J. K. L. at Old Derrig
Father Maher always cherished a warm and reverent affection for
the memory of Dr. Doyle of whom he always spoke with enthusiasm. Dr.
Doyle's great achievement and all his efforts were on behalf of the
poor; to save them as far as possible from the sufferings and evils
that oppressed them, constant famine, fever in every form, tithe
exactions and open organised proselytism.
In his own life Dr. Doyle
gave an example of heroic charity. In November 1823 he was too poor
to buy a good horse and had to be content with a stumbling mare.
During the famine of 1824 two thousand people were fed every day at
the college, at the convent and at the public soup kitchen. In
dispensing his widespread charity the bishop had involved himself
unexpectedly. "I have been dreadfully embarrassed this last
fortnight," he wrote, "and am thinking of giving up Old Derrig and
going into lodgings." His clothes at this period were painfully
shabby. One wet cold day, as he looked down at his badly shod feet,
he said to Father Maher: "
I have been trying to make up the price of
a new pair of shoes." During this time his brother Father Peter came
from Wexford to visit him and observing the bishop's general
appearance begged him to accept £25 to buy a new outfit. When his
brother was gone he laughingly said: "Poor Peter is ashamed of me
and has given me £25 as he said, to keep the life in me. But I will
spend it this day on my poor and keep the life in hundreds of them
for years to come." To relieve the poor he sold or at least arranged
to sell his household silver, his gold watch and he startled Dr.
Fitzgerald, president of the College, by announcing that he had
arranged to sell to a brother bishop some chalices that were not
required. On one occasion he gave away his soutane and a warm cloak
which his doctor had ordered him to wear.
Coyne the publisher who had urgent business with J.K.L. came by
night coach to Carlow and arrived at Old Derrig at five o'clock on a
piercing cold morning. He found Dr. Doyle not only up and dressed
but surrounded by at least a dozen poor people, his eyes filled with
tears listening to their tales of woe, offering money help to some,
expressing sympathy with those he was unable to help and consoling
In March 1825 Dr. Doyle was summoned with other bishops and lay
leaders including O'Connell to give evidence before the Lords and
Commons in committee on the state of Ireland. On that occasion Dr.
Doyle "so far surpassed O'Connell as O'Connell surpassed other men."
On his return in May 1825 the clergy of the diocese presented him
with Braganza House as a residence for himself and his successors.
Not till Michaelmas of the following year however did he go live
there. He could with difficulty tear himself away from those to whom
he had been a father and a friend. When he left Old Derrig the sobs
of the poor were piteous. Father Maher and the other curates went
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