Dr. John Kyne, Bishop of Meath, 1947-66

Event in Longwood 2017 to commemorate Bishop Kyne

Most Rev. Dr. John Kyne, Bishop of Meath and native of Longwood, Co. Meath, became the first President of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and the first President of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society. Bishop Kyne led the first diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes, the first such pilgrimage from an Irish diocese to Lourdes.

John Anthony Kyne was born on 4 November 1904 in Longwood, the son of John and Mary Kyne.

Bishop Kyne’s father was John Kyne, the Royal Irish Constabulary Sergeant in Longwood. Born in Mayo about 1864 he could speak Irish and English and had been a shop assistant and grocer prior to joining the RIC and served in Carrick on Shannon, Trim and Bellewstown before being appointed to Longwood.  John was the son of Thomas Kyne, a merchant of Headford, Co. Galway. At the Police Barracks in Longwood John Kyne was sergeant and there were four constables. John Kyne later served as clerk of the Petty Sessions at Longwood. He died in 1931 aged 67. Bishop Kyne’s mother was Mary Glancy and she married John Kyne in Dangan, Roscommon in 1891. A teacher, Mary’s father was Patrick Glancy, a farmer. The couple had twelve children. Mrs. Kyne died in 1941 aged 73.[1]

Bishop Kyne’s brother, Francis, joined the British army, rising to the rank of Major and retired to live in Birmingham while another brother, Patrick, settled in London. Another brother, Thomas, joined the Indian Civil Service after completing a degree at the National University, later settling at Bromley, Kent, where he died in 1936.[2]

Born in 1912 Ulick Fursey Kyne, known as Fursey, was educated at St. Finian’s College and the Irish College Rome where he was ordained in 1936. He was appointed curate at Kilbeggan and then at Moynalty. In 1942 Fr. Fursey Kyne became a British Army chaplain and served in France and the Low Countries during the war.  On his return he was appointed curate at Dunshaughlin. From 1957 to 1959 he served on the Emigrants’ Mission in London as a roving chaplain working with Irish hotel staff in Bayswater and Paddington. Fr. Kyne was subsequently appointed curate at Duleek and Beauparc. In 1966 Fr. Kyne was appointed parish priest of Oristown and died in 1968 aged 55. [3]

Three of the Bishop’s sisters became nuns. Maisie, one of his sisters, became Mother M. Therese Poor Clares, Gainsborough, England, formerly Mother Abbess, Poor Clare Convent, Cavan. She also served in Ballyjamesduff and Stamullen. Another sister, Eveline, became Sr. M. Finian, Carysfort Training College, Convent, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. Another sister, Sister Cecelia, joined the Convent of Mercy, Rochfortbidge, in 1918 where she became a teacher and died at the early age of 35 years in 1929.  A sister, Margaret (Millie) Kyne, joined the British Civil Service and worked in London and Liverpool. She obtained a B.A. at London University. She retired to Longwood and died in 1969.  Another sister, Mrs. Louie Quinn, Longwood, died in 1978. Louie Quinn was a national school teacher at Killyon N.S. and wife of Florrie Quinn. A sister, Nora, married John J. Quigley N.T., Oldcastle. When he died Nora back to Longwood, and then to Dublin. [4]

Consecratation in Rome

John (Jack) Kyne attended the local school on Longwood where the teacher was Mr. Conway. John showed a prowess for mechanics, being able to dismantle and re-assemble a clock. He was awarded a scholarship to St. Finian’s College, Mullingar. In 1922 he won a scholarship to study for the priesthood at the Irish College in Rome and the Pontifical College of Propaganda, where he won prizes for moral theology, scripture and canon law. Ordained in 1927 Fr. Kyne returned to Ireland where he became curate in Navan before joining the staff of St. Finian’s College in October 1928 for a period of two years. [5]

In 1930 Fr. Kyne was appointed Vice-Rector of the Irish College in Rome, a position he held for seventeen years. Dr. Kyne travelled extensively to work in the church until 1939. During the tense war years Dr. Kyne’s skills in negotiating ensured the safety and wellbeing of the students at the college in particular when the Germans occupied the city. Kyne was regarded as a rock of common sense. He received the title of Monsignor in 1939 and was appointed Papal Chamberlain in 1940. Supply of food for the college was a problem and Mgr. Kyne grew vegetables to supplement food at the college and is said to have kept a few pigs although this was against the law. Rabbits were bred in the handball alleys. Students had to travel through Portugal to go to Ireland or return. A complication was the Irish summer villa in Formia, south of Rome, which became the headquarters for the German command defending Monte Cassino. The caves behind the Villa were used for interrogation and torture. It all demanded very difficult diplomacy on the part of Mgr. Kyne and the Rector  Mgr. McDaid. That they succeeded in retaining both properties intact was an enormous achievement.[6]

