Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The family connection with Father Lawrence Flanagan

Catherine Stone (aka Kitty Dwyer) was the daughter of Edward Stone and Catherine Flanagan of Lurgan near Moate, Westmeath.

Kitty is my mother-in-law and grandmother of our children. Whenever we go to visit Kitty she always tells me a bit more about the family’s history in the rural bog land of Offaly and Westmeath. 

On a recent visit, Kitty told me that her mother had a cousin named Lawrence Flanagan, a priest of the Carmelite order who went to New York.

Kitty told me three pieces of information about Lawrence Flanagan which started off some further research into his life and his work in New York and which also hinted at a role in the fight for Irish independence in the early 20th century.

Firstly, Kitty shared her personal memory of meeting Father Lawrence Flanagan when she was a child living on the farm at Lurgan near Moate. Her fleeting memory has a movie-like imagery to it and instantly conjures up a picture of this intriguing man striding through the Irish countryside on a home visit from America, perhaps during the 1930s or 1940s:

“I remember him coming to visit us one day in about 1940. He was walking along the Balycumber Road from Moate and then he turned along the Bog Road and through the fields to our house at Lurgan. I remember that we ran and told our mother that Father Flanagan was on his way along the lane so she was able to quickly clean around the house and get out the best china cups. Father Flanagan was a very tall man and I remember his lace-up boots were extremely well polished. He stayed for tea with my mother and I             remember him blessing us all and blessing our home before he left”.

Kitty also told me that for a large part of his life Father Lawrence Flanagan lived and worked as a priest in New York. She showed me some photographs taken at the wedding of her own cousin, Mary Stone, the daughter of her uncle (her father, Edward Stone’s brother), Daniel Stone, which have Father Flanagan in the background of the church, presiding over his relative’s wedding ceremony. This would indicate that Daniel Stone and his family possibly followed their relation, Father Flanagan to live in his parish in New York.

The third piece of information which Kitty told me was without doubt the most intriguing. This was a snippet of a story relating to the Irish War for Independence. She told me that one night Father Flanagan received a knock on his door in New York to discover it was a fugitive none-other than the infamous insurrectionist Eamon de Valera, the leader at that time of Ireland’s struggle for independence from Britain who had escaped from Lincoln prison in February 1919 and travelled secretly to the United States.

Kitty said that when she lived in Birmingham, bringing her family up in Newton Road, Sparkhill, her mother had sent her an Irish newspaper cutting which contained more detail about this story, following the death of Father Lawrence in 1966. She has searched for the cutting recently but been unable to find it in her house.

She does however have a Mass Card dedicated to the memory of Lawrence Flanagan, which provides some useful key dates in his life.

The Mass Card reads:

In Memoriam

In Prayerful Remembrance of Very Reverend Lawrence D Flanagan
Born June 19th 1882
Professed October 17th 1901
Ordained March 17th 1907
Died April 3rd 1966
Order Carmelite

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