fr eugene o'reilly

Fr. Eugene O'Reilly 1768-1852 parish priest of Navan, was an extraordinary man of vision.

Educated in Lille (France) he entered Maynooth in the year of its  foundation in 1795.  He worked in Navan from his ordination until his death in 1852 - a period of over 50 years.

During this time, he was curate, founder and headmaster of the first Catholic secondary school in the town, and parish priest from 1827 -1852 ( after the death of Bishop Plunkett ).

He built the present St. Mary's Church (1839) and the Parochial House (1845).

He saw the great need for the education of the poor of the town. He applied for grants for the setting up of a boys' school and the payment of teachers, eventually setting up seven national schools in the parish.

He invited the Loreto (1833) and the Mercy Sisters (1853) to Navan and they set up schools for girls.

He introduced Sodalities to Navan and also the Society of the St. Vincent de Paul.

He loved music and poetry and compiled a prayer book with hymns which he himself had composed. (Unfortunately this has been lost). In politics, he was a follower of Daniel O'Connell, and a supporter of the Tenant Right League. He was an Indefatigable champion of the poor of the town.  He set up co-operative workshops to employ poor girls of the town - making lace and weaving cloth for gingham gowns.

When the agent for the Duke of Bedford had 120 cabins knocked in the Brews Hill / Chapel Lane area of the Navan (leaving about 600 homeless), he protested to the Duke "If other noblemen should follow Your Grace's example, Navan would cease to be a town".

He died on Sunday 12th December 1852, aged 84.  The following day his remains were removed to the church which he had built, where he lay in state until Tuesday.  Shops and other businesses closed as a mark of respect.  He is buried in the crypt of St. Mary's Church. His memorial bust can be seen in the church today (see below) - donated by "the generosity of the Duke of Bedford and the affection of his friends".

eugene o reilly bust in st marys church





















The Very Rev. Father Eugene O'Reilly, P.P. of Navan, Vicar-General, and Archdeacon of Meath was born about the year 1768 and descended in a paternal line from Myles John O'Reilly, of Heath House in the Queen's County [Laois], and on the maternal side from the Maguires of Rathmore, who were closely connected by marriage with the Dunsaney branch  of the Plunket family in the county of Meath, and with the Balfes of Cortown who were the progenitors of the Roscommon branch of the same name against whom being 'Papists' bills of discovery were filed by the Taylor family, now ennobled by the title of marquis, and which Penal proceedings were the last instituted in this country against the rights and possessions of Catholics.

At the desire of his Uncle, Rev. Laurence O'Reilly, a parist priest of Kildalkey, he and his brother Mr. Mathew O'Reilly, afterwards an eminent solicitor in Dublin, were sent to France in the year 1786.  There in the college of Llile, he prosecuted his clasical studies with distuingushed success until 1792 when he was forced by the fury of the Revolution to return to Ireland.

Subsequently, having studied a short time in Carlow, he was amongst the first to enter Maynooth in 1795,  the year of its foundation.  In 1797 he was appointed by that illustrious Prelate, the Late Right Rev. Dr. Plunkett curate of his own Parish in Navan.  In 1802 he was appointed President over the Catholic Seminary which was opened that year in Navan

Source of above: Freeman's Journal, 4 Jan 1853.


Sources: The Diocese of Meath Ancient and Modern, Vols. 1-3, Dean Anthony Cogan

Navan Parish - A Celebration of our Faith History Jubilee Year 2000