File 31 - Letters and telegrams to the Irish Fr Provincial from Fr Conor Naughton SJ written during his time as a chaplain

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Letters and telegrams to the Irish Fr Provincial from Fr Conor Naughton SJ written during his time as a chaplain


  • 16 July 1941 - 16 April 1946 (Creation)

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(06 July 1907-30 January 1992)

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Born: 06 July 1907, Galway
Entered: 01 September 1925, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1939, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 07 February 1942, Manresa House, Roehampton, London, England
Died: 30 January 1992, Milford Nursing Home, Limerick

Part of the Sacred Heart, Limerick community at the time of death

Early education at Coláiste Iognáid, Galway

Chaplain in the Second World War.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 16th Year No 2 1941

General News :
The Irish Province has to date sent 4 chaplains to England for home or foreign service for the duration of the war. They are Frs. Richard Kennedy, Michael Morrison, Conor Naughton and Cyril Perrott. The first three were doing their 3rd year's probation under Fr. Henry Keane at the Castle, Rathfarnham, while Fr. Perrott was Minister at Mungret College. They left Dublin on the afternoon of 26th May for Belfast en route for London. Fr. Richard Clarke reported a few days later seeing them off safely from Victoria. Both he and Fr. Guilly, Senior Chaplain to British Forces in N. Ireland, had been most helpful and kind in getting them under way.

Irish Province News 17th Year No 1 1942

Chaplains :
Our twelve chaplains are widely scattered, as appears from the following (incomplete) addresses : Frs. Burden, Catterick Camp, Yorks; Donnelly, Gt. Yarmouth, Norfolk; Dowling, Peebles Scotland; Guinane, Aylesbury, Bucks; Hayes, Newark, Notts; Lennon, Clackmannanshire, Scotland; Morrison, Weymouth, Dorset; Murphy, Aldershot, Hants; Naughton, Chichester, Sussex; Perrott, Palmer's Green, London; Shields, Larkhill, Hants.
Fr. Maurice Dowling left Dublin for-Lisburn and active service on 29 December fully recovered from the effects of his accident 18 August.

Irish Province News 52nd Year No 2 1977

Calcutta Province

Extract from a letter from a Jesuit of Calcutta Province, Darjeeling Region (Fr. Edward Hayden, St. Joseph's College, North Point, Darjeeling, Western Bengal)

