The Carols of William Devereux

The carol spirit was kept alive and a fresh impetus was given to the beautiful custom in the southern baronies of Co. Wexford by Rev. William Devereux, P.P., Drinagh, 1730-1771, who was born in Ring, Tacumshin* in 1696... In 1724 Fr. Devereux entered the Irish College, Salamanca, Spain, to complete his studies for the priesthood. He returned home in 1728, in weak health and lived at his father's house in Ring for two years. Tradition informs us that it was at this period that he wrote several Christmas carols. It is recorded, too, that he had a rich voice and that often at eventide he entertained
friends with the songs of the Sunny Land.

In 1730, Father Devereux was strong enough to take up parochial work and he was appointed to the parish of Drinagh... He had no chapel for his flock, and a significant entry in the list of Registered Popish Priests of 1731 tells us that he said Mass in the sheltered corner of a field with a 'covering' for the altar at which he officiated.

Fr Devereux died on August 20th,1771, at the age of 75 years; he was buried in the tomb of his uncle, Rev. Jasper Devereux, in Tacumshin....

Fr Devereux made a collection of Carols and he incorporated the collection in a manuscript which he called "A New Garland, containing songs for Christmas." He called his collection the "New Garland" to distinguish it from Dr. Luke Waddinge's "Pious Garland." The carols were first sung in the little chapel at Killiane...

Manuscript copies of the "New Garland" were multiplied and the songs were introduced to the neighbouring parishes of Ballymore, Mayglass, Lady's Island, Tacumshin, Kilmore and Rathangan. The earliest manuscript of the carols is that mentioned by Mr. Edmond Hore, who states that the first copy of the carols he saw was written by a man who died suddenly in 1762.

The late Very Rev. Thomas O'Byrne, P.P., Piercestown, made transcripts of the Carols while he was curate in Tacumshin in 1908. He had then in his possession two old manuscripts, one from Kilmore dated 1819, the other from Tacumshin dated 1822. The title of the Kilmore copy ran: "A New Garland, containing Songs for Christmas composed by Rev. William Devereux." On the last page was inscribed the following: "Richard Neill of Ballyseskin his Carol book, printed in February, anno Christi, 1819."

* Tacumshin- Now more commonly spelt as Tacumshane


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