ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP MAURICE DONNELLAN

 

-The following document was found in the JGA&H Society publication and was written in the
-Irish language. Through the kind efforts of Fr. Beirne, the document was translated and is given
-here in its entirety (including the footnotes relating to the support documentation). My
-comments on this are included at the end of the article. All spelling, grammar and punctuation
-has been left (I hope) as in the original form.

 

Muircheartach O Domhnallain
( Maurice Donnellan )
Bishop of Clonfert 1695-1706

From the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society
By Fr. Eric Mac Fhinn (Fr. Eric Phair)

Translated by Fr. Francis Beirne, Church of the Good Shepherd, Parish of Ballyforan, Tisrara, Four Roads, Co. Roscommon

-The eighteenth century was the age of the Donnellans in the history of the diocese of Clonfert.
-That age begins with the career of Muircheartach or Mauritius Donnellan. Another 50 years of
-it is taken up with the reign of Peter Donnellan (1733-1778) and that of Andrew Donnellan
-(1778-1788). With the death of Andrew the time when noble blood was one of the qualities taken
-into account when a bishop was being appointed ended.
-The Donnellans certainly had nobility of blood. They were descended from the noble Ui Maine
-'Clann Bresail, a quo Donnellan.(1)'. Because of the Donnellans, according to the old people in
-Ceapatagle, St. Michael's was given as a patron to the parish of (Cill Allachtain) Kill---, the
-parish where Ballydonnellan is located (2). This fitted well with the duty of the clann in the
-kingdom of Ui Maine.
-'The arms and the dresses are with the Clann Breasail, and it is theirs to respond for Hy Many
-to every general challenge of combat from strange territories' (3). It was wonderful how these
-words fitted, in spiritual matters, to the work of Maurice Donnellan in the years after the defeat
-at Aughrim when his people and the people of Ireland in general were 'without a Lord except
-God himself'.
-Maurice Donnellan was born in the diocese of Clonfert, in the province of Connacht, in Ireland,
-according to Fr. Michael Andrew Morus, a priest and former vicar general of Dublin(4). Fr.
-Michael knew this because he heard it from trustworthy and knowledgeable people. The
-evidence of Fr. Ambrose Dermott O.P. agreed with this: He was born in the diocese of Clonfert;
-I know this to be so, I have knowledge of his house in that diocese (5). He was born about 1635
-or before if Fr. Michael's calculation that he was sixty in 1695 is correct, or according to Fr.
-Ambrose that he was over sixty. Opinions which in both cases were based on the amount of time
-they had known him personally and in the case of Fr. Michael on the appearance of Donnellan
-at the time (6). He was born to a legal marriage and his parents were noble Catholics (7). Fr.
-Ambrose knew his brother and his nephew and many more of his relatives in the same
-household (8).
-He studied for the priesthood in Spain (8, 9), in the University of Alcala (9). He was ordained.
-(10) He was awarded a doctorate at least Fr. Ambrose and Fr. Michael said he must have as he
-came to Ireland to lecture in Philosophy and Theology, something he could not have done
______________________________________________________________________________
-(1) The Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, 32
-(2) Related by Thomas Clery, Ballydonnellan, R.I.P.
-(3) The Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, 88
-(4) Vatican Archives, Processus dalariae 1695, fol. 155
-(5) ibid. information of Fr. Ambrose Dermott O.P. ad 2m.
-(6) ibid. evidence of Fr. Michael Morus and FR. Ambrose ad 4
-(7) ibid. evidence of Fr. Ambrose ad X m.
-(8) ibid. evidence of both ad 3m.
-(9) Letter 15 June 1678 from the Archbishop of Cashel to the internuncio in Brussels, English translation
-in I.E.R. July 1932, p. 27.
