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A retired Church of England priest lost his life in Achill last Sunday night after his car was caught in a flash flood on the island. Rev Dr Roger Grainger (81) was driving towards his home in Dugort when his car was hit by a flash flood at 10pm on Sunday night. Despite efforts by locals to save the former priest and actor, who had made appearances in a number of television shows, they were unable to save him after his car was swept into a drain, submerging it.
Despite Fr Peter Conway’s row with the Protestant rector of Headford, the Rev Dean Plunkett (and there were some appalling battles against Protestants to come), he got on surprisingly well with the landlord of the whole area, the impressively named Richard Mensergh St George, Esq, also the High Sheriff. Initially, when Conway asked him if he would donate land for a church for his Catholic tenants, the request was turned down flat. But out of the blue, St George invited Conway to his house one day and offered him an acre of ground ‘anywhere on his estate’, rent free forever; furthermore, he gave an additional seven acres of land for a priest’s house, and a subscription of £20 for a school.
I hope the recent scandals in the Catholic Church will not discourage the noble tradition of the cleric as the social champion of the people. It is time that we had their like to nail their colours to the mast once again. Growing up in the last century, I was familiar with such names as Fr James McDyer and his tireless campaign against the official neglect of Gleann Cholm Cile; and Canon George Quinn and his fight for better social housing. There were several others, who have spilled over into recent years, including Fr Peter McVerry and his fight for homeless people in Dublin, and Fr Harry Bohan and his belief in the staying power of families in rural Ireland. But the champion of them all, the priest with the soft voice and a twinkle in both eyes, was the indefatigable Monsignor James Horan. Not only did he re-design the village of Knock to make it more people friendly, he built schools, clinics, and a convent, and a vast basilica. He organised community water schemes, and forestry plantations, and built an impressive international airport in the bogs of Mayo.
Knock Shrine in Co Mayo is getting ready for a massive influx of up to 150,000 pilgrims for the annual National Novena, which starts today, August 14 and continues for nine days. This year’s Novena has an international flavour. The Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, will be in Knock Shrine on Friday to perform the official opening of the nine day programme. His Eminence is leading a group of some 170 pilgrims from the Archdiocese of New York, who arrived to Mayo on Sunday morning as part of a historic first chartered pilgrimage flight by Aer Lingus between New York and Ireland West Airport Knock.