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Statue Of Archbishop Patrick Leahy, Thurles Cathedral

Statue of Archbishop Dr. P. Leahy, in Thurles Cathedral yard.

Destined to become one of the most prominent Roman Catholic churchmen in Ireland, Patrick Leahy (1806–1875) was born at Fennor, in the parish of Gortnahoe, Co. Tipperary, on May 31st 1806, the son of Patrick Leahy, a moderately successful Civil Engineer and Surveyor in Co Tipperary and Co. Cork, and Mary Margaret (née Cormack), a native of Gortnahoe.

Following his ordination he became the Roman Catholic curate of a small parish in the diocese of Cashel and was later appointed professor of Theology and Scripture here in St. Patrick’s College in Thurles, and a short time later President of that same Institution.

By August 22nd 1850 he was one of the Secretaries of the Synod of Thurles, and was afterwards appointed parish priest of Thurles and vicar-general of the Diocese of Cashel.

When the Catholic University was first opened in Dublin in 1854, he was selected for the office of Vice-Rector under then Rector Dr. John Henry Newman, (afterwards Cardinal Newman), thus filling a Professor’s chair.

He was elected Archbishop of Cashel on April 27th 1857 and consecrated on June 29th of that same year. In 1866 and 1867 he was deputed, with John Derry Bishop of Clonfert, to conduct the negotiations with Lord Mayo (Richard Bourke),[1] the Chief Secretary for Ireland, with respect to the proposed endowment of the Roman Catholic university.

[1] Five years later, on February 8th 1872, the same Lord Mayo (Richard Bourke), stopped off at Ross Island near the entrance to the harbour at Port Blair in the South Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, then a British penal colony.  Here Lord Mayo was stabbed to death by Sher Alia a convict from the North West Frontier, who was on a sick leave. His death caused great disturbance in diplomatic circles but the decision was made to play down the incident; quietly hang the murderer and appoint a new Viceroy.

A strong advocate of the cause of temperance, Archbishop Leahy enforced the Sunday closing of all public-houses in his Diocese. Owing to his energy the Cathedral of The Assumption at Thurles was built, at a cost of £45,000 pounds.

He died on January 26th 1875, and was buried in Thurles Cathedral on February 3rd of that year.

Hereunder find the following extract, relating to the erection of the statue to Archbishop Leahy in the yard of the Cathedral of The Assumption Thurles, taken from the journal of Fr. Michael Maher C.C., Thurles, and dated 1911.

“At the end of the year, the Archbishop (Thomas Fennelly 1901-1913) got a statue of Dr. Patrick Leahy erected in the Cathedral enclosure. It was sculptured at Carrara [2] by Professor Pietro Lazzerini and it is made of Sicilian or Bastard Statuary Marble. [3]

It was ready for shipment when the strike occurred on the railways in Great Britain and Ireland in August 1911. [4] We wrote to the sculptor not to send it until matters would be settled. It was sent from Leghorn [5] when the strike ceased, but arrived in Liverpool when the Irish strike was at its height in October. It was delayed some time on that account, but arrived safely in Thurles from Liverpool and Dublin in November. It weighs two tons and cost £120. I sent the cheque to Lazzerini.”

[2] Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564), the Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet of the High Renaissance period, who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art, worked here at the Carrara marble quarries.

[3] Statuary Second or Bastard blue-grey Marble was used since the time of Ancient Rome.

[4] This strike arose after widespread dissatisfaction with the activities of conciliation boards set up to negotiate between workers and their employers the Rail Companies. Local disputes led to unofficial strike action in July and early August of 1911, with a meeting of all the main rail unions arranged in Liverpool to coordinate action nationally. These Unions issued an ultimatum to the Rail Companies to accept direct negotiation with their representatives within 24 hours or suffer a national strike. Keen to ensure that the railways would not be shut down. The Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith, son of a Yorkshire clothing manufacturer, told the rail companies that police and troops would be deployed to help keep the trains running, resulting with soldiers being brought into London and 32 other towns in England and Wales. The then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill supported the police and troops against the striking union employees.

[5] Traditionally known in English as Leghorn, Livorno is a port city on the Ligurian Sea on the western coast of Tuscany, in Italy.

“The pedestal was fashioned by Mr P. Best of Cashel from stones got in the quarry at Camas, (Cashel). It cost £70. The Archbishop composed the inscription which is simplicity itself and a Galway man named Laurence Clane cut the letters.

Messr Leahy Brothers of Thurles had charge of the erection. It was no small work to get the statue in position without cranes or other powerful leverage. It was done this way. They constructed a large framework of wood around the base of the pedestal, then they hauled up the great box (2 tons 5 cwt.) containing the statue with pulleys attached to a horizontal iron bar above and let it rest on planks. They next built the pedestal and when that was finished they opened the box and got the statue into position by means of the pulleys. They finished the work a few days before Christmas.”

Overall Cost of Monument £214-10-0
[Statue £120-0-0; Pedestal £70-0-0; Leahy erection £12-0-0; Carriage from Leghorn  (Livorno) to Thurles £12-10-0.]

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