Martin J. Whitty, class '78
Just forty years ago Martin Whitty entered Castleknock. Seven years later he passed to the Vincentian Novitiate at St. Joseph's, Blackrock. He was ordained priest on the 29th June. 1882, and on Low Sunday of the present year he breathed his last. A life-long friend of his has been asked to write a little word about him for the College Magazine. It is a duty that appeals to this friend, who feels that the dead priest would be pleased that this tribute should be paid by one who knew him so well and esteemed him so highly.
As a boy, Martin Whitty was remarkably clever, and showed a special talent for English composition. He always bore off a large number of premiums. As quite a little fellow he was put to learn the clarinet, and made rapid progress, thanks to the careful training of Signor Regazzoli, the bandmaster. Martin was a prominent figure in the College history of his time. He was a member of the Athletic Council, President of the Congregation of Mary, and Prefect of the House.
During his novitiate he showed a spirit of solid piety. In his studies he gave evidence of singularly solid judgement, and was highly praised for his efforts at sermon writing by the Professor, Father Gowan. Coming on to his ordination he gave evidence of deep appreciation of the dignity to which he was raised in June, 1882.
After his ordination he spent some time in Castleknock as a professor. In this capacity he was most successful. He had a wonderful gift of clear explanation of the most difficult subjects, so that the dullest boy could understand. One could have wished for him a greater power of control over his classes, but few men have every gift. Later on he taught Moral Theology in the Irish College, Paris, where he won the respect and affection of the students who read under him. During his second term in Castleknock he was editor of the CHRONICLE and chief contributor as well. He wrote English prose in an easy, flowing style, and has left behind him, too, some exquisite little poems. Many of his years were spent in Sheffield and Phibsboro', and from both of these houses he gave Missions and Retreats, ministering in the intervals of rest to the wants of the people attending these Vincentian churches- He spoke clearly, with great order, and as confessor he was kind and helpful. His closing days were singularly blessed- He caught a dangerous illness at the bedside of a patient whom he attended. And when in a weakly condition, a stroke of paralysis on Easter Sunday laid him low. He lived just a week, edifying all who saw him by his unaffected piety, and on Low Sunday he passed away to his reward.
Many mourn his loss. He made many friends through life. He had no enemy. He never spoke a harsh word of anyone, but always made a defence for those who erred He had a genial nature, and never failed to comfort those in distress. All we, who knew him well, feel we are made poor by his death. He will always have a place in our prayers, and we look forward to see him once more in that home where parting is no more.
A TRIBUTE BY ONE OF HIS STUDENTS
When a little over a week ago I was told that Father Whitty was dying, the sad intelligence came as a most painful surprise. With feelings of intense regret I learned that my kind, genial, old professor was laid low in the midst of his work, and was perhaps even then already dead-
My thoughts at once flew back to the day in last September when I had met him at Castleknock—alas. how little I thought then that it was for the last time. I had been paying a brief visit to the old School, and Father Whitty had come over from Sheffield to give the boys' Retreat. I was so glad to have had an opportunity of meeting again one whom I respected and loved, one who was closely linked with the happiest days and fondest recollections of my life. How like old times everything was that day. I heard two of his lectures, I had a long chat with him, we walked round the old hall together, we visited the Theatre and recalled the many pleasant entertainments we had enjoyed there in the days that were gone. How full of life and health he was that day, and how pleasant and genial, just as of old. Who could have thought then that in a few short months we should have to mourn his all too early death?
And then my mind went farther back to the dear old days when I was a boy in St. Vincent's and good Father Whitty was one of my professors. I recalled the many times I had sat in his class, the numerous occasions I had met him in the house or on the playground, and been charmed by his winning personality and kindly ways. Stricken down in the midst of his work. Father Whitty has died a martyr to duty; and away in busy Sheffield he sleeps and awaits the resurrection. His noble soul is with the Master for Whom he worked so well and in Whose service he gave his life.
Of Father Whitty as a man and as a priest his sorrowing friends and confrères are best qualified to speak. It was as a master and a professor I knew him, and one cannot meet a man in these capacities without having opportunities of observing some at least of the most conspicuous traits in his character. Possessed of true priestly qualities, Father Whitty was, moreover, a most accomplished and cultured gentleman, and was a musician and poet of no mean order. Notwithstanding his undoubted abilities, there was not the slightest trace of obtrusiveness or affectation about him. He was easy of access to all. Young and old alike could approach him with the greatest confidence. To know him was to love him. There was a rare charm about him which captivated all hearts. When in his company one felt in the presence of a superior man— a man of strong character and great intellect, and at the same time one who was the soul of simplicity and kindness.
As a professor, how kind and patient Father Whitty always was. From the day when I first met him in a Junior Grade Algebra class, on his return to Castleknock in '96, I had been in many of his classes off and on up to pretty near the close of my college course. My own idea was, rightly or wrongly, that he did not care overmuch for the professor's chair, but that his heart was rather in missionary work, at which he had been engaged for some years previous to his second term as a member of the Castleknock staff. But if my surmise was correct, all the more credit to him for the conscientious way in which he did his work.
He was a painstaking teacher. How gentle he was with all his pupils—some of whom were not perhaps over-studious and were very capable of trying a professor's patience. But a cross word rarely passed Father Martin's lips.
During my last year or so in Castleknock I remember well with what eagerness we seniors used look for Father Whitty's arrival on the " top-walk " when it was his week on the grounds. When he came on the playground he would nearly always give a few minutes at least to the little fellows first. They loved to gather round him and listen to his interesting anecdotes and stories. And then, when he came to us, how pleasantly the time used pass in his company. He was ever the same. The cheery word, the pleasant smile, the sparkling wit and humour, they were always there.
Born in November, 1858, this gifted Vincentian was only in his fifty-third year when called to his reward. His premature death is deeply regretted by all who knew him. He will not soon be forgotten in Castleknock, for he has many claims on " the old house 'twixt the hills."
Dear Father Whitty. he is gone from us for ever—-naught but his memory row is left us, but it is a prized possession. And ever and anon, as we tread the shadowed pathway of life, sweet thoughts of our happy schooldays will softly steal upon us with all their wondrous charm—they shall raise the drooping heart, they will soothe the saddened spirit—and with them will always rise the beloved figure of the genial, kindly priest, the gentle professor, whom long ago we knew and revered in dear o'd Castleknock.
F. Noel O'Sullivan.
We give here a little poem written by Father Whitty in October last, when he was the director of a Spiritual Retreat for the English-speaking novices of the Bon Pasteur, at Angers, in France. The sad circumstances connected with his death make it seem almost prophetic.
TO THE NOVICES OF THE BON PASTEUR, ANGERS
Tread the path your Saviour trod,
O'er the rough way constant plod.
It leads to Home, it leads to God.
Kiss the cross that's daily sent—
The yoke 'neath which your Spouse hath bent-
Bear it till life's years are spent.
Work for souls as He hath done.
Kindly, gently, lead them on;
The Soul you save will save your own.
'Midst thorns and briars the lost ones find.
Their bleeding wounds with light touch bind.
Your Master healed the maim'd and blind.
Be ye like Him, Good Shepherds all.
Haste to the lost sheep's plaintive call,
Save it though even death befall.
Pray for the erring, daily pray.
Then when swift time hath sped away
Your crown and joy no tongue can say.
MJW 13 Oct 1910