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Cork author fascinated by story of Blessed Tadhg MacCarthaigh

December 1st, 2022 11:55 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

Cork author fascinated by story of Blessed Tadhg MacCarthaigh Image
A stained glass image of St Anne and Thaddeus McCarthy at St Fachtna’s Church in Glandore.

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THE man who lends his name to one of West Cork’s best-known GAA clubs has been fascinating a Cork-born art historian for many years.

Intrigued by the many references to Thaddeus McCarthy (Tadhg MacCarthaigh) in both Cork and further afield, Patricia Curtin-Kelly decided to go on an odyssey to find out more.

The result is her book Searching for Thaddeus – Images of a Forgotten Irishman in Ireland and Italy. 

Patricia discovered that this oft forgotten medieval Irishman – born in 1455 in Caheragh, between Bantry and Skibbereen, was made a bishop, not once but twice, by two different popes, yet was not able to take up either position.  

He travelled several times to Rome, to stake his claim to become Bishop of Ross or Bishop of Cork & Cloyne.  

In 1492, he died on his way home in Ivrea in northwest Italy, where he is revered to this day.   

Patricia’s interest was also sparked by a blog about him on the Roaringwater Journal site, and prompted her to ask – who was this Corkman, what was he doing in Italy, and why are there so many images of him in both countries?   

Following his beatification in 1892, images of Thaddeus were commissioned by churches and Curtin-Kelly has now sourced many of them in Ireland and Italy.   One find of an image led to another, as she went on a veritable treasure hunt of this visuals, around Ireland.

She has now discovered that Blessed Thaddeus lent his image to stained-glass windows, statues, reliquaries and paintings.   

Images sourced in West Cork include those in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Skibbereen, the St Finbarr & Holy Angels Church in Inchigeelagh, St Fachtna’s Church in Glandore, the Immaculate Conception Church in Clonakilty and Holy Family Church in Caheragh. Of course, he will never be forgotten in Caheragh as the local GAA club is called after him.

In her book, she outlines the history of each location, as well as the architecture and locally known facts about each building.   

‘I also discovered how the people of Ivrea sent money to Ireland, when they heard about the Great Famine, which devastated life in West Cork in the 1840s,’ explained Patricia.  As part of the story, she has contrasted life in Ireland and Italy over the centuries.   

‘I have also put the images in the context of the arts & crafts movement which was prevalent at the time the images were commissioned in Ireland and Italy,’ she added.  

Along the way, she also solves the mystery of the artist who painted similar images of Thaddeus which can be found in Cork, Cobh and Ivrea.

With all this information now compiled in one place, Patricia says she hopes Thaddeus will no longer be a forgotten man in Ireland – or Italy.

Published by Liberties Press, Searching for Thaddeus;  Images of a Forgotten Irishman in Ireland & Italy by Patricia Curtin-Kelly can be ordered online and is also available in bookshops.   

It will be launched on Thursday 8th December at 8pm in St Fachtna’s Cathedral in Rosscarbery where the author will also give a talk on the story of Thaddeus. This launch is being organised by the Rosscarbery Historical Society in collaboration with the Skibbereen Historical Society and Dúchas, Clonakilty.

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