For more than 80 years, Castlebar’s MacHale Park has been wrongly spelt McHale Park but on Sunday the family of Archbishop of Tuam John MacHale were the county board’s guests of honour at the Connacht finals, where it was confirmed the spelling would be corrected.
Former Mayo state solicitor Liam MacHale led the appeal to restore his great, great granduncle’s name, which had been accidentally altered.
“Down the years it was drummed into us that we were Mac,” he said.
“There was a historic reason for it. When the archbishop went to Maynooth, he spelt his name in Irish because the establishment had decreed that all Irish people should spell their surnames Mc while Scottish people should spell it Mac so they could differentiate between the two. He was strong-willed man and insisted on spelling his name in Irish.
“Only two years ago in Rome we went to the Basilica outside the walls and spotted it had two high altars. The original church had burned down in 1823 and was rebuilt in 1857 with a second altar. Above it was, carved in stone, was names of all dignitaries that attended and didn’t I see John’s name as MacHale Archbishop of Tuam there.
“When I came home I knew I had proof positive how he spelt his name because he obviously told the Italian stone cutters how it was spelt.
“I wrote to the county board chairman and said if stone cutters can get it right surely MacHale Park can? County secretary Vincent Neary, a very nice fellow, wrote back to say they would take us up on it.”
A bust of the archbishop, which had been in Liam’s possession for over 50 years, was presented to the board on Sunday at the grounds.”
Archbishop MacHale was made the Maynooth seminary’s professor of dogmatic theology after his ordination and used the role to appeal for Catholic education rights. A friend of Daniel O’Connell, he became a key supporter of Catholic emancipation.