Genealogical and Historical Research Service in County Louth, Ireland - Joe Biden ancestors


Dividing Line

Joe  Biden  (former USA  Vice  President)
and  his  Irish Finnegan  Ancestors

continued 11:-
Dividing line on MC Research website

Priests in Cooley Roman Catholic Parish, 1811-1855.

According to the Archdiocese of Armagh Jubilee A.D. 2000 Directory, 1999, pp.57-8, the dates of the three churches in Cooley Roman Catholic Parish are:

-        The Church of St James, Grange, 1762

-        Church of St Anne, Mullaghbuoy, 1853 and

-        The Church of St. Mary, Boher, 1865.

The Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland, 1844, under ‘Carlingford’ i. e. the Civil Parish of Carlingford, p.309, suggest that there was a church in Mullaghbuoy in 1844. It stated that the ‘Roman Catholic chapels … two at Grange and Mullaboy, have 3 officiates, and an attendance of 1.462 and 479; and each two, in the Roman Catholic Parochial arrangement, are mutually united’.

       Cooley Parish was part of the Parish of Carlingford but was divided from it about 1807 and originally called South Carlingford.


The Parish Priests.

Fr. James  Byrne.
Fr, Byrne had been Parish Priest of Carlingford and was transferred as Parish Priest of Cooley when the division occurred. He died in 1811.

Fr. Peter Kearney.
Fr. Kearney became Parish Priest after 1811. He was educated at Maynooth College and it was stated he preached in both English and Irish. He died in 1838.

Fr. Edward Holland.
Fr. Holland was transferred as Parish Priest of Carlingford Parish to Cooley Parish in 1838.  He died in 1846 and earlier that year he was admitted to the Louth Repeal Club.

Fr. Anthony Gossan.

Fr. Gossan was Parish Priest of Cooley Parish from 1846 to 1873.
      By all appearances Fr. Gossan helped developed the Cooley Roman Catholic Parish although he did not hold back boasting on his own achievements. See later. But at the time he was possibly speaking to a wider audience than his parishioners.
      When he died in Drogheda, County Louth, on 9 April 1879, he left his books to All Hallows College, Dublin, his house on Fair St., Drogheda, to named Presentation nuns to be used as an orphanage for poor orphan children and, after providing for Masses for various persons, the residue of his estate was to go to the same nuns.


Fr. John Kearney.
Fr. Kearney was curate in Cooley Parish from 1835 to 1837, and in neighbouring Lordship Parish from 1839 to 1840. He died in 1869 in Knockbridge Parish, where he had been Parish Priest, and was buried within the church there. His obituary stated:-

 ‘…. Father Kearney was about sixty-two years of age, and through his edifying life he always laboured earnestly in the popular cause of his country …*
(Source: Dundalk Democrat dated 3 April 1869,

It is believed that Fr. Kearney was the son of Nicholas Kearney of Whitestown, Cooley Parish.
The parish register for Cooley Parish only began in June 1811 and there was a baptism entry, on 3 September 1811, for an Anne Kearney, the daughter of Nich Kearney and Be[t or s?]ty Murphy. The sponsors were Pat Fing
n [Finegan] and Anne Finigan. There were later baptism entries for other children on the Baptism Register.

Fr. James Finegan
Fr. Finegan was born about 1803 and died on 29 December 1876 at Lower Rath Townland in the Civil Parish of Carlingford. So far records found state that he was curate in Cooley Roman Catholic Parish in 1836 to 1842 and in neighbouring Lordship Parish from 1842 to 1843.

His obituary stated:-

‘It is our sad duty (says the Dundalk Democrat

of Saturday) to record the death of the Rev. James

Finegan, which took place at his own residence in

Grange, Carlingford. He was a native of the parish

of Cooley, and spent almost all the years of his

missionary life there, and in the adjoining parishes.

For a considerable time past, however, he was
unable to discharge any public functions by reason

of his infirmity; and years, too, were telling on his

delicate constitution. On Sunday week after the

Office and High Mass in Grange Church

his remains were interred in Templetown graveyard, the family

burying ground, amidst the deep regrets of many.

May he rest in peace.’
Source: The Nation, dated 13 January, 1877, p.10,

It is quite possible the above Fr. James Finegan was the Celebrant at the marriage of Owen Finegan and Jane Boyle in 1839.

Fr. Felix McKevitt
Fr. McKevitt was stated to be curate from 1843 to 1848. He may have been a member of the Louth Repeal Club in 1846 although he was listed as C.C. in Carlingford.

Fr. Henry Duggan.
Fr. Duggan was stated to be curate 1849 to 1851;

Fr. J Kelly
Fr. Kelly was stated to be curate 1852.

Fr. J. McVey
Fr. McVey was stated to be curate 1853-55.

Rev. Anthony Gossan, P.P. of Cooley Parish from 1846 to 1873.

Parish life in the Roman Catholic Parish of Cooley from 1846 to 1873 can be gleaned from a reply by the Parish Priest. The Very Rev, Archdeacon Gossan, P.P. V.G. to an Address by the Parishioners on his departure from Cooley Parish.  

On leaving Cooley Parish for St. Peter’s Parish, Drogheda, Fr. Gossan stated:-

‘ …. In the parish of Cooley there is no extensive

Catholic proprietor, no rich Catholic. The in-

habitants of the district are simple country

farmers, who have to work hard, and upon the

fruits of their toil they must rely for their sus-

tenance ….

I never yet appealed to my parishioners that

I did not receive a generous response. Last

year the weather was most unpropitious, and

as a consequence the crops, generally speaking

were very poor. Notwithstanding this unfa-

vourable circumstance, the principal farmers

of the parish blotted out a very considerable

amount of debt, which I contracted with them

in hurrying on the work of the church ….

