Community to honour priest who helped inspire Land League

A community plans to honour a defiant former parish priest whose eviction from the parochial house in the late 1800s helped inspire the Land League movement in Cork.

Community to honour priest who helped inspire Land League

A Mass will be celebrated and a plaque unveiled in Castlelyons in north Cork on Sunday in honour of Fr Thomas Ferris, who served as parish priest from 1880 until his death in 1891.

He was evicted from the parochial house in 1883 for refusing to pay the demanded rent and lived in a hut, built on church grounds by parishioners, until his death eight years later.

James Ronayne, who is part of the organising committee, said Fr Ferris was an “inspirational” figure whose brave stance against the landlords is still remembered today.

“We hope these events will keep his memory alive, and help write his name into the history books properly,” he said.

“He may not have gone out with a gun on his shoulder, but what he and people like him did was just as important. They weren’t just taking on British landlords.

"They were taking on a whole regime. And it came at some cost.”

Fr Ferris was appointed parish priest of Castlelyons in early 1880, and within months, he was elected chairman of the Irish Land League in Castlelyons soon after its first meeting on June 5, 1880.

Three years later, he followed Land League rules and withheld payment of a rent demand from the owner of the parochial house, offering instead to pay the lesser so-called Griffith’s valuation. This was refused and a writ of eviction was issued.

On August 30, 1883, an eviction party, including four bailiffs, 50 policemen, and 40 men of the 37th Regiment from Fermoy, arrived at the parochial house where they were met by a large but peaceful crowd, and the eviction was completed by 2pm.

Parishioners had built a three-room hut for Fr Ferris in the churchyard, where he lived until his death on February 7, 1891, aged 60. He was buried inside the church. The hut was demolished in 1935.

The Mass of Remembrance will be celebrated by Fr Gerard Coleman at 11.30am this Sunday at St Nicholas Church in Castlelyons.

The community is also organising a number of marquee concerts in Fr Ferris Park, named in his honour, across August with acts including Michael English, and Red Hurley and Castlelyons Gospel Choir.

Tickets, priced €20, are available through Eventbrite or at Centra Castlelyons on Saturday, from 10am to 12noon.

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