Death of Canon Michael Cassidy.

                                 Death of Canon Michael Cassidy.
Canon Michael J Cassidy, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and a native of Co. Mayo, died yesterday morning, Tuesday, April 8th, in Corstorphine Hospital in Edinburgh. Fr. Cassidy, as he was known to all, was one of our most loved and respected priests.
Michael Cassidy was born in Brackloon, Swinford, Co. Mayo on 26 August 1929.
He studied for the priesthood at St. Peter’s College in Wexford. He was ordained by the  Bishop of Ferns, Bishop James Staunton on  06 June, 1954 for the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. This was a time when many Irish priests were ordained for British dioceses.
Upon his arrival in Scotland, Fr. Cassidy took a special interest in the needs of the Irish families who had settled in Scotland. He also took a special interest in the needs of the tattie howkers, squads of seasonal workers who came to Scotland each year from Ireland – mainly Donegal and Mayo – to work at the potato harvest. The living conditions of these seasonal workers were primitive and Michael Cassidy’s voice was constant in calling for their improvement. However, he was concerned not just with the plight of the emigrant Irish. Throughout his priesthood he truly reached “out to the margins” long before we had heard of the term. Travelling people and gypsies would come to Fr. Cassidy’s parishes to have their children baptised, make their First Holy Communion and be confirmed.                             Priests in need were welcomed to live in his parish houses during their time of need.
In the mid 1960s, he was part of a committee which established  the Edinburgh Irish Centre in the city. Although the centre closed in the 1970s due to financial difficulties, Fr. Cassidy continued to support those of us who continued to host Irish events in Edinburgh.
By the 1970s the number of Irish families coming over to  Scotland to work harvesting the potato crop  had dwindled. Instead, Irish agents turned to young unemployed men in towns across Ireland. Their working and living  conditions were even worse than those experienced by the families who worked as tattie howkers in earlier decades. There were housed in bothies with no privacy and non-existant sanitation; were forced to work long hours and, at the end of the day, became virtual prisoners for the night. Michael Cassidy decided this practice was unacceptable and had to end. He recruited the help of Jack Butterly, a journalist working for the Evening Herald in Dublin. The scandal came to a head in June 1971 with the plight of two young men, John Ryan from New Ross in Co. Wexford and John O’Brien from  Knocklong in  Co. Limerick. While Butterly was in East Lothian researching his story , he and Michael hatched a plan to organise the escape of the two young tattie howkers from their bothy on June 16th.  When the story broke next day in the Irish and Scottish papers  it lead to a huge public outcry. Eventually, following talks which involved  the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Paddy Hillery, the Irish Embassy in London, the Scottish Office in Edinburgh and Fr. Michael Cassidy, the practice of exploiting young Irish emigrant workers was brought to an end.                                                                                                                                                    Just a few years ago, Michael explained to me how his friend from home, John Healy – the Irish Times’  “Backbencher” had advised on enlisting the help of the press .
I have been privileged to have known Michael Cassidy as a friend  for over 30 years. He was a wonderful priest. Many , many families, Irish and Scottish, have experienced  his exceptional pastoral and spiritual care, especially  in times of need. However, he was first and foremost a lovely human being –  a naturally kind and generous man and full of common sense. He did not have a judgemental fibre in his body.
His last parish was St Margaret Mary’s in Granton in Edinburgh where he was parish priest since 1976. He continued to live in the parish house after his retirement in 2004 and, though he has been in poor health for a couple of years , he continued to live in St. Margaret Mary’s until he was admitted to hospital four weeks ago.
We do not the details of his funeral arrangements yet but I do know that he will be going home to his final resting place in Co. Mayo.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis.

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  1. Michael T R B Turnbull says:

    Great Obituary

  2. Gerry O'Reilly says:

    Thank you for the excellent article on my uncle Canon Michael.

  3. Philip Cassidy says:

    Reposing Campbell Funeral home Swinford, Co Mayo, on Sunday 13 April at 5.30 p.m.
    Removal to St Josephs Church, Midfield, at 7.00 p.m.
    Burial Monday 14 April, after 11.00 a.m. Mass, in St Joseph’s Cemetery, Bracloon, Swinford.

  4. Margaret shepherd says:

    A truly wonderful caring parish priest. So helpful when our son had two major operations. Will be sadly missed .

  5. Tony McCluskey says:

    Baptised, First Communion and Confirmation from Fthr Cassiday. May he Rest in Peace. A fine ambassador for the Church

  6. Seamus Ahearne osa says:

    Michael was in the same Deanery as myself when I worked in Edinburgh. Michael was always a gentleman. Michael was at home and at ease in any company. Michael was happy to be with the most conservative Catholic or the most liberal one. It was all unimportant to Michael. Everyone mattered and the Gospel was Good News. He didn’t have to wait for Pope Francis to arrive to highlight the obvious: He lived it and celebrated it. Michael was all things to all people. He was a good priest and a good human being – full of heart; full of warmth; full of God. That then was my experience but throughout my many years away from Edinburgh ( over twenty four), my many reporters kept me well informed about Michael and the story was always consistent and lovely. Thank you Michael for your company and your kindness and goodness to everyone. You were at home in yourself and your home was home to everyone; now you are at home with God. Seamus Ahearne osa

  7. Angela Cassidy says:

    God bless you Uncle Mickie as you wind your way home tonight to Brackloon.
    “Anois teacht an Earraigh
    beidh an lá dúl chun shíneadh,
    Is tar eis na féil Bríde
    ardóigh mé mo sheol.
    Go Coillte Mach rachad
    ní stopfaidh me choíche
    Go seasfaidh mé síos
    i lár Chondae Mhaigh Eo.”
    I gClár Chlainne Mhuiris
    A bheas mé an chéad oíche,
    Is I mballa taobh thíos de
    A thosós mé ag ól
    Go Coillte Mách rachad
    Go ndéanfad cuairt mhíosa ann
    I bhfogas dhá mhíle
    Do Bhéal an átha Mhóir.
    Fágaim le huacht é
    go n-éiríonn mo chroí-se
    Mar a éiríonn an ghaoth
    nó mar a scaipeann an ceo
    Nuair a smaoiním ar Cheara
    nó ar Ghaileang taobh thíos de
    Ar Sceathach an Mhíle
    nó ar phlánaí Mhaigh Eo.
    Cill Aodáin an baile
    a bhfásann gach ní ann,
    Tá sméara is subh craobh ann
    is meas de gach sórt,
    Is dá mbéinnse i mo sheasamh
    i gceartlár mo dhaoine
    D’imeodh an aois díom
    is bheinn arís óg.
    Bíonn cruithneacht is coirce,
    fás eorna is lín ann,
    Seagal i gcraobh ann,
    arán plúir agus feoil,
    Lucht déanta poitín
    gan licence á dhíol ann,
    Móruaisle na tíre ann
    ag imirt is ag ól.
    Tá cur agus treabhadh
    is leasú gan aoileach
    Is iomaí sin ní ann
    nár labhair me go fóill,
    áitheanna is muilte
    ag obair gan scíth ann,
    Deamhan caint ar phingin cíosa
    ná dada dá shórt.

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