Rosary Priest Fr Patrick Peyton, Attymass in Co. Mayo
Birth of Fr Peyton
Patrick Peyton was born on January 9th 1909 in the townland of Carracastle in the parish of Attymass. He was the sixth of nine children of John Peyton and Mary Gillard. There were 4 boys and 5 girls in the family and they all lived together in a simple three-roomed thatched cottage. His father John owned a small farm but was in poor health most of the time so his wife Mary and his children did the majority of the farm chores. John Peyton was a devout Catholic and he observed an inflexible rule that every night the Peyton family would gather around the fireside and recite the Rosary. This had been the practice since John and Mary Gillard of Rathreedane, Bonniconlon were first married in March 1899. Therefore the Rosary became an integral part of the Peyton family and it was to mould and shape them into loyal followers of Christ and His Blessed Mother.
Patrick's education began in Bofield School when he enrolled there in May 1914. He was first taught by Maria Loftus, a teacher who made a lasting impression on him. The other teachers at that time were Tadhg O'Leary (Principal) and his wife Maria Kelly from Bonniconlon. Patrick had already gone to live with his grandparents Robert and Kitty Gillard in Bonniconlon before he came to Bofield. In 1917 he left Bofield School and went to live with them again, the reason being his grandfather. As well as being elderly Robert Gillard was now practically blind. While staying in Rathreedane Patrick enrolled in Bonniconlon National School and was taught by Jonah Loftus, brother of Maria. Patrick was to later come back to Bofield but it proved to be an unhappy experience. Shortly before his fifteenth birthday he got into trouble with the Principal Tadhg O'Leary. Tadhg hit Patrick a whack over the head and said "You're a lazy good-for-nothing" When Patrick informed his father about the incident he was told that he would be registered in Currower School, a couple of miles away from the Peyton home. Bernie Durkan, the principal of Currower School, however, was both a personal friend and political associate of Tadhg O'Leary and he refused to let Patrick enrol in the school. Faced with such opposition John Peyton threatened to take legal action and to report Bernie to the education authorities in Dublin. Bernie finally capitulated and enrolled Patrick in December 1923. However the records at Currower show that he attended only fifty-two days and he was eventually struck off the roll. The reason for his absence was that he started to help more at home on the farm.
From an early age Patrick wanted to be a priest. Every Sunday he always trudged the long journey from his home in the townland of Carracastle to the Church in Attymass where he served Mass as a boy. He often remained behind praying until second Mass, served that Mass as well and then tread wearily home to Carracastle again. The local parish priest at that time, Fr. Roger O'Donnell had a great influence on him and it was during this period that Patrick's vocation to the priesthood was really nurtured. Fr. O'Donnell's mortal remains now lie in the church grounds in Attymass. However due to the poor family circumstances Patrick was unable to continue his schooling beyond the few brief spells spent in local National schools in the area and this meant his chances of going into the priesthood were rather limited. When he wrote to Society of African Missionaries they rejected him on the basis of his standard of mathematics. This was a crushing blow to Patrick but as we see later it wasn't going to be deter him from getting in anyway he could.
Gradually Patrick became restless at home and decided he wanted a change of scenery. So one evening he cycled into Bonniconlon and spent an hour convincing Martin Durkan that there wasn't a better worker to be found in the area. Martin or Sandy as he was more commonly known as, was the big shot of the district - undertaker, butcher, storekeeper - involved in anything and everything that could turn a penny. He employed eight or ten young fellows to help in his many activities. Patrick finally persuaded him and he was now going to earn twelve shillings a week and bunk with the other employees in Sandy's home under the watchful eye of Sandy's wife. However his work experience was short lived as on St. Patrick's Day 1927 he was fired by Sandy. Yet his stay in Bonniconlon had broadened his horizons as talk from his fellow workers made him want to go on to bigger things. He now wished to go to America and come home a millionaire. The hardest part would be to convince his father but Patrick knew that if his brother Tom came with him he would be able to overcome his father's reluctance to let him go.
More interesting articles on the life of Fr Patrick Peyton: