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Finucane, James, 1878-1957, Jesuit priest
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Dates of existence
25 December 1878-25 January 1957
Born: 25 December 1878, Cahirconlish, County Limerick
Entered: 14 August 1895, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 28 July 1912
Final vows: 02 February 1914
Died: 25 January 1957, St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin
Part of the Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin community at the time of death
by 1900 in Vals France (LUGD) studying
by 1902 in Saint Stanislaus, Beirut, Syria (LUGD) studying Arabic
by 1903 in Collège Saint-François Xavier, Alexandria, Egypt (LUGD) Teacher
by 1912 at Hastings, Sussex, England (LUGD) studying
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 21st Year No 1 1946
Extracts from a letter of Fr. Patrick McGrath, S. J., St. Ignatius, Richmond, Melbourne, to Fr. Finucune, 10-9-945. Fr. McGrath is an old Crescent boy who while stationed at the Crescent 34 years ago volunteered for the (then) Australian Mission. :
“Your letter arrived just in time for the celebration of the Golden Jubilee. Besides the House celebration there was a Parish celebration in our Hall. I knew nothing about it till three days before. Since I came to Australia I have spent most of my time between Melbourne and Sydney as Parish Priest. I did some six years' teaching in St. Aloysius, Sydney, twelve year's Parish Priest there, and the rest of my time in Melbourne as assistant, but mostly as Parish Priest. I broke down in Sydney. The hilly land there was too much for my growing years, and after a rest of a few months in our Theologate at Pymble I was sent back here as a Curate and I was very glad of it. I certainly never regretted coming to Australia.
Our Parish here is a very large one, and on the whole a very Catholic one, made up almost entirely of working people, for the most part very sincere and practical Catholics and most generous and easy and pleasant to work with. The same may be said of our Parish in Lavender Bay, North. Sydney,
The church of St. Ignatius in this Parish is a magnificent one, pure Gothic, in a commanding position, with a spire 240 feet high, the most perfect and beautiful spire in Australia. The stone of the church is Blue Stone but the upper part of the spire is white.
Looking up the Irish Catalogue a few days ago I was surprised to find that I know so few there now. Here in Australia the Irish Jesuits are dying out. The Vice-province is going on well. It is fully equipped with everything, novitiate, scholasticate with Juniors and Philosophers, and a special house for Theology, and we have this year a tertianship with 14 Australian Tertians. We want more novices, but there is good hope that there will be an increase this year. Our colleges here are doing very well. Both in Sydney and Melbourne there is a day-school and a boarding-school. The buildings in both places are first class”.
Irish Province News 32nd Year No 2 1957
Fr James Finucane (1878-1957)
Fr. Finucane was born at Carrigparson, Co. Limerick, and educated at the Crescent, entering the Society at Tullabeg in 1895. He studied Philosophy at Vals and then, as his health seemed precarious, he went to the drier climate of the Levant, continuing his studies at Beirut and teaching for two years in our college in Alexandria. Next came five years teaching in Mungret, at a period when higher studies were successfully undertaken there and many entered for university examinations. His first two years of Theology were passed at Milltown Park, and his third year at Ore Place, Hastings, then the theologate of the Paris Province. After his ordination in 1912 he went on at once to his Tertianship, and then spent eight years in Mungret as Prefect, Minister and Procurator of the farm. In 1922 he went to Clongowes where he taught and managed the farm until 1940. Then, after a few years teaching at the Crescent, he went to Leeson St, as Procurator, until his health declined so much that it was thought advisable to send him to Rathfarnham, where he could avoid to a large extent the labour of climbing stairs. He died in St. Vincent's Nursing Home, 96 Lower Leeson St., on 25th January.