During nine weeks before I was called away [possibly 1873),

associated with my hard working curate, the

Rev. Father Hugh Murphy, I went though the

parish from house to house, soliciting help for

the new church ….

‘First – ….. I

went to Cooley on the 26th of May, 1846, -

When I entered that parish I found three Na-

tional Schools for the education of the youth of

the parish; and that all the children of the

parish might have the schools within a con-

venient distant of their homes, I opened at

subsequent periods two more schools. And

during my mission there I always felt it to be

a most grave obligation to visit the schools of

the parish. They were frequently visited both

by the parish priest and the curate; first to see

that all the children who ought to be in atten-

dance were present; and secondly to see 
that the teachers cons[c]ientiously discharged their

duty towards the children by attending both to

religious and secular instruction – religious in-

structions so far as would be compatable with

the regulations of the Board of Education.

       On Sundays and holidays I endeavoured to

secure as large an attendance of the children

of the parish to receive instruction in

the Christian doctrine as I possibly could, keep-

ing always before the minds of parents their

obligation with regard to their children, and

the rigorous account they will one day have

to render as to whether they observed or ne-

glected their duty on this head. So far for the

youth of the parish.

Secondly _ As a rule, on Sundays and holi-

days generally speaking in conne[ct]ion with the

gospel or epistle of the day, I endeavoured to

direct the attention of the flock to a consider-

ation of some one or other of the great truths

of religion, teaching them what they were

bound to believe, and what they were bound

to practice, that they might one day be found

worthy of the great end for which God called

man from nothing into being; and with this

view, I always urged the necessity of daily

prayer, assisting at Mass on Sundays and fes-

tival days; frequenting in sickness and in

health the Sacrament of Penance and the

Holy Eucharist; and when not otherwise em-

ployed, you remember how I have often gone

from townland to townland, and from house

to house, making strict enquiries, and pressing

the people to come in to their religious duties,

and imploring those who had already complied

to lend a helping hand in the glorious work of

saving souls.

           From time to time I pointed out the stumb-

ling-blocks which the enemy would never fail

to place in their path, but which they should

struggle to surmount, or otherwise expose them-

selves to the imminent risk of being lost for

ever. And here, my dearest friends you can

easily call to mind my frequent exhortations

against the sins of drunkeness, desecration of

the Sabbath, secret societies, secret company

keeping, and upon the frightful crime of en-

tering into the marriage state without due pre-



Third,  …. our churches are the

dwelling places of God upon earth. In our

churches God is present. There He receives

the worship of his people, and there He dis-

penses His favours. Therefore, I have laboured

hard, and made great sacrifices, that the parish

might be furnished with churches in some

measure suited to the sacred purpose for which

they are set apart and consecrated.

1st – When I went to Cooley I found one

old church in the townland of Irish Grange;

that church was then in poor condition;

but since then, through the generous aid of

the people of the parish, it has been renovated,

and although rather plain as to the exterior,

in the interior it deserves to be classified

amongst the most comfortable country churches

in the entire diocese.

           2nd – On going to that parish, I found in

the mountain district a wretched mud-wall

thatched cabin as a place of public worship;

whereas, at the present moment, there stands

in that district a very fine Gothic church, ac-

cording to the design of J.J. McCarthy, Esq,

architect, Dublin. But when and how was

that church erected?  It was erected at a time

when all Ireland, from end to end, but in a

special manner the parish of Cooley, was suf-

fering grievously from the potato disease. After

long struggling I was only able to realise in

the district where the church now stands, the

small sum of £44. And having got so much

I then travelled from town to town almost

throughout the entire kingdom, and when my

health gave way, and I became unable to go

abroad, during a period of ten years of suffer-

ing and infirmity, year after year, by little

and little, as well as my very slender means

could afford, I advanced with the work, and I

never halted until I succeeded in bringing that

church to its present condition.

           3rd – On the opposite extreme of the parish,

when I first entered Cooley, there was no

church whatsoever; during upwards of forty

years every Sunday and holiday Mass was

celebrated in a small kitchen of a farmer’s

house; the great bulk of the congregation, in

summer and winter, were obliged during the

celebration of Divine worship, to remain with

uncovered heads in the open air; whereas, at

the present moment, there is in that same dis-

trict one of the finest country churches in all

Ireland. This church was also designed by the

talented architect whose name I have already

given. But for the accomplishment of this

task, what was required?  First the contri-

bution of the people of the parish; The par-

ishioners contributed most generously; indeed,

I believe, considering their circumstances in life,

no people, in Ireland contributed more, nor per-

haps so much. But notwithstanding their gener-

osity, yet more was still required, and therefore

I travelled the greater part of Ireland a second

time, and a small portion of England and Scot-

land, but almost entirely amongst the Irish

labourers; and lastly, as far as I was able, by

money and by own personal sacrifice, that is

by sufferings and humiliations of all sorts, from

the commencement until very lately, as long

as the interests of the Church required it, I

never for one moment thought of sparing

the parish priest.

And now I will sum up; churches being

once sufficiently provided; to offer the holy

sacrifice of the Mass for his flock, to pray for

them, to administer the Sacraments when and

where, and as often as the ordinance of God

and His Church require, to dispense the Word

of God, to provide for and to watch over the

education of the youth of the parish, and to

stand incessantly upon the watch, and cry out,

warning the people at the approach of

danger, these I believe, are to be considered

amongst the most prominent duties of a parish

priest; and aided as I trust, by Divine grace,

these duties I have endeavoured to perform. ….’

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© MP McConnon, MC Research, Seabank, Castlebellingham, Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland.
(Original uploaded 20 January 2009). Last update 01 January 2022.