Monthly Archives: September 2015

Marriage!

In August 1843 an unusual ceremony took place at an undisclosed church in Co. Clare. Fr William John Burke exchanged vows with Catherine Kennedy. Unlike other marriagesĀ  William John Burke was still a Catholic Priest, married by another Catholic priest. How the ceremony took place in the first place is a mystery and asks more questions than gives answers. Did the priest that performed the ceremony know, or if he did why did he marry them, knowing their circumstances? These questions cannot be answered as there are no records to consult. The only documented account of the forbidden marriage is an article in The Achill Missionary Herald followed by a letter, written by William John Burke, from the Sheriff’s Prison, Galway where he was held in August 1844.

The article was written “to correct a false impression”, of Mr Burke (the author was not named), releasing him from blame for not declaring his marriage to the widow Kennedy straight away, because he had affairs to get in order before he did so.

The Achill Missionary Herald

The Achill Missionary Herald

It did not matter if he did or did not make the declaration as the marriage was found out and he was persecuted for it anyway.

“It was this unjustifiable policy which gave his enemies the opportunity of getting up the false and malicious charge on which he was tried at the assizes of Galway.”

That is how he found himself in the Sheriff’s Prison, Galway City a year later. Naturally the church did not recognise the marriage. It is more than likely that the couple were excommunicated but the priest who married them was not suspended…

Sources
Achill Missionary Herald, August 1844. p 88-89

Meeting

Fr William John Burke was sent to the parish of Liscannor in Co Clare. It was in the parish that he met the widow Kennedy mother of seven children. It was not uncommon for the priest of the parish to make house calls to their parishioners especially the more vulnerable ones such as the elderly or widows. Mrs Kennedy was such an individual. However they met is lost in the past but this ‘meeting’ had consequences that changed both their lives and that of their descendants too.

 

Co Clare. Photo by Larry O'Neill
Co Clare. Photo by Larry O’Neill
Thanks
Larry O’Neill; photographer.
Sources
Hereford Journal April 17, 1844. P2.