William Carrigan

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William Carrigan (died 1924) was an Irish canon of the diocese of Ossory and historian, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Early life[edit]

William Carrigan was the youngest of 13 children. He was born in Ruthstown, Ballyfoyle, County Kilkenny. He received his childhood education in the Ballyfoyle National School and then in Wellington Square in Kilkenny City. He then attended the ecclesiastical side of St Kieran’s College. His education was continued at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth today a part of the larger NUI Maynooth. He was ordained by Francis Moran, Bishop of Ossory, in 1884. His first posting was as curate in Ballyragget in North County Kilkenny. Bishop Moran was a distinguished historian, having founded the Ossory Archaeological Society in 1872. He encouraged William’s interests in history and he joined the Ossory Archaeological Society in 1884; his first paper was printed in the last issue of the Ossory Archaeological Society in 1886.

Sources and origins of his works[edit]

The 19th Century saw a great interest in history. Kilkenny had already seen two major historical works written in the 1880s, John Hogan[disambiguation needed]’s History of Kilkenny and P. M. Egan's Guide to Kilkenny. The clergy played an active role in these developments; the Rev. James Graves was a frequent contributor to the Kilkenny Archaeological Society. William Carrigan with his high interest in local history took these developments as reason to create his own writings. The Bishop of Ossory, Dr Brownrigg, encouraged Carrigan to begin a compilation of a history of Ossory. The Bishop would fund his travels and subscribe to the finished works.

Carrigan travelled around the diocese speaking at great length to older people, taking count of folklore traditions and oral history. We owe it to Carrigan that we still have these today. He also trudged through existing works and resolved conflicting accounts. All of his holidays were spent in the Public Records Office, Dublin, collecting information that related with Ossory. By the late 1890s he already had an immense collection of material. What remained was to concentrate it into a manageable work.

"The History and Antiquities of Ossory"[edit]

William Carrigan was only 45 when this work was completed. The finished work, divided into four volumes, took six years in the writing, between 1897 and 1903.

The first volume deals with the overall history of the diocese from Pre-Christianity Celtic times to the Christianisation and through the Past Bishops and Clergy. The remaining volumes examine Ossory’s parishes. It explains each parishes' buildings, churches, castles, monuments etc. Townlands are also examined and the origins of their names explained as well as prominent families and tombstone inscriptions etc. Interwoven throughout his narrative in the first volume, is a history of the Kingdom of Ossory and the activity of its rulers, gentry and major clergy; complete with as many annalistic references and other primary sources as he could compile.

Illustrations add to in the richness of his work; photography is used to its full extent. The firm chosen to print the work was Sealy, Bryer and Walker of Middle Abbey Street, Dublin. The firm had long experience of printing historical works. 738 individuals subscribed to the work. 840 copies were sold; the remaining 160 were lost in Dublin during the 1916 Rising. The work was well received on its publication and although other diocesan histories exist, none come to par with it for its range and depth.

Later life[edit]

His keen interest in history continued for the rest of his life. He became parish priest of Durrow, County Laois in 1911. He continued to write and collect material; a further volume was planned but never got to be published. His unpublished works are preserved in the Diocesan Archives in St Kieran's College.

Canon Carrigan died in 1924, his health had deteriorated since he had had 'Spanish Flu' in 1918. His legacy has continued to this day. His history is still for many people their introduction to the local history of their area. His lavish use of illustrations and photographs gives the work an accessibility lacking in many histories of the time.

Commemoration in 2005[edit]

2005 marked the centenary of the publication of his work. In Kilkenny the diocese set up a commemorative committee to mark this occasion. It was decide to mark the occasion in two ways. Firstly a new comprehensive index was commissioned for the four volumes. The indexing was undertaken by Helen Litton. This new volume provided a level of accessibility to the work previously lacking. The second strand was a Centenary Conference organised in St Kieran's College on the 7–8 October 2005, the index was launched at the conference along with a digitized CD-ROM edition of the 'History' combined with the new index. At the conference a variety of papers were delivered on Canon Carrigan himself and the ecclesiastical history of the diocese.

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