I was one of the old “Intermediate” boys of the Christian Brothers, Carlow. I left off in 1910, 67 years ago, at the end of June. Yes, we learnt the Gaeilge. The Brothers - or some I met, one in particular, a Brother Doyle, was very keen on it. The others didn't teach it as it was only in the “Academy” that they began with languages: French, Gaeilge, Algebra, Euclid and of course English. (5th Book - Senior Elementary Class - was followed by the “Academy”). The Brothers had dropped Latin just before I joined the “Academy”. We were living at a distance of 5 Irish miles from Carlow, and I was delicate, so I often fell a victim of 'flu, which didn't help me to make progress in studies - made it very hard: but at that time the rule was “do or die”. There was only one excuse for not having home work done – you were dead! That was the training we had: it stood me in good stead through life; it is the one thing I am grateful for.
We had a number of Irishmen here, a handful: Fr Jos Shiel, Mayo, died in Patna. Fr James Comerford, Queen's County, died in Bihar. I met the Donnelly brothers, they were Dubliners. The one who died (Don) was Editor of the Sacred Heart Messenger. Many of his stories were about horse-racing - he must have read plenty of Nat Gould when he was a boy! (Nat wrote a number of horse-racing stories supposed to have been in Australia). There are three Irishmen in Ranchi: Frs Donnelly, Phelan and Lawlor. Fr Phelan has spent nearly his whole life in India. As a boy he was in North Point, and after his Senior Cambridge he joined the Society. At that time there was only the Missio Maior Bengalensis of the Belgian Province. The Mission took in half or more of north-east India - Patna, Ranchi and south of it, Assam, Bhutan and Sikkim - an area four or five times that of Ireland! Needless to say, there were parts of it which had no SJ within a hundred miles ...Down here in the Terai where I am “hibernating” out of the cold of Darjeeling, some forty-five years ago there was no priest. One or two of the professors of theology from Kurseong, some 40 miles away, used to visit this district at Christmas and Easter. It was very malarious. Catholics from Ranchi came here to work on the tea plantations. Then a Jesuit was sent to reside in it. Now the district has schools and Jesuits galore, also non-Jesuits. Great progress has been made. The Salesians took up Assam, the American SJs took over Patna. The Northern Belgians took over Ranchi and the Southern Belgians took Calcutta. (The Belgian Province grew till its numbers reached 1400. Then, about 1935, Belgian separated into Flemings - North - and Walloons - South). Ranchi was given to the North and Calcutta to the South. On the 15th August last year (1976) Calcutta was raised from being a Vice Province to be a full-blown Province. 100% of those joining the SJ now are sons of India. Madura in the south has been a Province for years. Nearly all the Europeans are dead: no more are allowed to come permanently unless for a very, very special reason, India has begun to send her sons to East Africa in recent years.
Fr Lawlor is Irish-born but somehow joined the Australian Province about the time it started a half-century or so ago.
Brother Carl Kruil is at present in charge of an ashram: a place for destitutes, in Siliguri. Silguri is a city which grew up in the last forty years around the terminus of the broad gauge railway and the narrow (two-foot) toy railway joining the plains with Darjeeling - one of the most wonderful lines in the world, rising from 300 feet above sea-level, 7,200 feet in about 50 miles and then dropping down to about 5,500 feet in another ten. Three times it loops the loop and three times climbs up by zig-zags. I seem to remember having met Fr Conor Naughton during the war. Quite a number of wartime chaplains came to Darjeeling. The mention of Siliguri set me off rambling. Br Krull remembers his visit to Limerick. (He stayed at the Crescent, 11th 13th June, 1969). He is a born mechanic. Anything in the line of machinery captivates him. He has to repair all the motors and oil engines – some places like this have small diesel generators which have to be seen to from time to time and all other kinds of machinery: cameras, typewriters etc. At present he comes here to do spot welding (electric welding of iron instead of bolts and nuts.
The PP, here is replacing an old simple shed with a corrugated iron roof by a very fine one with brick walls and asbestos-cement roof. Two years ago or so, the roof was lifted by a sudden whirlwind clean off the wooden pillars on which it rested. Since then he has been saying the Sunday Masses on the veranda of a primary school. In this school 235 children receive daily lessons and a small mid-day meal. The Sisters are those of St. Joseph of Cluny – all from South India. They are really heroines: no work is too difficult for them. They do all their own work and cook for us. Their Vice-Provincial is from somewhere in the centre of the “Emerald Gem”. They are growing in numbers and do great work, running a dispensary amongst other things. The church is very broad, approximately 90 by 60 feet. As no benches are used - people sit on the floor - it will hold nearly 450 people at a time. The altar is in one corner. :
Fr Robert Phelan (Ranchi Province) had a visit one night from dacoits (armed robbers), but with help managed to beat them off.
Ranchi had several of these raids last year. In nearly every case the dacoits managed to get some cash.
One night about two weeks ago a rogue elephant (one that is wild and roaming away from the herd) came to a small group of houses close by. A man heard the noise and came out. The elephant caught him by the leg and threw him on to a corn stack - fortunately. The corn stack of rice waiting to be thrashed was quite broad and flat on top! He was very little the worse for the experience. And that is the end of the news.
One more item: please ask the new Editor of the Irish Province News to let me have copies as (?) and send them by overland (surface mail). Even if they are three months coming, they will be news. God bless you and reward you handsomely.
Yours in our Lord,
Edward Hayden, SJ (born 15th October 1893, entered S.J. Ist February 1925, ordained 21st November 1933, took final vows on 2nd February 1936. Now conf. dom. et alumn. and script. hist. dom. at the above address).