-(10) Vatican Archives 1.c. evidence of both ad 5.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

-unless he had a doctorate(11). While on the mission in Ireland he [was] highly regarded for his piety and
-fulfilling of his priestly duties (12). He read Mass and administered the sacraments, performed the rites
-of the Church and preached. His life was an example to the city and the diocese as he preserved the faith
-from error. He was therefore respected by the clergy of the diocese and also by the Archbishop of Tuam
-(12).
-The School of Philosophy he operated was an important aspect of his work (9). Such schools were rare in
-Ireland at the time. In 1678 Archbishop Brennan was not aware of any similar school in the entire
-country (9). He was operating the school in 1666 and from then until 1678 (9). That year 166 is confirmed
-on the word of two independent witnesses. Archbishop Brennan visited Maurice Donnellan in 1678, he
-mentions Donnellan's school and says he has been operating it for 12 years. While giving evidence to Fr.
-Ambrose Dermott O. P. in the year 1695 he says that he first met Maurice Donnellan when he returned
-to Ireland from Spain. Fr. Ambrose was himself attending Donnellan lectures for three years (13). Fr.
-Ambrose was (from Boyle) Bolien.
-Like Bishop Thady Keogh, Donnellan was friendly with the Earl of Clanrickard. It was from the Earl
-that Archbishop Brennan first heard mention of Donnellan. 'While I was in the province of Tuam'
-wrote the Archbishop to the internuncio 'I visited the Earl of Clanrickard---he said he had asked the
-bishops of Elphin and Clonfert to recommend his friend Maurice Donnellan, doctor of Divinity and Dean
-of Clonfert, to the Holy Assembly as bishop of Achonry, and he mentioned the matter to me. The
-Archbishop then mentions his own visit to Donnellan; he is clever and discerning, a very diligent person,
-he does not spare himself preaching and he follows full and correct teaching (9). However Donnellan was
-not appointed as bishop of Achonry. As well as being a lecturer in Pholosophy Donnellan was also a dean
-of Clonfert. It seems he was also vicar general to Bishop Thady Keogh (14). He was visiting Dublin about
-the year 1685 where he met Fr. Michael Morus, a man with whom he was acquainted for some years
-after (15).
-In 1687 Bishop Thady Keogh died (16). Donnellan was appointed as vicar capitular (17). Although the
-Church had freedom at the time and this continued up to the defeat of James II a few years later no new
-bishop was appointed immediately. Donnellan was being considered (14) but was not appointed until
-1695 after the persecution had started afresh. According to the evidence of Fr. Michael Morus and Fr.
-Ambrose Dermott he fulfilled the duties of vicar capitular diligently and effectively.
-On 31 ? ? 1693 King James wrote from St. Germain to Pope Innocent XII asking him to appoint Rev.
-Maurice Donnellan, Vicar General of Clonfert Diocese, as bishop of the diocese, an elevation well
-deserved by him in many ways, and something which will be to the advantage of the entire Church in
-Ireland (18). The Church in Ireland is in trouble and he is trying to get assistance to them as well he can,
-that is why he is sending this petition confidently to the Pope (19).
______________________________________________________________________________________
-(11) ibid. evidence of Fr. Michael ad X.
-(12) ibid. evidence of both ad 6m., ad 7m., ad 8.
-(13) ibid. evidence of Fr. Ambrose ad primum.
-(14) See Brady, The Episcopal Succession---2, 219, Brady mentions letters from the Internuncio 3 March
-1685 announcing the death of the bishop of Clonfert and the election of Maurice Donnellan, dean of the
-diocese and vicar general to the late bishop, as vicar general he is now recommended as bishop ( the date
-1685 may be a typing error as Brady himself mentions earlier that it was in 1687 that Bishop Keogh
-died).
-(15)Vatican Archive, 1c, evidence of Fr. Michael ad primum. It says that Fr. Michael McAndrew Morus
-was a Dublin priest and a former vicar general in Dublin. (There is an account of Fr. Michael by Dr.
-Richard Hayes in Biographical Dictionary of Irishmen in France, s.v. Moore, Michael).
