Mount St. Joseph - Roscrea Through The Ages

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Mount St. Joseph

History > History 2

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In the 1600s Edward Heaton built a mansion on his estate and called it Mount Heaton which continued in the family until in 1816 it was lost to the Duke of York in a game of cards and then to General Taylor on the same night.  He held it till 1877 when Arthur Moore, a large landowner and MP for Clonmel, bought the house and 600 acres for £15,000 for the Cistercians in Mellary to open a new monastery.  He donated £10,000 and loaned the other £5,000 to the monks till they could raise a mortgage.
The monks moved in in 1878 and in 1879 the Abbott of Mellary laid the foundation stone.  It was a stone from the Catacombs in Rome sent by Pope Leo XIII.  By 1881 the church was opened to the public and by 1884 it was finished with its choir stalls and altars.  In 1886 it was constituted as an abbey and got its first Abbott Dom Cammilus Beardwood and around this time the farm was also started.  It was then decided to build a college and by 1904 the first students were taken in.

Image pre-dates the building of the spire.

In 1936 they decided to build a spire and it was completed in 1938 but not without a price.  On the feast of John the Baptist on 24th June 1936 two men lost their lives when they fell from the scaffolding.  They were Johnny Ryan from Milltown who left a wife and son behind and Brother Columbus Maher who was a master blacksmith and was the one who made some of the fabulous gates you see to this day.  They went up in a pulley lift which was used for carrying stone to the top, but the weight of the two men was too much and one of the steel ropes broke.  Both men were unconscious after the fall but died shortly afterwards.  Johnny Ryan was a prominent member of the old IRA and the tricolour was draped over his coffin as it was taken away.

By the 1940s there were 140 monks in the monastery so they decided to open other houses abroad.  Nunraw Abbey in Scotland was established in1946 and then Tarrawarra near Sydney Australia was established in1954.  Then in November 1965 they established Moon Abbey in Co Kildare.
There have been many famous visitors to Mount St. Joseph including President Sean T O’Kelly in 1945.  Another famous visitor was J.B. Montini, Secretary of State to the Pope who later went on to become Pope Paul VI.
Today people still come from all over the world on retreat there and to meditate and stroll through the beautiful and peaceful grounds which have changed very little in the last 100 years.

Edward Brophy (1875-1958) (Tullaskeagh), along with his brothers Denis (1871 - 1946) (Tullaskeagh) and John (1876 - 1950) (Grove Street) were the builders in charge of the building of the church spire at the monastery.  The building begun in 1936 and was completed in 1939.  They cycled out on their bikes each day.  When they finished the church spire, they were asked to build the college chapel.  Work began in 1939 and lasted until 1943.
The Brophys were also involved earlier in the century in the building of the college in 1905.
Edward Brophy is also remembered for building Burgoo on Limerick Street during WW1.  

The Freemans Journal of 1879 gave a great account of the monks coming from Mount Mellary to start a monastery in Mount Heaten. To view this . CLICK HERE

These pictures were taken pre-1930 before the spire was built.

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