The Pope who made a deal with the Unionists.

Community Historian, Brendan Matthews with an evocative piece on Drogheda's own pope.

Back in the 19th and early 20th century, there lived a man named Edward (The Pope), Heeney at Oldbridge, just to the west of Drogheda, in a small mud-cabin house adjacent to the Boyne Obelisk.

Mr. Heeney obtained the nick-name of the Pope, from the fact that he had taken part in the Papal War of 1860, when he was only 20 years old. He was recognised as an outstanding Lieutenant and had fought alongside two more local Lieutenants; a Mr. P.C. Greene of Moneymore and a Mr. Cronin of Drybridge, along with about 50 more men from Co. Louth; a number of them being from the Drogheda area.

Anyway, the Irish Papal Brigade arrived home to Queenstown (Cobh), in December 1860 before arriving in Drogheda by train, where they were received by thousands of people who lined the streets. Their return was also celebrated by huge bonfires at Moneymore, Drybridge and Oldbridge.

After the Pope arrived back in Drogheda, he settled back at his home in Oldbridge, where his humble little abode was situated only 30 yards from the famous Obelisk.

The Obelisk, a huge shaft of stone some 150 feet high sitting on a base that was some 20 feet square, had been erected in the year 1736 in commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

In his later years the Pope would come into Drogheda twice a week on a pony and trap and he was always a familiar sight as he wore the old “three-quarters” hat, which was as high as a tall hat, but rounded on top like a bowler.

One of the Pope’s favourite restaurants in Drogheda was that of Miss Hart’s in Laurence St, where he would sit at a table by himself and, never take his hat off while he was eating; `the Pope needs privacy`, he reportedly told friends, who had enquired why he always sat alone.

In June of 1923, the Pope was awoken from his sleep by a couple of armed men who told him to get dressed. The Pope reportedly told the men that, `if you’re going to shoot me you may as well do it here`; however he was told to leave his house and not go back until he had heard an explosion.

After the explosion had occurred, the Pope, who was now 83 years old, returned to discover that the Obelisk had been blown to pieces all over his land.

It was widely believed, for many years, that the Republicans had blown the Obelisk up; however, a revelation made in the 1980`s indicated that perhaps a number of `Freestaters` were actually responsible for its destruction, known that the blame would fall on the IRA.?

After the Obelisk had been blown up, hundreds of people arrived at Oldbridge to take home pieces of the shattered monument as souvenirs, many of them coming from the six counties of the North. And it was at this time that the Pope thought of the `brainwave` and began selling off pieces of the Obelisk stone according to size, thus, clearing his field of the debris and making a few quid at the same time.

The Pope also erected posters and advertisements in the area containing the following inscription.
To builders and contractors- for sale, the splendid building material which formed the Boyne Obelisk. Apply at once to Mr. Edward. P. Heeney, Oldbridge, Drogheda.
So, to the Unionist population in the North. If you have a piece of the Boyne Obelisk in your possession, would you happen to know if the souvenir stone was obtained, `free-of-charge`, or could there have been a `deal` made with the `Pope` to obtain it ?

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