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You are here: HomeCarrick PeoplePeople of NoteRichard O' Brien


Richard O Brien

C.Y.M.S. Founder


Richard O`Brien was born in Carrick-on-Suir on September 20th 1809.His father died when he was an infant, and at the age of two he moved with his mother to Limerick.
When he was a boy, Richard suffered from very weak eyesight.It was believed that this ailment was cured at a Holy Well which was dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Shortly afterwards in gratification, his mother called him Richard Baptist.

In Limerick he attended the local Catholic school, but left it at a young age to become an apprentice grocer. In his leisure time he became an avid reader of religious and general knowledge material. He then joined a local “Solidarity for teaching Christian Doctrine” and taught catechism to children on Sundays. A young priest, Fr. John Brahan, befriended him and discovered that Richard, then aged 20,had a vocation for the priesthood. But Richard had not been to college; he knew no Latin and was of meagre means. Fr.Brahan taught him Latin and offered to provide the necessary funds. He was later admitted to St. Patricks College, Carlow as a clerical student with a late vocation, he also studied in Maynooth. Richard O`Brien was ordained in 1839 and, in the same year took up his first appointment running a Catholic College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. When in North America, Fr.O`Brien championed the Irish cause for repeal of the Union. He was a great admirer of the Liberator Daniel O`Connell. Fr. O`Brien returned to Ireland in 1845, and after a brief period as Professor at All Hallows College Dublin he was appointed Curate at his old Parish of St. Mary`s Limerick. On May the 19th 1849, in a house in Sir Harry`s Mall, Limerick, Fr. O` Brien founded the “Young Men’s Society of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

Three years later he resigned as Spiritual Director of the society when he was sent to Rome by his Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Ryan, to peruse a post graduate course in theology for the degree of Doctor of Divinity. While in Rome, Fr.O`Brien drafted the constitution and rules of the society and submitted them to Pope Pius IX who approved them. In 1853 he returned to Limerick as Dr.O`Brien and in the autumn was appointed to the Chair of Theology in Al Hallows College Dublin. He became Director General of the Society and continued to further its aims. He was an eloquent preacher and branches sprung up wherever he spoke. In 1858, he was appointed Parish Priest of Kilfinane and, three years later, Parish Priest of Newcastle West .In November 1863 he was made Archdeacon and was appointed Dean of Limerick in 1865.It was in 1864 that he resigned as Director General of the Society in order to fight the growth of Fenianism.

He was a pioneer of the Home Rule Movement which was launched in 1870.He was also an Irish language revivalist. During his life he wrote three novels “Ailey Moore” “The Daltin of Crag” and “Jack Hazlitt” He also wrote poetry for “The Nation”.

In 1881 he was conferred by Pope Leo XIII with the title of Monsignor. Dean O`Brien suffered poor health in his final years and he died in Newcastle West on February 10th 1885 at the age of 76.

In accordance with his last personal wishes he was laid to rest in the Gospel side of the Parish church of the Immaculate Conception in Newcastle West Co. Limerick. ”It is here the poor people pray” he is recorded to have said, “and they will I hope remember me in their prayers”. Just behind the high alter a beautiful stain glass window serves as a memorial to this great churchman; however the greatest monument to his works and achievements is the C.Y.M.S movement.

Credits - Limerick Leader. (1985)