◆ Interfuse
Interfuse No 82 : September 1995
Fr Conor Naughton (1907-1992)

6th July 1907: Born, Galway
Education: St. Ignatius College, Galway
1st Sept. 1925: Entered Jesuit Novitiate, Tullabeg
2nd Sept. 1927: Took First Vows
1927 - 1930; Juniorate - Rathfarnham
1930 - 1933: Philosophy Studies - Tullabeg
1933 - 1936: Regency, Crescent College, Limerick
1936 - 1940: Theology Studies - Milltown Park
31st July 1939: Ordained - Milltown Park
1940 - 1941: Tertianship - Rathfarnham
1941 - 1946: Military Chaplain - England/India/Burma
1946 - 1992: Ministering in the Church - Sacred Heart,
31st Jan. 1992: Limerick Died in Milford Nursing House, Limerick

When Conor Naughton grew up in the Galway of the early part of the century, he knew a life quite different from that of today. His Connemara-born father ran a substantial business, the ownership of which by a Catholic was surely an innovation in that day. An uncle on his mother's side was a Westminster M.P. for the Irish Parliamentary party. A little later, there was the war of Independence and Conor knew a fellow school boy called William Joyce (to become Lord Haw Haw) who rather peculiarly consorted with the British Forces. There was great poverty in Galway then, and Conor, as a member of the St. Vincent De Paul Society visited houses of Calcutta-like destitution,

I once saw a photo of the school senior rugby team, which had won the Connaught Championship and which he captained. There was a marked quality of dedicated independence about the boy. Both that spirit of single-mindedness and his love of all kinds of sport were to serve him royally throughout life. From his entering the Society in 1925 to the year 1941 he did the normal training. It was the years 1941 to 46 when he was an army chaplain in England, India and Burma, that provided the most colourful period of his life. From these days he brought a fund of stories and reflections about that most difficult of experiences. Always when listening to him, one was aware of his total and most painstaking devotion to his apostolic work.

When Conor returned to Ireland in 1946 he went to work in the Sacred Heart Church: this was to be his mission until his death in 1992. He was minister here on two separate occasions.

In this long period he excelled as a confessor. Apart from his constant work at the altar, which made him very well known, he also was known to the students of the college and their families, and through his love of soccer he was recognised throughout Limerick. To the end of his life, the Sunday visit to the soccer match was his great relaxation. For a number of years he had been on the board of directors of Limerick soccer and on a famous occasion he was taken on a Spanish playing expedition by the team! A photograph of Conor from that time did indeed have a Spanish quality - reminding us of the city of the Spanish Arch. In this sporting city of Limerick Conor was accepted as a citizen and as an elder. In the subtle Irish way he became part of the culture and the landscape.

He was the priest up-in-the Crescent to whom everybody had been to confession: when you had a difficult tale to tell - in the times when tales were often so painful a part of life, he was there quietly to help you out and give you sure and gentle healing. They knew their man and his power was for them...

In community Conor was a quiet, alert and encouraging presence! Behind the unobtrusive and often humorous manner, there was a very dedicated and courageous man. Nothing could ever go far wrong when he was about. He could be absent minded at times, but he was never off-course. His spirit was honed down to the very essence of the faith for he had both a very precise and ascetical mind. His devotion was most practical. Not only was he the good confessor, but his prayers were available to everybody in trouble - to produce a good and useful outcome. His contribution to the faith of the city is Conor's unwritten memorial. People remembering their rocky journey through life wistfully and reverently recall his kind and reassuring help.

May his gentle soul rest in peace.
Dermot Cassidy

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Letters and telegrams to the Irish Fr Provincial from Fr Conor Naughton SJ written during his time as a chaplain with the 10th Rifle Brigade in Saffron Walden, Essex; in Hadleigh Militia Camp, Chapel Lane, Hadleigh (an Anti-Aircraft unit); in Stoke Military Hospital, North Bovey, Devon; based in St Michael’s House, Stanhope Lines, Aldershot, Hants.; Richmond Arms Hotel, Goodwood, Sussex; 47th General Hospital, Mhow, Central India; with 2nd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment in India; in No. 3 Indian British General Hospital, Poona, India; Combined Military Hospital, Wāltair R.S. and with 14th Battalion, [Durham Light Infantry] in Drake West Camp, Dorset. Fr Naughton took his final vows in Manresa House (England) on 4 February 1942. Includes letter to Irish Fr Provincial from T. Naughton (Fr Naughton’s [father]) (27 July 1942, 1p.) and numerous references to Fr John Hayes SJ (See CHP2/18).

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The Irish Jesuit Archives are open only to bona fide researchers. Access by advance appointment. Further details: [email protected]

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1998; 2020




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