Friday, May 15, 2009

Peter Cassidy / Peadar Ó Casaide

clip_image002Below is a fascinating memoir of my grandfather Peter Cassidy, as compiled by my cousin-once-removed Peadar Cassidy. Although Peter lived well into my adulthood, a lot of the detail below was new to me.

This article is due to be printed in the Clogher Record, journal of the Clogher Historical Society, Peadar kindly gave me permission to reprint here.

Peadar Ó Casaide (Peter Cassidy) was born at Nafferty, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan in August 1913, the youngest of four children:  Rose, Mary, James  and Peter.   His parents were Peter and Ann (nee Callan).  They lived on a 30 acre farm, a mile from Carrickmacross.    In his family circle he was known as Petie.

He attended St Joseph’s National School, Carrickmacross from 1918 to 1926.  He secured a Monaghan County Council scholarship and went to the Patrician Brothers High School from 1926 to 1932.   His parents died while he was in his teens, Peter in 1925 and Ann 1927.    He was in the care of his older sisters until they emigrated to the US in 1928/1929.  His brother James, four years his senior, took over the farm as a teenager and was his guardian until Peadar (Petie) was 21.

He acted as pupil teacher occasionally at his old National School while preparing for his Leaving Certificate examination in 1932.   He was successful and was called to teacher training in St Patrick’s College in Dublin.  His time in Dublin had a strong influence on him.   He heard speakers such as Countess Markievich and the sister of Padraic Pearse on O'Connell St. while the new Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein, Cumman na nGael and Eoin Duffy's Blueshirts fought it out, often literally, on the streets of Dublin.   In the lecture rooms his classmates included John D. Sheridan, Paddy Crosby and Sean O'Siochan.

He graduated from St Patrick’s College in 1934.  For the next four years he lived mainly in his old home and taught for short periods in national schools in the vicinity of Carrickmacross, such as Lisdoonan, Magoney and Blackstaff and subsequently in Killybrone NS in north Monaghan. There he was appointed to teach Irish since the principal teacher, having been educated many years earlier, had little knowledge of the language.

He married Nora O’Neill of Lisgall, Carrickmacross in 1938 and obtained an appointment as Principal of Knocknagrave NS in 1939. They resided at Cornagilta, Tydavnet in north Monaghan from 1940 until 1948 when he was appointed principal of Aghamakalin NS and they moved to Emyvale.   His final appointment was to Ballymackney NS, Carrickmacross. in 1952.

Three of their four children, Páid, Mary and Peadar, were born in north Monaghan; and the fourth, Dympna, in Carrickmacross.   Their new home at Drummond Otra, Dundalk Road, Carrickmacross was their pride and joy, a welcoming place for extended family and friends. They took great pride in household decoration and comfort and they won prizes for their superb garden with its flowers, shrubs and vegetables.  

Soon after his arrival back in Carrickmacross he resumed his involvement in amateur drama which had begun in Emyvale.   He was a prominent member of the cast in many plays but his most memorable role was the lead part in the Passion Play in mime performed each Easter for several years in the 1950s and 1960s.  He also adapted the traditional Mummer's Play for the children of Ballymackney School, which they brought to a variety of drama competitions around the county.

As well as his successful career as a teacher Peadar was involved in numerous voluntary projects cultural and charitable. He founded, with others, Scoil Rois. the local Gael Scoil.  He served on many local committees including Connradh na Gaeilge and Support for the Handicapped.  With several other concerned individuals he was closely involved in the setting up of the Holy Family school for handicapped children in Carrickmacross, which was later combined with other local schools and was moved to Cootehill.  The celebratory weekend for historian and folklorist Henry Morris in 1974 was his inspiration.  He compiled and published a list of townlands in South Monaghan and their derivations and he left a wonderful legacy in the quarterly series ‘Macalla’ which recorded the folklore and traditions of Farney and which is now available in Trinity College Library. 

He founded and managed for many years a small museum in the old High School containing artefacts and documents of local historical interest.   When the museum closed the contents were taken over and moved to the Monaghan County Museum.  He also researched and wrote a history of St. Joseph’s Church, Carrickmacross which was published by Clogher Diocese.   The 18th century poets of Oriel were another of his interests and he was an active member of the Clogher Historical Society; and became President of the society in 1978.  In recognition of his contribution to the county he was named Monaghan Person of the Year.
Peadar was strongly nationalist in outlook with fervent opinions on language and cultural matters. A soft spoken self effacing man, he was by nature  optimistic and warm hearted with an understated sense of humour.  He had a great affection for kinfolk and community and also professed a sincere devotion to spiritual matters and religious observance.

Peadar Cassidy (nephew)
21st April 2009

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