Bishop to launch two new books of local interest

Story by Brian O Loughlin

Tuesday, 11th December, 2018 2:55pm

Bishop to launch two new books of local interest

Bishop Tom Deenihan.

The Bishop of Meath, Dr Tom Deenihan, will launch two local history books in the Greville Arms Hotel, Mullingar tomorrow - Wednesday December 12.

Westmeath Historical and Archaeological Society is hosting this event as part of its policy of supporting local heritage.

The books, published by Four Courts Press and part of the Maynooth University ‘Studies in Local History’ series, are from different eras, and cover very different themes.

Tadhg O’Keeffe, full Professor of Archaeology at UCD, has written a very accomplished history of Tristernagh Priory.

Prof O’Keeffe is an acknowledged expert on medieval architecture and this monograph describes one of Westmeath’s most iconic structures in great detail.

Little remains of the Augustinian priory of Tristernagh, founded by Geoffrey de Costentin around the year 1200 and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Its domestic buildings were apparently lost in the two centuries after its dissolution in 1536, but its church remained largely intact until shortly before the end of the 18th century when the landlord who owned the site embarked on a programme of demolition.

Although some medieval fabric survived, an important link with the world of the Middle Ages was severed.

Medieval sources allow an evaluation of the role of the priory and its community in the Anglo-Norman settlement of the west midlands.

Study of its architecture, based on the fragmentary physical remains and on two late 18th-century illustrations, reveals its church to have been an important early Gothic work, and is a reminder that, even in such frontier locations as the western half of the lordship of Meath, Anglo-Norman colonialism had an aesthetic manifestation.

Meanwhile, Michael Nolan has turned a light on one of the most controversial incidents in modern Mullingar history - the intense battle between the Bishop of Meath, Dr Thomas Nulty, and the founder of the Westmeath Examiner, John P Hayden.

The book tells the story of the Parnell split in Westmeath and argues that it was part of a wider revolt by a section of the Catholic middle class against the dominant role of the Church in the politics of the county.

The dispute in Westmeath was characterised by the enmity between Nulty, a passionate anti-Parnellite, and Parnellite newspaper editor Hayden.

Hayden was representative of the emergent Catholic middle class and a thorn in the side of Nulty long before Parnell’s divorce became an issue in Irish politics.

When the Parnell crisis broke, the two were pitted against each other once again.

In the ensuing struggle, Hayden used his newspaper, the Westmeath Examiner, not just to support the Parnellite cause but also to roundly condemn his clerical opponents, prompting the bishop to ban the faithful from reading the paper.

The author, Michael Nolan, is a BA in Humanities graduate from Dublin City University, and holds an MA in Irish history from Maynooth University. He is retired from the aviation industry, and lives in Dublin.

Both books will be available at reduced prices on the night, and all are welcome.

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