Canon Canton — Death of Athenry's Venerable Parish Priest — A life of Untiring Zeal and Devotion

The Connacht Tribune, Saturday, August 21, 1930.

On the eve of the Assumption, a Feast for which he had such a burning devotion, the Very Rev. Canon Canton, the venerable parish priest of Athenry, where he ministered for close on thirty years, passed away at his residence on Saturday night at the age of seventy. His death will be long mourned, not alone by the people among whom he ministered, but throughout the whole county and the dioceses of Tuam, where he was respected as a good and wise and saintly priest.

For the past few years Canon Canton had been in failing health, but still he was able to get about, and his stooped, white—haired agure was daily to be seen visiting the church to celebrate Mass, and attending to the wants of his parishioners. Since a few weeks ago he had been confined to his bed, and, his condition growing worse, the last rites of the Church were administered in the early part of the week. Gradually he sank, and the end came at 9.30pm on Saturday. Followed by a large crowd of his sorrowing people the remains were removed from the Parochial House to the Church of the Assumption, Athenry, at six o'clock on Monday evening.

Canon Canton was born at Castlebar, which has given so many famous men to the Church, on April 5, 1850. He received his education at St. Jarlath's College, Tuam, and afterwards at the Irish College, Paris. After his ordination he was appointed professor at St. Jarlath's, which position he filled with conspicuous brilliance, and in which he displayed a profound depth of learning, for two years. From St. Jarlath's he was transferred as curate to Cong, and from thence to Menlough. His valuable work on the mission was soon recognized, and he was recalled to Tuam and made Administrator of that important parish. Afterwards the late Most Rev. Dr. McEvilly appointed him parish priest at Letterfrack. After a short stay in Connemara he was given charge of the parish of Athenry in the eighties, which he ruled, and where he laboured with zeal for greater glory of God and the Church, until his death. It was while in Athenry that he was raised to the dignitary of Canon. The outstanding trait of Canon Canton's life was his deeply religious outlook and views. First and above all he was a Minister of God, a priest whose duties were always governed by a steadfast belief in the strict application of the principles of his strict application of the principles of his sacrad calling to all his words and acts. At the same time, though never taking a really active part in politics, he followed the country's struggle for freedom with keen and unflagging interest. The national cause had in him an unselfish and generous supporter, both morally and financially, at all times, for beneath his gentle, pious exterior the love of Ireland glowed with undiminished fervour to the last. He, of course, belonged to that band — now, alas! Fast growing thin — of priests who, in the 70's and 80's and 90's, led their people through all the phases of the land war, and were largely instrumental in securing the tenantry comfortabley on the land. During the time of the Home Rule struggle and the Irish Party's reign. Canon Canton was ever a loyal adherent of the cause supported by the majority of the Irish people. While Mr. Wm. Duffy was M.P. for South Galway Canon Canton always signed the nomination paper on which Mr. Duffy relied at elections, and at the last historic contest in 1918 the Canon still insisted on performing this function. He was the close confidante of the late Dr. Healy, Archbishop of Tuam.

Canon Canton was unsparing in his charity. This was only natural to his kind, generous nature. He loved the people of his flock, and he always gave unstintingly when the poor were in need. In return he was beloved by all, rich and poor. His personality attracted the esteem and veneration of everybody. He was the personifiction of meekness, humble at all times, yet polite, gentlemanly, and courteous to all. From such a nature nothing could spring forth but deep holiness and sanctity; he was always the devoutly religious priest. For the Blessed Mother he had a wonderful devotion and piety, and he did everthing in his power to progagate love for her and the feasts in her honour. While his health permitted he paid annual visits to the shrine of the Blessed Lady at Lourdes, and he was largely instrumental in reviving on a large scale the pilgrimage to the holy well at Athenry on August 15, which is now annually attended by pilgrims from all parts of the country.

His Grace the Most Rev. Dr. Gilmartin, Archbishop of Tuam, presided at the Solemn Requiem Mass for the late Canon Canton at Athenry on Tuesday, and his Lordship the Most Rev. Dr. O'Dea, Bishop of Galway, was also present. The celebrant of the Mass was the Rev. Ed. MacGough, C. C., Athenry; deacon, the Rev. J. Grealy, P. P., Abbey; sub—deacon, the Rev. M. J. Daly, diocesan inspector; master of ceremonies, the Rev. T. C. Lynch, C.C., Athenry. In the choir were the Rev. Dean Macken, P.P., V.F., Dunmore; the Ven. Archdeacon Kilkenny, P.P., V. G. Claremorris; the Rt. Rev. Monsignor McAlpine, P.P., V.G., Clifden; the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Considine, Adm., Galway; the Very Rev. Canon Curran, P.P., V.F., Cummer; the Very Rev. Canon Fallon, P.P., V.F., Castlebar; the Very Rev. Canon D'Alton, P.P., V.F., LL.D., Ballinrobe; the Very Rev. Canon McHugh, P.P., Crossboyne; the Very Rev. Fr. Turner, C.SS.R., rector, St. Patrick's Esker, Athenry; the Rev. Fr. Heagner, C. SS. R., do.; the Rev. M. Diskin, P.P., Milltown; the Rev. M. Farragher, P.P., Aran Islands; the Rev. M. Heaney, P.P., Caherlistrane; the Rev. T. Morris, P.P.; the Rev. J.O'Malley, P.P., Hekan; the Rev. Fr. Tully, P.P., Clarenbridge; the Rev. MI. Donnellan, P.P., Roundstone; the Rev. J. O'Malley, P.P., Turloughmore; the Rev. J. Kelly, P.P., Knock; the Rev. P. Moran, P.P., ClareGalway; the Rev. T. Fahy, M.A., St. Patrick's College, Maynooth; the Rev. O'Hannon, Adm., Tuam; the Rev. P. Moane, C.C., Tuam; the Rev. D. Ryder, Professor, St. Jarlath's, Tuam; the Rev. T. Gunnigen, do.; the Rev. D. Corcoran, do.; the Rev. J. Walsh, M.A., Archbishop's secretary, Clare; the Rev. C. Whyte, C.C., Dunmore; the Rev. A. O'Toole, C.C., Dumore; the Rev. Fr. Diskin, C. C., Claremorris; the Rev. G. Prendergast, C.C., Castlebar; the Rev. W. Heaney, C.C., Monivea; the Rev. M. Boderick, C.C., Ballinalsoe; the Rev. T. Melvin, C.C., Attymon; the Rev. R. Callanan, C.C., Portumna; the Rev. J. C. Clarke, C.C,. Kilconeiron; the Rev. P. Murphy, C.C., Menlough; the Rev. P. Ruane, C.C., Spiddal; the Rev. M. Morris, C.C., Annaghdown; the Rev. M. Finn, C.C.; the Rev. M. Murphy, C.C., Aran Islands; the Rev. W. J. Fahy, San Francisco.

After the Mass the Archbishop officiated at the absolution.

The large funeral, which took place after Mass to the Boyhill cemetery (about half a mile from Athenry) was an impressive sight. The Archbishop and, Bishop, in their purple robes, and the surprised priests headed the cortege, chanting the "Miserere" and "De Profundis." The Archbishop performed the last rites at the graveside, and all that was mortal of Canon Canton was laid to rest.