-(16) See an account of him in Gearrbhaile 1943-4.
-(17) Vatican Archive 1.c. evidence of both ad X.
-(18) Vatican Archives, 1.c. Jacobus R., 'apud Germanum'--, to the Pope comhsigned at Melfort.
-(19) Vatican Archives, 1.c. Die XVI Septembris 1695. (It is strange---Brooke as a name for Thady Keogh,
-and the same appears in the evidence--and Fr. Ambrose. Every possibility that it is a transcription error-
--official which puts 'Boork' perhaps for 'Keoch').
__________________________________________________________________________________________

-By the end of September 1695 Donnellan was selected as bishop. The 16th of that month the Guardian of
-Ireland, Cardinal Altieri, gathered in his own palace the documents about the state of the Church in
-Clonfert and about Maurice Donnellan's qualities, a priest of Clonfert who is to be appointed on the
-nomination of King James. The witnesses for the process were Fr. Michael Morus and Fr. Ambrose
-Dermott. From these two as is evident from the above comes much of our knowledge of Donnellan. They
-both praised him greatly. He was an understanding person, knowledgeable of the world as he showed in
-previous offices he held (20). They were not aware that he ever gave scandal in his life nor in his
-teaching, nor were they aware of any canonical bar which would require apostolic pardon before he was
-made a bishop (21) . He is worthy of a bishopric especially that of Clonfert as he is nominated by the
-English King and it is certain that his appointment will be to the advantage of the people and the Church
-of Clonfert (22).
-As a finish to the enquiry evidence was given on the state of Clonfert at the time. The city of Clonfert is
-in great decay such that only a few houses remain (24). It is almost one mile around. Fr. Ambrose does
-not know how many are there at present as it suffered much in the recent war; before that there was
-between three and four thousand people there, almost all Catholics under submission to the English
-king; Fr. Ambrose was often there.(24).
-The cathedral is in the city, the witnesses do not know to what saint it is dedicated, it is now in the hands
-of the heretics (23). There used to be and are dignitaries and canons there, but there is no place to live
-there now, because of the persecution of the heretics. The care of the souls is in the charge of priests
-appointed by the bishop working in secret in private places. There is no vestibule no church vestments,
-no clerical college and no hospital as all have been taken by the heretics. There is a bishop's palace
-beside the cathedral but the Protestant bishop lives there and it is he who has the the wealth and income
-of the episcopacy. All the Catholic bishop has is the loving help given by the Catholics (23, 24). The
-Zoccolanti Fathers have a convent there where the heretics now live after they converted it to a house
-while the Fathers are living in private houses in the diocese. Fr. Michael was in the diocese. Both heard
-talk of him from priests who knew him well.
-Three days later on 19 September 1695 Cardinal Altieri gave his official report for the concistory which
-was to follow, on the church of Clonfert, the qualities of Maurice Donnellan, a priest, who was to be
-appointed bishop there on the nomination of King James (25). The report follows the questions in the
-inquiry already mentioned. It also gives the Casantensian Library as a source for the evidence that the
-diocese is large and has a lot of places. He says that Donnellan is about 60 years old, that he is a doctor of
-Divinity, that he was a lecturer of Philosophy and Theology in Ireland and that he is vicar capitular in
-Clonfert.
-The first result of the appointment of Donnellan was that ordinations of priests started again in the
-diocese. As with Thady Keogh before him Maurice Donnellan ordained priests from every part of
-Ireland. This is clear from the 1704 lists (26). It can be seen also from the lists that Donnellan had the
-ordinations at the same locations as Keogh before him; Ballyloga (Baile Luog), Kilconnell and Clonfert.
