THE story of "Father Tom and the Pope," which first appeared in Blackwood's Magazine of May, 1838, has been ascribed to more than one contributor to that periodical, but the narrator of the memorable events of this" Night at the Vatican" has thus far seen fit to remain concealed under the pseudonym of Michael Heffernan. Instead of attempting to decide the question of authorship, we shall preface the present edition with a short notice of the original Father Tom, so that all readers may know the incidents which suggested the story.
The Reverend Thomas Maguire was R. C. Priest of the parish of Innismagrath about the year 1825, and was well known in the counties of Roscommon and Leitrim. He was educated at Maynooth, and had the reputation of heing a man of ability and learning, although somewhat eccentric. Having a handsome person, a social disposition, and great fondness for horses, hounds, etc., he was universally popular in the part of Ireland in which he lived.
In 1827 he had a public controversy with the Reverend Richard T. P. Pope, a Protestant clergyman from Cork, on the doctrines of their respective churches. This controversy had the unusual result of terminating in a friendship between the disputants, which continued until the early death of Mr. Pope in a foreign land. Father Tom at once became an object of popular admiration as a "champion of the church," but he did not receive the preferment which his friends though the merited.
Against a charge of immoral conduct, made apparently for the purpose of extorting money, he was triumphantly defended by O'Connell, whose services he requited, at the election in 1828, by actively exerting his influence in behalf of the great agitator. In the Gentleman's Magazine of March, 1848, there is the following notice: "Died, Dec. 3d, at his residence near Ballinamore, in the county of Leitrim, the Reverend Thomas Maguire, P. P. He used to boast that he was the best shot, the best courser, the best quoit player, the best breeder of greyhounds, pointers, and spaniels, and the best brewer of 'scaltheen' in the whole county of Leitrim. He is supposed to have been poisoned by his housekeeper, together with his brother and sister-in-law."
It is said, however, that his death was occasioned by tasting water supposed to have been poisoned for the malicious purpose of destroying some of his favorite dogs.
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