File 113 - Fr James Daly SJ

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IE IJA J/113


Fr James Daly SJ


  • 1897 - 1930 (Creation)

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(21 February 1847-27 January 1930)

Biographical history

Born: 21 February 1847, Loughrea, County Galway
Entered: 04 November 1864, Milltown Park, Dublin
Ordained: 1879
Final vows: 25 March 1885
Died: 27 January 1930, Twyford Abbey, London, England

Part of the Clongowes Wood, College SJ, Naas, County Kildare community at the time of his death.
Buried at St Mary's Cemetery, Harrow Road, Kendal Green, London, 30 January 1930, grave number 24NE.

Fr James Daly SJ punished Stephen Dedalus unjustly in James Joyce's, 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man'.

Third brother of Hubert - RIP 1918; Oliver - RIP 1916; Francis H - RIP 1907

Early education at St Stanislaus College SJ, Tullabeg

by 1867 at Roehampton, London (ANG) studying
by 1868 at Stonyhurst, England (ANG) studying
by 1875 at St Bueno’s, Wales (ANG) studying

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
Third brother of Hubert - RIP 1918; Oliver - RIP 1916; Francis H - RIP 1907 . Oliver was the first of the Daly brothers to Enter. They were a very old Catholic family who resided in the Elphin Diocese. Oliver joined earlier than the others in Rome and was allotted to the Irish Province.

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 5th Year No 3 1930
Obituary :
Fr James Daly

Fr, James Daly died at Twyford Abbey on Monday, Jan. 27th 1930.

