Father Francis Gleeson and 'Blessing of the Munsters' Centenary Commemoration
Cross of Sacrifice, Glasnevin Cemetery
Friday 8th May 2015
Order of events
12.45: Assemble at Cross of Sacrifice
12.55: Colour parties parade and take position
13.00: Welcome. John Green, Glasnevin Trust
13.05: Extracts from Fr Gleeson's Diary 8/9/10 May 1915 (read by Paddy Gleeson, Tour Guide)
13.10 Letter from Fr Gleeson to the Mother of Private Christy Barry who was killed in action 9 May 1915 (read by Fr Gleeson's Nephew Paul Gleason, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA)
13.15: Prayers led by Msgr. Eoin Thynne, Head Chaplain Defence Forces Ireland, representing Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
13.20: Laying of wreaths, called by George McCullough
13.25: Moments Silence. Last Post and Reveille
13.30: Conclusion of ceremony and thanks. Those present proceed to grave of Father Gleeson where his family will lay a single wreath.
Invitation to museum for reception where Noelle Dowling, Dublin Diocesan Archivist, will talk briefly about Father Gleeson and his diaries.
Father Francis Gleeson from Templemore, County Tipperary (1884 - 1959)
Fr Francis Gleeson was a Military Chaplain to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers in the First World War. He is one of my favourite people for the reasons briefly touched upon below.
A Man of Action: "Jovial Fr Gleeson of the Munsters, when all the officers were killed or wounded at the first battle of Ypres, had stripped off his black (chaplain's) badges and, taking command of the survivors, (he) held the line." (Robert Graves' 1929 Book 'Goodbye to All That')
A Terrible Day: On Saturday 8th May 1915, the Munsters halted at a wayside shrine near Rue de Bois. Fr Gleeson, on horseback, facing A Company and wearing his stole, gave them a General Absolution. The famous war illustrator Fortunina Matania later captured the scene in a famous painting. On Sunday 9 May, at 5.30 am, the Battle of Aubers Ridge commenced. Some 22 officers and 570 soldiers went into battle - only 3 officers and 200 soldiers survived - in all, some 390 men were dead in less than 2 hours.
A Terrible Night: Father Gleeson, who was aged 30 at that time, comforted those he could and administered the Last Rites. He described the scene as follows in his war diary; "Spent all night trying to console, aid and remove the wounded. It was ghastly to see them lying there in cold cheerless outhouses, on bare stretchers, with no blanket to cover their freezing limbs. I shall never forget that young officer with the shattered left arm, nor poor Barrowdale of the Welsh who was a great organist and played for me in Essars. Heartbreaking to see him dying there - wasting away. Hundreds lying out in cold air all night at Windy Corner. No ambulances coming. They came at last - at daylight." (Fr Gleeson's War Diary - Dublin Diocesan Archives).
"I've stood many times at Fr Gleeson's grave in Glasnevin Cemetery - sometimes with nephew Paul Gleason from Pennsylvania and members of his family. Sometimes I've started to recite the particular diary extract just cited above but I've never managed to finish it. Standing at his grave the words from his war diary are simply too much."
Fr Francis Gleeson - A brave priest and soldier - may he Rest In Peace.
Paragraph provided by: Glasnevin Cemetery Tour Guide Paddy Gleeson from Templemore, County Tipperary.
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