Bishop of Meath Dr. John D’Alton was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in 1946 having been consecrated Bishop of Meath in 1943. Ten months later, on 20 May 1947 Dr. John Kyne was announced as the new Bishop of Meath. At the age of 43 Bishop Kyne was the youngest member of the Irish Hierarchy when he was appointed to Meath. His consecration took place in the Church of St. Ignatius on 29 June 1947 where Kyne had been ordained priest in 1927. The consecrating prelate was Cardinal Rossi, secretary to the Consistorial Congregation. Kyne was the first Bishop of Meath to be consecrated in Rome since the Reformation and  only the second one for an Irish diocese since the Reformation, the first being Dr. William J. Walsh, Archbishop of Dublin from 1885 to 1921. A number of the Kyne family and Meath priests flew to Rome to attend the consecration.[7]

On the day following his consecration Bishop Kyne made a broadcast to the people of Meath on Vatican Radio which was re-broadcast by Radio Éireann. The Bishop concluded, with his blessing on Ireland and on his Diocese: “From these “sacred sights”, my thoughts go out to the priests and people  of my native Diocese, to the priests and people of my native Longwood, and to all who sent messages of good wishes from North, South, East and West.” After his consecration Bishop Kyne was received by the Pope who presented him with a Pectoral Cross. Pope Pius XII told him before he left Rome that he was going back to “a profoundly Catholic people.” There were huge welcoming ceremonies for the new bishop in his native diocese. At Longwood hundreds of people welcomed him and he stopped to pray in St. Mary’s Church where he had been baptised. He then crossed the road to say a prayer at his parents’ grave. He was welcomed by the parish priest Fr. Clavin and the priests of nearby Kinnegad and Summerhill. Addressing parishioners from a platform in the centre of the village the new bishop said “I certainly did not expect anything like this. I can tell you I am sincerely grateful to you all. Here in Longwood there is no room for deception or pretension, you all know me and I know you all, we are all friends together.” He returned to Longwood in October to receive a special crozier presented to him by the parish. The design of the crozier top was a representation of a Celtic dragon turned with the form of a shepherd’s crook. Mounted in the centre is an elongated cross—an unusual design for a crozier. The cross pierced through the dragon, convoying the overcoming of paganism through the powers of Christ.[8]

Turning sod for new church at Dunboyne

Bishop Kyne began by initiating a building programme for churches beginning with the chapel at the Mosney Holiday Camp, new churches were constructed including Kells, Dunderry, Horseleap and Dunboyne. New schools were also constructed including Kilbeggan N.S., Whitecross, Stamullen; Sacred Heart, Drogheda; St. Joseph’s National School, Kingscourt andSt. Seachnall’s N.S., Dunshaughlin.  New windows and a new graveyard in Clonard were blessed by Bishop Kyne. [9]

Bishop Kyne led the first Meath Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes, in September, 1948 and each following year he led the pilgrimage to Lourdes. Following Mass in St. Mary’s Church, Navan, the 450 on the first pilgrimage were led by Navan Boys’ Band to Navan railway station, crossed the Irish Sea from Dun Laoghaire on to London, where they stayed overnight. They crossed the English Channel, travelling on to Paris. En route, Bishop Kyne celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of St. Joan of Arc in Orleans. There were twenty three invalids with the group on that first visit, who travelled separately by air from the main group – the first invalids to arrive this way from Ireland. Bishop Kyne also led the Diocesan pilgrimage to Knock each year.[10]

In October 1948 Bishop Kyne presided at a Mass on the Hill of Tara to commemorate the 1798 Rebellion. He unveiled an inscribed limestone cross on the site where a memorial was to have been erected. The Taoiseach, John A. Costello, and Éamon de Valera spoke at the event.  Twelve thousand people were gathered on the Hill to witness the ceremonies. [11]

During the Holy Year in 1950 Bishop Kyne led a group of 700 pilgrims from Meath to Rome. In the 1950s Bishop Kyne purchased Clonard House as the bishop’s residence giving Cathedral House to priests of Mullingar parish.[12]

