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Fr James Coyle

An tAth James Coyle

Rugadh an tAthair James E Coyle i nDroim ar 23 Márta, 1873 do thuismitheoirí Owen Coyle agus Margaret Durney. Chaith sé tréimhse mar shagart misinéireachta in Alabama, áit a cuireadh chun bás é ar 11ú Lúnasa 1911. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Fr James Coyle (1873-1921)

Very Rev. Dean James E Coyle was born in Drum on 23 March 1873 to parents Owen Coyle and Margaret Durney. He was ordained on 30 May 1896 and died on 11 August 1921. James was the second son of a family of two boys and four girls. His father Owen was the schoolmaster in Drumpark National School and his mother Margaret was daughter of Francis Durney, schoolmaster of Cornafulla N.S.

James was baptised in Drum Church on 25 March 1873 by Rev. Fr Davis, C.C. Place of residence was given as Meehambee and the sponsors were Michael and Catherine Durney.

Ordained on 30 May 1896, Fr. Coyle served as a Missionary Priest of the Cathedral at Mobile, Alabama until 1899. In 1916 he was made Dean of North Alabama. He was shot dead on Thursday 11 August 1921.

A memorial stone to his parents in Drum old cemetery includes an additional inscription which states that their son Dean James E. Coyle "died for the faith" on August 11th 1921.

May he rest in peace.

More details

Further details can be found in the book 'Drum and its Hinterland' by Drum Heritage Group.

Sharon Davies, a Law Professor at Ohio State University, published a book in February 2010 about the life of Fr Coyle. The book, entitled Rising Road: A True Tale of Love, Race, and Religion in America, is available to buy online (links below). Sharon visited Drum in 2010, where she met with some of Fr. Coyle's relations and gave a talk on his life. The event took place in Drum Parish Hall on Tuesday 5th October 2010 at 7.30pm and a large crowd attended.

In March 2010, RTÉ's Would You Believe programme featured well-know singer Brendan Shine as he followed the story of his great-uncle Fr. James Coyle. The following article gives further details of the programme:

Drum native to feature on RTÉ tonight (Sunday, 21 March 2010)

Well-known singer and Drum native Brendan Shine will feature on tonight's "Would You Believe" on RTÉ1 at 10.25pm. The programme, A Cross in Alabama, follows Brendan as he discovers the shocking truth about the murder of his great-uncle, Fr. James Coyle, in Alabama in 1921.

Fr. James E Coyle was born in Drum in March 1873 to parents Owen Coyle and Margaret Durney. His father was the principal of Drumpark National School. After studying in Limerick, he was ordained in Rome in May 1896 and died in Alabama in August 1921.

From the outset, Brendan knows from family lore that his great-uncle was killed by a member of the Ku Klux Klan. During the course of making this programme he uncovers a story which caused a major scandal in the US at that time. One expert described the trial as 'the OJ of the early 20th century'. The trial of Methodist Minister, Rev. Edwin Stephenson, who confessed to the police immediately after the killing, became a show of force by the Ku Klux Klan. How did a court acquit Stephenson, who turned himself into the police, and allow him to walk out of the courtroom a free man, and a local hero? Brendan also discovers that a future Supreme Court Judge played a pivotal role in the trial.

Brendan will discover that Fr. Coyle is considered a martyr for his faith among Catholics in Birmingham, and that there are calls to have him beatified, and eventually to have him canonised a saint.

This programme combines interviews, archive footage, photographic material, and re-enactments of key moments. Brendan's journey to discover the story will be the vehicle through which the audience will become fully engaged. Filming took place in Ireland and in the US.

A Cross in Alabama is produced and directed by Pat Shine. Pat is Brendan's cousin and hails originally from Waterford. He now resides in Bray, Co. Wicklow.

The following article, published in The Westmeath Independent of Saturday, 4 September 2010 recalls a visit of Fr. Coyle to Drum in 1910. The article featured in the section entitled Pages from the past - From the back issues of the Westmeath Independent - 1910.

Alabama priest visits his native Drum

In recent times, the story of the murdered Rev James Coyle, grand uncle to singer Brendan Shine has been highlighted, both in this paper and on an RTÉ programme Would You Believe.

During the programme the story of the court case, described as 'the OJ of the early 20th century', was outlined in some detail.

The trial of Methodist Minister, Rev Edwin Stephenson, who confessed to the police immediately after the killing, became a show of force by the Ku Klux Klan.

Fr Coyle is considered a martyr for his faith among Catholics in Birmingham in Alabama, and there are calls to have him beatified, and eventually to have him canonised a saint.

The paper said Rev Coyle had just returned to the scene of his missionary labours in Alabama, after spending some weeks with his parents and among his friends in his native parish of Drum.

The paper noted that he appeared in vigorous health, and looked like someone who worked in the bracing breeze of a temperate climate, "so robust and buoyant and healthy does he appear."

The report noted that it was eight years since the priest had a similar vacation and on the previous occasion had also visited his relations in Drum.

Fr Coyle at the time was the paster of the principal church of the city of Birmingham where he had two assistants.

He had received his early education from his father, Owen Coyle, who was for over 40 years the principal of the Drumpark School and subsequently at the Jesuit's Missionary at Mungret, where he was ordained and appointed to the diocese of Mobile.

He served some time as a professor in the college there and was subsequently promoted by the bishop to the pastorship of St Paul's parish in Birmingham.

Fr James Coyle (1873-1921)

Fr. James Coyle pictured with his sister Marcella

Well-know singer and Drum native Brendan Shine, great-nephew of Fr. James Coyle, pictured here with Sharon Davies, author of a book about Fr Coyle.



The grave of Fr. Coyle's parents in Drum cemetery.

Rising Road and Fr. James Coyle project on EWTN