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William Patrick Travers was born into a prominent, devoutly Catholic Cork family on 20 March 1870. 

William entered the Capuchin Order in 1887, took the religious name of Aloysius and was ordained a priest in 1894.  

His elder brother, John, was also a Capuchin and took the religious name of Anthony; another brother became an Augustinian whilst a sister became an Ursuline Nun.

From his earliest years, Fr Aloysius took a keen interest in promoting the work of the temperance movement. He was appointed President of the Father Mathew Hall in Dublin and held this position from 1904-1913. 

During his years as President, he used the Hall for the promotion of temperance and as a recreational venue for the members of the Sacred Heart Sodality.  

In 1909 he inaugurated the Féis Maitiu (Father Mathew Feis or Festival) which promoted Gaelic cultural revivalist activities such as storytelling and festivals of native song and dance. 

Fr Aloysius also used the pages of the Record to strongly promote a “Buy Irish Campaign”. 

He was elected seven times to the office of Definitor and was Provincial Minister of the Irish Capuchins from 1913-1916. 

Like many of the Capuchin Friars of Church Street, Fr. Aloysius was involved in ministering to the Rising leaders during their imprisonment. He was present at the execution of James Connolly in Kilmainham Gaol on 12 May 1916.  

He wrote a Witness Statement (number 200) that clearly indicates that he felt most at home among the working classes of Dublin, and noted his experiences throughout Easter Week.

The Father Mathew Feis ("Festival") was scheduled during Easter Week in the Father Mathew Hall, and a small boy was shot on the Monday afternoon.  The children were quickly rounded up and placed under the stage for safety.

From that time on, Fr. Aloysius helped in the Father Mathew Hall which was quickly turned into a hospital by the Volunteers and Cumann na mBan.

On Sunday, Fr. Aloysius was one of the priests asked to carry the notice of surrender to the various Volunteer/ Citizen Army garrisons.  

Fathers Aloysius and Augustine went to Richmond Prison to speak to Patrick Pearse and then to Dublin Castle to confer with Connolly to confirm the validity of the surrender order.

Both Pearse and Connolly indicated the surrender was, indeed, their wish and the two Friars were deputed to take the orders to Thomas MacDonagh’s command in Jacob’s factory and then to relay the orders to Éamonn Ceannt and his men in the South Dublin Union. 

After bringing both commanders to parley with British General Lowe, the commands were surrendered.

Later, Fr. Aloysius and Fr. Augustine were called to Kilmainham Gaol to minister to Pearse, Clarke and MacDonagh on the morning of their executions.

On that night of 2-3 May, Fr Aloysius, walking in the corridor, saw a light shining through the spy hole in Pearse’s cell: “Pearse was there kneeling and the light showing on his face as he clasped the crucifix”.  

This was the crucifix which Fr Aloysius had brought with him to the Gaol and which he had left with Pearse earlier. Pearse scratched his initials; ‘P.M.P.’ for the Irish form of his name ("Padraig Mac Piarais"), on the back of the crucifix as a memento for Fr. Aloysius.

The crucifix was preserved in the Church Street Friary and is of wood with the figures of Our Lord, Our Lady and the skull and crossbones of brass. 

On 3 May Fathers Aloysius and Augustine were not permitted to stay with the condemned men, Pearse, Clarke and MacDonagh, until their execution but had to leave the prison some time between 2 and 3 a.m. 

Fr Aloysius protested and his protest was so strong that priests were thereafter allowed to stay with the men until their executions and Fr. Aloysius was permitted to accompany Connolly from Dublin Castle, and to be present at Kilmainham with him to the end.

On the morning of 12 May word was sent to Church Street asking Fr Aloysius to go to Dublin Castle to see Connolly. There, he heard Connolly's confession, gave him Holy Communion.

Connolly had requested to see Fr. Aloysius but before going the priest had to promise that he would act only as a priest. 

When Connolly was informed of this by Fr. Aloysius, he said:  “It is as a priest I want to see you. I have seen and heard of the brave conduct of priests and nuns during the week and I believe that they are the best friends of the workers”.

The priest went with Connolly in the ambulance to Kilmainham Gaol and was there when Connolly was executed.

After Connolly’s execution a British captain said: “Fr Aloysius, they are the bravest and cleanest lot of men I have ever met”.

Aloysius concurred that all the men were brave. “They were clean in the eyes of the British captain and they were clean too in the eyes of God".   

He always commented on the faithfulness of those executed: “I think we owe it to the young people of this country to put the spiritual aspect of the lives of these men before them as an ideal to follow”.

Remaining a true man of the working class, Fr. Aloysius later championed the cause of various labour leaders in Dublin. It has also been speculated that he undertook a secret mission to Pope Benedict XV in connection with the Irish struggle, but he made no mention of this in his Witness Statements. 

In 1920, Fr Albert and another Capuchin, Fr Dominic O’Connor, were arrested at the Friary in Church Street. They were taken to Dublin Castle and in January 1921 were courtmartialled for aiding the republican cause.

Fr Albert was released, but Fr Dominic was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, where he remained until his release in 1922 as part of the general amnesty.

(Fr Aloysius prepared another Witness Statement [no. 207] relating the story of their arrest and trial, and that is also mentioned in Fr. Albert's story here and in Fr. Dominic's).

Fr Aloysius continued to work among the poor and working class of Dublin.  

In January 1947, James Larkin was in Meath Hospital, and was visited by an old friend of his, Fr Cormac Daly, OFM.   

Fr Cormac asked Larkin if he was prepared for his last journey, and when Larkin replied “No”, Fr Cormac offered to help. 

Larkin appreciated the gesture but said first he would like, in sympathy with James Connolly, to see the priest who had attended Connolly at his last moments.

Fr Aloysius was ill with the flu at the time, but he went from his sick bed to the Meath Hospital to see Larkin. 

Larkin thought he would wait a day or two to receive the Last Sacraments, but Fr. Aloysius said he might be bed-ridden by then, so Larkin then consented and received the Last Sacraments from him on 24 January.  he died on 29 January. 

Fr. Aloysius had attended both of Dublin’s most noted labour leaders of the early 20th Century at their end.

Fr Aloysius died on 2 May 1957 at the Capuchin Friary of St Mary of the Angels, Church Street, Dublin. He was 89 years old and was a Capuchin for almost 69 of these years. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.  

       (c) 2014 Joe Connell

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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