16th February 1920–15th January 1999
Claregalway , Carnmore and surrounding areas were saddened at the death of Canon Gerard Callanan , who died after a short illness. Canon Callanan served the parish of Claregalway and Carnmore for twenty-eight years. He was instrumental in the provision of our lovely Church – the Church of the Assumption and St. James in Claregalway, primary schools in Claregalway and Carnmore and also and the curate’s house, presently occupied by Fr. Ian. The Altar in the new Church was donated by Canon Callanan in memory of his parents.After his many years of service to the community, it’s pity he did not get longer to enjoy his retirement in his new house. He was very fond of gardening and spent a lot of time looking after the grounds in the church.
The following is an interview with the late Canon Callanan undertaken by pupils from 6th class in 1997.
- Where and when were you born?
I was born on 16th February 1920 in Ennistymon, Co. Clare.
- What were your parent’s names?
My father’s name was Tom Callanan and my mother’s name was Annie Rynne.
- Where did you go to school?
I went to the Brothers in Ennistymon and St. Mary’s College, Galway.
- In what year were you ordained?
I was ordained on the 18th June, 1944.
- Were you nervous when saying your first Mass?
I was 24 years old at the time, excited more than nervous.
- What was your first Parish?
St. Nicholas. I lived in College House where Naughtons car park used to be. I loved it there. At that time of course T.B. was rampant in the country.
Canon Callanan studied to be a priest in Rome. He recounts his experiences below.
- Canon, tell us what it was like training and studying in Rome during the war?
- I arrived there on the 10th June 1940. When the Italians realised that their involvement in the war was inevitable, there was a lot of unrest and drunkeness because the Italians did not want war. Rationing began in October 1941 but there was a black market where you could buy as much food as you wished. To ensure the German soldiers didn’t understand them the clerical students spoke Irish. We weren’e allowed listen to the BBC radios, so we had no English news. Rationing allowed just 2 small buns of bread per day and 16 potatoes per month. There was no meat or coffee. We ate Rabbits and Snails.
A Fr. Lenihan decided to buy a pig and fatten him. They got a black market butcher to kill him. In oder to drown the sound of his squealing they revved the engine of the motor-bike. I had to hold the pig and rub its stomach to keep it quiet. The butcher killed him with a kind of an axe. We got adventurous in the College then and decided to fatten two pigs. However, the neighbours across the road saw them and reported the College to the authorities. At the time, the penalty for breach of rationing regulations was to be shot and there were posters of men being shot. The President of the College was charged and was fined £300—great deal of money in 1941, but he was fortunate to get off so lightly. After that we had no more pigs! However, we were supplied with potatoes on the black market. Students were told if a knock comes on your door during the night, get up, don’t switch on the light, take your suitcase and go downstairs. We filled our suitcases with potatoes and kept them in our rooms. So in the event of some rooms of the College being searched, there would still be a few undiscovered stashes of potatoes!
- Did you witness any bloodshed or violence?
We heard a siren one night and went out on the flat roof. When the aircraft went by, there were floodlights and anti-aircraft guns firing. We thought it was a display and were ready for the show but we were ordered back to our rooms. The following morning there was shrapnel on the roof which could have killed us. Apart from this, we did not witness any violence, shooting etc. Although the Italians were fighting on the German side neither nationality had respect for the other.
Canon Callanan is survived by his sister-in-law, Evelyn; nephews, nieces, grandnephews, grandnieces, housekeeper Maura, Bishop McLoughlin, priests, parishioners, relatives and friends.