Outrage at St Nicholas Church, Galway

Some time ago I received an email from a gentleman in Ireland asking if I was interested in a Caddy mentioned as a ‘deacon’ at the St Nicholas Collegiate Church, Galway. Naturally I was excited as finding any reference to this non-Irish name anywhere in Ireland meant there had to be something in it. I nearly didn’t get to proceed with this information as at the time, I was only fairly new to computers and was really paranoid about spam, so I had set up a filter with various words that would send those junky, filthy emails to the trash bin. Little did I know that even with a filter on “sex”, words containing that word e.g., “sexton” would also be filtered to the trash bin. It was only by pure chance that I happened to be helping out at a computer class and was explaining how to filter, when I checked the trash folder and lo and behold, there was an email telling me all about the Caddy’s and one, in particular, was a “sexton” of the church of St Nicholas. Those Caddy angels were watching over me that day!

I received references to some Caddy’s who were buried at the church and their monumental inscriptions from a book entitled ‘Monuments of St Nicholas Collegiate Church, Galway.’ One of those graves we did get to view on our trip in 1998. HERE is the post with the information.

We corresponded back and forth several times and before being referred on to the Galway Family History Society West.  (He had no connection to them but felt they could offer me further advice.) For a £15 initial enquiry, a search was made of the church and civil records of the Caddy family living in Galway. In their database, they were able to tell me that the family featured extensively in the baptism and marriage records and on gravestone inscriptions. For £50 I received a typed transcript of all these entries and was able to take my family back 3 more generations to 1746.
One of the articles I received was this following extract from The Galway Weekly Advertiser, December 8, 1838. “The Outrage on the sexton by O’Connells agents”. In this article my 4x Great Grandfather Henry Caddy, Sexton of the church, is referred to. 

WARNING: There are some grouse details in this article.

The document is as follows:

“In March 1838 I took a contract of the repairs of the cut stone of the Church of St. Nicholas, Galway, from John Phayre of Dublin, who had a contract for the repairs from the Ecclesiastical Board. Amongst the other works directed by the Board at the time. It directed that all the vaults and flags should be brought to one level and compose part of the flagging of the floor of the Aisles and I became Sub-Contractor for it.

I had heard from many of the old inhabitants of the Town (and that many years before) that the body of the Very Revd. Warden Bodkin, who was the last of the Roman Catholic Wardens, who governed the Vicars of the Church of Saint Nicholas, was in a state of preservation from the time of his death, and that it was so from him having prayed at the time he was obliged to surrender the keys of the Church to the Protestants (and prayer was) ‘My God, that my hand may not decay until the keys of the church be restored the proper owners.’

As the work progressed past Lynch’s Aisle, at the sight as you look where the high altar faced Church Lane, members of the old – the descendants of the Tribes – began to frequent the Church. Many of them pointed out to me the vault, which they said, contained the remains of the Very Revd. Warden Bodkin. Upon reaching the part of the floor where this vault stood, there were many visitors. Upon opening the vault, I was first to descend. I found the body of a man, all perfect, except his toes. Many of the by-standers stated that they had been broken off by one of the covering flags that broke and fell into the vault 100 years before this date.

I found in the vault a piece of parchment upon which was written the state of preservation in which the body was seen by the Sexton of the Church 25 years before I had opened it [that is, in 1813]. His name is signed to it, -W Head (or Kead, Rend or Kend). This document I gave to the late Very Revd. Laurence O’Donnell,  RC Bishop of Galway. He was at that time Vicar General. When the Tribes and inhabitants of the Town and the surrounding villages heard that the remains of the Warden were to be seen, the crowd in and about the Church became so dense as to prevent the working men from doing their work. Many false reports were in circulation, some saying he held the keys firmly in his hand and other reports equally untrue. I now give you a statement of its appearance.

The right, in all appearance perfect, even to the nails and fingers, not discoloured, the face perfect, the eyes and top of the nose, all the teeth perfect and white, all the skin discoloured. By my pressing my hand on any part of this body, it felt quite elastic. For the space of three days the number of visitors continued. On the evening of the third day I had the floor set up to the part containing the remains, and when the men stopped work, I gave the key of the Church to the Sexton, Henry Caddy. This was the custom each evening quitting work.

Next morning, John McMahon, the foreman carpenter, called to my house at 6 o’clock and stated that the right hand had been cut off the remains of Warden Bodkin, and that he dreaded to be in the Church. That he, being a Presbyterian the people who held this relic sacred would be likely to accuse him of the deed. I accompanied him to the Church. We made all possible enquiry amongst the working men, but obtained no information.

