Update on Percy Barron (1835-1904) Monk at Mount Melleray, Cappaquinn, Co Waterford.
From; Eoin Hickey, 23rd?October 2014.
Nora and I went on tour in the South of Ireland last week and included a visit to Mount Melleray, hopefully to see Percy Barron?s grave.
Percy Barron was our grandmother?s (Isabel Emily Barron/Hickey) uncle ? see Dear Grandchildren p.106/7. We have a copy of the Fitzgerald pedigree which Percy had researched and written out for Isabel, titled ?Lineage of Isabel Emily Barron?. The pedigree traces back to William fitzMaurice, Baron of Kiltray, m. Alicia, sister of Strongbow. D. 1274 and beyond to Walter Fitz Otto mentioned in the Doomsday Book, 1078. We also have a copy of Percy?s long letter to his niece dated 20th?November 1894 where he goes through the pedigree and invites her to visit the monastery It is obvious from the letter that he is estranged from his Protestant family and that Emily Isabel is trying to ?break the ice?.
I had emailed the Lord Abbot two weeks earlier saying we were calling and would like to give the monastery copies of the letter and pedigree.??I had read on the internet that Percy was a scholar, worked extensively researching the Four Masters, died and was buried in Mount Mellary in 1904. (I can?t find this web site again so perhaps I dreamt it!). Mount Melleray has a very good website and on it they invite guests to visit their guest house, caf?, shop and museum.
We arrived Friday lunchtime and met a very long line of cars on the avenue coming away from a funeral. The monastery itself is enormous; church and monastery buildings to the front and extensive farm buildings to the rear, now quite deserted. We found an office marked ?Enquiries? with a very pleasant lady named Judith inside. We introduced ourselves, explained our mission and that we had sent an email. Judith advised that the monks are very old and don?t reply to correspondence, they don?t have an archive or records or library! We left Judith our letter and asked about the cemetery and Percy?s grave. She gave us a key and pointed the way. The cemetery, beside the church wall only contained monks? graves going back to mid-nineteen thirties. We left back the key and asked again. ?Oh yes, the older monks? graves are under the new church?.
We walked around to the front of the monastery and found an unlocked door leading to a hallway and a long empty chapel except for a lone old monk sitting quietly on a chair at the back wall who proved to be very helpful. He?s been there for seventy four years. He entered at age fourteen and told us that the new church was built on top the old monks? graves. A plaque on the wall outside commemorates the building of the new church in 1933. The old monk told us that while cutting a hedge, forty odd years ago, he found three wooden plaques in the ditch which he, himself, had carefully restored and he would like to show them to us. He brought us along through corridors and cloisters to where they were, mounted alone on a long white wall. The plaques are about 24? x 14?, each containing about twenty five names dating from 1830s to 1930s with two names for 1904; Fr. Stephen 23rd?May and Fr. Alexis 3rd?Aug. So, one of them must be Percy!
The monastery bell tolled, the old monk whispered that it was the ten minutes call to prayers, so we took our place in the church where we had a few minutes to gaze upon the elaborate stained glass window commissioned in the 1940s from the Harry Clarke Studios. Then the old and very old monks started to assemble for?None,?which means?ninth hour (since rising).?One monk played the organ, several read aloud and all sang or chanted. This lasted for about fifteen minutes after which we took our leave ? to search for a cup of tea!
As well as a very good website the monastery has fine publication which we purchased at the office. It covers the history of the Cistercians, coming back to Ireland in the early 1830s, searching for a place and finally settling in Mount Mellerary in 1835. The booklet, published in 2000, has excellent photographs including of the Harry Clarke Studio stained glass window with explanations of the main figures of the design and – a black and white photograph of a very fine library!