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Thomas Bibby was born on 24 Oct. 1877 in Bagnalstown, County Carlow. He entered the Capuchin Novitiate at Rochestown on 7 July 1894 and took the religious name of Albert. He was solemnly professed on 8 May 1900 and was ordained a priest at Church Street on 23 Feb. 1902. 

A gifted scholar, Fr Albert was among the first batch of Capuchin students to receive a BA degree from the Royal University. 

Fr Albert was active in the Gaelic revival movement and was a fluent Irish speaker.  

He was engaged in temperance advocacy and gave missions sometimes solely in Irish in Gaeltacht areas. He was also involved in the Columcille branch of Conradh na Gaeilge in its early years. 

Briefly a part of the community of friars in Kilkenny, Fr. Albert moved to the Capuchin community on Church Street in the early 1900s.

In the aftermath of the Easter Rising Fr Albert ministered to a number of rebel prisoners in Kilmainham Jail and in other locations. 

He and Fr Augustine were called to Kilmainham Gaol on the night of 7-8 May in order to minister to the four men who were to be executed in the morning:  Seán Heuston, Michael Mallin, Con Colbert and Eamonn Ceannt.

Upon arriving at the Goal, Fr Augustine went to Ceannt’s cell, and Fr Albert attended to Michael Mallin and Con Colbert.

Fr Albert did not remain in their cells long, but went on to see Seán Heuston. 

In the Capuchin Annual of 1966, Fr Albert gave a remarkable account of his time with Heuston.

According to that account, Heuston was “kneeling beside a small table with his Rosary beads in his hand and on the table was a little piece of candle and some letters which he had just written to some relatives and friends. 

He wore his overcoat as the morning was extremely cold and none of these men received those little comforts that are provided for even the greatest criminals while awaiting sentence of death”.

Fr Albert said Heuston had been to confession and Mass that morning and was not afraid to die.  According to Albert’s account, Heuston “awaited the end not only with the calmness and fortitude which peace of mind brings to noble souls, but during the last quarter of an hour he spoke of soon meeting again Padraig MacPhiarais and the other leaders who had already gone before him”.

Heuston’s brother, Michael, who was studying to be a Dominican priest, as well as Fr  Patrick Browne, saw him.  In addition, his Mother, sister, aunt and a first cousin also were allowed visit him.

Heuston wrote to his sister, a Dominican nun: “Let there be no talk of ‘foolish enterprises’.  I have no vain regrets. If you really love me, teach the children the history of their own land and teach them that the cause of Caitlin ni h-Uallachain never dies. Ireland shall be free from the centre to the sea as soon as the people of Ireland believe in the necessity for Ireland’s freedom and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to obtain it”.

Fr Albert walked to the Stonebreaker’s Yard with Heuston, and they saw Fr Augustine and Michael Mallin as they passed in the hallway.

When they reached the Yard, the blindfolded Heuston bent and kissed a cross Fr Albert held in his hand. 

In the Yard, Fr Albert wrote “there was a box (seemingly a soap box) and Sean was told to sit down on it. He was perfectly calm and said with me for the last time 'My Jesus, mercy'. 

I scarcely had moved away a few yards when a volley went off, and this noble soldier of Irish freedom fell dead.

(Below) Repatriation of the bodies of Fr. Albert and Fr. Dominic in 1958 (Photo courtesy Eamon Murphy)

I rushed over to anoint him. His whole face seemed transformed, and lit up with a grandeur and brightness that I had never before noticed”.

Fr Albert said Heuston’s last message to him was “Remember me to the boys of the Fianna. Remember me to Miceal Staines and to his brothers and to all the boys at Blackhall Street”.

Fr Albert was later a regular correspondent with prominent republicans and their relations. 

On 16 Dec 1920 British forces arrested Fr Albert and Fr Dominic O’Connor during a raid on the Friary in Church Street. Fr Albert was detained for some hours in Dublin Castle but was afterwards released whilst Fr Dominic was sentence to five years’ penal servitude. 

When the Four Courts was attacked on 27 June 1922, Fr Albert was present in the building alongside Fr Dominic. 

Both priests remained with the Anti-Treaty Irregulars until the Four Courts was evacuated. They then proceeded to administer to Cathal Brugha and other IRA men occupying Hamman Hotel on O’Connell Street. 

In June 1924 Fr Albert was sent to the United States and was eventually appointed Pastor of the Capuchin Mission at Santa Inez in California. 

Fr Albert’s health quickly deteriorated and he was soon admitted to St Francis Hospital in Santa Barbara. 

He died on 14 February 1925, a mere three months after his arrival in Santa Inez. Fr. Albert was buried just outside the mission’s chapel. 

His remains were later repatriated to Ireland and he was buried in Rochestown Cemetery on 14 June 1958. 

(c) 2014 Joe Connell

This is the third of a series of articles devoted to the activities of the priests who ministered to the Irish in the Rising and thereafter.  Go here to start the series.

These articles are abbreviated from "Rebels' Priests - ministering to Republicans, 1916-23" by Joe Connell, published by Kilmainham Tales Teo. Further details here 

To see the other articles in this series go to the "Priests and Friars" homepage here 

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