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Archdeacon Begley's History of the Diocese

Preface to the 1993 Reprint by Bishop Jeremiah Newman

The first volume of Begley's three-part history of the Diocese of Limerick appeared in 1906 when the author was Curate in St Munchin's Parish, Limerick City. The second came out in 1927 - twenty one years later - when Father John Begley had moved on to be Canon John Begley, Parish Priest of Kilmallock. The third was published in 1938 - eleven years later - when he had progressed to being Archdeacon John Begley, Parish Priest of Bruff.
The time interval between the appearance of the volumes indicates the extent of the work put into preparing them by their author. His own Preface to the first volume gives at least some idea of the pains which lie took to consult every source available to him, particularly in Dublin and London, because this history is not only an ecclesiastical but also a civil one of the Diocese of Limerick.

Even when the third volume was produced, after nearly forty years research on all three, this history was still among the first of similar works on the Irish Dioceses. It still remains a classic among them, the original volumes having become rarities much treasured by book collectors and now almost impossible to acquire.

The author and his history hold a special place in my heart because for part of his career he was Parish Priest of Dromcollogher, my native place. It was he who officiated at the marriage of my father and mother, to whom he presented a copy of the first volume as a wedding present. It was he too who baptised me. And it was while he was Parish Priest of Dromcollogher that he wrote the second volume.

A feature of all three volumes is that they are based on manuscript material and in some places oral tradition. Naturally, the author's personal interpretation of his material also plays a prominent part overall. This inevitably means that some of the views expressed and conclusions reached are open to question by other historians. But then revisionism is the order of the day in our time.

The late Monsignor Michael Moloney, the most prominent scholar in matters relating to Limerick Diocesan history since Begley brought out his trilogy, once said to me that it was a great pity that the transcripts and notes made by the latter during the preparation of his books do not seem to have survived him. If they did and are ever found, they could serve as a most valuable set of references for any future studies on the history of the Diocese.

Begley's is and will remain a great work, one which won him advancement to being Archdeacon of Limerick and also receiving an Honorary Doctorate in Literature from the National University of Ireland. A fine portrait of him forms part of the permanent collection in the City Gallery of Art, Limerick.

The re-publication of Begley by O'Brien-Toomey Publishers is to be warmly welcomed and applauded. I am delighted and honoured to see the day when as Bishop of Limerick I have been asked to pen a new Preface to it.

10 November, 1993.

+ Jeremiah
Bishop of Limerick
North Circular Road,

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