01 August 2023
Patrick Cosgrave and
Edward Kavanagh, two
priests from Clonegal with
Comerford family links
I have been writing in recent days on this blog about a number of Jesuit priests who were closely related to the Comerford family of Bunclody, Co Wexford, including Father James Comerford (1885-1963) from Ballinakill, Co Laois, and two brothers and their cousin from Bunclody, Father Brendan Comerford Lawler (1909-1993), Father Donald Comerford Lawler (1911-1984) and Father Ray Lawler (1921-2001).
All four were also related to Father Patrick Cosgrave (1849-1894), a priest in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin and former curate in Ballinakill, who was from Clonegal, on the borders of Co Carlow and Co Wexford, near Bunclody, and who was only in his mid-40s when he died. There were family links too with Father Edward Kavanagh (1848-1925), who was also from Clonegal.
Father Patrick Cosgrave was the Administrator of Carlow Cathedral while Bishop Michael Comerford was the coadjutor bishop; he was a curate in Ballinakill, Co Laois, where his cousin Eliza was the wife of the hotelier Charles Comerford; and he was related to the Comerford family in many ways that are almost difficult to count.
There was a nexus of families in Clonegal in the 19th century that includes the Comerfod, Cosgrave, Doyle. Finn, Kavanagh and McDonnell families, and close inter-marriages between these families made many people first, second and third cousins in a complex web of kinships that is often difficult to untangle.
Patrick Cosgrave was born at Orchard House, Clonegal, Co Carlow, in 1849. His father was Nicholas Cosgrave (1803-1893), of Clonegal, Co Carlow, near Bunclody; his mother was Elizabeth Anne Comerford (1813-1893), of Castlequarter, Clohamon, Bunclody, Co Wexford, a daughter of Martin Comerford (ca 1777/1778-1840) of Castle Quarter and Knockanure House, Clohamon, near Newtownbarry (Bunclody), Co Wexford, fifth and youngest son of Edmund Comerford (1722-1788).
Patrick Cosgrave’s paternal grandmother, Anne (née McDonnell) Cosgrave (1766-1842), was a sister of Austin McDonnell (ca 1767-1842) of Clonegal, whose daughter Elizabeth Finn was the mother of Eliza Finn (1845-1931), who married Charles Comerford (1847-1891) of Ballinakill. Elizabeth (Cosgrave) Finn’s sister, Margaret Cosgrave (1803-1894), married William Kavanagh and was the mother of Father Edward Kavanagh (1848-1925), who also features in this story.
Patrick Cosgrave was one of three teenagers who came to live with Peter Doyle (ca 1820-ca 1910) and his wife Mary (Cosgrave) (1803-1884) at The Wastegrass in Tullow, Co Carlow, in the mid-1800s. Peter Doyle, it is said, was closely related to Michael Comerford (1830-1895), coadjutor Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, and Mary Doyle was Patrick Cosgrave’s aunt.
Peter Doyle’s father was also Peter Doyle (1804-1851); his mother, Eleanor McDonnell (1808-1870), was a sister of Elizabeth (McDonnell) Finn (1810-1891), whose daughter Eliza married Charles Comerford (1847-1891) of Ballinakill. Peter Doyle’s paternal grandfather, James Doyle (1769-1839), was originally from Clonegal.
The younger Peter Doyle had married Mary Cosgrave, a sister of Patrick Cosgrave’s father, Edward Cosgrave. Peter and Mary Doyle had no children and the three boys who came to live with them were attending the Patrician Monastery School in Tullow to prepare them to begin studying for the priesthood.
The three, who became priests, were: Father Patrick Cosgrave, his cousin Father Edward Kavanagh, and Father J Dawson, SM, Dublin. The first cousins Patrick Cosgrave and Edward Kavanagh were both from Clonegal, Co Carlow, and they were nephews of Mary (Cosgrave) Doyle. Patrick Cosgrave’s sister, Mary Cosgrave, also came to live with the Doyles at The Wastegrass. Peter Doyle promised a gold watch to the first of the three young men to become a priest. The watch was won later by Father Dawson.
Patrick Cosgrave was educated at the Patrician Monastery, Tullow, and then entered Carlow College (1865-1873). He was ordained in 1873 for the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. He was a curate in Tullow, Co Carlow, Philipstown (now Daingean), Co Offaly, Carlow, Ballinakill, Co Laois, and Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, and then became the Administrator of Carlow Cathedral (1883-1887), while Michael Comerford was the coadjutor bishop.
However, his health was not able for the strain of the work in the cathedral town. The bishop arranged for him to exchange places with his cousin, Father Edward Kavanagh, curate of Ballinakill (1887-1893), and so Patrick Cosgrave returned to Ballinakill, where his cousin Eliza Comerford was living.
Even in Ballinakill, Patrick’s health was not equal to the work. At the invitation of Dr MJ Murphy, parish priest of Kildare, he spent some months in Kildare, helping there with parish work. He became curate of Ballyfin on 14 December 1893. But again he fell ill, and he died three months later on 23 March 1894.
His mother, was Elizabeth (née Comerford) Cosgrave, had died four months earlier on 14 November 1893, at the age of 80. His father, Nicholas Cosgrave of Clonegal, died eight days later on 22 November 1893 at the age of 90. They are buried in the Cosgrave family tomb along with Nicholas Cosgrave’s parents, Edward Cosgrave (1759-1834) and Anne (née McDonnell) Cosgrave (1766-1842).
Patrick Cosgrave’s sister, Mary Cosgrave (1857-1938), later inherited the Doyle farm at The Wastegrass. She married Garrett Moore of Canonsquarter, Tullow. They were the grandparents of Garrett Moore, The Wastegrass (died 2015), Paddy Moore, Tullow Hill, Mrs May Fox, Castlebar, Co Mayo, Father Nicholas Moore, parish priest of Borris, Co Carlow (died 2004), Sister Bernie Moore, Irish Sisters of Charity, Zambia (died 2007, Dublin), Mrs Rita Kearney, Kilconnor, Fenagh, Co Carlow, and Father Eddie Moore, former parish priest of Naas, Co Kildare.
Patrick Cosgrave’s cousin, Father Edward Kavanagh (1848-1925), was also from Clonegal, near Bunclody. His father was William Kavanagh (1796-1877) of Ballyredmond; his mother, Margaret Cosgrave (1803-1894), was a daughter of Edward Cosgrave and Anne (McDonnell) Cosgrave, and so he was also a first cousin of the Jesuit Father James Comerford (1885-1963).
Father Edward Kavanagh was ordained in Maynooth in 1873. Having served in various parishes, he was appointed parish priest of Ballon, Co Carlow, in 1894. During his three years there he added two porches to the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, erected a marble high altar and reredos, and built national Schools in chiselled granite. He took a strong part in the anti-Parnellite campaign.
Edward Kavanagh was later Parish Priest of Monasterevin, Co Kildare, where Bishop Michael Comerford had been parish priest. He died in Naas in December 1925.
The list of parish priests in the Roman Catholic parish church in Monasterevin, including Michael Comerford and Edward Kavanagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)