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From the Archives: Presentation Parlour

On this World Book Day revisiting Kate O'Brien's, Presentation Parlour

On this World Book Day I have been revisiting Kate O'Brien's, Presentation Parlour. In this wonderful memoir, O'Brien introduces the reader to her five aunts, two of whom were nuns in the Presentation Convent, Sexton Street: the convent parlour was a meeting place for the O'Brien family. O'Brien, in passing describes a visit to the family home, Boru House, Mulgrave Street by a priest, white in the face, with 'wide green eyes, and a general air of poverty and untidiness'. The priest's name was Michael O'Riordan. 'He was an original and something of a saint - the kind who gave everything away - his overcoat, his umbrella, his hat. He never had a watch, and never knew when he stood up from his writing table whether it was day or night.' He had been known to call on the family at three in the morning! O'Riordan was later appointed rector of the Irish College, Rome and played a key role in reshaping the relationship between nationalist Ireland and the Vatican. Incidentally, O'Riordan (1857-1919) was one of three Limerick priests to serve as rector of the Irish College, including Bishop John Fleming and the present incumbent, our own Fr Paul Finnerty.