FATHER PATRICK FITZPATRICK (1787-1865)
On St. Patrick's day in 1787 at Dromahoe in Drumtariffe parish a boy was born who was to have a considerable influence on Millstreet. That was almost 200 years ago. He was Patrick Fitzpatrick who was ordained a priest at Killarney on February 5, 1810. Ten years later he came to Millstreet, but not with any enthusiasm. The Parish Priest of the united parishes of Drisean and Cuilleann was an invalid although still a young man - he was to live until 1857. Fr. Fitzpatrick was Parish Priest of Kenmare when he was approached by the people of Millstreet who asked him to take up the Parish. It was a formidable task; he would have to find £25 a year pension for the retiring Parish Priest in a parish where there was no priest's house, no schools, and only a small thatched chapel. He refused. They went to him again and told him that they would help him in a any way possible. He came in 1820.
I need hardly stress the terrible conditions of life in Ireland in 1820. The people were in open rebellion of the government and there was widespread famine. The years of plenty had come to an end with the ending of the war against France and there was increasing unemployment and hunger. We must therefore all the more admire the courage of Fr. Fitzpatrick then aged 33 when he undertook the daunting task of taking over pastoral charge of the parish here. By 1830 he had started on building the group of buildings which comprise the church, the Presentation convent, the old boys' school and the presbytery and on laying out the cemetery. All were completed by 1840. He spent every penny as it came in on the church, schools and convent. By his will he ordered the presbytery and his furniture to be sold to pay any small debt that might be due, and having provided for two relatives, he asked that any residue should be used to establish a Christian Brothers school in the town. However no provision could be made. His will was in the possession of Miss Katherine Linehan until that fateful night of November 20, 1920 when it was destroyed by the Black and Tans.
Fr. Fitzpatrick was intimately friendly with Daniel O'Connell and was actively associated with him in the Repeal Movement. His sympathies appear however to have been with the Young Irelanders. A sister of Michael Doheny's was a nun in the Presentation convent and it was at Fr. Fitzpatrick's Michael Doheny took refuge. An officer in the British garrison stationed here used to get word to Fr. Fitzpatrick each time his house was due to be searched for Doheny, who would go across the boundary wall to visit his sister until the raid was over. Doheny escaped from Millstreet as a cattle drover.
In Fr. Ferris's notes we find this tribute to Fr. Fitzpatrick:
"He was known as An Sagart Mor. He was the people's banker, law-giver, adviser and leader in every way; fighting their battles against landlordism and the ills of the time. On his death, the bishop, Dr. Moriarty erected a monument to him now in the church at the bishop's own expense. Fr. Fitzpatrick transformed Millstreet; first public procession of the Blessed Sacrament in 1851; first mission - the Oblate Fathers in 1863."
It would be a pity not to tell one other story from these notes: Father Fitzpatrick added the block of the Convent adjoining the Church and the new block of schools in