In December 1950 Fr. Callery, Parish Priest, Ballinabrackey, held a meeting in Mullingar to revive the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society. Bishop Kyne attended and was made patron, promising to be an active member of the Society. In 1955 Bishop Kyne provided the foreword to “Riocht na Midhe,” which was the first volume of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society. A journal of this kind, Bishop Kyne said, would “foster a proper respect for relics of the past, and for the proper motives.” [13]

In the 1950s the American bishops made an urgent appeal to the Irish bishops for Sisters to staff the religious schools in their dioceses and Dr. Kyne despatched sisters from his diocese to various school in America. Bishop Kyne despatched five Mercy Sisters from Navan to Daytona Beach, Florida to become teachers in the new school there.[14]

In January 1951, representatives of the Piper’s Club, Dublin, travelled to Mullingar to meet  a group of local enthusiasts with a view to forming a branch of the Piper’s Club in Mullingar. After a lengthy discussion it was decided to form an organisation which would embrace all traditional instrumentalists. The first Fleadh was arranged in Mullingar in May 1951. The aims of the Fleadh were to restore to its rightful place, the traditional music of Ireland and to arrest “the decadent trend” evident then in Irish life. The first standing Committee of Cumann Ceoltóirí na hÉireann was elected by members of the Pipers’ Club in October 1951, at Arus Ceannt, Thomas Street, Dublin, with Most Rev. Dr. Kyne, as President.  At a meeting in Mullingar, in early 1952, it was decided to change the title of the organisation from Cumann Ceoltóirí na hÉireann to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. Its objectives were and still are the promotion and preservation of traditional music, song and dance. Today Comhaltas is established on four continents with in excess of 400 branches worldwide. Branches organise classes, concerts, ceilithe, sessions and festivals at local level.[15]

Bishop Kyne was a strong supporter of the Irish language movement. In 1952 when he opened Feis Midhe he said “If we want to be a big force in the world, we will have to base all our efforts on the restoration of Irish language and culture. It is our heritage and it is our duty to do all in our power to ensure that the heritage is not lost to Ireland or the world.” [16]

In 1953 Bishop Kyne, as patron of the Meath Drama Festival said “Some may think that taking part in plays is somewhat frivolous and trivial. That is a fallacy because, after all, the gems of literature are enshrined in the plays of the world.”  “Irish men are natural play actors – and I mean that in the good sense of the word” Bishop Kyne said at the opening of the Festival some years later. [17]

Bishop Kyne was a supporter of Munitir na Tire seeing it as a means of “curing the festering sores of emigration and unemployment.” In September 1961 Bishop Kyne blessed and opened the new Mullingar Creamery. He was concerned at the plight of emigrants and he thought that parents should do their utmost to keep young people at home. Bishop Kyne suggested that the Church Holidays should be the public holidays, saying “Knock out the bank holidays and the Church holidays will provide nicely-spaced holidays for the community over the year.”[18]

Irish Bishops at Vatican II

In October 1963 Bishop Kyne departed for Rome and attended all the sessions of the Second Vatican Council, but suffered from poor health towards the end of the event. Dr. Kyne considered that the whole Council should be secret. On November 1964, Dr. Kyne told a press conference held by the bishops on return from Rome “foreign newspapers have given a false account of the Council and they should be discounted by all people.”  On his return to Ireland in December Bishop Kyne was admitted a patient to the Mater Private Hospital. In his Pastoral Letter in March 1965 Bishop Kyne wrote that the “Vatican Council has begun a programme to give added vigour to our Christian life… These changes have not been made from a love of novelty. They have been proposed because of your privilege as member of the church of Christ. Christ is always present in His church… We must share in an external manner too. For this reason certain parts of the Mass are now in our own languages. This makes possible a fuller and more active participation with the sacred act of the priest at the altar. It is your duty to use this opportunity, to join together in public prayer, to make the responses to the priest, to listen attentively when he reads the word of God. It will require reverence and discipline. It will impress on you that you must always be in good time for Mass. It is necessary that all pray reverently and in a voice that befits the people of God united in common worship. When the congregation stands or kneels together they are giving expression to the public character of the holy sacrifice. I ask of you, therefore, that you persevere in the good resolutions you have made today.”[19]

