What remains of the Monastery at Kilmacduagh, home to William John Burke.
Photo by Larry O’Neill
Young William John Burke spent two years at St. Jarlath’s of Tuam, in preparation for entering St. Patrick’s Seminary at Maynooth. A diligent student he was readily accepted to the institution and began his studies in 1825. Below is his matriculation, or qualifying exam record. The entry contains the following information:
Name: William Burke
Entered Maynooth: 25.8.1825
Ordained: 1828 (Subdeacon) & 1830 (Priest).
Reproduced by kind permission of The Russell Library NUIM
Larry O’Neill (photography)
Audrey Kinch, Library Assistant at Special Collections: Russell Library & JPII Library. St Patrick’s College, Maynooth
Yorkshire Gazette 02 June 1855
William John Burke was educated locally for his first years of schooling and may have attended a “Hedge” school, common at the time. When he was a bit older his father hired a private tutor probably to prepare him for his second level education.
At the time the best and maybe the only school in the West of Ireland that was focused on training young boys for the priesthood was newly founded St Jarlath’s of Tuam. The school opened in 1800 provided a good basis for young boys who would later enter the seminary. William John Burke was accepted to study there where he remained until he entered St. Patrick’s of Maynooth in 1825.
The Reporter, June 20 1868. P8
Ní Dheirg, Íosold. Emily M. Weddall: Bunaitheoir Scoil Acla. Baile Atha Cliath: Coisceim, 1995.
William John Burke grew up in the Kinvara area of Co. Galway. He seemed to enjoy a relatively happy and comfortable childhood. His father, John owned quite a bit of land in the Kinvara area, affording William John and his sibling a few extra luxuries denied so many at the time.
Kinvara Bay, where William John Burke lived as a child
The Burke family were popular in their community. John Burke contributed to local causes, including that of the building of St. Colman’s Church outside Kinvara. According to William John, in a lecture he gave many years later in theirs was an open house, welcoming people from all communities.
William John was the second son of John Burke and his wife. His father was a devout Catholic, whose faith he would give his life for, adhered to the tradition of encouraging one of his sons to become a priest. In those days it was usually the second son as the first (Patrick) inherited the land. William John as the second son was earmarked for the priesthood, this vocation was instilled in his from childhood, as he would tell in his lectures decades later. As preparation for the priesthood began as a child, education was an important factor. At the age of about 12 young William John would have left home to attend St. Jarlath’s School in Tuam, the first step on his journey to becoming a priest.
The Reporter, June 20 1868. P8
Sheffield Independent 10 December 1870. p 12
Emily’s Father William John Burke made a choice that changed the course of his destiny and that of his family’s forever. The decision that he made in 1843 not only impacted on his life at the time but for that of his descendants for a generations.
Born about 1805 in the Kinvara area of Co Galway, to wealthy landowner, John Burke and his wife, William John was one of at least three children. Accounted for is his older brother Patrick and one sister. There were possibly more children in his family, but it is impossible to say exactly how many because the amount of records available for early Nineteenth century Ireland are scant.
Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara. Hometown to William John Burke
Emily and her friends Darrell And Millie Figgis, traveled from Achill to Dublin to attend the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. The trio carried a wreath which bore the simple inscription O Acla (from Achill). The funeral attended by thousands was a pivotal moment in Irish history, which heated up the already smouldering political situation. Less than a year later the Easter Rising would take place, Emily and both Figgis’ would be entwined in the event.
Reproduced by kind permission of Aidan Heavy Library, Athlone
Thanks to Gareoid O’Brien, Aidan Heavy Library, Athlone
Mayo News, 7th August 1915. P. 8