Father Brendan Smyth: Betrayal of Trust

Kilnacrott Abbey, Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan

The following post is comprised of passing memories I have of Father Brendan Smyth when on his meanderings into Ballyjamesduff from nearby KIlnacrott Abbey. I still have to watch the videos, so they’re not based on the contents therein. I was eager to place them here. The very thought of the ghastly priest just brings back floods of memories. My heart goes out to those who suffered so dreadfully at the hands of this cunning paedophile. Update: I’ve watched Part 1. It’s very harrowing stuff. It opens up with two boys signing secrecy documents in Kilnacrott Abbey in 1975. The priest who asks them to sign same is none other than Father Sean Brady. Now Cardinal Brady. (He comes from Stradone, Co. Cavan. My mother’s husband’s niece is married to one Lawrence Brady of Stradone. He is a farmer/undertaker/publican of The Cross, Stradone. His brother also had a pub and other establishments in the tiny hamlet. No Relation. The townland is full of Brady’s.) The boys have signed the document under threat of excommunication from the church if they should ever divulge the secret they were sworn to by the church. The whole debacle was in the media not so very long ago.

People wanted the cardinal  to resign, but he flatly refused. The story, which is based on facts, then follows the footsteps of Father Brendan Smyth to Belfast. He originated from there, so would oftentimes frequent it. I lived in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan for approximately five years. It was after I’d returned from England in 1986. I had three occasions to come into personal contact with Father Brendan Smyth during the latter part of my stay there. I also saw him regularly at a distance in the town. It was common for people living in the tiny town to stand on the Virginia Rd. when they needed a lift into Virginia town (six miles down the road) to catch the Dublin bus. There was no bus service to Virginia from Ballyjamesduff. So I’d obviously no other alternative than to be at the mercy of passing drivers. I was not considered of any high standing in Ballyjamesduff, so did not have to worry about keeping up an image. Besides, I’d thumbed my way through continental Europe when I was younger, so it was no skin off my nose to stick my thumb out. (I never did it in England) I had to go to Wexford to visit my uncle who was not well. I was given a lift at both of these times by Father Brendan Smyth. I now realise that he would have been attending hearing sessions in the Four Courts in Dublin. I think he thought I was a member of the traveller community, as I was wearing a sovereign ring. He had made some remark to that affect. I did not know at the time that travellers were fond of sovereigns. I know now that they are very fond of expensive jewellery, so we have that very much in common. The ring had been given to me by a farmer friend who had retrieved it from a field. I had it mounted. I remember being very preoccupied at the time, as my mother had passed away, so would have been out of touch with media stuff pertaining to the erring priest. He was also then not a high profile media figure. I was still very distraught over bereavement of my mother and wouldn’t have taken any notice of the driver who was later to become infamous in Ireland and abroad for not only child paedophilia, but also for nearly bringing the Irish government down. I also had another of many occasions to see Father Brendan Smith prior to getting aforementioned lifts from him in BJD. I had been visiting  a woman in the town with a small child (I was minding for a neighbour) when a knock came on the door. It was Father Brendan Smyth. He was delivering mass-cards to the occupant of the house and was also collecting monies from said sold cards. The cards were a nice little earner for the priest from Kilnacrott Abbey – the latter of which was only three miles from BJD town.

Kilnacrott Chapel – where All Night Vigils were held.

People flocked from the far reaches of Co Cavan to Mrs. McL to buy the very cheap mass-cards. The reason being that they only cost a punt, as opposed to one example of that of a fiver that the local priest Father Hannon was charging for them. I remember a lot of people not being too happy about exorbitant price, and they voted with their feet by trotting off to Mrs. McL. I found out later that my own mama’s mass-cards would have come from this source, as I have countless cards with Father Brendan Smyth’s signature. I remember some people being very edgy about the fact that the priest was going to a house of a widow woman of nine children. There was only a lad of sixteen still living with her at the time. The rest had flown the nest. Mrs. McL was not perceived – by a long chalk – as being an overly religious person in the town. She always sat at the back of the chapel each Saturday evening for Sunday’s mass. She was not involved in the church at all, so it was mystifying to a lot of townies that a priest from an order three miles out yonder would be going to her house in order for her to sell mass-cards. The Norbertine order has sold its Kilnacrott Abbey monastery in County Cavan to Sheelin Nursing Home, which will now erect a 60-bed residential centre for the ill, and elderly.

The order is reported to be getting €900,000 for the complex including 44 acres of grounds.

The collapse in property prices has hit the vendors hard and the sale price is less than a third of the €3m asking price Kilnacrott was valued at when it first went on the market in 2008.

Having expressed interest in buying, Sheelin Nursing Home made closing of the sale conditional on the vendors securing planning permission for a nursing home on the property and this was granted last year.

New accommodation will also be constructed opposite the nursing for the six Norbertine priests still at Kilnacrott, including Prior Fr Gerard Cusack and former prior Fr Kevin Smith.

The sale marks the end of an era that started in 1924, when the order was invited to the area by the then bishop of Kilmore Patrick Finegan.  The first abbot was Fr Felim Colwell, who was replaced when he died in 1968 by Fr Smith. The abbey gained notoriety in recent years as the base of the late Fr Brendan Smyth, against whom many allegations of child abuse were made and who was convicted and jailed in Northern Ireland for paedophile offences.

The Norbertines have pledged that some of the proceeds from the sale of Kilnacrott will go to compensate victims of Fr Smyth.

In a statement, the Order said that  it had sold the farm and stock fifteen years ago and was now selling the abbey and remaining land “in an attempt to respond in some meaningful way to victims of abuse.”

“We appreciate that none of this will be sufficient to repair the immense hurt caused by our failures,” the statement continued.

“The monies that will accrue from the sale of the property will be used to clear our current debts, which are related to the support of victims, to care for our elderly members, and the possibility of building a modest residence in keeping with our present needs, in the immediate locality.”

“At a pastoral level, we will continue to support, as best we can, people who have been abused and are in contact with us.”


2 thoughts on “Father Brendan Smyth: Betrayal of Trust

  1. Thanks Marie for posting this. I am curious about your encounters with Smyth. He was my parish
    priest in Rhode Island USA in the late 1960s and abused me. It was the abuses at my parish which resulted in Smyth’s privilege to take confession being revoked by the Vatican in 1968, the first time around and well before the 1975 hearing Cardinal Brady particpated in. I have been public about my experience. UTV’s Resurrection of Brendan Smyth can be viewed on youtube.
    You might find the below blog of interest as well.

  2. Thanks to you too, Helen, for commenting. Father Brendan Smyth is known the length and breadth of Ireland. He will go down in the annals of Irish history for the evil acts he perpetrated on little children.
    I’m so sorry to hear that you were also abused by the Norbertine priest. He certainly left his dirty trace-marks on the other side of the globe. Priests were so reverred in days of old and had the freedom and power to do whatever they wanted with children and parents mostly never listened to anything said bad against them.
    I’ll definitely view the Resurrection of Brendan Smyth. Thanks very much for the links.
    The first video I’ve uploaded is so powerful that it’ll take me time to recover from it to view the rest.
    You were so brave to go public when it was not considered the right thing to do at the time.

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