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The day 20,000 people converged on Lucan - 1842

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Extracts from The Dublin Journal of Temperance, Science & Literature (June 11,1842)

It is with feelings of no inconsiderable pleasure, we present our readers with an accurate report of the interesting proceedings at Lucan, on last Sunday, when that delightful suburban locality was honoured by a visit from the moral regenerator of his country. From an early hour might be seen wending their way from the metropolis, as well as from the adjacent country, thousands of the disciples and friends of temperance; and it was truly gratifying to observe the order, the decorum and the substantial comfort, which their appearance, as well as that of their families, indicated.

No argument could be more powerful than the sight of 20,000 persons, congregated under the broad canopy of heaven, each bearing the marks of personal comfort and self-respect; and all, eager to catch the parental advice tendered by him whose name and labours now form a portion of history.

Fr Mathew

The Rev. Theobald Mathew, of Cork, arrived about 12 o'clock, accompanied by the Very Rev. Mr. Murphy, of Dublin. His presence was the signal for a grateful shout of hearty welcome, followed up by the enlivening strains of the several bands, who played with a skill and execution which reflects the highest credit on the musical taste of our countrymen: and if it be (as it is reported) the intention of Mainsier, the celebrated composer and professor of the simultaneous system of singing, to visit this country, he will find in the musical and poetic taste, for which our country is proverbial, an ample field for the successful prosecution of a system, as simple as it is magnificent.

The Bands on the day
Amongst the bands present, we noticed the very rev. gentleman's own and, in their superb uniform; the Trim Band, headed by their president, the Rev. Mr. Halligan; the Lucan Band; the Clondalkin Band; the Chapelizod Band; the Porterstown Band; the Chapelizod Juvenile Band; and the Maynooth Band, drawn in a triumphal car, with six horses, belonging to His Grace the duke of Leinster.

The very rev. gentleman proceeded at two o'clock to the chapel, where he delivered a powerful and impressive discourse in aid of its funds. It is to the zealous and untiring exertions of the Rev. Mr. Kelly, the respected pastor of Lucan, its inhabitants are indebted for the erection of this very beautiful edifice.

Independent of the sacred purposes of religion to which it is devote, its chaste and simple architectural beauty adds much to the appearance of that delightful locality, and reflects great credit on the refined and cultivated taste of the rev. gentleman under whose auspices it is now nearly completed.

We are happy to learn that the appeal made on Sunday last has been eminently successful, as the amount received has exceeded the most sanguine expectations of the rev. gentleman and his parishioners. Amongst the collectors we noticed, with feelings of extreme pleasure, the most influential and respectable gentlemen of the locality, who engaged in the cause of Christian Charity, nobly merged all minor differences.

Immediately after the sermon, the very rev. gentleman proceeded to a meadow adjoining the chapel, in which a commodious platform had been erected. It was now anxiety seemed at its height. On the apostle of temperance making his appearance amongst the honest frieze coats, a shout burst forth for several minutes, prolonged by the reverberating echoes of the beautiful valley beneath; but the signal for silence being given by the rev. gentleman holding up his hand, all were again silent, not a word could be heard, not a breath seemed to pervade the vast multitude which, to those in the habit of viewing such meetings presented a sublime spectacle.

Picture the scene…….
We know from our local history that while building commenced in 1835, St. Mary's did not have a roof at the time Fr. Mathew came to Lucan. This event turned out to be a very successful fund-raiser according to the above report.

The road outside the church – the first Lucan by-pass – was new, building commencing on it in 1839. Hence the old steps leading up from Chapel Hill across the present car park to the church.

Schools did not appear on the scene until 1864, and it would be 1867 before the Presentation Convent was founded. St. Mary's was surrounded by nothing more than farmland in 1842.

