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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Margaret Aylward, Founder of the Sisters of the Holy Faith

Margaret Louisa Aylward, Roman Catholic nun, philanthropist, and founder of the Sisters of the Holy Faith, is born to a wealthy merchant family on November 23, 1810 in Thomas Street in Waterford, County Waterford.

Aylward is educated by the Ursuline nuns in Thurles, County Tipperary. After doing some charitable work in Waterford in her early years, she joins her sister in the Sisters of Charity in 1834 as a novice. She leaves the novitiate in 1836 and returns to Waterford to continue her charity work in a secular role. She again attempts to join a religious order in 1846 when she enters the Ursuline novitiate in Waterford, however she leaves after two months.

By 1851, Aylward has moved to Dublin where she is active in re-energising the Ladies’ Association of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The Great Famine leads to a large-scale movement of people from rural areas into cities, including Dublin, which leads to increased pressure on the charitable institutions of these areas. Her efforts are part of this wider charitable effort to help the poor, particularly Catholics who are seen to be at risk of coercive religious conversion (known as Souperism). This association is concerned with the “temporal as well as the spiritual relief of the sick poor in Dublin.”

The Ladies’ Association of St. Vincent de Paul opens St. Brigid’s in 1856, an orphanage which has an anti-proselytising mission and claims to rescue Catholic children from Protestant agencies. The Ladies’ Association often comes into dispute with those involved in the Irish Church Missions (ICM) and the ragged schools in Dublin, with members of the Ladies’ Association distributing crucifixes to children attending the Protestant-run ragged schools and visiting the homes of parents who send their children to them. The women involved in St. Brigid’s Orphanage organise themselves into a society called the Daughters of St. Brigid. However, while the establishment of St. Brigid’s brings Aylward closer to religious orders, historian Maria Luddy notes that in the 1850s, she is not concerned with the establishment of a religious community, rather she wants to “live in a community of women who were united by their religious convictions but did not necessarily desire to take formal religious vows.”

There is a growth in religious orders for women in Ireland from the early nineteenth century due to a relaxing of anti-Catholic Penal Laws. These include the Irish Sisters of Charity who are established in 1815 under Mary Aikenhead, the Sisters of Loreto order (1822) under Frances Ball, and Catherine McAuley‘s Sisters of Mercy (1831). Archbishop Paul Cullen of Dublin is an important figure in persuading leaders of religious communities of women, like Catherine McAuley, to formally organise as religious congregations in order to continue their charitable work and be respectable. While Aylward is resistant to this idea for a while, she eventually agrees. In 1857 the Sisters of the Holy Faith are established, and in 1869 the order are approved by Pope Pius IX.

Aylward is arrested in 1860 for “failing to produce a child named Mary Matthews, who had been taken away and concealed from her parents for the purpose of being brought up in the Roman Catholic faith.” Matthews had been placed with a nurse in Saggart, County Dublin, when her father had died and her mother had emigrated to The Bahamas. When her mother returns, Aylward is notified by Matthews’ foster mother that she is missing. Aylward is acquitted of the charge of kidnapping but is found to be in contempt of court and serves six months in jail. She continues her work after her release.

Aylward (now Sister Mary Agatha) dies on October 11, 1889. She had continued wearing her own clothes and travelling after taking her religious vows.

Historian Margaret Helen Preston argues that Aylward is unusual for the time that she lives in because she does not believe that poverty results from sin. Aylward refers to the poor as the “Elect of God” and argues that God sees the poor as special because of their difficult circumstances.

The Sisters of the Holy Faith still work around the world.


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Birth of Professional Golfer Darren Clarke

Darren Christopher Clarke, professional golfer who currently plays on the PGA Tour Champions and has previously played on the European Tour and PGA Tour, is born in Dungannon, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland on August 14, 1968.

In 1987 Clarke plays collegiate golf at Wake Forest University in the United States. He is a junior member of Dungannon Golf Club, whose junior section also includes three others who are current PGA Golf Professionals: Alistair Cardwell, Barry Hamill and Gary Chambers. He represents his school, Royal School Dungannon, together with Cardwell and Chambers.

A stalwart of the European Tour since 1991, Clarke is no stranger to firsts. In the 1999 Smurfit European Open he becomes the first player on the European Tour to shoot 60 for a second time, having achieved it first in the 1992 European Monte Carlo Open. In 2002 he becomes the first player to win the English Open three times and in 2003 becomes the first player outside Tiger Woods to capture more than one World Golf Championships title.

Three weeks after the untimely death of his wife, Heather, to cancer in August 2006, Clarke is picked as one of the wild cards for the Ryder Cup at K Club. In an emotionally charged week he produces one of his most memorable performances, winning all three of his matches.

Clarke assures his place in history by earning a place in the renowned ‘Who’s Who‘ guide for 2008, and in 2005 he even appears on an Irish postage stamp. A difficult 2007, where he juggles looking after his two sons with his golf regime, sees him slip down the rankings, but he begins to find his form again in South Africa before the winter break.

In 2008 Clarke wins the BMW Asian Open in China and the KLM Open in the Netherlands where his sons Tyrone and Conor are there to witness his victory.

In 2010 Clarke beats a world-class field in the J. P. McManus Invitational Pro-Am at Adare Manor in Ireland where he has a one shot victory over Luke Donald. He secures his spot in the 139th Open Championship at the Old Course at St. Andrews by finishing second in the Barclays Scottish Open. He finishes 30th in the European Tour Race. He rounds off 2010 in great style with the announcement of his engagement to Alison Campbell.

Clarke begins 2011 with a victory in the Iberdrola Open in Mallorca but he enjoys his finest hour in July when he claims his maiden major championship, winning the 140th Open Championship at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Kent by three shots over Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

In April 2012 Clarke and Alison Campbell are married at Abaco in The Bahamas which marks a very happy new chapter for the Clarke family. He is appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to golf.

In February 2015, Clarke is named as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain and dedicates the next 18 months to the role. Ultimately, Europe is beaten 17-11 by the United States at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

A dedicated worker for charity, Clarke sets up his own Darren Clarke Foundation, which not only helps further the development of junior golf in Ireland, but also now raises money for Breast Cancer Awareness.