Fr Henry Joseph Feeney

Close confidant of Mellows

Patria McWalter

Grave of Fr Feeney, Shrule Church, Co. Mayo. Jim Higgins

Grave of Fr Feeney, Shrule Church, Co. Mayo. Jim Higgins

Fr Feeney (4 Mar 1889 – 15 Apr 1945)was a native of Two-mile-ditch in the parish of Castlegar, outside Galway[1]. An obituary in the Connacht Tribune reveals that he was the son of James Feeney, and attended Castlegar National School and then St. Joseph’s College, Galway. ‘After spending some time in the Irish College in Paris he returned to Ireland and was ordained at Maynooth in 1914’[2]. His first curacy was in Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare. He was transferred to Clarinbridge in about 1915.

Irish Volunteers

He joined the Clarinbridge Company of Irish Volunteers around August 1915. According to a reference from Eamon Corbett (Vice Officer in Charge of the 1st Western Division IRA) submitted to the Military Pensions Board in 1937, Fr Feeney assisted him in ‘organising and training various companies’ in Galway. Fr Feeney was apparently close with Liam Mellows, P. H. Pearse and other general headquarters officers. Shortly before the Rising he met with Pearse in Dublin when they ‘had a longconference’[3] about the proposed Rising.

Alf Monahan’s Escape

Just prior to the Rising Fr Feeney helped Captain Alfie Monaghan, originally from Belfast, and a fluent Irish speaker, escape from Galway city, after he had been served with an order to leave Ireland before 9 April (1916) under the Defence of the Realm Act. Monaghan, was involved in enrolling and drilling various Irish Volunteer groups in Galway city[4]. Thomas Newell’s witness statement gives a detailed account the escape[5]. Patrick Callanan, in his Bureau of Military History Witness Statement stated that ‘While Mellows was in jail, Fr. Feeney was appointed C.C., Clarinbridge. He created a new spirit in the Volunteers and took an active part in organising the Volunteers all over the country. He received great assistance from Fr. O’Meehan, C.C., Kinvara, Fr. Tom Burke, Diocesan secretary, and Fr. Connolly, Professor, Diocesan College, Ballinasloe[6].

Military Service Pension File

Fr Feeney’s own Military Service pension file, which is available online, provides much detail relating to his activities prior to and during Easter Week 1916. The file indicates that during Easter Week 1916 he carried out all ‘orders of General Mellows’, and that he was active at Killeeneen, Clarinbridge, Oranmore, Athenry, Moyode and Limepark.

Acquiring Weapons

He indicated that he ‘…assisted in preparation for Rising. In charge of munitions under order of P. H. Pearse’. He also indicated that he was aware of the plans for the Rising months in advance and had been assisting with ‘getting guns[7]’. He secured 26 revolvers from Dublin and 40 or 50 sporting guns.

Easter Week

When the Volunteers mobilised in Clarinbridge on Easter Sunday, though he did not fire any shots on the Barracks there, he was with the men all the time, acting as both an Officer and a Chaplain. On Wednesday he went to see his Bishop, and recalled that ‘I was not received very well but I got the necessary permission to hear confessions. The police chased me back from Athenry to the Agricultural Farm…’. Later that evening Fr Feeney together with the Volunteers left the Farm and spent the next few days at Moyode Castle. They travelled to Limepark on Friday (28th April). The decision to disband was made while there.

Conflicting Rumours

Mellows and the Volunteers had been receiving ‘thousands of conflicting rumours’[8] about the surrender in Dublin and also about the lack of Volunteer activity around the country. So the decision to disband was made, though very reluctantly on Mellows part. Eamon Corbett further indicated that Fr Feeney’s presence ‘did much to keep up the morale of the men through the week’[9].

Parish Priest in Shrule, Co. Mayo

After the Volunteers disbanded Fr Feeney tried to return to his parish but was unable to get through the military cordon. He then went on the run until the mid-June, at which point an agreement between the Ecclesiastical authorities of the Galway Diocese and the British Military permitted him to return to his parish. However, he became ill in about August and left for America to recuperate in California, and spent five years with a mission there. On his return to Ireland he was appointed curate in Oranmore, and also spent some time as curate in Gort before he was appointed Parish Priest for the parish of Shrule, Co. Mayo, 1931.[10]

Military Pension

He was awarded a military pension of £28.11.5 per annum in November 1937.

Parish Work

While in Shrule he extended and almost completely rebuilt the St Joseph’s Church. In 1944 he extended and renovated the church at Glencorrib. He was also instrumental in providing a new school in Shrule and a Parish Hall[11].

Death

Fr Feeney died on 15th April 1945 at Seamount Nursing Home, Galway. At the time of death he possessed £801.14.2. In his will, dated 19th March 1945, he requested that £25 be left for ‘masses for myself and my intentions’, £25 to his housekeeper, Miss Donnellan, with the remainder to be divided between two family relatives, Martin Feeney and Michael Fallon, both of Two-Mile-Ditch[12]. He was buried in the grounds of Shrule Church following a large funeral, attended by over fifty priests and a large body of the people of the parish.

References

[1] Padraic Ó Laoi, History of Castlegar Parish, 1996.
[2] Connacht Tribune 21 April 1945, p10.
[3] Military Pensions file MSP34REF18030, http://mspcsearch.militaryarchives.ie Military Archives, accessed November 2015.
[4] Newall, Nua, “The Rising of the Moon: Galway 1916”, Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol. 58, pp122-3 (Galway, 2006).
[5] Witness Statement no. 572,http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie. Bureau of Military History, accessed November 2015.
[6]Witness Statement no. 347 http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie, Bureau of Military History, accessed November 2015.
[7] Military Pensions file MSP34REF18030, http://mspcsearch.militaryarchives.ie Military Archives, accessed November 2015.
[8] Military Pensions file MSP34REF18030,http://mspcsearch.militaryarchives.ie Military Archives, accessed November 2015.
[9] Military Pensions file MSP34REF18030, http://mspcsearch.militaryarchives.ie Military Archives, accessed November 2015.
[10] Connacht Tribune 21 April 1945, p10.
[11] Connacht Tribune 21 April 1945, p10.
[12] Military Pensions file MSP34REF18030, http://mspcsearch.militaryarchives.ie Military Archives, accessed November 2015.

 

 

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