The following is parts of the rev. gentleman's address, previous to administering the pledge:
He said he felt inexpressible pleasure in having that opportunity of meeting so many of his friends. He knew that a great portion of those who were then around him were as good teetotallers as any in existence, and that his observations could make no improvement in them; but if he could confirm some of those who were lukewarm, or cause any additional individuals to take the pledge, he would consider the trouble of coming amongst them amply repaid. He then referred to the blessings conferred on the country by temperance. Crime and vice had been banished from the face of the land, and peace and harmony established in their place.

Intoxicating has been the fruitful source of all the wickedness and misery which had so long existed amongst our people. Ireland was acknowledged to be among the poorest countries on the earth, and yet no less than eight millions of money were annually wasted in it on the consumption of intoxicating liquors. That money would now remain with the people, and thus, through the progress of temperance, they would become from the poorest, the most prosperous nation in the world, and they would be possessed of funds abundantly sufficient to establish domestic manufactures, and to develop all the resources of the country.

The temperance society now contained nearly five millions of members, and he would make bold to assert, that a more moral body of persons did not exist in the whole of the Christian world. The eyes of mankind were upon them – the foul stigma of intoxication, so long fixed on the Irish people – that made their country a bye-word amongst the nations of the earth, - was removed, and she was not, on the contrary, the admiration of the world.

Two Rules
They were all probably well aware already of what the total abstinence pledge consists. There were but two general rules to be attended to in their society.

The first was to abstain from all intoxicating drinks, and these included all those deleterious draughts – those snares of Satan called teetotal cordials –raspberry vinegar, ginger cordials, and such compounds, which were all composed of the worst kind of whiskey, and the most deleterious drugs. Much as he abhorred a man who drank alcohol, after taking the pledge, he considered the teetotaller who drank these cordials to be still worse – for, while the former was a base pledge-breaker, the latter, who drank the cordials, was not only a base pledge-breaker, but he was also a hypocrite.

The second rule was that they should, as teetotallers, abstain form all political and religious controversies. He die not want any man to refrain from exercising his opinions on political matters, but he objected to his doing so as a member of a society which included persons of every religious and political belief. It had been said that teetotallers would answer very well for the ardent spirit of the people of the south and west of Ireland, but that when he went to the cold calculating north he would not get them to join him with anything like the same enthusiasm; and yet, from the time that he unfurled the pure and spotless banner of temperance on the plains of cava, his progress through Ulster had been one continued triumph, as complete as in any part of Munster or Connaught.

The Rev. Mr. Mathew said, that on arriving in Dublin, on the preceding day, he was informed by a clergyman, to his great sorrow that some emissaries of Ribbon societies, after having failed to establish themselves in the country districts, had come to Dublin, and were endeavouring, by visiting the coffee houses, to get the teetotallers to join in Ribbon or mutual protection societies. His blood curled within his veins when he heard the announcement, and he then wished to caution those who heard him to heed not such men, but to bring them at once before the next clergyman or the magistrates, for otherwise, they might be assured, that these bloodthirsty villains would sell them as soon as they had their names entered, in order that they might be able to go to a foreign land to riot on the price of the blood of their victims.

Taking the Pledge
He then called on all who wished to take the pledge, and all who had violated their former pledge by drinking teetotal cordials to kneel down. The immense multitude nearly all fell on their knees and received the pledge.

The rev. gentleman said he had, in administering the pledge, purposely avoided adding the words "except for medical purposes," as he had head of many instances in which teetotallers were in the habit of keeping a doctor's certificate in their pockets, and then drinking wine at table. He cared not what was put into a prescription at a apothecary's shop; but he could never consent that persons perfectly healthy should go with their prescriptions to the wine-merchant or the tavern. He then proceeded to mark every individual who had received the pledge with the sign of the cross.

Some smaller batches were afterwards received. The Rev. Mr. Mathew announced that he would attend in the same place on the next day (Monday) to administer the pledge to as many as could not attend on Sunday.

Many Thanks to Mrs. Mary Shackleton who was kind enough to send us a copy of the above report.

Mary Mulhall