-It is obvious that there are errors at times in the the lists concerning the year of ordination. It states for
-example in the County Sligo list that 'Donnelan Titular bishop of Clonfert' ordained' William
-MacDonaugh, Tialooher (Parish priest of Killvarnett in 1704) in Clonfert in 1670 (27). Donnellan could
-not have ordained before he was a bishop. Apart from that was that Fr. Fr. William MacDonaugh was
______________________________________________________________________________________
-(20) Vatican Archives, Processus Datariae, 1. C., evidence of both,
-(21) ibid. evidence of both, ad XIIm.
-(22) ibid. evidence of both, XIII.
-(23) ibid. evidence of Fr. Michael: ad primum usque ad XIIm.
-(24) ibid. evidence of Fr. Ambrose ad primum ad 2m usque ad AII---.
-(25) See Brady, Rev. William Maziere. The episcopal succession----2---the Latin inscription published.
-(26) The lists made in 1704 of the registered priests----registering the Popish clergy. The list is published
-in I.E.R. 12,299 sq.
-(27) I.E.R., 12, 512-13, Co. Sligo.
_____________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________________________
-Twenty-eight in 1704 indicating he was only six when [read if] ordained in 1670. Again it is said that
-'Daniel MacGrath, Ballyaghron (parish priest of Ballyaghron, in the liberties of Coleraine)' received
-Holy Orders in 1694 from 'Maurice Donnellan Titular bishop of Clonfert' (28). It is stated that 'Daniel
-Vaghan, Coolragh' received Holy Orders in 1691 at 'Ballilnagh, Co. of Galway' from Maurice Donnellan
-Bishop of Clonfert' (29). Again it states that 'Ambrose Fallon of Clondenagh' received Holy Orders at
-Kilconnell from 'Murtagh Donnellan, Bishop of Clonfert' in the year 1694 (30).
-A number of ordinations by him are listed for the year 1696. There are six priests that he ordained that
-year, five of them at least in Ballyoga;'Edmond Gargan, Staholmog, in the Barony of Kells' (in the
-month of July), at 'Ballinleogue', (31) 'Roger Brennan of Montagh' at 'Ballyloagh'; (30) 'John Bern of
-Lackan' at 'Ballyluogh'; (32) 'Farrell Higgin of Clousee' at 'Ballyleoge' (33); 'Patrick Reynolds of
-Cloonefadda' at 'Ballyleagh'. (32) In these five cases the ordaining bishop is called 'Murtagh Donnelan'.
-He is called 'Titular Bishop of Clonfert' in the first case and 'Bishop of Clonfert' in the other four cases.
-The first ordination was in July in the other cases only the year was mentioned. Another ordination is
-mentioned for 1696. 'Henry Crelly, jnr. Tamlaght O'Creely' received Holy Orders in 1696 from
-"Mauritius Donnellan, Titular Bishop of Clonfert', (28) in this case neither the month or place are
-mentioned. Perhaps it was also in place of 1696 that 1694 was used above. (28) It seems then that
-Maurice Donnellan carried out ordinations in July 1696 within the first year of his tenure, in Ballyloga,
-where ordinations were carried out earlier by Thady Keogh, and a place still known as 'Cathaoir an
-Easbuig' the bishop's seat, out in the wilderness.
-He had another ordination in 1697 in the month of March at Kilconnell, where he ordained ' Teige Davy,
-Coolany' (34). There was another ordination at Kilconnell the same year in September when 'Edmond
-Conane, Dunmigan' was ordained. (33) There was an ordination near Kilreckil in which 'Andrew
-Kirwin, of Ardakeabegg' and 'Jonack Mooney of Ballyvolane' were ordained. (34) There was an
-ordination at Clonfert where 'Cormuck Teeny, Millineane' was ordained. (33) But it is Ballyloha which
-is most interestimg. At an ordination (or ordinations) there 'Philip Higgins of Athleague' was ordained
-(the bishop is called Dominick Donnellan); (30) 'Edm. Burke, of Gorrone; (34) 'Owen Reily, of Turlogh';
-'(34) Connor Hydey, of Cladagh'; (34) 'Edmond Carrolanes of Muffe in the Barony of Morgallan' were
-ordained. (31) In the last case the precise date is given '24 December 1697 at Ballyong Co. of Gallway',
-from 'Murtagh Donnelan, Titular Bishop of Clonfert'. (31) No dates are mentioned for the other
-ordinations at Baile Luog (''Ballylooge'). Again in the year 1698 he was ordaining. At Clonfert 'John
-Morrish of Carnemore' was ordained. (35) At Baile Luog 'Ballylooge' 'John Bradigan, Clooncoe' was
-ordained. (34) In the case of two other ordinations,'Hugh Riley, Garrymore' and 'Philip Fay, Maghery'
-no place given except 'County of Gallway'. (36) In those two cases 'Mauritius Donnellan, Popish Bishop
-of Clonfert' is given as the name of the bishop.
