Kennedy, Patrick G, 1881-1967, Jesuit priest and ornithologist

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Kennedy, Patrick G, 1881-1967, Jesuit priest and ornithologist

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  • PG Kennedy
  • Ben Kennedy

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11 August 1881-11 March 1967


Born: 11 August 1881, Skahard , Caherconlish, County Limerick
Entered: 07 September 1899, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 26 July 1914, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1917, Sacred Jeart College SJ, Limerick
Died: 11 March 1967, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin

by 1904 at Stonyhurst England (ANG) studying

Irish Province News 42nd Year No 3 1967

Rathfarnham Castle
Fr. P. G. Kennedy died here on the morning of 11th March. R.I.P. He returned from hospital late in January and had been in good form, though obviously failing. His memory for recent events was most uncertain but his accuracy in matters ornithological was as scientific as ever. He had been working in the grounds on the afternoon before his death. This work in the grounds, mainly burning tree-stumps had been a feature of his day in recent years. The National Museum was most anxious to acquire his notes and diaries on bird-lore and these are now being catalogued at the Museum. The remains were removed to Gardiner Street on Monday evening, 13th March, and after Office (Lauds), Solemn Requiem Mass was sung by Fr. Rector (Fr. F. McGrath). Milltown Park choir sang the Proper.

Obituary :
Fr PG Kennedy SJ (1881-1967)

Fr. Patrick Kennedy was a country man, born in 1881 at Skahard in Co. Limerick. He went to the local national school and to the Crescent for his early education. In 1889 he entered the Society at Tullabeg and did both his novitiate and juniorate there. He studied philosophy in Stonyhurst and taught for five years as a scholastic in the Crescent - Science, Latin, Greek and English. Theology and ordination were at Milltown Park and Tertianship at Tullabeg. For nine years after this he was Prefect of Studies in the Crescent. He then taught in Belvedere for another eight years, Thus ended what must have been, in a way, the vital period of his life-the period of developing and deepening interests, the making of personal contacts and friendships and performance of hard regular work, A person may become more noticeable after fifty; he often deteriorates; he seldom initiates any very valuable attitudes in himself, and he is fortunate if he holds his ground : holy, if he forges ahead.
In 1932 Fr. Kennedy was appointed Minister in Emo. This was probably a happy time for him. Possibly it was a relief to be free from the classroom routine for the first time in decades; surely it was a pleasure to be able to do the kind of field work in ornithology which he had no time for in the city. During these years he did a lot of observation of tree-creepers and especially their roosting habits. The soft outer bark of the Sequoia Wellingtonia - common around Emo - was very suitable for these birds. His observations were published in British Birds, Vol. 30, and made him, as one of his life long collaborators Major Ruttledge said “ornithological famous”. In this kind of work he was immensely painstaking, meticulously accurate and inflexibly persevering and full of lively
In 1936 Fr. Kennedy was appointed Rector of Rathfarnham Castle in succession to Fr. T. V. Nolan and he held this office until 1942. Only those who lived as juniors during these years are really capable of assessing the rights and wrongs of this regime. There is no good pretending that Fr. Kennedy was a success as a Rector. However, he never ambitioned authority and certainly did not consider himself a successful Rector of Rathfarnham Castle. The fact is that he seemed to be out of tune with the moods of youth and perhaps afraid of its manifestations. For the older members of the community he was a competent and kind administrator.
The positive side of Fr. Kennedy's qualities was always shown in his steady loyalty to his friends and co-operators. He was a tactful and unselfish visitor to the sick in hospital. Among birders he was very popular and had a number of staunch admirers. He was, in a quiet set kind of way an extremely pleasant community man, loved to tell a story with humorous twists to it and enjoy reminiscences of the past characters in the Province. He was in all this slow on the up-take, leisurely, conservative. Not receptive of new ideas, nor elastic, he was a man of static, stable values, resentful of change and horrified by “revolutionary ideas”.
He wrote a great deal about his favourite subject. His major work was The Birds of Ireland done in collaboration with Ruttledge and Scroope and A List of the Birds of Ireland - a Government publication. He also wrote a small book on Birds of the North Bull Island, which island he was largely instrumental in having declared a bird sanctuary. But I think his most attractive writing was in a series in Studies entitled “Birds of the Countryside”. In these articles he used his accurate scientific knowledge of the habitat, migration habits, etc., of the different species and also his feeling for their different characters, their charm, their "witness" in a witless world. He lectured frequently on birds and of course had fine slides. His normally rather dry delivery was warmed by his obvious love of and easy approach to this wonderful section of creation.
The present writer accompanied Fr. Kennedy on more than one visit to the Bull, sharing his interest in bird life: too serious with him to be styled a hobby it was real triumph to emit a croak and hear him immediately remark to his companion ahead “Ravens”, On these outings he strode along with great vigour and on every occasion recorded each species seen with unflagging interest in each one of them. Occasionally there would be the quite exceptional “catch” : e.g. of an arctic skua forcing a lesser gull to disgorge its prey, or snow-bunting playing on the salt marshes.
He was a man of settled type who lived apparently unshakably confident of the standards he had adopted : loyal, consistent, predictable. May the swifts welcome him with shrieks of delight as he whirls his way to the upper air.

Irish Province News 63rd Year No 1 1988

Father Kennedy memorial

Under the above headline the November 1987 issue of IWC News, the organ of the Irish Wildbird Conservancy, carried the following item:

“In honour of Rev P G Kennedy SJ [1881-1899-1967], whose tireless efforts resulted in the establishment of the Bull Island Bird Sanctuary in 1931, plans are underway to erect a memorial plaque at the Bull Island Interpretive Centre”.
The writer went on to welcome donations from ‘anyone who has enjoyed this sanctuary and who appreciates its importance, but gave 1st December 1987 as the closing date for the reception of contributions.

◆ The Belvederian, Dublin, 1967


Father Patrick G Kennedy SJ

Rev Patrick G Kennedy SJ, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin, who has died, was a noted ornithologist with an international reputation.

He was one of a group of enthusiasts whose work led to the establishment of this country's three bird sanctuaries, the most noteworthy of which is the Bull Island sanctuary, about which Fr Kennedy wrote a book, “An Irish Sanctuary”.

Fr Kennedy was closely associated with many bird-protection and wildlife preservation societies and his work ranks with that of another famous Irish botanist and naturalist, the late Dr R Lloyd Praeger of Belfast.

Among the places where he taught was Belvedere College.

The Irish Press, 13-4-1967


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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830- (1830-)

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830-


Kennedy, Patrick G, 1881-1967, Jesuit priest and ornithologist

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IE IJA J/215

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