01 August 2023

Patrick Cosgrave and
Edward Kavanagh, two
priests from Clonegal with
Comerford family links

Father Patrick Cosgrave (1849-1894) … was related to the Comerfords of Bunclody in multiple ways

Patrick Comerford

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)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (65) 1 August 2023

The focal point of the ‘Te Deum’ window in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, is the figure of the Risen Christ in Glory, symbolising the Victory over Evil (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Eighth Sunday after Trinity (30 July 2023).

Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.

This morning I continue my reflections which in recent days have included:

1, Looking at stained glass windows in Saint Editha’s Collegiate Church, Tamworth;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The ‘Te Deum’ window by Gerald Edward Roberts Smith in the north aisle in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The ‘Te Deum (World War II) window, Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth:

Saint Editha’s Church in Tamworth has three interesting war memorials side-by-side in the North Aisle, and the windows have interesting connections with the Pre-Raphaelite windows in Saint George’s Chapel.

The first of these windows, at the west end of the north aisle, is the World War I Memorial Window, dating from 1920, and by Henry George Alexander Holiday (1839-1927), which I described in a posting on Sunday.

The second war memorial window, which I reflected on yesterday, is in memory of the Revd Maurice Berkeley Peel (1873-1917), Vicar of Tamworth in 1915-1917.

The third war memorial window, at the east end of the north aisle of Saint Editha’s is a World War II Memorial Window from 1949. It is inspired by the themes in the canticle Te Deum, and I am looking at this window this morning.

The inscription on the window reads: ‘In honoured memory of the men of Tamworth and District who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War 1939-1945.’

This window is by Gerald Edward Roberts Smith (1883-1959), and cost £1,200. Smith was first an apprentice to Edward Frampton (senior) and joined AK Nicholson in 1916. After Nicholson’s death, Smith took over and replaced much glass in bombed city churches after World War ll.

The focal point of this window is the figure of the Risen Christ in Glory in the centre light, symbolising the Victory over Evil. Christ is shown in the Tree of Life, with its branches spreading into the outer lights, for its leaves are for the healing of the nations. He is encircled with the words, ‘Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ’ (I Corinthians 15: 57).

This window is inspired by the themes in the canticle Te Deum.The figures represented in the window, from the top, are:

1, The Prophets, represented by Isaiah (left) and Saint John the Baptist (right), holding a book with a lamb and a banner proclaiming ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’ (‘Behold the Lamb of God).

2, The Glorious Company of the Apostles, represented by: Saint Peter, holding the keys; Saint John the Evangelist holding his Gospel and the ‘poisoned chalice’ that is associated with his story; and Saint Paul holding a book of his epistles and his symbol of a down-turned sword. The Virgin Mary is next to Saint Peter.

3, The Noble Army of Martyrs, represented by: Saint Stephen (left), the first Christian martyr, in the robes of a deacon; Saint Alban (right), the first English martyr; Saint Editha (left), the saint to whom the church is dedicated; and Saint Chad (right), the founding bishop and patron saint of the Diocese of Lichfield.

4,‘The Holy Church throughout the World doth acknowledge thee,’ and is represented in the base of the window. In the outer lights, it is depicted by representative types of all those who ultimately overcame the evil against which they were fighting.

From left to right we see a miner, a fireman, a Wren, a sailor holding the naval flag, a member of the ATS, and a solider with the Union Jack. In the foreground are an aged woman and child, and immediately above is Saint Nicholas, the patron of sailors and of children. In the right-hand light are policemen, a munition worker, a member of the WRAF, an RAF pilot, a nurse, an army chaplain, and in the foreground a land girl.

Above them is Saint Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of airmen. At the base, in the centre light, is the figure of Saint George holding a scales balancing the souls of the dead with the Crucified Christ and Satan. Below Saint George is the figure of the defeated dragon.

Behind these groups is a symbol of the gateway to the Heavenly City, and beyond this is the Rising Sun of Hope.

In the centre light are the coats of arms of the Province of Canterbury in the Church of England and the Diocese of Lichfield.

The Lamb of God stands on the gateway between two angels. Hanging on the tree above the figure of Christ is the Crusaders’ sword, and on the hilt of this hangs the Crown of Thorns, while the Pelican at the extreme top of the Tree of Life is the symbol of sacrifice and redemption.

The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove surmounts the whole scene in the top tracery.

This window was unveiled and dedicated by Edward Woods, Bishop of Lichfield, 74 years ago, on Sunday 31 July 1949, when 1,000 people were in the church for the service, and 5,000 more people followed the dedication in the churchyard.

‘The Holy Church throughout the World doth acknowledge thee,’ depicted in the base of the window (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Matthew 13: 36-43 (NRSVA):

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ 37 He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!’

‘The Glorious Company of the Apostles’ includes Saint Peter, Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Paul and the Virgin Mary; ‘the Noble Army of Martyrs’ and saints include Saint Stephen, Saint Alban, Saint Editha and Saint Chad (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Reflections from the International Consultation.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Very Revd Dr Sarah Rowland Jones of the Church in Wales.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (1 August 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

We pray today for the survivors of human trafficking. For God’s healing of their bodies, their minds and their spirits. Bring joy and care where there was shame and fear. May all around them keep them safe.


Almighty Lord and everlasting God,
we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern
both our hearts and bodies
in the ways of your laws
and the works of your commandments;
that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever,
we may be preserved in body and soul;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Strengthen for service, Lord,
the hands that have taken holy things;
may the ears which have heard your word
be deaf to clamour and dispute;
may the tongues which have sung your praise be free from deceit;
may the eyes which have seen the tokens of your love
shine with the light of hope;
and may the bodies which have been fed with your body
be refreshed with the fullness of your life;
glory to you for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Saint Stephen (left), the first Christian martyr; Saint Alban (right), the first English martyr; Saint Editha of Tamworth (left) and Saint Chad of Lichfied (right) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Lamb of God stands between two angels (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)