-The years of Maurice Donnellan's episcopate were years when the persecution was strong. In the year
-1696 because of an order from the English government in the month of November Fr. Joseph Power
-Provincial of the Discalced Carmelites was arrested in Loughrea along with Fr. John Baptist Ward
-O.D.C. and some other priests, secular priests, Franciscans and Dominicans. (37) They were taken to
-Galway where they were imprisoned for fifteen weeks. In the year 1697 the Banishment Act was passed
-which ordered that every bishop and every religious had to leave the country before 1 May 1698.
-In November 1697 the Carmelites in Loughrea asked the bishop to make a visitation to their convent.
-The reason for their request was so that he could confirm that their house was suitable to accept novices,
-as was being done by other Orders in Ireland, although it was forbidden by the Carmelite Superiors in
-Rome.
__________________________________________________________________________________________
-(28) ibid. 454-5 C. Derry
-(29) ibid. 344-5 Co. Clare
-(30) ibid. 492-3 Co. Roscommon
-(31) ibid. 484-5 Co. Meath
-(32) ibid. 496-7 Co. Roscommon
-(33) ibid. 400-407 Co. Galway
-(34) ibid. 512-17, Co. Sligo
-(35) ibid. 474-5. Co. Mayo
__________________________________________________________________________________________

-In those days there was only one Archbishop (Archbishop of Cashel) and two bishops (Bishop of Derry
-and Bishop of Clonfert) living in Ireland (39). In a list in the Albani manuscripts in the Vatican Archives
-the Bishop of Clonfert in particular is praised. 'Clonfertensis-sanctissimus, doctissimus, vigilantissimus
-semper-----residens'. (39) Of the people in Ireland suitable for the episcopate Owen Donnellan 'Eugenius
-Donellan' the nephew of Maurice Donnellan is mentioned twice, he was a Doctor of Divinity from
-Salamanca, and parish priest of Binne Moire ('parochus Binmor').
-I do not see any ordinations by Maurice Donnellan for the years 1699 or 1700 in the 1704 lists. (This is
-not to say of course that he had no ordinations for those years). But references to ordinations by him are
-found again in 1701 at Ballyloga and at Clonfert. That year 'Patrick Phelan, Aghaboe, in the Barony of
-Upper Ossory' was ordained at 'Ballyboge'; 'Murtogh Donnellan, Bishop of the Diocese of Clonfert'.
-(40)
-Also ordained at 'Ballylooge' was 'Darby Keirne of Cloone'; 'James Donnellan Bishop of Clonfert' was
-named as the bishop. (30) And at Clonfert 'Owen Conway alias Knuohan, Millofforne' was ordained.
-(33)
-Not only did Donnellan refuse to leave the country but he continued to ordain priests. The English
-authorities were after him and they arrested eventually on the warrant of a Justice of the Queen for
-County Galway. (41) He was arrested but the people attacked the government officers and he was
-released again. On 30 March 1703 there were up to 300 people some of them on good horses and well
-armed gathered on the king's road ( or the Queen's in Her Majesty's high way) as the bishop was being
-taken away. They saved the bishop 'with great force and violence and against the known laws of the
-kingdom' from the hands of William Eliot, Neale Montgomery, Edward Jones and William Feddericks.
