Blake, Francis Xavier
Parish Priest Moycullen (1783-1828)
Researched by Treasa Bairead Mhic Mhathuna & Hazel Morrison
A scholar of more than ordinary accomplishment
Francis Xavier Blake was born circa 1757 probably in Dunmore of a family closely related to the Menlo Blakes. His brothers included Dr. Patrick Blake of Dominic Street, Galway and Dean Walter Anthony Blake (d. 1808), parish priest of Oranmore. Like many of his fellow priests at that time, he was educated at the Irish College at Salamanca, Spain where he was ordained in 1780. In his obituary published in the Connaught Journal he was described as ‘a scholar of more than ordinary accomplishment having been educated in the famous University of Salamanca where he acquired several literary distinctions’.
His first parochial assignment was in Ballinrobe, County Mayo where, uncommonly for the time, he undertook a census of the households of the parish. His original census book is held today in the Galway Diocesan Archive.
Blake was given an exeat (permission to leave a diocese to take an assignment elsewhere) from the Archdiocese of Tuam to become a Vicar in the Wardenship of Galway. Father Blake was in place as parish priest of Moycullen by 1786.
In 1793 following from his earlier efforts in Ballinrobe, Fr. Blake commenced his Census of Moycullen listing the name of every married man and unmarried men having separate dwellings and whether they were bachelor or widower. He continued this census until 1822. The Blake Census of Moycullen remains a lasting and unique contribution to local history.
From the scant records that are available, there is evidence of his single-mindedness and independent spirit.
Boundary dispute & bequests
In 1789 he was involved in a boundary dispute with the Tuam Diocese, unfortunately the reason for this is not recorded and in April 1816 he protested to Rome after the Election of Warden French.
Being of a well-to do family, Fr. Blake was able to purchase the Drimcong Estate in 1803 for £900 and in 1815 he constructed a fine new residence. While the house no longer exists a walled garden where Fr. Blake had planted peaches remains.
Despite his familial wealth, Fr. Blake was hailed by parishioners for his humility and was notable for his generosity. At his death, amongst his bequests, he left £500 towards the first school for both boys and girls in Moycullen. The school, which was built in 1834, unfortunately has since been demolished.
There is evidence that he retired to the newly built College House in Galway as early as 1822, but in March 1824, Bishop O’Kelly of Tuam gave Blake as his third choice for the vacant See of Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, stating that “although old and in bad health and not able to do parish work, he has the prudence, knowledge and piety sufficient to make him a good bishop”.
A victim of a cholera epidemic, he died in College House on 4 June 1832, aged 75 years and is buried in the tSean Reilig at Homefarm Moycullen.
Blake, Martin Joseph: Blake Family Records 1300-1600, London, Stock 1902
Ref: Analecta Hibernica No. 14 by the Irish Manuscripts Commission
Gleanings: Galway Clergy, by Rev. Martin Coen, Connaught Tribune May 6, 1977