He was born in Co. Galway on th e21st Feb. 1847, educated at Tullabeg and in Belgium, and entered the Society at Milltown Park on the 4th, Nov. 1864. Fr. Joseph Lentaigne was his Master of Novices. A year's rhetoric at Roehampton was followed by two years' philosophy at Stonyhurst, after which, in 1869, he was sent to Clongowes. Here, according to the good old fashion of those days, he brought his class from Rudiments to Poetry inclusive. Next came the third year's philosophy at Stonyhurst, and four years theology at St. Beuno's. Ordination in 1878. The following year found him at Belvedere teaching , and there ho remained for four years, adding in the fourth year, to his other activities, the duties of Spiritual Father. In 1883, he began his tertianship at Milltown, and, in addition, helped the Master of Novices as Socius. Tertianship over,he was sent to the Crescent to teach . The following year he became Prefect of Studies, and at the next examinations the Crescent took a spring towards the top of the list of Irish schools. The real Daly was discovered!
When the Status appeared it was seen that Fr. T. Brown, Provincial, had named him Prefect of Studies in the recently amalgamated Colleges of Clongowes and Tullabeg. Despite the Limerick success, this occasioned some astonishment and a little criticism, but his marvelous success abundantly proved the wisdom of the Provincial's action. Fr. Daly shot up Clongowes to a high, sometimes the highest place in the Intermediate results list, and kept it there during the twenty-nine years he was Prefect of Studies.
About 1917, his health began to fail, and he was changed, to see what effect the bracing air of Galway would have. It did not produce the much desired result, and Fr, Daly remained an invalid to his holy death in 1930.
Fr. James Daly has certainly left his mark on the Irish Province. What Fr. Peter Finlay did for it in the lecture hall, Fr.Robert Kane in the pulpit, that Fr. Daly did in the classroom where boys were being prepared for the Intermediate Examinations. (All three died between the 21 st Oct, and the 27th of the following January). To say that he was utterly devoted to his work is really, in his case, a “damning with faint praise”. He was absorbed in that work. He seemed to think of nothing else. He actually did what Hamlet said he was going to do : “Yea, from the tablet of my memory I'll wipe away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, That youth and observation copied there, And thy commandment all alone shall live Within the book and volume of my brain, Unmix'd with baser matter”.
And then, the terrific energy he put into that work. Had a scientist cared to make a study of perpetual motion he had only to visit Clongowes during class hours on any of these days when Fr. Daly was speeding on the studies. Scarcely had the boys assembled in their class rooms at 9.30 in the morning than Fr.Daly was at the door of one of them, and before that door was half opened he had commenced a speech. His speeches were distinctly peculiar, quite characteristic of the man. They were even calculated now and then to produce a smile, but who dared, under the circumstances, to indulge in such a luxury? When the speech was over, if there was a slacker present he was invited to a private interview. There he learned how wicked a thing was idleness, how it endangered the bright future that lay before him if he worked, what a bad return it was to his good father who was paying a high pension for his education, etc, etc. All this punctuated, driven home, by loud-resounding strokes of the pandy-bat,not administered one after another quickly, but at regular intervals.
Then off at full speed to another class, and to another, and another until the bell rang at 3.15 for the end of school. At once, again a peculiarity of the man, he disappeared. Like the witches' “The earth hath bubbles, as the water has, And these are of them. Whither are they vanished”.
However, he was hovering some place about, for coming up to 8.45 he materialised again, took charge of late night studies, and then of “voluntaries”, that, under his too vigorous regime, did not end until 11pm.
Such was the life Fr. Daly led in Clongowes during the 29 years he was Prefect of Studies. He was not a man of high intellectual attainments, nor was he a cultured scholar. His wonderful success must be attributed to other qualities : to his deadly concentration on the work in hand, to his intense energy in carrying that work to a successful issue, and to the large measure of shrewd common sense with which nature endowed him. He certainly had the gift of inspiring masters and boys with an enthusiasm that nothing would satisfy except the very highest places at the end of the year.
But it is a strange fact that he himself was not a good master, yet he knew a good master when he met him, and he certainly got the most out of him. He met good masters, and masters not so good, but he never desponded. He did what was possible with the material at his disposal, and it is not on record that he ever failed to secure success.
If Fr. Daly had to stand an examination in the theory and practice of education, it is probable that our educational experts would feel compelled to give him very low marks indeed. His success did not come from reducing to practice the theories of others however wise these theories might be. When he got a free hand, within the law, he was great. Had he been hedged in by rules and regulations, the chances are that he would have been less than ordinary.
Fr. Daly spent the declining days of his life under the kind care of the Alexian Brothers at Twyford Abbey, near London, where he closed a holy and hard-working life by a very happy death.
The Chaplain who attended him wrote: “It has been a valued privilege to me to help Fr. Daly during his last days. He was so genuinely pious. When I gave him Exterme Unction he was so reconciled, and tried to answer the responses himself, Later when I gave him the Viaticum, he was so devout, and made his thanksgiving and Act of Faith, and renewed his vows very sincerely. He soon became semiconscious, but always tried to make the sign of the Cross when I prayed with him. Yesterday I gave the last blessing and Absolution, and said the prayers for the dying”.
During these last days, Fr. Daly was constantly visited by our Fathers from Farm St, For their kindness they richly deserve,and are heartily given the best thanks of the Irish Province.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father James Daly SJ 1847-1930
What Fr Peter Finlay was as a theologian, and Fr Robert Kane as preacher, Fr James Daly was as a Prefect of Studies, outstanding in such an eminent degree as to become identified with their respective achievements.

For twenty-nine years Fr Daly held the office of Prefect of Studies in Clongowes, during which period he kept the College in the first rank of scholastic success in Ireland.

Born in Galway on February 1st 1847, he made his mark first as a Prefect of Studies in the Crescent Limerick. Then on the amalgamation of Tullabeg and Clongowes he took charge of the studies at Clongowes, and devoted the rest of his life to that duty. He was not a great scholar, of any outstanding intellectual ability, but he had the gift of detailed organisation, which enabled him to inspire both masters and pupils to the highest attainments. His motto was “Keep the boys writing”.

