Then and now – a family connection over 75 years

This photograph was taken circa 1949 at the outdoor Stations of the Cross at Multyfarnham Friary and shows a group of five men and one small child.

The man standing on the far right is John Sweeney from Tullamore, Co Offaly. The man standing second from the left side of the group is John’s lifelong friend Patrick Martin, also from Tullamore.

Over the years John and his wife Anna were regular visitors to the friary in Multyfarnham, a place that has always attracted people from all over the midlands. In their later years, John and Anna travelled to the friary with their son Paschal and his wife Elizabeth. A favourite day for such visits was Good Friday, which entailed attending the outdoor Way of the Cross and the beautiful friary church. These particular visits culminated in a stop at the Greville Arms in Mullingar for fish and chips, for which John had a particular taste!

John and Anna are now both gone home to God having reared their family of five and provided them with the necessary values required in life.

The friary in Multyfarnham has maintained its fascination for people far beyond the county of Westmeath. The Franciscan presence in Multyfarnham has spanned 755 years dating back to its foundation in 1268. In the 75 years since the photograph was taken, the Sweeney family has maintained a connection to ‘Multy’ as it is affectionately referred to, being the location for a christening, a wedding, and a wedding anniversary Mass.

Christmas is a time for families to get together and in this context three members of the Sweeney family visited the friary on the December 28, 2023. The photograph of 1949 prompted the idea of replicating it to commemorate the original version. John and Anna’s sons Brian (home from Germany) and Paschal, and their daughter Deirdre, made a visit to the friary.

They stood on the exact spot where their father John stood 75 years ago, which was a very special moment. In a world of continuous change, it was a privilege to stand in the grounds of a sacred place that has remained unchanged for over seven centuries. A visit to the friary church completed the experience.

Both photographs are now part of the family history and the connection with the unique Franciscan friary in Multyfarnham.

The remaining two members of the Sweeney family, Niall and Alice, were unable to make the visit on the day.

Paschal Sweeney