Fr. Albert Bibby

Paddy Neary

Thomas Bibby was born on the 24th October 1877, in Bagenalstown Co. Carlow.

His family were proprietors of a woollen mill at Greensbridge, and operated two drapery businesses in Kilkenny City. One in Parliament street opposite the Watergate Theatre, the second in High Street nowadays the Enable Ireland shop located at the lane leading to the Hole in the Wall.

After receiving his early education at the Christian Brothers Schools, James’ Street, he entered the Capuchin Order and took the religious name of Albert. He was professed on the 8th May 1900, and ordained a priest at Church Street in Dublin on the 23rd February 1902.

A gifted scholar, Fr. Albert was among the first batch of Capuchins to receive a BA from the Royal University. He later became a professor of philosophy and theology and taught these subjects to Capuchin students for some years after his ordination.

Fr. Albert was active in the Gaelic revival movement and was a fluent Irish speaker. He was engaged in temperance advocacy and sometimes gave missions solely in Irish in Gaeltacht areas.

For a time he was a member of the community of Friars in Kilkenny, and moved to Church Street, Dublin in the early 1900’s. In the aftermath of the Easter rising, Fr. Albert and four fellow Capuchins accompanied the various people carrying the cease fire orders. Fr. Albert ministered to a number of rebel prisoners in Kilmainham Jail and in other locations. On the night of 7th of May, he and Fr. Augustine were called to Kilmainham Jail to minister to the four men who were to be executed in the morning, Sean Heuston, Michael Mallin, Con Colbert and Eamon Ceannt. He was present for the execution of Sean Heuston and wrote an account of the patriot’s final hours.

He was a regular correspondent with prominent republicans and their families, especially Tom Clarke’s widow and three sons. He ministered to Kevin Barry on the eve of his execution.

On 16th Dec 1920, Frs Albert and Dominic were arrested by British forces during a raid on the Friary in Church Street. Fr. Albert was detained in Dublin Castle for some hours, but was afterwards released.

With the onset of the Civil War and the attack on the Four Courts on June 27th both priests were present in the building and remained with the anti Treaty forces until the evacuation. The priests then proceeded to minister to Cathal Brugha and the anti-treaty forces occupying the Hamman Hotel on O‘Connell Street.

Frs. Albert and Dominic were posted to the United States in the 1920’s, presumably for the role they played on the anti treaty side of the Civil war. Fr. Albert was appointed Pastor to the Capuchin mission at Santa Inez in California. He set out restoring both the Parish and the structures of the old mission. Modern plumbing and electricity were installed.

A letter sent to De Valera by Fr. Dominic describes visiting Albert on his death bed. He described Albert’s loneliness in exile, and quoted him “ it is better to die in agony for freedom than live in luxurious slavery” Fr. Albert was admitted to hospital in Santa Barbara, where he died on 14th February 1925, aged 48 years and was buried outside the mission’s chapel.

His remains along with those of his friend Fr. Dominic, who died in 1935 as a result of a motor car accident and was buried in Oregon were repatriated to Ireland in June 1958. The remains were received at Shannon Airport where thousands turned out to pay their respects to the priests. Among those present were the then Taoiseach , Eamon de Valera, representatives of the Capuchin Order, the Irish Army, and Brigade units of the Old I.R.A from throughout the country. A guard of honour was formed by officers of the Old IRA.

After an overnight stay in the Shannon Airport Oratory, the silver grey metal caskets shrouded in the Tricolour were taken to Cork city, been greeted along the journey through every town and village.

Buses and cars departed Kilkenny on the Saturday morning, carrying large numbers to the ceremonies in Cork. Fr. Albert’s family including his sister Agnes, a nephew Patrick and a second cousin Mrs James Ryan occupied special positions in Holy Trinity Church where Solemn High Mass was celebrated. The Mayor of Kilkenny and robed members of the Corporation were in attendance along with the President Sean T. O’ Kelly. Members of the Old I.R.A. Kilkenny Brigade flanked the hearses on their journey to Rochestown cemetery. Immediately after the oration, the notes of the Last Post rang out clear and poignant, then gave way to Reveille. The caskets were lowered into the graves, the patriot priests were finally laid to rest in their native soil on the 14th June 1958.

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