It is probable that Fr. Finucane will be best remembered for his long association with Clongowes - and it is both as a farmer and a teacher of French that he will be remembered. The years there were happy years for him; he liked his work on the farm and his classes furnished him with a real interest: it might almost be said, indeed, that his classes were for him a delightful hobby, for though he taught several of them, he was not a full-time teacher. Old loyal workers who served under him on the farm in Clongowes remember him with admiration and affection : “He did not mind what a cow ate, but he hated to see good fodder between her feet”. And he knew good work when he saw it, and his praise was therefore the more appreciated, and he had high standards too : “Whatever he done, he done well!” An agricultural expert might perhaps criticise his policy and practice as being “undercapitalised” and say that production could have been increased: but what was done was indeed well done, and no beast went hungry. Clongowes was a land of sleek cattle and strong fences, and rich grass.
As a teacher he often obtained high places for his best boys in the public examinations, but he was most successful by the soundest criterion of all - his boys became fascinated with the study of French and every year some left his classes with an interest in the language and literature that was to be a source of genuine pleasure to them all their lives. It might be said that he did not take a whole class along with him, that a number of boys dropped out, and that his best boys did well because they worked for themselves. That is true; but the fact that he could lead them to this is a measure of his gifts as a master, gifts that will be always envied by lesser teachers.
Some people thought his interest in French literature, especially classical literature, strange in a man whose work and preoccupations were fundamentally agricultural, But it was a natural direct interest, utterly remote from sophistication and artificiality and jargon. The great authors wrote to be enjoyed, not to afford matter for pedantic lucubrations and university theses. He enjoyed them, and therefore his boys did also. And they enjoyed him, standing before a class, his arm gesturing vaguely like some weed moving gently in a placid stream while he talked of Le Cid or trumpeted nasally his delight in Monsieur Jourdain or Harpagon, Turning so naturally from the cares of ploughing or hay-making to Racine and Molière, he was to them the personification of l’honnete homme - in the seventeenth century sense.
His interest in his boys lasted long after they had left school, but it was an interest generally conditioned by their proficiency at French; that was a touch stone. Once, when he had left Clongowes, he was asked by a former Crescent teacher for news of a boy at the Crescent who was in one of his classes. “Mark my words”, he answered, “that boy will give trouble, he will bring sorrow to his parents! He never learns his irregular verbs!” If a boy did well on the Rugby field, it was often because he was “intelligent”, because he liked Molière; if a proficient student failed to get into the Sodality, there was something seriously wrong with the organisation of the Sodality.
A few days before he died he sent for a former pupil, a very prominent doctor from another hospital. “I am going very soon”, he said, “I have just sent for you to say good-bye”. And he shook hands. It was a symbolic hand-clasp and those who owe him so much would have longed to share it, to bid him a very grateful farewell. They will not forget him in their prayers.
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father James Finucane SJ 1878-1957
Fr James Finucane was born in County Limerick and received his early education at the Crescent. From there he entered the Society in 1895.
For the benefit of his health, he was sent to Beirut as a scholastic, and it was here he acquired that love and mastery of the French language, for which he was renowned afterwards. He also had a great interest in the land, and for most of his life as a Jesuit, he was in charge of our farms, mainly at Mungret and Clongowes.
His association with Clongowes covered many years, and he will long be remembered by generations of old boys, especially for his powers as a French teacher.
After retiring from teaching he spent some time in Leeson Street and Rathfarnham, where he died on January 25th, 1957.
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Finucane, James, 1878-1957, Jesuit priest
Dates of relationship
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Subject access points
Place access points
- County Limerick » Caherconlish
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Rathfarnham » Rathfarnham Castle
- France » Occitanie » Vals
- Lebanon » Beirut » St Stanislaus College (Beirut)
- Egypt » Alexandria (Egypt)
- County Offaly (King's) » Ballycowan (Bar.) » Tullabeg » St Stanislaus College
- Egypt » Alexandria (Egypt) » Collège Saint-François Xavier
- County Dublin » Dublin City » St Stephen's Green (Dublin) » St Vincent's Hospital, 1835-1970
- County Limerick » Limerick City » The Crescent » Sacred Heart College SJ, 1859-1974
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Lower Leeson Street » St Ignatius House of Writers
- County Kildare » Clane » Clongowes Wood College SJ
- England » Sussex » Hastings » Ore Place
- County Limerick » Mungret » Mungret College SJ, 1882-1974
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