His last days were truly edifying, being spent at Twyford Abbey, near Lonfon, under the care of the Alexian Brothers. He died on January 27th 1930.

◆ The Clongownian, 1930


Father James Daly SJ

Some years prior to 1893 I knew Fr Daly well by reputation. I had brothers in Clongowes since '86 and during their vacations they entertained and frightened the younger members of the family by the recital of blood-curdling yarns about Fr Daly - what he said and most of all - what he did. Since September, 1893, I have been personally acquainted with him; for the first five years of this period as a boy in his classes; later on as a Master working under him, and finally as his assistant in the closing stages of his work in Clongowes, where he took me into his confidence and went to great pains to explain to me his principles, methods of procedure and ideals in the matter of education.

When I arrived for the first time in Clongowes the Retreat was in progress and, being small and young, I was put with those judged incapable of making it. Each day we had class, but not of a serious character, and contrary to my expectations, Fr Daly put in no appearance. On the day the Retreat ended I remember asking an elder brother of mine “When shall we see Fr Daly?” and receiving the answer “Oh, Golly, you'll see him time enough!” I saw him next day. It was in the second class in the wooden building - II Preparatory in those days. Class had not been long in progress when a heavy step was heard on the corridor, in a moment the door was fung open and Father Daly burst into the room. His appearance filled me with apprehension. As he stood before the class he seemed the very embodiment of strength, energy and determination. Though not then as stout as he afterwards became, he looked decidedly big and, as he paced up and down, puffing, expanding his chest and issuing instructions, he decidedly left one under the impression that it would be more prudent to carry them out. His hair, which he wore very tightly cropped, was then turning grey; a beard showed over his Roman collar and gave him a weird appearance; but it was the penetrating and uneasy glance of his small grey eyes which most of all inspired fear in those meeting him for the first time I was to learn later that beneath that awe-inspiring exterior there beat a most kindly and sympathetic heart.

At the time of which I speak, Father Daly had been Prefect of Studies for six years. The resentment and surprise caused by the changes he introduced, by his utter disregard for institutions and customs which generations of Clongownians held in reverence, and, most of all, by his insistence upon hard work and his summary method of administering justice to offenders, had died down, and he and his ways were taken for granted. In later years he often referred to the struggle he sustained at the beginning in introducing the changes which he considered essential and establishing in the College the spirit and atmosphere in which he believed. That it was a struggle those acquainted with the conservatism of Clongowes will readily believe. But the new Prefect of Studies brought with him to the task a combination of qualities which are rarely found united in one man. Physically, he was a man of great strength, upon whom long and continuous periods of labour produced little effect; in addition, his energy, determination of will and capacity for taking pains, were altogether unusual. Nothing was left to chance; he thought out carefully beforehand ways and means and no detail was too small to escape the consideration and attention of his perspicacious mind. Moreover, he was tactful and prudent in dealing with others, dexterous in keeping them in good humour, conciliatory, considerate of their health and comfort and, though intolerant at times of views differing from his own, careful not to offend by openly avowing his true convictions. His knowledge of human nature acted as a curb upon his impetuosity and caused him to temper energy and zeal with prudence and to stop short when further pressure on his part would have resulted in discontent or even revolt. Nevertheless, I believe that notwithstanding these gifts, Father Daly would have failed but for the extraordinary sense of humour which was his, and for the element of comicality which was present in most of what he said and did, and which almost always succeeded in converting anger and resentment into fun and amusement. If I were asked to state from my knowledge of Fr Daly what I believe to have been the mainspring of his activity, I should answer: first, absolute belief in, and enthusiasm for, the educational ideals which were his; secondly, a desire to do something big for God while the opportunity offered, and, lastly, love, enthusiastic love for Clongowes and Clongowes boys.

