The Story of Fr Flanagan in Ballycastle in Co. Mayo

Kilbride is a small townland situated North East of Ballycastle village. In the centre of Kilbride graveyard the remains of Very Rev. Fr. Flanagan P.P. of Kilbride are buried. Fr. Flanagan lived in Kilbride with his sister, who acted as his housekeeper. The remains of their house may still be seen at the crossroads adjacent to Master Murphy's residence.

The altar of the old Church in Kilbride in which Fr. Murphy ministered is, according to legend, the stone that is still at the gable of Mr. McGarry's house. This Church remained in use until 1808. Near the site of that old Church was situated St. Brigid's Well, which, according to legend again, was soiled and changed it's course overnight to its present position.

During his lifetime, Fr. Flanagan had a reputation for great sanctity and solicitude for the poor. As a result of his holiness many stories about his miraculous cures have been passed from father to son over the generations. One such story tells us how he asked his sister to dig potatoes in the garden, even though the stalks were only over the ground and had not even blossomed. His sister was reluctant to do his bidding for fear of ridicule from the neighbours. However, he persisted, and at dusk she gave in and dug some stalks. Great was her surprise when she dug up full sized potatoes.

One Saturday night on his late return home, his sister thought that he had taken drink and feared for his ability in the morning to offer Mass with due reverence. At her accusation, Fr. Flanagan became very annoyed and denied that he had taken any drink. However, she was not satisfied and Father at last said 'If I am under the influence of drink as you think, Our Lady will certify otherwise', whereupon the picture of Our Lady on the wall came down and stood on the table.

In 1798 Fr. Conroy was hanged on The Mall, Castlebar. During his farewell speech to his people a voice in the crowd interrupted him twice, advising the authorities 'to hang him up and cut him down'. On asking who had spoken, a travelling man told him 'Burke from Mayo', whereupon Fr. Conroy replied 'He will be down before very long'. A short time after the 'Burke from Mayo' was struck down with a terrible skin disease. A plague of giant insects attacked and destroyed all the vegetation in the garden. They increased in size and number to such an extent that the people were frightened of them. Burke sent for their clergyman but his efforts to rid the place of the insects were to no avail. On the advice of their neighbours, Burke then sent for Fr. Flanagan. Fr. Flanagan was successful in clearing the insects from the grounds. He also knew the old landlord lay on his deathbed in great suffering. Fr. Flanagan offered to go to the sick man and cure him, but Mr. Burke turned down the offer himself and subsequently passed away in terrible agony.

Fr. Flanagan died in 1828 and his tombstone was erected some fifty years later. At the time of his death, he is reputed to have said that the clay from his grave would be as beneficial to the sick as his office had been. As a result of this, his grave became a place of pilgrimage and people took clay from his grave to such an extent that the authorities were forced to advise people that they were undermining the tombs and monuments.

A grandniece of Fr. Flanagan lived and worked for many years in May's Hotel, now Callaghans, until her death in the 1930's. A nephew of Fr. Flanagan, Fr. Pat McDonnell was ordained in 1819 and he is also buried in Kilbride graveyard, though the exact location of his tomb is unknown.

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