-(41). 'Her Majesty's good subjects' were frightened. Arms were taken from Eliot and his companions
-and they were destroyed. Jones and Montgomery were so severely hurt that they were in danger of
-death. The conspirators ('rioters') were dispersed. The power of the bishop and the clergy and the
-catholic nobility is so strong in that country that little was found out if any of those leaders were found
-out. And the bishop is being supported and maintained in hiding by people who are enemies of the
-government of her majesty. (41)
-This is how the story was told in a proclaimation from the Council Chamber on 30 April 1703.The
-Queen's officers were ordered to search for and arrest the bishop and the leaders. A reward of f50 in
-excess of the usual under the existing law to anyone who would arrest the bishop or who would give
-evidence to help the government to arrest him.(41)
-But he was not arrested. He continued his work until death. One small item that can be noted from the
-1704 lists from County Galway that he is mentioned in connection with county Galway (34) in the
-following manner 'then Titular Bishop of Clonfert'. (34) Whither it is the government trying to pretend
-that he was not there in 1704 or the priests helping him stay in hiding, is responsible for the 'then', the
-'then' appears only in the lists for county Galway.
-In the year 1705 he erected a memorial in Kilconnell which can be seen today in the Donnellan Chapel,
-to James Donnellan Doctor of Divinity who died on 29 October 1701. A memorial which was prepared by
-the bishop for himself also when the time would come. (43).
-The time came on 2 July 1706- that is given down (in Latin) in the Book of Meelick ' On 2 July in the
-year 1706 died the Lord Maurice Donnellan, Bishop of Clonfert, a holy, learned and wise man, faithful to
-the Seraphic Institute, he is a judge and curator of the Institute who was truly faithful and obedient to
-the Order, without finishing his seventy fifth year. (43)
__________________________________________________________________________________________
-(36) ibid. 310-311. Co. Cavan.
-(37) Account of Fr. Joseph, I am indebted to the---fathers who mentioned this account to me, and gave
-me extracts from it. was appointed---Provincial---the same year 1695, the same year Donnellan was
-appointed bishop---
-(38) Fr. Joseph Power 'rogatius fuit 111. Dnus. Mauritius Don---Clonfertensis, qui, ut conservator boni
-communis, visitatus ecclesia, conve----Locrensi in sua diocesi positis, authenticam fidem fecit sua manu et
-sig----habere in praedicto conventu omnes et meliores commoditates quam omn----quae tamen nunc actu
-in suo libello supplici manu propria--------praesentato Summo Pontifici'--- I am very grateful to the
-Fathers----for information on this manuscript and for giving me abstracts on it.
-(39) Vatican Archive, Albani 163ff260-261v., ed Cathaldus On----in Archivum Hibernicum 16, 66-70.
-(40) I.E.R. ., 13. Pp490-91, Co. Laois.
-(41) Council Chamber, 30th April 1703, published by Burke, Rev. William---Priests in the Penal Times
-1660-1760, 136.
-(42) 'Hic jacet D. Jacob. Donelan S.T. ACI: CAN: Doctor obit 29-------Memoriam hoc monumentum
-erectum fuit ac illustrissimo Domino Domino-----E. Clune. An D. 1705. Pro suo etiam monumento.'
-(43) Lawrence copy of the Book of Meelick. It is clear therefore that the date cited by Maziere Brady (op.
-Cit.) is an error circa---death. An error also by Fr. Burke saying that he died 'soon after----year 1703.
__________________________________________________________________________________________
-JLD COMMENTS: This highly reliable document is extremely important to the history & genealogy of
-the Donnellan family. We find in the testimony the names not only of Maurice Donnellan--but also a
-Dominick, a James, an Owen, Peter, Andrew and the elusive Murtogh. In another section on this site
-(Irish Naming Patterns), we'll see how these names connect up with our extended Donnellan family.