Owning Retirement Homes. Formerly Sue Ryder Homes
A sea of yellow rapeseed. Rich growth of April May
The Eighteenth-century Chapels:
From sometime before the chapel was built this parish was officially recorded as the Union of Owning and Templeorum. This union comprised the ancient parishes of Fiddown, Tybroughney, Owning, Whitechurch and Muckalee. From as early as 1600, if not earlier, the parish chapel was in Templeorum, though there is a local tradition that Mass was offered on a sheltered hollow on the southern slope of Moondeega and at other times in the Mass Pit at Kilmanahan, but these may have been rented barns rather than rain and windswept rocks. Quite likely it would only have been in times of extreme upheaval, such as the Cromwellian decade or 1715 and 1745, that the congregation would have been driven out-of-doors to seek Mass.
And from about the mid 1700s onwards the parish priest had a settled home in Ballypatrick House. However, about the year 1884, when he was acting as Administrator, Fr. Shortall, then curate in Piltown, seems to have made Piltown his parish church. Fr. John Purcell, who came after as parish priest, continued this arrangement; and not alone did so, but moved the parish priest's residence from Ballypatrick House to Ardclone, Piltown. Ballypatrick House became the residence of the Templeorum curate and was to continue so until Easter 1920 when the Constabulary Barracks was purchased in Templeorum and the latter became the curate's house. The present curate's house in Templeorum was built in the late 1970s while Fr. Francis Maher was curate.
From what evidence has survived it would seem that the parish of Templeorum had only one chapel (they were referred to as Mass-houses for most of the eighteenth century) throughout the 1700s. In 1615 there had been two, one at Kildalton and the other in Templeorum. A report compiled for the Protestant Bishop of Ossory in 1731 notes only one Mass-house in the Union of Fiddown. That chapel was in Templeorum and was built about 1720. It was a long, low thatched building that stood along the slope to the right as one walks into the present church. Most likely it had one entrance door at the back and two windows on either side of the stone or timber altar to give light to the priest. The altar would have had some sort of timber canopy over it as a protection from the insects falling from the thatch. The floor was probably of beaten clay and many of the congregation would have used sugawn mats (ropes made from woven hay and bound in a circle) to kneel on; the walls were probably whitewashed. This chapel was taken down about 1827.
The slowness with which churches were built in the eighteenth century and the use of rented accommodation may be due to more than the anti-Catholic Penal Laws, which for most of the century were operated against Catholic property owners rather than Catholic clergy. The reasons may be found in a weakness in effective parish organisation and in a casualness in Mass attendance among parishioners. But the young priests coming to their ministry between 1790 and 1830 were making changes in parish organisation, were building new chapels dedicated solely to Catholic worship and were encouraging weekly Mass attendance. For example, over twenty chapels were built in the diocese of Ossory between 1790 and 1800. But this casual attendance in no sense means that people were not devout throughout the eighteenth century as the weekly attendance at Mass had not yet been laid down as fundamental in Catholicism. In any event it could have been difficult for poor people, poorly clad, to walk a distance to Mass in winter weather. The Great Famine solved this problem by pushing these poor to a pauper's grave or the emigrant ship. What remained got a better share of finite resources and were moulded to accept the forms of Catholic worship we know today.
For the second half of the eighteenth century the clerical situation is not clear, would appear that the parish priest, Fr. Thomas Lalor, served the parish on his own up to his death in 1781, having his parish church in Templeorum and also offering Mass in rented accommodation in both Piltown and Owning. He may not have said Mass in all three places on each Sunday as his only means of transport was horseback. When Fr. James Lalor was appointed in 1781 he may have acquired curate (see under Owning below) as he may have been on in years (53 years old at the time of his appointment to judge from his tombstone in Templeorum) when he | came here. Becoming more and more incapacitated from intemperance according to Canon Carrigan, who has also described him as a low-sized, thick, stout man tha grew childish in his old age, he probably had to rely on the help of a curate, should be noted that curates were scarce at that period since bishops were permitted to ordain twelve priests only during their episcopate. The first curate may have be Fr. John Gogarty who was working in the parish in 1783.
In 1798 due probably to the energy and drive of Fr. William Byrne, who was the curate in the parish, it was decided to build a new chapel in Piltown. Up to th time Mass in Piltown was generally offered in rented barns. There is a record of on such being rented from Mr. Redmond Anthony of The Inn, Piltown and at anothe time from a Mr. Hatchet a Protestant gentleman. This chapel took about six years 1 complete (it was not in use when William Tighe compiled his statistical survey - the county in 1800) so we can take it that money was difficult to collect. Fr. Byrr then, was long dead before it was completed which leads to the conclusion that Laurence Morrissey, the priest who was the source of so much controversy Piltown parish, may have helped finish it. The last Mass in this old chapel was offered on Sunday 24 September 1899 .
