The Little Ark of Kilbaha. - Fr Tim Kelly

Fr Tim Kelly


Fr. Tim Kelly. 1803 - 1860.


The portrait of Fr. Tim Kelly was given to Joe A Kelly, of Northampton, by Sr Frances Sheedy, last Rev Mother of the Sisters of Mercy, Kilrush, Co Clare.

The article is the work of Archdeacon P. Ryan in his research on the History of Kilrush. Co Clare.

According to my calculations the subscription of the local parishioners totals £77 13s 0d. Not bad going.

The following is a transcription, dated 13th Dec. 1849 of the letter from Fr. Tim describing the dire situation in West Clare to :

His Excellency the Earl of Clarendon, Lord Lieutenant General and General Governor of Ireland. (George Villers 4th Earl of Clarendon KG. GCB. PC.)

"My Lord, -- Fully sensible of your pressing engagements I am unwilling to trespass on your Excellency: yet, from the heart rending scenes which have occurred in this district within the last few days, I feel it a duty briefly to offer our distressed situation to your Excellency's consideration.

In this Union (Kilrush), the poorest in Ireland, during the summer months, thirty thousand persons, half the present population, received outdoor relief. Of these nearly twenty thousand have been, within the last year, thrown house-less and homeless on the world. I shall not harrow your Excellency's tender feelings by a description of their miserable state: while the families being huddled together in miserable huts, in appearances more like corpses from the sepulcher than animated beings. Several philanthropic Englishmen have visited the district and seen with their own eyes our condition, have, I presume, already given your Excellency a faint idea of our state. Yet the cup of our misery has only within the last fortnight been filled up. Not a single ownce of meal or any outdoor relief, has been administered for the last ten days. Our poorhouse contains over two thousand inmates: of these, nine hundred are children of a delicate frame and constitution: yet the young as well as the old are fed on turnips for the last week. Thousands from the neighbouring parishes, deprived of outdoor relief, crowd about the Union workhouses: there disappointed, they surround the houses of the shopkeepers and struggling farmer: and their lamentations-their hunger shrieks-are truly heart rending. But, my lord, I am gratified to say that no property is touched - no threat held forth. I know whole families in this town to lie down on their beds of straw, determined rather to starve than steal. It is true that no means are left untried to alleviate their miseries by many, very many charitable persons, of whom it may be said that, if they could coin their hearts into gold, they would give it to the poor in their present extreme necessity.

Yet, what avail their efforts to meet the present awful destitution! It was determined that a public meeting would be held to address your Excellency: but when a report-alas! A true report- reached us, that thirty five paupers from Moyarta parish, a distance of fifteen miles, in the hope to be relieved at the workhouse, were all drowned while crossing a narrow ferry, I considered it my duty not to lose a moment in communicating to your Excellency our awful situation, which may be imagined but can not be described. One week more and no food! The honest peaceable poor of this district fall like leaves in Autumn.

I feel, in thus addressing your Excellency, I take a bold step: but your sympathy for the poor has encouraged me. Never, never be it said, that during your Excellency's Administration half the population in a remote and wretched district were suffered to starve. I write in a hurry- I write in confusion. My house at this moment is surrounded by a crowd of poor persons, whose blood has become water, seeking relief! Which alas! I cannot bestow.

Anxiously and confidently expecting at your Excellency's hands a remedy, I have the honour to be your Excellency's obedient and humble servant." Timothy Kelly. P.P., Kilrush


The following was the reply, of 18th Dec 1849, from Dublin Castle:


"Sir, -In acknowledging the receipt of your memorial, the Lord Lieutenant has directed me to state that his Excellency has received with deep regret, the intelligence of the melancholy loss of life, which has occurred at the ferry of Kilrush, and of the destitution stated to prevail in that Union. He regrets that the guardians have not put rates in course of collection, from which funds could be afforded for the relief of the poor, the responsibility of providing which rests with that body. Your communication has been referred to the Poor Law Commissioners. I am, sir, your most obedient humble servant," T.N. Redington

Fr. Tim visited Rome and had an audience with Pope Pius IX towards the end of his very full life. Blessed Pope Pius IX, born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was the longest-reigning elected Pope in the history of the Catholic Church, serving from 16 June 1846 until his death, a period of nearly 32 years.

B. May 1792 in Senigallia. d. Feb 1878 Apostolic Palace.

To view a copy of "The History of Kilrush" by Archdeacon P. Ryan, click the PDF image