As bishop Dr. Kyne was the patron of a number of organisations including the Westmeath  Co. Board G.A.A.; Meath Cycling Board, Mullingar Brass and Reed Band, Mullingar Show and Westmeath Branch of Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children.[20]

Bishop Kyne died 23 December 1966 aged 62. He had been in failing health for some time. The front page of the Westmeath Examiner stated “The late Dr. Kyne was a beloved Bishop. Unassuming, always shunning the glare of publicity, while at the same time making friends with those whom he came in contact, not least of them being the children of the town, he was held in the highest esteem… A lover of the language he spoke it to those who were able to converse in it, and he said the prayers at the Children’s Mass, in the Cathedral, in Irish. He had many wonderful traits and he was recognised for what he was, a kindly, understanding and charitable bishop.” President Éamon de Valera and Taoiseach Jack Lynch attended the funeral which was celebrated by the Bishop of Clogher, Most Rev. Dr. O’Callaghan. Bishop Kyne’s nephew, Rev. Michael Kyne S. J. Oxford was sub-deacon at the Mass. The bishop’s remains were interred on the eastern side of the Cathedral, next to that of his predecessor, Most. Rev. Thomas, Mulvaney, who died in 1943.[21]

With thanks to Fr. Michael Kilmartin for suggesting the research, Bishop Michael Smith, Brona Burke, Fr. Paul Crosbie, Diocesan Secretary for photograph and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Dublin, Dundalk.

[1] Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Meath Chronicle 6 December 1941, p. 5. Census 1901, 1911.

[2] Meath Chronicle 4 April 1936, p.1.

[3] Meath Chronicle 1 August 1959, 8 August 1959, p. 2, 18 May 1968 p. 1; Westmeath Examiner, 26 October 1957, p. 8 .

[4] Meath Chronicle 18 May 1929, p.1, 10 May 1969 p. 11.

[5] Meath Chronicle 13 August 1927, p.5.

[6] Meath Chronicle 1 November 1930, p.1; Personal correspondence from Bishop Michael Smith; Dermot Keogh, Ireland and the Vatican (Cork, 1995) p. 163; Olive C. Curran History of the Diocese of Meath 1860-1993 (Mullingar, 1995) Vol 1 pp. xxxiv.

[7] Meath Chronicle 24 May 1947, p.1, 28 June 1947 p. 1, 5 July 1947, p.1, 12 July 1947, p.1; Irish Independent, 21 May 1947, p. 5.

[8] Meath Chronicle 5 July 1947 p. 1, 12 July 1947, p.1, 19 July 1947 p.1, 25 October 1947, p.1; Westmeath Examiner 7 January 1967 p. 5; Irish Press 11 July 1947, p. 6; Irish Examiner 12 July 1947.

[9] Meath Chronicle 8 July 1961, p.2; Irish Independent 1 October 1956 p.5.

[10] Meath Chronicle 11 September 1948, p.1, 18 September 1948; Anglo-Celt, 11 September 1948, pp 1, 9;

[11] Meath Chronicle 9 October 1948, pp 1, 2, 7,

[12] Irish Press 2 June 1950, p. 6; Curran History of the Diocese of Meath 1860-1993 Vol 1 pp. xxxv.

[13] Riocht na Midhe (1955) Foreword p. 3; Westmeath Examiner, 25 June 1960, p. 1.

[14] Meath Chronicle 5 May 1956, 4 July 1964, p. 11; Irish Examiner  23 August 1949 p. 4

[15] Willie Reynolds, Memories of a Music Maker (Dublin, 1990) pp 64-65; Treoir (1986) p. 42. Mick O’Connor, History of the Pipers’ Club.

[16] Meath Chronicle 12 July 1952, p.1; Irish Independent, 7 July 1952,  p. 5

[17] Meath Chronicle 14 March 1953, p. 1, 20 March 1954, p.1, 17 March 1962, p. 1, 16 March 1963 p. 1; Irish Press 9 March 1953, p. 1.

[18] Meath Chronicle 31 December 1966, p.1; Irish Press 31 May 1960, p. 7, 11 March 1957 p.4.

[19] Meath Chronicle 12 December 1964, p.4,

[20] Westmeath Examiner, 17 October 1953 p. 9, 29 August 1959 p. 1.

[21] Meath Chronicle 31 December 1966, p.1; Irish Independent 28 December 1966, Anglo-Celt, 30 December 1966, p. 4; Westmeath Examiner, 30 December 1966, p. 1.