Clones Visited. Historic Town of Religion and Tradition. (By Bridie M. Smith-Brady.) Anglo Celt. August 12, 1950.

Those who would like to enjoy a brief pause from the noise and bustle of the world should include in their visit to Clones a call to the cloistered Convent of Mary Reparatrix.

My first glance of this newly found religious establishment was on a sunny evening in July. The soft ever –changing landscape colours enthralled me as I leisurely strolled along the Green Lane ( St. Tighearnach’s Pass), beside the football park. Around me stretched a teeming countryside of meadows, which recalled the ancient name of Clones –“Cluain Eois” –“The Meadow of Eois,” the famous pagan hero.

The songs of corncrake and linnet filled my ears as I stepped inside the gates of Sunnymeade –the Convent of Mary Reparatrix. The smell of the new mown hay (on the outer terrace) mingled with the perfumes of roses, honeysuckle and a profusion of scented flowers in beds and borders. A delightful scene of peace and charm.

Here is the “Meadow of Eois” Providence has placed a community of nuns where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed every day –Living Symbol to justify the ways of God to men. The world seems out of sight and out of mind as one arrives at the door of the extern chapel. Evening breezes, soft as the whispers of angels, come rolling up the meadows; the setting sun was touching into light the gray walls of the convent, and reflecting a thousand colours through the huge time-mellowed trees.

Place of Sanctity.

Not a sound disturbed the place as I beheld through a little grating the Altar of Exposition, in front of which knelt a Sister paying homage to the Eucharistic King. The altar was adorned with the rarest blooms, a multitude of candles and coloured lights. This small sanctuary is richly decorated with all things fitting to give glory to their Holy Spouse. The nuns have one purpose in life –to make reparation for the sins of the world. The Society of Mary Reparatrix was founded in 1857 by Emilie d’Oultremont (Mother Mary of Jesus), who was born in Belgium. The mother house is in Rome, and the Society numbers sixty-three houses throughout the world, with four in the Irish Province at Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Clones. There are two grades in the Order –Choir Religious and Coadjutrix Sisters. The cause of the Beatification of the foundress is already introduced at Rome.

The motto of the Society is –“To be Mary for Jesus,” and the habit is cream and blue, with shoes of white.

I was informed that the Sisters were in Retreat, and that Benediction takes place every afternoon.

As I departed from the incensed atmosphere of this haven of peace, I better understood the meaning of the words, “the peace which the world cannot give.”

Town’s Ancient History.

Then I retraced my footsteps to Clones and strolled into a shop in Fermanagh Street. Imagine my delight to find here in a conspicuous place painted on one of the walls, the “Round Tower,” and “Abbey Ruins,” probably the work of some local artist. Clones should, indeed, feel proud of so exposing their historic “dream-spots,” and has given a lead to other Ulster towns in this respect. Here, I listened to interesting historical tales, handed down by the late Peter Breffney O’Reilly (the blind folklorist) for, whom the people of Clones erected a Repository (newsagency etc.) in the Diamond, long years ago. A few old shanachies joined in conversation, and we discussed at random the ancient history of Clones. St. Tighearnach, or Tierney (the patron saint) founded here an abbey in the early sixth century, dedicated to SS Peter and Paul. He was Bishop of Clogher and removed the See to Clones, where he died in 550. The abbey was burned twice, in 836 and 1095. The abbot was the Primus Abbas or first mitred abbot of Ireland.

A controversy followed as to whether the Diamond was once a graveyard, with subterranean passages, like the Catacombs of Rome, and whether there were two Round Towers in Clones at one time. Tradition answers both in the affirmative.

Next I visited the “Cross of Cluain Eois,” on the Diamond. Its shaft is over twelve feet high and shaft and top are ornamented with figures in relief. I made a brief survey of the Round Tower, Abbey ruins and ancient burial ground.

My vision was slightly blurred when I recalled that Hugh De Lacey destroyed abbey and town in 1207, and that Henry VIII ( after the Reformation) granted the Abbey and Church lands to Sir Henry Duke. The princely McMahons (descended from Colla da Chrich) are interred in the ancient burial-ground.

Second Spring.

But Cluain Eois has lived to see her second Spring. On three summits now stand the Church of the Sacred Heart, St. Louis Convent and the Convent of Mary Reparatrix. Yesterday lingers in these bye-ways and highways, although time has played its part in wiping out its ancient ecclesiastic glory.

And so my interesting day-trip came to a close. When I arrived back at the railway station, I was soon merged in a motley crowd, moving to and fro –sleepy Lough Derg pilgrims, gay cross-Channel hikers (mostly Scotch from their accents) Travellers (wearing Holy Wear badges) on their way to Rome, and others (with their sashes neatly packed) on their way to the Orange Walk at Finaghy.

And so I crossed the threshold of a tourist’s paradise, and stepped back out again into the hurly-burly of a ramshackle world.

(Photo: Peter Breffni O’Reilly poses beside the Clones High Cross for one of his postcards, and who is mentioned in the above article. Info; Sean Slowey.))