Louisburgh’s legacy shines on

County View

County View
John Healy

It was something of a coincidence that news of an upcoming ceremony in Westport was relayed to this scribe in the same week as this paper carried the story of the memorial plaque to the highly regarded Louisburgh parish periodical of fond memory, ‘An Choinneal’ – ‘The Candle’ as Béarla.
‘An Choinneal’ was a biennial parish publication, first launched in 1959, and which was published over 20 plus issues until its final edition in 2004, except for one special edition in 2012. First edited by Fr Leo Morahan under the aegis of the local Muintir na Tire, ‘An Choinneal’ set a high standard from the off, a standard which it maintained to the end, reconnecting people of Louisburgh origin, and their descendants, all over the world.
Fittingly, those who supported and contributed to ‘An Choinneal’ will now be remembered by the commemorative plaque to their honour in the community hall. In addition to all that, the digitised record of every issue of the periodical is now available on the Louisburgh/Killeen heritage website.
All of this rang a bell with the news from Kevin Bourke, guiding light of the Mayo Emigrant Liaison Committee, that Lifetime Achievement Awards are to be presented to Louisburgh natives, Canon Pat McNally and his sister Mary (Sr Bernadette) McNally this coming month. And sure enough, a trawl through the Choinneal archives confirmed that both brother and sister had contributed to the magazine for the first time in 1996, the same year as local teacher and historian, John Lyons, had joined the editorial board.
Natives of Carrowniskey, they had both attended the local national school before Mary McNally enrolled at St Joseph’s Secondary school in Castlebar prior to joining the Sisters of Mercy. Pat McNally attended the Sancta Maria Secondary school in Louisburgh, before leaving for England to study for the priesthood.
Fr Pat’s journey took him to the diocesan college of Up Holland, a small town near Wigan, where he was ordained in 1963 for the Diocese of Liverpool. He served as curate in several parishes of the diocese before returning to the borough of Wigan as parish priest  and then, elevated to Canon, as Dean of Wigan for nearly thirty years up to his recent retirement. He always kept close links with the Irish community in Liverpool, an association which he intends to maintain and strengthen in his retirement from pastoral duties, and which will be acknowledged by the Mayo Emigrant Committee by way of the Lifetime award.
Meanwhile, his sister, having been professed Sr Bernadette, went on to train as a nursing sister at the Mater Hospital in Dublin. She qualified with honours as an SRN, and then went on to qualify in midwifery at Galway University Hospital. From there, she served in Castlerea and at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar, before her appointment as Matron at the McBride Nursing Home in Westport.
On her retirement, she completed a postgraduate course in pastoral theology at Dublin City University, and she now resides at Ard Bhride in Castlebar, where Canon Pat is a regular visitor. No doubt a wide family circle of McNally relations in Westport, Aughagower and Louisburgh will be on hand to celebrate the double Lifetime Achievement awards.
Poignantly, the very first issue of ‘An Choinneal’ in 1959 carried the obituary of Seán T Morahan, a peerless teacher, community leader, dramatist, musician, public representative and patriot, who had dedicated 44 years of his life to the service of Louisburgh and its people. It would not be too much to claim that, by word and example, ‘The Master’ had shaped the future of his adopted place for generations to come.