Our suspicions turned to Henry Caddy, the Sexton, who had got the key of the Church during the night. Whereupon we called the Sexton to the spot, and pointed out that all the boards that had been covering the Vault had been disturbed during the night, and that he should account to the public. He denied any knowledge of the act. Whereupon some of the workmen took hold of him, and said if that he would no tell what he knew of the desecration, they would drag him to the bridge and throw him into the river.

He still persisted, but they commenced to drag him along to carry out their threat of execution. So terrified he was the Sexton, that he confessed that he had given the key during the night to Timothy Murray CYC and Dr McSweeney, and that he was not with the party who slacked the lime with vitriol on him. Upon this, he was freed from those who were dragging him, and upon being asked if he had not given the key on another occasion to other parties, for the purpose of destroying this body, his reply was that he had heard that it was tried to destroy the body, and for that  purpose, roach lime had been slacked upon the body by pouring vitriol upon it, but all that it did was to discolour it. Upon this admission the exasperated men were about visiting D, McSweeney, as being of those who got the key.

I dreaded that if they went to the Doctor while they were under such strong feeling, some evil might occur. I commenced to pacify them and offered to go along to the Doctor and get from him the hand, or learn what had become of it. They took me at my word, but directed that I should go at once, and they would remain where they were; they stood until my return. I proceeded to the doctor. Upon stating my message, he said he sent it to Mr  Murray’s Pawn Office. I went to Mr. Murray’ s pawn office. He said that he had the hand and that he would give it to Revd Dr. Roch, his parish priest. I went to the Revd gentleman. He came with me to Mr. Murray’s and then to the much incensed and excited people that awaited my return. He addressed the people, requested that they would go to their homes and work, and promised to restore the hand by 2 o’clock.

This had the desired effect. Many people went away but at 2 o’clock they returned, bringing with them thousands, all anxious to see the hand restored as promised. The Revd  Gentleman delayed coming up to 4 o’clock. By this hour, the Church and all the streets around, were crowded by men, women and children. Shortly after 4 o’clock, the Revd. Gentleman arrived, and brought the hand, rolled up in paper, but cut into pieces. The fingers off from the palm, split into pieces up to the wrist.

During the day the carpenter got a coffin made into which I put the body. At lifting the body, I found that the skin had been cut off the breast. The amputated hand I put into the coffin with the body. Many persons there stated it was the fourth time that a coffin had been worn out by the remains. I then closed the coffin and vault in such a way that there can be no access to it, except by ripping up the floor.

Previous to 1838, there was a private passage from the High Altar floor to the vault. By means of  this, and by putting a silver key into the Sexton’s lock, many people had seen the remains from time to time.

The Monday after the occurence, the foreman carpenter said to me that whereas I had been the principal in getting him, his employers and workmen clear of any censure from the public, and as I and all the Roman Catholics held these remains in such high veneration, if I choose, he would lend his aid and that between us, we would remove the remains from the Protestant Church to any place I would point out. I replied that I was grateful for this kind offer but that I, being only a stranger amongst the Galway people, I would not take the liberty or the responsibility on myself of removing the remains until I would consult other parties. And if they wished to have it removed, I would feel much pleasure in having his cooperation in having it removed.

I called on His Lordship Bishop Brown. He referred me to the Vicar General Revd Laurence O’Donnell. His directions to me were: ‘Do not move it. I think it is a kind of possession, whereas part of his prayer has been granted. It is likely the remainder of it be accomplished in its own time’.


It was at the time of the Church undergoing these repairs, the High Altar used by the Roman Catholics was removed. Also the Corinthian Columbus [columns] that stood at each side of it. It was sold by public auction. The Revd Peter Daly PP became the Purchaser. He had them erected in the new chapel which he got built in his parish in Barna .”

The church at Barns has since been demolished and rebuilt. No trace of the columns for St Nicholas can be found.


About Jenny MacKay

Just a person who is looking forward to retirement and enjoying the golden years!
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2 Responses to Outrage at St Nicholas Church, Galway

  1. Ruth Faulks says:

    Hi Jenny,
    I do not blog, etc., just e-mail; but, googled info re: Caddy Family and St. Nicholas Church (I’m descended from Rebecca Caddy, b. Galway and James Lesley, b. Saffron Walden; both d. Saffron Walden.) and found your info. I can send you my The Caddy Family Tree which was initially sent to me by webmaster. I filled in the Leslie information. I’ve also just shared with my cousin’s wife. They are planning a genealogy trip to Ireland in the near future and she will probably be in touch with you as per the above, since, to me, it looks very helpful.
    Best Wishes,
    Ruth Faulks

    • Jenny MacKay says:

      Hi Ruth, great to hear from you. I am very interested in knowing about your family and where we all fit into the big scheme of things. I’ll send you an email via the address you have here. Regards Jenny

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