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Archbishop Lynch 1.jpg

The Merrick Bursary

Fr. James Merrick, a close relative of the Maddens of Brackloon, held the office of Connacht Provisor at the Irish College in Paris from 1708 to 1728. The College was governed by four provisors, one representing each Irish province and as such Fr. Merrick would have been an important contact for the various poor local friars and members of Catholic families in exile in France at that time.

As aspiring Roman Catholic priests had to travel abroad to receive part of their education since the suppression of Catholic schools in Ireland, the Irish College in Paris was one of a number on the Continent to which students could go.

Fr. Merrick’s name occurs among letters sent by a number of local Franciscan friars travelling on the Continent to their brother Fr. James Madden back in Meelick in the early 1700s. Those letters were confiscated when the friary was raided by the agents of Stratford Eyre, the Protestant Sheriff of Galway. Ironically, as a result, they were preserved for posterity, giving us a more intimate understanding of the relationship between those in hiding at home and those far from their native land.

In addition to his administrative role, Fr. Merrick acted in various supporting roles to fellow clerics and those of Irish descent in France. He was appointed executor to the will of James Lynch, the aged and exiled Archbishop of Tuam who died in Paris in 1713. In that will the archbishop provided funds for a bursary to educate Galway students at the Irish College in Paris.

In the early 1730s, near the end of his life, Fr. Merrick was living in the community of priests serving the parish of St. Paul in Paris, where Archbishop Lynch was buried. When Fr. Merrick came to make his own will, he followed the approach of the archbishop and established a five-year bursary to provide an education in Paris for men either in the ecclesiastical state ‘or resolved to embrace it’. Eligibility for funding was restricted to the children of his cousin Andrew Merrick (of County Mayo), those of the name Merrick or the closest relatives of the name Maddin of Brachlon or Linch’.

In 1737, three years after the death of Fr. Merrick, Peter Donnellan, Bishop of Clonfert supported the entitlement of John Madden, a priest of the diocese of Clonfert, then resident in Paris, to avail of the Merrick bursary as ‘the closest relative of the family of Brackloon.’

To the best of our knowledge, no known image of Fr. Merrick survives but that of James Lynch, the Archbishop of Tuam who inspired the Merrick bursary, hangs at Brackloon. A marble bust of the archbishop was erected at his burial place in St. Paul’s Church in Paris but the church has since been demolished. The Lynches of Barna, near Galway City, held a portrait of the Archbishop in the late nineteenth century but the Brackloon portrait resided in France earlier in that century. For a time it hung in the Bordeaux home of Count Jean-Baptiste Lynch, a descendant of a Wild Geese family of Galway origin and sometime Mayor of Bordeaux who died in 1835. Prior to its re-lining a handwritten inscription on the rear, alongside a stamp bearing the name ‘Eugene Foulquier, Bordeaux’, recorded that the portrait was presented to Mr. D’Arcy Talbot in Paris by his cousin Countess Lynch sometime in the mid 1800s and possibly after the death of the Count.

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