Here in Owning something must have gone seriously amiss between Fr. William Byrne and Mr, Daniels the owner of the Ballinacronny rented barn which then was the being used as a Mass-house for this area because it seems unlikely that the Parish priest and Fr. Byrne would have involved the parish in the expense of building another chapel while that in Piltown was under construction. That he did but would suggest, despite the general conditions then prevailing (the vicious 1798 civil war then raging in nearby Wexford), that there must have been little or animosity between the 80 Protestant families in the Fiddown/Piltown area and tt broad mass of Catholics on the Bessborough estate. And we should bear in min that he may have been in sole charge the parish\at the same time due to the incapacity of Fr. Lalor the parish priest which would have placed extra burdens on him. Whatever happened Canon Carrigan writes, quoting folklore that he ha collected in the Owning area, that in 1797:
This chapel [that in Ballinacronny] was closed against the priest and people, at length by the Walshs who owned the field; and then the priest, when he saw this, lighted the candles at the Ballinacronny chapel and they were brought down lighting all the way to where the present chapel of Owning now stands and there erecting an altar he said Mass for his people; and immediately after began to build the present chapel. The present chapel of Owning was built about 1798. The old chapel of Ballinacronny was in the field to west of road from Owning to Sceach. The field is called Curragh-a- thaypeul, part now in ridges. Daniel it was who closed chapel; Walsh married his daughter.
Was this, then, the reason why the building of the chapel in Owning was undertaken at a time when the Piltown chapel was at the planning stage. Perhaps Fr. Byrne was no longer happy to celebrate the Mass in a rough and ready barn and may have been of the opinion that the parish could afford the building of another small chapel that would be dedicated solely to the worship of God. The day of making do with rented accommodation was passing.
Despite the parish being a prosperous one, and it was in a period when farmers were making good money, it does seem strange that a curate should undertake the construction of two chapels at the one period. Whatever the reason, the upshot was that Owning had its chapel in about two years while the people of Piltown had to wait close on six.
The site of the new chapel in Owning may have been specially chosen by Fr. Byrne for its proximity to the ruined medieval church standing across the road rather than building close to the existing rural villages of Ballinacroney or Skough. When Fr. Byrne commenced his new chapel it may well be that no village of Owning existed and that the loose assemblage of services that we know and call Owning only grew up around the new chapel. However, the reasons for choosing Owning rather than some other site are now beyond discovery, but the reasons for moving from Ballinacroney are probably true enough and it is no harm to mention that the tradition given by Canon Carrigan above survives in the parish here to this day.
I think we can take it that the new chapel was created out of an immediate need and that it became the focal point around which, in time, shops, a pub and school grew and developed. I personally hold the opinion that our village developed and grew with our chapel and that in this year we are remembering the two-hundredth anniversary of both.
AND IMPROVING OUR CHAPEL .
Building the Chapel:
At the end of the eighteenth century a chapel did not have the sacred character
we associate with it today. It would have been a poor thatched building with little
in the way of ornamentation or seating. Because the Blessed Sacrament was held in
the priest's house many chapels were often put to other uses. Incidentally, all
Catholic places of worship were referred to as chapels --the state religion,
Protestantism, had churches -- until the dedication in 1825 of the Pro-Cathedral in
Marlborough St. , Dublin .
As Catholic standards rose the simple thatched chapels like that in Templeorum came to be seen as a symbol of poverty and backwardness and so determined efforts were made to replace them with structures reflecting the new aspirations. Also population was on the increase in Ireland for which there was need of larger chapels. New building methods had been developed in the second half of the 1700s which permitted the spanning of a wider area with a roof and a higher pitch of roof was also possible. This meant that galleries could be added to a chapel. These galleries raised off the damp ground would have provided comfortable seating and kneeling for the better class of people who contributed most to the construction of the new chapel. The poorer classes would still have stood in the body of the chapel or kneeled on their sugáwn mats.
