Events following Cromwell’s death

After Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland, his health deteriorated. In August 1658 his favourite daughter, Elizabeth, died of cancer. Cromwell contracted malaria and moved to London where it was intended he should live in Saint James’s Palace. However, he died in Whitehall on the September3 1658 aged 59 years – a month after his daughter’s death.

Following his death, a new hope entered the hearts of Irish Catholics. With courage and zeal, the Irish Franciscans resolved to meet in Chapter to establish the present condition of the Province and make provision for the future. On the October 9, 1658, a little more than a month after Cromwell’s death, the Provincial, Definitors, and Guardians of the Province assembled in the convent of St John the Baptist in the north-east of County Longford in the patrimony of the O’Farrell’s.

Bro Peter Gaenor OFM presided as Commissary Visitator. Among the appointments made by the friars, Bro Gaenor was appointed President of the Chapter and Guardian of Multyfarnham Friary.

A temporary measure introduced at this Chapter brings home very vividly the dangers priests were exposed to in those troubled times. Knowing that the capture of a Minister Provincial would be a prize especially gratifying to the priest-hunters, and realizing the associated danger, the friars decided upon the following measures. By unanimous consent, they appointed four Vicars for the Province who would take the place of the Provincial death. Appointed were Bro Peter Gaenor, Bro Thomas MacKiernan, Bro Antony Doherty, and Bro Philip Kelly. It was taken as evidence of the confidence bestowed on him that Bro Gaenor’s name was placed first on the list.

Bro Gaenor, a native of county Westmeath, was Guardian of Multyfarnham for three years from 1658 to 1661. With upwards of thirty years of Franciscan life behind him, he was a man of wide experience and was now in the mid years of life.

He may well have entered the Order in Multyfarnham Friary. In 1629 he was admitted to St. Anthony’s College, Louvain. He was elected Guardian of the convent of Ballinasaggart, County Longford in 1645, and of Clane County Kildare in 1648. A stout opponent of Ormond, his name appeared on that nobleman’s Franciscan ‘Blacklist.’

Taking advantage of the relief offered to Catholics at restoration, the friars quickly re-established themselves in Multyfarnham . In January 1663 Bro Peter Walsh OFM and some of his supporters travelled to Multyfarnham. There they debated the famous Remonstrance, or declaration of loyalty to Charles II, with those friars who were opposed to the tenor of it.

Bro Gaenor himself may well have been instrumental in re-establishing conventual life at Multyfarnham Friary. The friars, however, did not return to their old Friary, as circumstances were against their doing so. Apart from the great expense which a restoration of the Friary would entail and which they could not afford, taking such a step would have been foolhardy in the extreme, for even at this time, Catholic priests had to move cautiously. Instead, the friars took up their residence near Multyfarnham. The precise spot points to Knightswood, a townland adjoining Multyfarnham, and the friars were most certainly in Knightswood in 1670.