Muscular Christianity: Fr James Doheny brings the Tipperary Way to West Cork 

Here is the arresting life of Fr James Doheny, a priest of whom it could be rightly said they don’t make ’em like they used to:

According to the records in the Diocese of Cashel. James Doheny studied in Carlow College Seminary from 1809 to l8lI. He completed his studies for the Priesthood in St Kieran’s College Kilkenny from 181I to l8l3 where he was ordained by the Bishop of Ossory for the Diocese of Cashel & Emly. As a student James Doheny was involved in faction fighting, a regular occurrence in Ballingarry between the families of the Shanavests and of the Caravats. The Caravats war cry was “Stokes, Croke and Corcoran”. These were the leaders of that party. The Shanavests invariably called their forces together with the cry of “Pollard, St. John and Rochfort” (ref..Dr. W. Nolan, The Master). This activity caused his refusal of ordination in Carlow, so he transferred to St. Kieran’s College, Kilkenny in 1811 and was ordained in 1813.

I find it a little hard to imagine people wandering round shouting “Pollard, St. John and Rochfort” before engaging in faction fight battle, though “Stokes, Croke and Corcoran” has a bit of a ring. Fr Doheny’s story is only getting going:

We read of the Horse Fair of Ballinasloe which lasts for a whole week, Dunmanway had such a fair which like Ballinasloe attracted large attendances from all over Ireland for the week, Many deals were made, the event was a great boost to the economy of Dunmanway. However, for some years before Fr Doheny’s appointment this well organised fair had become a bit of a disaster for the merchants and business people of Dunmanway most of whom were of the Protestant faith.

Every three card trickster, conman & conwoman would come to the fair which caused great angst among the inhabitants of the town of both religious persuasions. A short time after his appointment a deputation of the Business community met Fr Doheny at his home. They wanted to elicit his assistance in attempting to quell the riotous behaviour of the crowds that were arriving around the town for the fair. Fr Doheny listened attentively and when asked if he could help invited these businessmen to have up to 30 strong young men at the Parish Hall the following Tuesday at 8pm and to leave the “rest to me”.

30 hardy young men of the town were at the Hall when Fr Doheny arrived with a sack of sticks, on closer examination these men realised these were the blackthorn stick or Shillelagh used in the faction fights of Tipperary but unknown in that area of West Cork.

He organised then into groups and taught them firstly the art of self defence with the stick, he then showed where to hit to hurt without taking a life and finally laid out plans for the Patrol of the fair in pairs, what to look out for and to deal immediately with any problems before they got out of hand. His methods proved a huge success, his actions were rewarded when his brother Thomas his wife and family arrived to farm a piece of land granted to Fr Doheny. His niece Mary Jane became his housekeeper.

Here is the plaque commemorating Fr Doheny in Dunmanway:


And here is a helpful picture of some shillelaghs:


2 Thoughts

    1. Indeed – I was using it tongue in cheek here, off the top of my head it is more associated with the later 19th Century and the principal of Rugby School, Arnold (I think it was bit on social activism in fairness)


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