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THE CARDINAL'S FAMILY AND SCHOOL-DAYS
by
Mary Cumiskey, Carrive, Co. Armagh

Extracts, with the Society's permission, from an article in the 1991 Journal of The Creggan Local History Society

My contribution to this combined tribute to our late Cardinal has some verifiable facts - like dates from baptismal, marriage and death certificates - but mostly it is of memories, as told by people who knew the Fee and Carragher families, or who heard stories handed down from earlier generations.

The Cardinal's life, from the time he went to St. Patrick's College, Armagh, is well documented, so most of the reminiscences about the Cardinal himself are of his early years at Cregganduff School.

John Fee (Cardinal's grandfather, James Fee (Cardinal's Uncle) and Patrick Fee (Cardinal's Father)John Fee, the Cardinal's grandfather, came north from Shanmullagh, Co. Louth, to work as a ploughman for Dr. Stitt in Freeduff, near Cullyhanna. ......On 16th February 1882, he married Rose Hughes, Oldtown, Cullyhanna, and the three children of the marriage were born in "Ashfield House": Patrick, on 2nd November 1882; James, on 31st July 1885; and Mary Ann, on 24th March 1888......

......Cregganduff National School was built in 1889 and one of the early teachers - if not the first - was a Master Hurl, who lodged with the Fees, when they lived in "Ashfield House". Patrick Fee became a monitor at the school, before going to St. Patrick's Teacher Training College, Drumcondra, Dublin, where he qualified in 1904. It seems he taught for a short time in Castlerock, before returning to Cregganduff School on 1st January 1905, where he remained until his retirement in 1947.

There isn't a lot of information about the Master's early life. He was quite a reserved man but, when asked to sing at a gathering, he had a party-piece, "Mrs Hooligan's Christmas Cake". He married Annie Carragher on 8th January 1920......

.....My earliest recollection of meeting the family was at my grandmother's house, on our weekly Sunday visit. The Master was a regular visitor to the house, on his way home from school each evening......

......Thomas Fee was born on 3rd November 1923, at Annaghmare, though the address on the baptismal register is given as Sheetrim. Perhaps, this ambiguity can be I explained by the fact that the townlands of Sheetrim and Annaghmare adjoin at the house in which he was born. He, too, was baptised in Cullyhanna and his sponsors were Thomas Carragher and Elizabeth O'Neill. During the early years of their marriage, the Master and Mistress went to school on their bicycles. The Master's first car was a Model-T Ford, which had a canvas roof and celluloid side-windows. His next car - and last - was a Morris 8, registration number IB 8095. The Master was a poor driver and was known to burn out the clutch regularly. School contemporaries of the Cardinal remember being sent out onto the main road at Moley's shop, to wave the Master's car out, when the road was clear.

Family life was shattered, when Mrs Fee discovered a lump on her breast, while on summer holidays in Blackrock, Co. Louth. She went to a Nursing Home in Dublin, where cancer was diagnosed and an operation performed. Unfortunately, the operation was not successful and she returned home to a long, painful illness. She died on 28th January 1932......

Tom Fee, aged 12......Both boys attended Cregganduff School for their primary education. They are remembered as scholarly children. Patrick was very quiet and studious, very like mother in looks and temperament. Tom was like his father in appearance, had an outgoing personality and made friends very easily. He was fond of playing pranks at school and often got into trouble with the Master because of his high-jinks.......

......Arithmetic books at school were required to be ruled, so that the sum could be set out clearly, and all rough-work was required to be done in the column at the side. Tom always managed to do some calculations in the middle of the sum and then draw circles around them, which spoiled the effect and got him into trouble as well.

If he thought a child had no pen or pencil, he would slip up to the Master's press and "pinch" one, to save the child getting into trouble.

He was known to have been a fluent Irish-speaker at the age of ten and could read an Irish column, which appeared in the daily paper, brought to the school by the postman. The paper was, no doubt, "The Irish Press" which, from its first publication in 1931, was the Master's favourite daily......




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