Turning the Tide is a new book about Westport’s last resident parish priest, Bernard Burke. He was born in Omey Island in the parish of Clifden and after attending the local school, went to St Jarlath’s, Tuam.
Ordained in Maynooth in 1813, he worked in Tuam until 1821, when he was appointed to Westport, and served Archbishops Oliver Kelly and later, John MacHale.
His great relationship with the other church leaders in Westport, with the local business people and Lord Sligo, enabled all to work together to try to deal with the poverty and famine throughout the area.
He built St Mary’s Church and did major work on the churches in Drummin and Lecanvey. He supported Daniel O’Connell and the Catholic Association. He served as PP in Kilmeena from 1830-34, before returning to Westport.
He dedicated his life to the welfare of the people and to provide education. He invited the Mercy Sisters to Westport in 1843 and built the Convent.
Later, he also invited the Christian Brothers to the town. He made strong representations to the civil authorities to address the destitution of the people, to provide work schemes and a train link to Westport. He was a gracious man, reserved and determined and he faced many challenges.
The book was written by Fr Anthony King, a native of Claggan and living in Westport who said: "2021 marks 200 years since Bernard Burke came to Westport. It would be nice to commemorate that important event."
Turning the Tide will be launched by Judge Patrick Durcan following a Memorial Mass on Friday, November 19 at 7pm, in St Mary’s Church, Westport, by Archbishop Michael Neary. All are welcome.
The book will be for sale after Mass (€20 ) and in local bookshops. All proceeds (after production costs ) will be donated to the Westport Meals-on-Wheels Service.