Father Dan Nolan: Church Builder of St Anne’s

From the Annals of Ardclough 2003.

Ardclough St Anne;'s church in 1985

Ardclough St Anne;’s church in 1985

Dan Nolan, the last parish priest of the parish of Lyons to reside at Ardclough, featured  prominently in the nineteenth century writings of William Fitzpatrick (1830-1895), who resided in Celbridge for a time.  Fitzpatrick’s Life and Times of James Warren Doyle describes how Fr Nolan built St Anne’s church in 1810.

The main source of Fitzpatrick’s anecdotes was the man who succeeded the former Kill PP Daniel Nolan as PP of Paulstown in 1929. James Maher was an uncle of Paul Cardinal Cullen and confidante of Kildare and Leighlin’s most famous Catholic Bishop, James Warren Doyle, who had a fractious relationship with Fr Nolan.

Ardclough chapel, built 1810

Ardclough chapel, built 1810

Fitzpatrick’s 1880 edition claims: “When first introduced to Dr Doyle he wore a frieze coat. The bishop could hardly believe he was a priest.” That led to the story of the double-barrelled gun Nolan had over his mantelpiece, which “had affected the conversion of one of the most hardened sinners in this parish. “I fired, taking care not to hit him in the vital part. He yelled and began his confession. After a few words he muttered: “That’s all Father Dan.” “Barney,” said I, “recollect yourself. You haven’t told me one half yet.” I cocked the other barrel, and whereupon he made as full and as clean a confession. And within that week there wasn’t a sinner in the entire parish who didn’t do the same.”

Maher quoted one of Dan’s sermons: “My good people, you will perceive that I have put the windows on one side, the side the sun comes in during mass. But no doubt there are many persons, very wise in their own conceit, who will tell you that I ought to have put windows opposite. But is it not better to catch the sun and keep it where it is, than to make a second line of windows from which it would only run out again.” Nolan’s argument with Valentine Lawless, Lord Cloncurry, seems to have begun over outstanding rent on the farm held by Daniel’s priest-brother, Tom.

Bishop James Warren Doyle (JKL) portrait in Carlow

Bishop James Warren Doyle (JKL) portrait in Carlow

Lawless first wrote to Bishop Doyle on February 26th 1824 and the letter is preserved in the Carlow archives. He objects to Nowlan’s complaint in a letter to Lady Cloncurry that the landlord had insulted him and gives a long description of how the priest had allowed the farm to fall into disrepair, left rent outstanding, and sold off some fittings that Lawless had thought was rightfully his. In response Lawless seized the priest’s turf. Lawless asked the bishop to investigate.

Doyle proceeded with the enquiry, for Thomas Nolan wrote to the bishop on March 15th 1824 from the cottage in Painestown, Kill: “He wants now to add blame and defend the insults. It would be much more creditable of Lord Cloncurry to let his treatment of us sink into oblivion

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