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Rev. Thomas Burke, Kinvara – 1919

Tuam Herald 4th January, 1919 p.2

Corpus Christi procession, Kinvara c.1950 Photo: Cresswell archives

We deeply regret the death on the 27th of December at the Parochial House, Kinvara, of the Rev. Thomas Burke, P.P. Deceased was universally respected. He was a native of Ardrahan parish and educated at Maynooth. He had a thorough and intimate knowledge of the history of his country and was a lover of its past, and was particularly well up in the history of his native county of Galway. Few men living better knew the story of the past of this province or of the fall and rise of its families. Father Tom was in delicate health for some years and unable to actively discharge the duties of his sacred office. While able to work he wa zealous and untiring in his daily devotion to duty.

It was but a fitting thing that Dr. MacEvilly should have appointed Father Burke to so historic a parish as Kinvara, where we find the union of ancient parishes of Kiloveragh, Kilena and Duras. On a site given by James de Basterot, of Duras, the present church was erected, and it was one of the first Catholic churches built in these parts. Thus the pro-Cathedral, Galway, was not commenced until 1819 and Tuam Cathedral till 1827 and Gort church until 1828. It cost £2,000 in those days. The parish priest in 1798 was the Rev. Nicholas Archdeacon who was afterwards Bishop of the Diocese of Kilmacduagh, of which Kinvara was a part. He was succeeded by Father O’Fahy, who was followed by Father Acton, a regular, who afterwards became P.P. of Ballindereen and after him came Rev. John Fahy of Peterswell, whose successor was the Rev. Thos Shannon, afterwards P.P. of Gort.

Father Forde succeeded Father Shannon and he died a victim to duty in black ’47 and is buried in the church at Kinvara close to the B. Virgin’s alter. After him came Father Francis Arthur, who hospitably entertained John Blake Dillon when flying from Tuam dressed as a priest in clothes lent him by Father O’Brien, then Professor of St. Jarlath’s, and on a car given and driven by Richard Kelly, Esq., J.P. of Tuam.

He fled to Kinvara from Tuam to go to America, intending to leave as an emigrant in a ship that was sailing from Galway to Boston. He was brought out in a boat from Kinvara by John Holland, a native, to try and catch the ship on its outward journey ere she sailed away for the Far West. The vessel was the brig “Barbara.” The sea, however, was too rough for Holland’s boat, so regretfully he had to put in at Aran from which John Dillon ultimately sailed for the great Republic. Father Burke often related at his hospitable board the story of the sailing which he had fromeyewitnesses. Father Moloney succeeded Father Arthur and after him Father Tom Burke came.

Kinvara saw in the time of these last four deceased priests many sad changes for the worst. It lost its primacy as a bishopric – the old see at Kilmacduagh being united to the modern one of Galway. It lost its shipping trade. The only thing that did not decline was the rent the people had to pay. The old landlords, the Gregorys of Coole Park, and the De. Basterots were obliged to sell out and the new class of speculator came along.

A Mr. Comerford, a timber merchant in Galway, bought the town that belonged to Mr. Gregory and raised the rental from £335 to £1,150, but it did not and could not revive with him or his successors. A Mr. Murray, a pawnbroker in Galway, came along and was equally active in promoting depopulation. The townlandlord of Northampton decreased from 25 families to 11. But Mr. Murray left a bequest of £2,000 for a convent and to him Kinvara owes its present beautiful foundation built on a site given by Captain Blake Foster.

Kinvara was once a thriving market town, but its tolls declined from 200 to 60. It had in 1872 a population of 689 families and in 1890 this sank to 451. Its barley market for Persse’sDistillery in Galway brought in a good deal of money, but Persse’s Distillery, having been closed down owing to the narrow policy of the Bank of Ireland, that industry was lost to Galway and Kinvara.

Father Tom was universally esteemed, and while of recent years his delicate health did not allow him to go about, he was always glad to meet a brother priest or other friend and chat over old times. The regret felt at his demise was manifested in every possible way by the parishioners who felt they lost in him a good priest and friend. There was a great gathering at the funeral and Requiem Mass on Monday at the Parish Church of the priests of the diocese and the people of the district.