Saturday, 5 August 2017

Letters from Father Dan O'Callaghan

Father Daniel O'Callaghan was born January 29, 1875 in South Down, Ireland. He came to St. John's in 1907 on request from Archbishop Howley. He was ordained the same year in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and was appointed to the staff of the Cathedral. He remained there for four years and in 1912, was appointed Parish Priest of St. Bride's Parish in Placentia East where he stayed for five years. In 1918, he was assigned as first Parish Priest for Logy Bay, Middle Cove and Outer Cove and was in charge of organizing the construction of a church, which would be called St. Francis of Assisi Church. He is also credited in the erection of a school and presbytery. He remained at the church for thirty years until his death in 1948.

Father Dan O'Callaghan
©Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Museum
The museum archives holds two letters written by Father Dan O'Callaghan. One written in 1903 addressed to Right Reverend Howley and the other in 1917 addressed to Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche. Father Dan goes into great detail about his schooling and his desire to come to Newfoundland in the first letter. He started school late due to an illness which prevented him from his studies. Upon entering school later he describes that he is "advanced in his years" and that he "worked extremely hard, in hopes of shortening my college career... So much so, that before Christmas vacation, my eyes became very weak from over study." His writing shows his devotion to becoming a priest. We learn in the letter that his sister has also entered religion and moving to Newfoundland would allow them to live closer together. The letter goes on to describing his sister's credentials and their willingness to move. We know that he indeed made it to Newfoundland!
1903 Letter from Father Dan O'Callaghan
©Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Museum
The next letter we have is written fourteen years later. This letter is very interesting as Father Dan discusses how the men of Flatrock are subjected to scornful remarks, unfair and unjust treatment from "patriots" because they have not volunteered for the war. It even went as far as Flatrock men being refused ice field berths. One can only imagine how this would have hurt Flatrock men economically! Father Dan discouraged the men of Flatrock from volunteering. He is known to have told his parishioners that there was "no pride in standing under the British rag."
1917 Letter from Father Dan O'Callaghan
©Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Museum
Another interesting part of this letter is the story about Flatrock men in the Mediterranean and an epic rescue that occurred on November 11, 1916. Thomas Maher saved Patrick Bulger who was thrown overboard into the dark, raging sea after a large wave hit their ship. Thomas Maher was asleep in his bed when he heard shouting and knocking and rushed from his bed in his night clothes and jumped overboard to save Maher. The story goes that,
"after both had been taken under by the heavy seas Bulger gasped out to Maher asking the latter to save himself and let him (Bulger) drown, as (so he thought) it was impossible for both to be saved. But Maher clung to the drowning man and managed to grasp a heavy rope that was flung to him by the Captain, and gripping Bulger around the body with his limbs arranged to fasten the rope under his arms and thus he was taken aboard. Maher following and a few hours later was on duty on time."
A very heroic rescue! Father Dan continues to write that he is looking for Archbishop Roche's influence to get recognition for the men. He also writes, "Your Grace, this deed is not that of a “slacker” as we are termed by some of the “patriots” of St. John’s." These letters teach us a lot about Father Dan as well as what was going at the time in Newfoundland when these letters were written.

The Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Museum Archives houses a variety of material. If you are interested in reading the full letters or seeing what else we have keep your eye on the Digital Archives Initiative as a lot of our archives will be accessible there. Can't wait? Stop by the museum during our business hours and take a look at what we have!

"A Talk Given at the Banquet Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the First Mass in the Parish Church, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Outer Cove. Given by: Reverend Francis A. Coady, Vicar General, & Former Pastor." Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Museum Archives, St. Francis of Assisi Church Fonds.

"The response o some Irish Newfoundlanders to the Great War." Archival Moments. Accessed 5 August 2017,

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