A friend discovered this 1902 letter from “A Parishioner” to a Limerick priest in an old book recently. A useful reminder that we have always had our self-appointed moral police, for anyone who thought the Iona Institute was a recent phenomenon.
26 /2 /02
Rev. Father Sheahan
Pardon me for troubling you, but the matter I have to deal with is one of vital importance to many. in that part of the parish known as Dunganville, there are some parties getting up what they term a ball, but which is, in reality, a porter party of from twenty to thirty couples contributing something above 3/ a head. I need not explain the sin and ruin to so many souls occassioned by [such] practises. I will leave the matter to your own discretion but I think its only right + just to tell the parishioners from the altar on Sunday next not to lend there houses to such disgraceful purpose. for such a kind act you will have the blessing and gratitude of many a parent in the parish
Your very humble servant
Weren’t the people of Dunganville lucky that this good citizen was watching out for their eternal souls? Who knows what fine work he’d be doing if he happened to be alive today? He might even have his own Institute.
History doesn’t record how Father Sheahan reacted to the letter though if he was anything like his fellow priests of the post-Cullen tendency, he probably took firm action, perhaps involving a blackthorn stick. But on the other hand, he might have groaned and reached for a stiff whiskey. Who knows?
And here’s poor old John Sheahan’s death notice, not long after he received the letter from his outraged parishioner.
This is his will. £1,388. Quite a sum for 1902.
Can we deduce anything about the writer? In the frugal spirit of the time, the letter is written on both sides of a single sheet. The handwriting is very much of its time as taught in the schools, and the grammar is more or less correct, though there are a few mis-spellings and a peculiar tendency to begin sentences with lower-case. All suggestions welcome, though I have a nagging suspicion he might have been a disgruntled publican.