19th Century Clergy, Charlestown in Co. Mayo

Parish Priests

The order of Churches in Kilbeagh was: Killeen, Tample, Bellaghy and Charlestown. Fr McHugh lived either in Killeen or in Bellaghy opposite Mr Moran's Warehouse.

Canon Higgins

Canon Higgins a native of Kilmovee parish and an uncle of Canon Patrick Higgins, Swinford and Mr L Higgins, Kilkelly, ministered as Catholic Curate in Bohola and Ballymote and as Administrator in Kilmactigue.

As Parish Priest of Kilbeagh, Canon Higgins lived some twenty years in Bracklough near the old Parish church at Tample.

Then as Charlestown took shape he transferred to a house in the middle of Chapel St, on the same side as the Church where he died in 1878. He built the new, correctly proportioned Gothic Church of Charlestown.

In it there is a Memorial tablet of his, also one of Fr Paul Henry who died here in 1866, and there is also a Memorial tablet for Fr John Morrin CC uncle of Canon Morrin, Collooney, and brother of Mr James Morrin of Kiltimagh, who donated through Fr Charles Gildea, the Pulpit now there, in memory of Fr Morrin who died in Ballaghadereen around 1895.

Canon Loftus

Canon Loftus who succeeded Canon Higgins, was a native of Aclare, an Uncle of Mr Val Loftus, and a massive broad shouldered priest of fine presence and affable manner.

He built the Parochial House and later on left it to go as Parish Priest to Ballymote, being succeeded about 1894 by Fr Michael Keveney.

The Filans

The Filans Concerning the first Parish priest of Kilbeagh, mentioned above, Fr Michael Filan, Dr O'Rourke, a painstaking and careful historian tells us, that the distinguished Filan family, noted for priests, belonged to Killasser, refers to Fr Michael, PP Kilbeagh,and his younger brother, Fr James, PP Curry.

He also refers to Fr Michael Filan and his brother Fr A D Filan, who were Pastors in Philadelphia, and then commemorates, always in a laudatory way yet another pair: Fr Michael who went to Mobile diocese and Fr P A Filan, then CC in Gurteen.

They were all born in Killasser and all educated in Ballaghadereen. The Archdeacon rounds off his account of the Filans with a sketch of Fr James Filan, PP Curry, one of the most distinguished priests Achonry ever had.

James Filan

Of the first batch of Students to enter Maynooth in 1795, James Filan read a brilliant course and was appointed on ordination as Professor of Humanities. He relinquished his position after a few years at the request of the Catholics of Sligo town, and in 1807 started and successfully maintained the first Catholic Church in Sligo until he was invited back to Achonry, to be Parish Priest in Curry, and in commendam, Adm Kilmactigue.

Fr James was a ready writer, an educationalist and until that time, the greatest pulpit orator ever heard in Sligo town. He died in 1830 and was buried in Drumahillian graveyard. I add to Dr O'Rourkes account on the Filans a few more details. They had originally come from County Roscommon, settled in Killasser and were closely related to Dr McNicholas.

Fr James and the future Bishop, having been Professors together in Maynooth, Fathers Michael and Dudley of Philadelphia, were nephews of Fr James and uncles of Mrs M C Henry, Charlestown, and nephews in turn of the Philadelphia priests were: Fr P A Filan, brother of Mrs Henry and uncle of Michael Henry, Jack Henry, Tony Henry and May Henry and the Fr Michael Filan who went to Mobile.

Though the Filans have passed on the family tree hath still a bloom, their relation and worthy representative being a genial, well loved priest, Fr Anthony Durcan of Keash. To come back to Kilbeagh, our subject Fr Michael Filan lived in Marron's in Hagfield and in Harrington's. He died in 1828 and was buried in Tample, where the Parish church then was and has this Epitaph on the gravestone:

"Gloria in Excelsis Deo, Here lie the remains of Rev. Michael Filan, who departed this Life on the 7th of January 1828 aged 42 years. As he often preached for his flock, So may they often pray for his soul, Requiescat in Pace."

Another priest buried in Tample is Fr James Murphy, brother of Mr Pat Murphy, The Mills, Charlestown, now the home of Miss Berney White, and of Mr Thomas Murphy. Fr James died as CC in Keash in 1881. There was a Father Peyton, a native of Charlestown, who lived in Barnacogue.

People ascribed thaumaturgy to Fr Groarke. Fr Gallagher or Fr O'Gal as he was called, was from Killasser and lived in Thomas Harrington's of Bracklough and Fr John McNicholas from Killasser lived, as did the other Curates of the Parish, in Bellaghy.

Remembering Fr Dudley Filan, RIP.

© Cathal Henry 2003

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