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Fully Restored Statue Of Archbishop Leahy To Be Blessed On Sunday Next.

Decapitated statue of Archbishop Patrick Leahy D.D.

The decapitated statue of Archbishop Patrick Leahy D.D., latter Archbishop of Cashel from 1857-1875, and which was wilfully vandalised, has now been fully restored.

Most Rev. Patrick Leahy, D.D.
Archbishop of Cashel 1857-1875

The statue, which depicts his right hand holding a breviary, stands 8ft (2.4384m) in height, on a limestone pedestal 7ft (2.1336m) high; attired in his episcopal soutane, rochet and mozetta, with his head uncovered, stood in the front yard of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Thurles.

Alas, the statue first erected 112 years ago, in 1911, was wilfully and shamefully decapitated in a gross act of vandalism, in late June 2019.

The statue harmonised well with its surroundings until the night of June 28th, 2019 when it was decapitated; latter occurring in the same month, 140 years exactly, after the Cathedral was solemnly consecrated.

The statue’s limestone pedestal was initially fashioned in Cashel, Co. Tipperary, by one, Mr Best and consists of four great blocks, chiselled, moulded and panelled, in accordance with the designs of one Mr J.C. Ashlin* of Dublin. The pedestal and statue, is long regarded as a work of fine art, and was erected by Messrs. Leahy Brothers of Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

[*Note: The architect for the building was J.J. McCarthy, while B. McMullen was the main builder, while the aforementioned J.C. Ashlin was responsible for the enclosing walls, railings and much of the other finished work.]

The statue was highly regarded at the time of being erected by those who knew and remembered Dr. Leahy; latter who stated that it was “an admirable and a remarkable likeness of him portraying his fine commanding presence and his handsome features”.
An inscription on the limestone pedestal declares, “In commemoration of the Most Rev. Patrick Leahy, D.D., Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, 1857-1875, by whom this Cathedral Church of the Assumption was erected”.

A lengthy Garda investigation was initiated in the weeks which followed, however despite a €1,000 reward, the head of the statue was never recovered and those responsible were never brought to justice.

The restoration work has been carried out by sculptor Mr Stephen Burke, fashioned using photographs of the original statue and a portrait of Archbishop Leahy.
The now restored statue will officially be blessed on Sunday next and this blessing will be followed by the annual Cathedral Carol Service.

Interesting to note that, being free from debt, Thurles Cathedral which replaced the ‘Big Chapel’, was eventually solemnly consecrated on Saturday, June 21st 1879. It was Archbishop Thomas William Croke whose statue stands on west Liberty Square, Thurles, who performed the ceremony himself including the consecration of the High Altar.

Bishop William Fitzgerald, Roman Catholic Bishop of Ross who consecrated Thurles Cathedral’s Sacred Heart Altar.

Bishop Francis McCormack, then Bishop of Achonry, (1871 to 1887) (latter consisting of twenty-three parishes in Counties Roscommon, Sligo, and Mayo), and later Bishop of Tuam, Co. Galway, who consecrated Thurles Cathedral’s Altar of the Blessed Virgin.
[Note: History notes that Bishop Francis McCormack’s nephew was Captain Patrick McCormack, one of the Cairo Gang assassinated on Bloody Sunday (1920) on the instructions of Michael Collins, then Director of Intelligence of the Irish Republican Army].
Bishop Francis McCormack, died in 1909 and is buried in Galway Cathedral crypt, [His papers are stored in the Diocesan archive].

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