Talk to focus on pioneering priest

Published 16/08/2014 | 00:00

The story of a pioneering Dunleer priest will take centre stage at the Thomas D'Arcy McGee Summer School in Carlingford (Aug 17 - 20).

Dr. Jason King will deliver a lecture entitled 'Father Dowd, the Grey Nuns and the Montreal Famine Sheds'.

During the summer of 1847 and in 1848, the Grey Nuns and Father Patrick Dowd from Dunleer, County Louth, worked tirelessly to care for Irish Famine emigrants in the fever sheds of Montreal, and to provide homes for widows and orphans. Dr. King has recently established a digital Irish Famine archive that contains their extensive eye-witness accounts of the suffering of Famine emigrants.

In recognition of their compassion, devotion, and self-sacrifice, President Michael D. Higgins declared that: 'As a country, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Grey Nuns, who cared for so many Irish widows and orphans who were left destitute, impoverished and alone in a strange country.'

At the National Famine Commemoration on May 11, 2014, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny also paid tribute to The Grey Nuns and 'the quality of their mercy' in 'looking after 800 children whose parents had died on board the emigrant ships'. Similarly, at the 2012 National Famine Commemoration in Drogheda, Minister Jimmy Deenihan called upon the nation to 'remember Fr. Patrick Dowd who was born in 1813 and curate of Drogheda during the height of the Famine. He moved to Montreal in 1848 to work with the Grey Nuns looking after the Irish Famine victims.'

Fr Dowd and the Grey Nuns founded the Montreal St. Patrick's Orphanage in 1851. On November 24, 2013, the Father Patrick Dowd Bi-Centenary Celebration was held in Dunleer and Montreal to honor his legacy as part of The Gathering.

Fr Dowd was also a close friend and ally of Thomas D'Arcy McGee. Together they provided clerical and lay leadership for Montreal's Irish community in the 1850s and 1860s when it was confronted with French-Canadian ethno-religious rivalry and the threat of Fenian political unrest. It fell upon Fr Dowd, accompanied by two Grey Nuns, to break the news of her husband's assassination to Mary McGee in 1868.

Dr. King is now expanding the digital Irish Famine archive to include Fr Dowd's recently discovered correspondence written during the Famine in County Louth and in Montreal.

To find out how to attend the talk go to https://www.dkit.ie/thomas-darcy-mcgee.

Drogheda Independent

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