The Rev. Peter C. O Connor C.C. Croghan buried inside this church was the man behind the post-Famine campaign to build St. Michael's Croghan.
Born in Sligo, he was the son of Henry O'Connor Esq. JP. He was for a long time a much-loved curate in Sligo town before his reassignment to Croghan in October 1851.
In January 1851, at an aggregate meeting of the Catholics of Sligo County & Town (responding to the a put forward by the British PM to re-introduce Penal Law) the Rev. Peter C. O'Connor, R.C.C, Sligo, "being repeatedly called on, addressed the meeting in his usual eloquent and vigorous manner." (The Right Rev. Dr, Browne, Bishop of Elphin, and merchant Peter O'Connor Esq. were also in attendance).
Following that, he and his father had supported the founding the relatively short-lived Catholic Defense Association which sought to put an end to proselytism, to defend the rights of Irish Roman Catholics, and for priests to be agents at all future elections for candidates the Bishops determined would act in defense of Catholic grievances in Westminster”.
CATHOLIC COMMITTEE [Freeman’a journal 5 july 1851]
Sligo June 3rd, 1851 SIR – I have the honour to acknowledge your letter of the 28th ult, and i herewith enclose the requisition, with my signature, and that of the Rev. Peter C. O’Connor R.C.C, Sligo; and allow me to assure you that I shall be most happy to give my n¥humble support to any legal and consitutional struggle that shall be made in defence of our religious rights and our religious liberties. I have the honour to be, your obedient servant, Henry O’Connor JP
Removal of the Rev. Peter O’Connor [Sligo Journal Oct 1851]
A scene which took place on Saturday last when the Dublin mail was about leaving, shows that there is something going on in the councils of the Sligo Vatican, not altogether to the liking of the people. The Rev. Peter O’Connor, the son of Henry O’Connor Esq., J.P., had been doing duty as a Roman Catholic curate in Sligo for some time, and had secured for himself the regard, not only of his own flock, but of many outside it, who respected a candid and manly bearing not often met with in priests; what, therefore, was the surprise of the Sligo people when they heard that the Rev. Mr. O’Connor had been ordered away, and what was their indignation when they became aware that his removal was owning to the jealous instigation of strangers. In the first burst of excitement thousands assembeled and refused to permit him to leave town, nor was it till having addredded and impored them on his knees, from Mr Somers’s window at the Nelson Hotel, that the people would hear of his departure. The affair took the town completely by surprise. It, however, shows one thing that Mr O’Connor was too honest for the work required at his hands, and that he refused to be concerned in leading the people astray. He was a Sligo man; he was not prepared to sacrifice the spirit of a Sligo man to the interests of a stranger. Father Peter O’Connor is gone, but the feelings violated by his removal remain, and seductive indeed must be the voice of the stranger is he can induce the Sligo people to forget their own. [copy Lloyds Weekly Oct 26 1851]
In April 1856, O'Connor found Croghan Chapel inadequate to the wants of the congregation (mostly tenants of Guy Lloyd). He applied to Croghan House for support in extending the chapel. Lloyd refused and a full-on conflict ensued (see here for the fallout, and the reciprocal mud-slinging). The parish priest, In August 1856, to add fuel to O'Connor's fire, Lloyd fired 20 Catholic labourers for refusing to show up to work on the Feast of the Ascension.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE NATION.
3 Sandycove Terrace, Kingstown, August 1, 1857: Dear Sir—'The Rev Peter C O'Connor, R C C of Croghan, has my sanction to solicit subscriptions towards the enlargement of the chapel of Croghan. The persecution to which the poor Catholics of that parish were lately subjected is fresh in the recollection of the public, and the refusal of four perches of ground, even for payment, much-required tor the enlargement of the chapel, will, it is hoped, awaken sympathy in the breasts of all religious and liberal-minded persons. George J P Browne, R C, Bishop of Elphin.
Thousands of readers amongst whom the name, of the good father Peter O'Connor is known and admired as the noble advocate and, friend of the poor 'Croghan Labourers,' will learn with indignation that a most atrocious and barefaced attempt has been made to swear away his humble character and brand him as a felon. But this indignation will be equaled by their exultation when they learn that not only has the foul attempt been exposed as base and baseless, but that it has recoiled upon his enemies who now owe it to the forbearance of the man they tried to ruin, that they do not stand in the-dock to which they plotted to consign him. [The Nation March 06, 1858 pg. 7]
By 1858 O'Connor's campaign had produced the new chapel of St. Michael's Croghan, as we know it today. One has to wonder about the 'strong statement' this impressive structure, which dominates the streetscape in Croghan, made to it opponents. In a letter to the Nation O'Connor acknowledges:
" I am proud to be able to announce the fact that l received more money for the enlargement of Croghan Chapel from Protestants than Catholics, and amongst them I can't help singling out the Protestant gentlemen of this county and especially the Protestant gentlemen of my native town [Sligo] and my native county and that the handsome tower of Croghan Chapel is all but exclusively built by Protestant money. It is plain then my feelings towards them are feelings of esteem and gratitude."
Buried inside the new church, are Fr. Peter O'Connor (d. 1882) and Fr. Nicholas Green.
The Catholic parish of Killuken aka "Croghan, Cloonilion & Ballinameen" was served by two priests by the name of Peter O'Connor in the 19th-century.
Previously, a Rev. Peter O Connor PP Croghan (d.1838) who was part of the Roscommon Catholics' Campaign for Parliamentary Reform, appears on record here in 1834. He was an uncle of Major General Sir Luke O'Connor (1832-1915) of Hillstreet (the first soldier to receive the Victoria Cross).
The RC Chapel at Croghan mapped on the first Ordnance Survey of 1837, had a thatched roof and was considerably smaller than the current structure. In that same year, he saw that improvements were made, sponsored by a Catholic absentee landlord:
The Rev. Peter O'Connor, P.P. of Killucan (Croghan) also acknowledges having received from Richard O'Farrell Caddell, Esq., the sum of £10 in aid of the improvements now making at the chapel of Croghan. [Freeman's Journal: April 14, 1837; page 1]
That year, Fr. O'Connor PP Croghan was credited with having subscribed to Lewis Topographical Dictionary of Ireland pub. 1837.
In the 1838 Catholic Directory of Ireland, Fr. Peter O'Connor was recorded as Parish Priest for Croghan, Cloonlion and Ballinameen. His curates were Fr. Henry Smith and Fr. James McGrath. O'Connor died mid-November 1838.
During the Great Famine 1845-51, Croghan and Ballinameen were served by Rev Terence Sweeny, PP, Croghan, who continued in this role until his death in 1872. His curates being the Rev Mathew Barrett, CC and the Rev P Gormerly, CC (moved to Boyle in 1851 and replaced by Rev. T O'Beirne CC at Croghan).
It was not until 1851 that the much renowned Fr. Peter C. O'Connor came on the scene in defence of Croghan.
[Research by Rua Mac Diarmada]