His methods were vigorous and manly; he had a horror of slacking or half-measures of any kind; he was not harsh or severe, much less cruel, in the ordinary acceptation of those terms. True, Fr Daly was ubiquitous; he was there to catch you no matter with what care your plans were laid; his voice was raised every day in expostulation and warning and encouragement; his old clumsy pandy bat was seen and heard and felt at frequent intervals - and did all this terrorise us and make us unhappy? Not in the least. It made life interesting, lending to it an elment of adventure; and, as time advances, it furnished us with memories which we recall, not with resentment, but with pleasure and affection. No word he spoke in rebuke, not even his pandy bat, caused a pang which endured for more than five minutes. Had they even done so, it would assuredly have been in the case of H F, for if ever Fr. Daly had a bête noir it was he. Both his heart and his hands remained respectively unaffected by the frequent assaults made upon them by his eloquence and his pandy-bat. In pathetic language, Fr Daly appealed to him “to think of his good parents, toiling and working while he, etc, etc”. But in vain. Again, adopting different tactics, he warned him of the “awful future” which lay before him: “Misery-starvation-the poor-house; and last, most dreadful of all, death on the scaffold!” But H went his smiling way until in the end Fr Daly seemed to abandon him to his fate! And now, looking back over the years at these incidents, what are his feelings in their regard? Could anyone imagine for a moment that they are for him anything but happy and amusing memories? And that they are such he very clearly told us in that delightful speech he delivered on the occasion of the dinner of Munster Old Clongownians held in Cork last February, when, with so much humour, affection and gratitude, he recalled the figure of the old man with whose warnings and threats and pandy-bat he was quite familiar as a boy.

On returning to Clongowes in September, 1905, after an absence of seven years, I found Fr Daly and his ways in all essential features the same, though modified in certain minor particulars. Increasing age had produced its mellowing effect upon his character; he was now more paternal, more approachable and more considerate. The atmosphere of mystery in which he lived and the attitude of aloofness he adopted in dealing with boys were less pronounced, though by no means gone. He now greeted a favoured few on their return after the holidays; he invited boys occasionally to let him know if they wished to speak to or consult him, but on the whole the invitation was rarely accepted and for good reason - if one were not certain that one's record was perfect it was dangerous to go too near him. It was at this period that I came to know Fr Daly intimately, not merely from without, as when a boy, but from within. Now for the first time I realised how completely he had devoted himself, his energy and whatever gifts God had given him, to the work in which he was engaged in Clongowes. I realised, too, what a price he was paying in labour, and worry for the success he was winning for the College, year after year. Ways and means of helping the studies and urging boys on to greater effort were constantly the subject of his thoughts, and their reflection bore fruit in the shape of all those devices with which generations of Clongownians are quite familiar, including the famous “Secret of Success”, the appearance of which each year before the Intermediate caused a sensation. He laid great store upon keeping in touch with the work of the House by constantly visiting the classes, and was a firm believer in the power of his eloquence to keep both masters and pupils at concert pitch and urge them on to greater efforts. Those famous speeches of his! So earnest, so rambling and so comical! And yet the substance of them and sometimes, partially at least, the form were carefully prepared beforehand. It was exceedingly hard at times to keep serious during the course of these speeches. I have seen boys at times almost in convulsions in their endeavours to suppress an explosion of laughter; for, in Fr Daly's eyes, to smile or “to grin” on such a solemn occasion was a capital offence. How could one listen with a straight face to a discourse such as this which I once heard Fr. Daly deliver to a class just before the Intermediate : “Listen to me now for a few moments. There is a question I want to ask - a solemn question - (to a boy not attending) - look at me, sir, while I'm speaking a solemn question, and it is this: What will happen to a boy who laughs on the eve of a great crisis? Well?” (looking round the room as though waiting for an answer). “Well, I shall tell you take it down now everybody. First, he will be flogged, not once but several times; Secondly, he will be deprived of the great privilege of sitting for the Examination; and, thirdly, he will get a report - Ah, boys, this is where the sorrow comes in - (in most pathetic and tearful tones) a Report which will make his good parents weep. (Shouting) Think of this selfishness, this ingratitude! Land where will the course of the bounder and the mountebank end? Ah, dear boys (pathetically), his career can be summarised in one expressive Italian word : (spelling) F I A S C O, fiasco!!!”

