Priests and Churches of Bunclody

Bunclody as a parish is not an ancient one and in its present form and extent dates only from 1925. Originally it was part of the large medieval parish of Teampall Saenbhoth (Templeshanbo). Some time in the latter half of the eighteenth century the original parish was divided, one part forming the present parish of Ballindaggin - Kiltealy, the other comprising the areas of Bunclody, Kilmyshal, Castle Dockrell and Marshalstown.

At the time there were churches at The Crosses, Caslte Dockrell and Marshalstown, but there was no Catholic place of worship in the town of Bunclody until through the generosity of the Cowan family, members of the Protestant community, a building was acquired in a side street and used as a chapel. It consisted merely of two barns with the dividing wall knocked down and it gave its name to the thoroughfare of which it was situated, viz., Chapel Lane.

One Sunday morning in the years 1806 the Catholic parishioners found the door of this barn - chapel barred against them on the orders of a local magistrate, and some years later the incident was referred to by Lord Byron in the British House of Lords. The little chapel was to serve to the people of Bunclody for many years until, in 1825, the foundation stone of a proper church was laid in the townland of Ballinapark, then part of the parish of Kilrush. The builder was Richard Pierce of Wexford and the new church was ready for use the following years. It dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen.

Over the course of a century, the several parish priests resided variously at The Crosses, at Marshalstown, at Bunclody, again at Marshalstown, and finally, in 1870, in Bunclody once more. From 1768 to 1994 the pastor was Rev. Patrick Colfer, parish priest of "Kilmyshal". He was succeeded by Rev. John Doyle, described as "P.P. of Kilmyshal" on his memorial tablet in The Crosses church. Fr. Doyle was87 when he died 8th May 1825. His successor was the curate in Marshalstown, Rev. Edward Cullen, who continued to reside at Marshalstown, although, with the building of the church of St. Mary Magdelen, Bunclody became the centre of the parish. Fr. James Walsh, C.C. lived in the house at the rear of the new church. It was he who attended the dying and the wounded at the "Battle of the Pound" in 1831. Fr. Walsh became parish priest on the death of Fr. Cullen in 1834 and lived in Bunclody until 1849 when he was transferred to New Ross. In 1860 he was appointed parish priest of Our Lady's Island where he died eight years later.

When Fr. Walsh was transferred to New Ross, the curate in Marshalstown, Rev. Francis Wafer, succeeded him as parish priest but stayed on in Marshalstown. The curate in Bunclody from 1857 was Fr. James Parle. In 1861 Fr. Parle introduced the Sister of the Faithful Companions of Jesus to the parish and gave them his house as an nucleus of a convent and school. He himself went to Australia the following years to raise funds for the new convent but never returned as he died there in 1870. His place in Bunclody was taken by Rev. John Doran who had been on the teaching staff of St. Peter's College, Wexford, since the years of his ordination, 1857. Fr. Doran, unfortunately, died of fever on New Year's Day 1864.

The pastor, Fr. Wafer, who died on 18th July 1866 and was succeeded by Rev. John Doyle who had been curate in Ferns. After about four years Fr. Doyle resigned and returned to Ferns as curate. He died there in 1888. In October 1870 Rev. Thomas Busher, C.C., Wexford, came to Bunclody as parish priest. There was no parochial house at that time and Fr. Busher lived for a while in the house on Ryland Street, known as "Meadowside", until, in 1873, a fine residence on the Market Square, once the property of the Maxwell-Barry family, was acquired as a parochial house. In 1885 Fr. Busher was appointed Vicar Forane and in 1896 became Dean and Vicar General of the diocese. He died on 6th March 1907 and was succeeded by Very Rev. William Canon Whitty who was transferred from Our Lady's Island. Canon Whitty was made Archdeacon of the diocese in 1911 and died in 1914, being succeeded by Rev. Aidan Forrestal.

When the parish priest of Ferns died on 12th December 1924, the bishop, who had been planning to divide the then large parish of Bunclody, asked Fr. Forrestal to go to Ferns. Marshalstown - Castle Dockrell was then, early in 1925, constituted a separate parish with Rev. Thomas Cleary as pastor, and Fr. John Butler was appointed parish priest of the new parish of Bunclody - Kilmyshal. Fr. Forrestal died unexpectedly on 1st March that same year. Fr Butler died at Bunclody, in 1936.

Canon Wadding died on New Year's Day 1973 and was succeeded by the present pastor, Right Rev. Monsignor Richard J. Breen, Vicar General of the diocese. A new school, dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, was built in 1975, replacing the old 1883 boys' school and the girls' convent National School. The Church of the Blessed Trinity was consecrated in 1978.

Seamas S. de Val.