The Carlow Sentinel. Saturday 1st March 1902.
During the past week the all-absorbing local topic has been the alarming
and destructive fire at Oak Park House, the Carlow residence of the
Right Hon. Henry Bruen, P.C., which within a few brief hours was reduced
from the proportions of a lordly mansion to little better that a mass of
Destructive Fire at Oak Park.
Narrow Escape of Inmates - Great Loss of Property.
Seldom has it become our duty as journalists to record an event which
has caused as much local interest, excitement, and sympathy as the fire
which broke out at Oak Park House during the early morning of Sunday
last, between 5 and 6 o'clock. The residents of the town were aroused by
the ringing of the Church fire bell - a mounted messenger having been
dispatched from Oak Park to announce that a fire was furiously raging in
the family mansion - the home of a gentleman and his family held, and
deservedly so, in the highest esteem by all classes and sections of the
About 4 o'clock the fire was first discovered by one of the house maids,
Sarah Fleming, with great presence of mind and commendable promptitude
she gave the alarm, first rousing the butler, Mr Ramage. Proceeding to
the bedroom occupied by Mr Bruen, who unfortunately, was suffering from
an accidental injury to his knee and was unable to move with assistance.
The other occupants of the fast burning mansion were the Misses Eleanor
and Grace Bruen. Eleanor made her escape down the stair case, Grace was
saved by employees, Mr Pagan procured a long ladder and she was speedily
rescued from her perilous position, to the great relief of the anxiously
We understand the house and property were insured, but have not heard to
[Note added 2011: the report of the fire takes up a lot of space,
unfortunately I can only transcribe some of it. There is also a book
containing an inventory of the items claimed lost in the fire.]
Source: Michael Purcell c.2011
The following was intended for
publication in an article by Pat Purcell on Rowan
McCombe (Carloviana 1964) however it was never published
for reasons that Pat explains at end of this report.
Extract from The Carlow Sentinel June
A Carlow Man Drowned. - Gallant Attempt to
Rescue A Priest.
We have received from Mr Faircloth - a
well known and highly respected Carlow man, for many
years resident in Denver, USA, a copy of the Denver Post
of the 5th June from which we take the melancholy
details. Mr McCombe whose heroism cost him his life was
son of the late Rowan McCombe of Carlow-Graigue, Manager
of the Barrow Navigation Company, well known in local
circles as poet and politician. One of his poems
included in a published volume, entitled "Doctor don't
be hard on Johnny" was addressed to Rev. Dr. Pownall who
was principal of a school in Carlow at that time, the
Johnny referred to being the hero of this story who
sacrificed his life in the vain endeavour to save that
of his friend.
Silverton, Colorado, June 5th 1902.
of the best known men in San Juan country met a sudden
and tragic death by drowning in the Las Animas river
about 5oc last evening. They were Rev. Cornelius
O'Rourke, pastor of the Catholic church here and John L.
McCombe, a mine operator. The bodies of both men were
recovered last night and brought to Silverton and turned
over to the coroner , who will hold an inquest.
Father O'Rourke, Mr McCombe and Michael
Coughlin started on horseback from Salt Lake City
yesterday afternoon going via Eureka, and all looked
forward to the ride in the bright sunshine and cooling
breezes with considerable pleasure. They bade their Salt
Lake City friends a cheery goodbye and in turn were
wished a pleasant and safe trip.
Nothing occurred to mar the ride until a
point just the other side of the Tom Moore bridge,
located several miles from Silverton was reached. Here
something went wrong with the saddle on the horse ridden
by Father O'Rourke and the priest dismounted to fix it.
The roadway at this point was very
narrow, a mountain on one side and the swiftly running
river many feet down the embankment on the other. While
Father O'Rourke was tightening up the saddle girths the
horse suddenly shied. The priest who was standing on the
side nearest the river lost his balance and plunged down
the steep incline into the river. As the priest struck
the water he gave a cry for help.
Mr McCombe sprang down the embankment
and plunged into the river after Fr. O'Rourke, who was
carried away by the swift current. But it was to no
avail. The surging waters pulled McCombe down from
trying to save his friend he tried in vain to save his
own life. He was carried down the stream some distance
and then sucked under by the treacherous waters.
A searching party was hastily organised
and the bodies recovered. The tragic death of Father
O'Rourke has cast a deep gloom over the entire San Juan
country for no man was greater loved by all classes than
he. He numbered his friends by the thousands and
Catholic and Protestant revered him for the man he was.
Father O'Rourke was known as "the miners' priest" and
it was among this class of sturdy toilers that he was
most at home. He loved the delvers of the earth and they
in turn would sacrifice their lives for "Father Con" as
he was familiarly called if necessary.
Father O' Rourke was sometimes called
"the Sunshine Priest" because he was always happy and
generally succeeded in driving the dark clouds from the
lives of those with whom he came in contact. He was a
whole-souled and genial and accomplished great good for
his calling and humanity. He was ever ready to extend
his hand to the toiler and appeals to him for help for
those in distress never fell on deaf ears. Father
O'Rourke entered the lives and homes of the Colorado
miners as few priests or preachers have ever done. He
knew them intimately and his sympathy was ever for the
man who earned his bread by the sweat of his brow and by
taking his life in his hands as miners do daily.
His facility for making friends was
phenomenal and he never forgot a name or a face. Even to
the children of the district he was known and beloved
and many a youngster not yet in his teens would
respectfully doff his cap upon meeting him.
(Note by Pat Purcell, dated March
1963, the John L. McCombe named in this article was
reared in Carlow by Rowan McCombe but was not his son ,
he was the son of his brother Robert).
The above is a true and
accurate transcript of the original document.
Transcribed by Jean Casey, November 2009.
Pat Purcell Papers
Carlow Sentinel, March 1902.
Major Charles T. MacMurrogh Kavanagh.
Amongst the best and bravest of
officers now engaged in the South African war, Carlow can
claim many who have nobly fought and bled - some to
death-for King and country. From time to time we have with
pride referred to deeds of daring performed by our county
men, and it gives us pleasure to add another to the
We find in recent dispatches that Major
MacMurrogh Kavanagh, 10th Hussars, has been mentioned for
The gallant young officer - son of the
late Arthur MacMurrogh Kavanagh, H.M.L. for County Carlow -
on the 9th April captured six prisoners at Van Rhyns Dorp,
and on the 14th followed up his success by surprising Bowers
langer (?). The 10th Hussars charged wounding three Boers
with their swords.
Eleven prisoners, 33 horses and 10
mules had already been captured.
above is a true and accurate transcript of the original
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