When the decision was taken to build a chapel in Owning a site was the first essential. All the lands in this area up to the bounds of Curraghmore were the property of the Earl of Bessborough so permission to build and a lease had to be sought from him or his agent. No detail on either has survived, nor do we know the terms of the lease. From a record dated 1850 we know that the piece of ground on which the chapel stands is 2 roods and 38 perches and was leased from the Earl of Bessborough. The land was valued at 5s. and the buildings on it at £11 (a low enough valuation — the church in Fethard was valued at £68 and 'old' St. Nichola's in Carrick at £76); an earlier return of 1828 shows that a tithe composition of l0d. was payable on the property to the Protestant minister as his annual dues. Today we may think that the Church grounds are quite small, but in the period when it was erected all churches, whether Protestant or Catholic, were constructed on small sites
The cost of building the chapel would have been borne by those who were above the subsistence level. The halfpennies and pennies of the poor who attended Mass were probably less than one quarter of the cost. It would, have been the contributions of the 'comfortable' farmers, those of 20 acres and upwards, which built this chapel, and, though we have no specific records, it may well be that a number of local farmers joined with Fr. Byrne to form a building committee. And we can take it that Fr. William Byrne acted as architect, which was common enough in those times. The cost was probably between £600 and £800 for building the walls and roofing them and this may have included placing stone flags on the floor. The walls would have been roughly plastered and whitewashed. It is most likely that the two galleries on either side of the altar and the choir gallery at the back were erected when the chapel was being built. These galleries would have been reserved for those farmers who were the leading contributors to the new building, and would have been equipped with comfortable seating. All three had separate entrances which may have been partitioned off from the body of the chapel. And when looking at costs it is no harm to remember that the Catholics of Waterford paid the enormous sum of £20,000 to help build their present cathedral in 1793.
The principal means of collection to pay the debt may have been a levy of a shilling an acre on farm land which could have cleared the debt in about three years. The artisans and weavers in the parish did, I expect, also make a contribution to the new building. The poor man with a couple of acres, the labourers and the cottiers would have been hardly noticed among the contributors. Even then the old proverb aptly applied: 'High money, High Mass, low money low Mass, no money, no Mass'. It should be noted that voluntary labour could have been a significant element in the construction. This could mean horses and cars to carry the building stones to the site, and men to provide the rough labour.
The builder and whatever stonemasons were on the job would have had to be paid as would the carpenters who made the windows and the galleries. There is a local tradition that the carpenter was a James Murphy of Kilmogue who died in 1807. His descendants still live in the parish. The names of the stonemasons have not survived. The chapel was built in the form of the letter T which was common at the beginning of the nineteenth century (a similar chapel still stands at Aghavillar/Newmarket), the house extension to the top of the T was probably built with the chapel. Examples of this chapel plan can be seen in Counties Tipperary, Kilkenny and Wexford and it seems to have been used for Catholic chapels from the mid 1760s onwards. The parish church in Lisdowney (built 1837/40) is a fine example of a T-plan chapel and has retained its three-storied house at the east end. No more than Owning it has not suffered from injudicious modernisation, apart from the destruction of the altar reredos in both cases.
Our chapel is shown in place in a map of the Owning village area dated July 1812. The illustration shows an upper loft to the house with a stone stairway on the outside. This served as the curates' house for most of the nineteenth century. Judging from its interior today a curate did not live in high luxury here. The change of residence to what is now Denis and Sally O'Hara's house may have come when the parish priest moved from Ballypatrick House to Piltown. The same map notes that the chapel had two entrance doors, a feature that lasted to the beginning of the present century. One door would have led into the nave of the chapel, the other to the choir gallery.
The chapel was good value for the £600 or so that it cost, having served this community for 200 years and likely to continue for a longer time. Because it is small it should not be undervalued or abandoned and we should remember that it bears testimony to the devotion and craftsmanship of the men who planned and constructed it though their names are long forgotten. It could so very easily be disregarded and thrown on the rubbish-heap as people drift away more and more from Mass attendance as they have from the other devotions and services that gave vitality to a church . We can but hope that it will bear witness for many decades to come to an honourable past .
While we don't know much about the early days of our chapel we do have some information on nearby Carrick-on-Suir where the old chapel of St. Nicholas had its foundation stone laid on 16 July 1804 . The shell of this building was completed by 11 November in the same year despite a nave span of 38 feet (that in Owning is only 19 feet), but much remained to be done on the interior finishing and on the furnishing. We know that a Mr. Lewis from Piltown did all the slating, plastering and rendering on this chapel at 10s. the square yard. Did he work on Owning six years previously? In Carrick-on-Suir money was raised for the building work through subscriptions - a group of people of means got together and pledged a fixed sum each, but when the actual building was finished a large debt still remained. To clear this the chapel committee placed four collectors on each chapel door on Sundays and as the people came in to Mass the better off were expected to contribute Is. while the poorer sort of parishioner had to give 6d.
While our chapel seems to have been completed by 1800, it is worth remembering that though the shell was finished the interior would still have been in a crude state. But this was true of all chapels at that time so would not have been seen as unusual. The inside walls would have been plastered but not painted, the floor may or may not have been flagged, and there certainly would have been no such things as pews, stations of the cross or statues . Pews would not have come until the beginning of this century. In the early years of the church the congregation knelt or stood on a bare floor throughout the service. There may well have been a dozen or so timber forms at the front of the church for those who found standing difficult. The old or the very young would not have attended Mass. The poor who were badly clothed often did not go. So the dozen forms before the altar could have been sufficient for the congregation. The timber forms used in the chapel on Sundays and Holydays had to do duty in the local school for most of the time.