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A Great Bishop of Ferns.

'The memorif s of great men,' eayß the historian, 'are the true treasures of nations.' How Nicholas French, Bishop of Ferns, entitled himself to be remembered with honor to the Irish race we will briefly explain. He was born in the year 1604, in Ballytcy Caetle, in the barorjy of Forth, County Wexford, and was educated at the celebrated Irish college at Louvain, France. He was one of the first students in the secnlar Irish College, and rose, during bis time at Louvain, to the dignify of being its president. It was there, perhaps, he wrote the curious synopsis of philosophy which bears the date 1630, and is still preserved in manuscript entire and perfectly legible. He returned to Wexford before the rising of 1641, and two years later was consecrated Bishop of Ferns, which dignity gave him a Beat ia the councils of Catholic Biehopa, then so occupied with their confederacy : and, ia 1 645, he was choFen one of the burgesses to represent the town of »Vexford in the General Assembly Bitting at Kilkenny. This might be called the date of his public appearance as a political leader. The first remarkable act in Dr. French's public life was hit first impeachment of Preston, the Leinster commander of the Confederate forces. Preston's movements were a succession of forced marches and hasty retreats, insomuch that it really seemed as if he was in league to confer victory on the enemy. The Bishop impeached Preston for playing into Ormond's hands, and moved hia suspension ; but Preston was continued in command, most unfortunately, a3 the sequel showed, for the Catholic cause. Diplomacy was his second trial. In 1646 the Confederates had become so powerful that the English Government thought it best to win them over by treaty, or break them up by divisions. The Earl of Glamorgan came to Ireland, entered into a treaty with the Supreme Council, which in no way compromised the latter body. In 1651 he formed one of the deputation seat to urge the Duke of Lorraine to put himself at the head of the Irish Catholics. At Brussels he had an interview with the Inter-Nuncio, Arnold i, and was by him reconciled to the Papal Court, which had disapproved of his action in reference to the peace of 1648. The negotiatioas with the Duke of Lorraine came to caught, and as Ireland was then in the throes of the Cromwellian invasion, ihe Bishop remained upon the Continent. lie acted for a short time as Coadjutor-Bishop in Paris, and then travelled in diffenent parts of the Continent, and at last found a home with the Archbishop of Santiago, in Spam. There he composed his Latin work, ' Lucubrations of the Bishop of Ferns in Spain ' After the Restoration, a long correspondence ensued between him and Father Walsh on behalf of O.rmond, relatne to his return to Ireland, which ended in 1665. with the following words : — ' Seeing that I cannot satisfy my conscience and the Duke together, nor become profitable to my flock at home, nor liive quietly and secure, his anger not being appeased, you may know hereby that I am resolved to go to Louvain, and there end my days where I began my studies.' From Louvain he scattered over the Continent numerous tracts relating to Irish affairs, and there he endowed a bourse of 180 florins a yea,r for the diocese of Ferns. He died at Ghent, August 23rd, 1678, and was interred in the Cathedral The principal of his numerous works were 'A narrative of the sale and settlement of Ireland ! ' and ' The unkind deserter of loyal men and true friends.' The last refers to the Marquis of Ormond.

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Bibliographic details

New Zealand Tablet, New Zealand Tablet, Volume XXX, Issue 46, 13 November 1902

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A Great Bishop of Ferns. New Zealand Tablet, Volume XXX, Issue 46, 13 November 1902