John McCullagh October 29, 2005
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It was to minister to the sick, the poor and the needy that the Sisters of Mercy came to Newry in 1855. Many charitable people shared their concern. Foremost among them was the unassuming Thomas Fegan.


A plaque over the main entrance to the Mercy (Kilmorey Street) Home – pictured is the original Home – reads, ‘Our Mother of Mercy Home for the aged and orphans, erected by Thomas Fegan Esq. and given over to the Sisters of Mercy A.D. 1898’. Other townspeople – and people from further afield – were also generous in their support as the poster (in the next featured article) also shows.

Thomas Fegan was a wealthy Newry merchant whose love and generosity towards the poor, the deprived and the orphan was the hallmark of his life. Having lost his wife through illness in the early years of his marriage he sent his two sons to be educated at Clongowes Wood Jesuit College. One died in early manhood while the other entered the Jesuit ministry. At his funeral oration in 1906 Dr O’Neill the Bishop of Dromore said of Thomas,

‘I have known him intimately for more than forty years. He was a simple, unassuming, kindly man known to us all, without prefix of any kind, as Tom Fegan. He dedicated his life to helping his fellow travellers on the path of life, especially the poor and the deprived, the old and the young’.

Tom had long-cherished a dream to establish some sort of refuge for poor, destitute women and orphans whom he considered the most vulnerable members of the society of his day. He took the first step when in 1879 he bought the former Customs House that then belonged to Mr Needham Thompson, to be used as just such a refuge. Dr Leahy, Bishop of Dromore asked the Sisters of Mercy to run this refuge. 

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