At the opening of the school year 1916-17 - his thirtieth in the office of Prefect of Studies - Fr Daly's health showed definite signs of failure, and it was clear that his days of active service were drawing to a close. Nevertheless, he tried to carry on as of old in the classroom and study hall, struggling under the weight both of years, and of ill-health. He realised perfectly himself that the great work of his life was over. He grieved most of all at the idea of his coming separation from the boys for whom he had been working so long, and whom, though they little suspected it, ħe sincerely loved. I remember one night at this period his turning to me as I helped him to his room after the late study - which he had himself inaugurated thirty years before - and remarking : “The presence of those good boys keeps me on my feet, when they disappear I collapse”.

After Christmas his health broke down completely and by the doctor's orders he went to England for a change and rest. In May he returned to Clongowes, but was unable to resume work. I was absent in July of that year, giving retreats, and on the morning of the 31st received a letter from him informing me that he was no longer Prefect of Studies and was about to leave Clongowes for good. The letter was a pathetic one, and ended : “J A D Last Day, 1887-1917”. When I returned to Clongowes he was packing his few belongings and preparing for his departure. It was clear he felt leaving intensely, but like a true son of St Ignatius, disguised his feelings and even affected gaiety. On the eve of his departure I asked him at what time I should see him in the morning. “Of course”, he replied, “any time at all you like”. I knew perfectly what he meant - there was to be no good bye, he would slip off unobserved. Next morning he rose early and said Mass; then descending to the corridor he went out by the III Line door, and passing along by the bicycle house, made the circuit of the garden and finally reached the bridge over the Gollymocky on the Sallins road, where a car, by previous arrangement of his own, was in waiting to bring him to the station. Such was his exit from the scene in which for thirty years he played such a prominent and successful part. Fr Daly never saw Clongowes again. Within a few months of his leaving ill-health forced him into complete retirement, where, for the remaining twelve years of his life, he busied himself in preparing to meet in Judgment the Master, Whom, throughout life, he served with so much loyalty and devotion. May he rest ini peace.

L J Kieran SJ

◆ The Crescent : Limerick Jesuit Centenary Record 1859-1959

Bonum Certamen ... A Biographical Index of Former Members of the Limerick Jesuit Commnnity

Father James Daly (1847-1930)

Born at Daly's Grove, Co Galway and educated at Tullabeg and in Belgium, entered the Society in 1864. Apart from his fluency in the French language, he seemed, in his formative years in the Society, to be a man of ordinary ability. Ordained in 1878, he was sent to teach at Belvedere. In 1884, he came as master to the Crescent. The following year he was appointed prefect of studies. He had at last discovered his real metier. The remarkable success of the Crescent boys in the Intermediate examinations at once showed that a prefect of studies can achieve genius in his calling. For the next two years, the profession of idling was at an end amongst the boys. The Crescent was making history in the number of its academic successes. Unfortunately, in 1887, Father Daly was taken away to Clongowes where for the next thirty years he kept his school in the forefront of Irish educational institutions. By 1917, however, Father Daly's health was visibly failing and he was transferred to St Ignatius' College, Galway, to teach French. But in the course of the year, he suffered a complete nervous breakdown from which he never fully recovered. His last years were spent in the more benign climate of the south of England. Just a year or two before his death he wrote, at the request of the then Rector of the Crescent, some of his reminiscences of his golden days in Limerick.

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A file relating to Fr James Daly SJ, including biography, genealogical material, letter from Peter Byrne, University College, Dublin (13 November 1897) to Fr Daly SJ, profits from Clongowes Wood College farm 1915-1916, grants paid to Clongowes Wood College and correspondence from the Irish Fr Provincials.

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