it is a new one and there is Sixteen Hundred Dollars of a Debt on it so he expects to realize about 5 or 6 Hundred Dollars at this fair and then About two more years would wipe out the Debt on the Church. I think his fair will be a success there is great crowds here those last two nights and we expect a large attendance tonight. Our priest is a Kilkenny Man about 30 years of Age, a fine Man I like him very much he does come see us quite often I and him does have great times nights Playing Checkers he likes to get all the Games he don’t like me to Beat him at all…

This is our introduction to Father McDonald through Mr. Owens’ pen. Already we see that he was responsible for building the new church in Clontarf (the one standing today) and was working hard to pay for it by organizing events such as the fair Mr. Owens mentions. Plus, we learn that he was a competitive checkers player!

On March 19, 1900 Mr. Owens describes the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in town (I highlighted this in an earlier post – click here.) He writes that Father McDonald had been rehearsing the play since January with the young people. Mr. Owens writes, “Our Priest is a Noble Patriot and Irishman.”

On April 1, 1902 Mr. Owens has some sad news to share with his niece. He thanks her for the shamrock she sent him for St. Patrick’s Day and said he gave a sprig to the Priest, but it is a new Priest:

…his name is Rev. Patrick Kenny our beloved Father McDonnoll (sic) was Buried last friday in Calvary Cemetery in the City of Saint Paul. I am awfull sorry to have to tell you this news we will never get the like off him again he was so friendly and sociable I will miss him very much we use to Play so much Checkers in our House Lord have mercy on his soul He dies off Consumption he got a Cough and did not doctor for it until it was to Late he left here last September and went out to the State of Arizona the Doctors sent him there it is a fine climate and thought he would come Back Cured of his Complaint but failed to get his Health he was a fine strong healthy young man I never thought he could be taken away so quick…

I hope Mr. Owens gave Father Kenny a chance. By all accounts he was also a very sociable Priest – he was extremely popular with the Irish families in Tara and Clontarf. He visited folks frequently in their homes and was always ready for a game of cards. Not sure if he played checkers, however.

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2 Comments

Filed under Letters

2 responses to “Noble Patriot and Irishman

  1. Jim from Salem, OR

    I enjoyed the article. I wish that Michael and Alice Byrne Shea would have met this priest since they immigrated from County Kilkenny but their daughter Maggie Shea Dailey probably spoke about him to her parents once her family joined the other Sheas in Great Falls, MT.

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