Reader reviews

Anne Casey writes:

In ‘Goodbye Kit, it may be for years and it may be forever’ the difficulties facing a priest who wanted to leave the priesthood are well illustrated as is the shame that would attach to them and their families. Michael Kickham’s internal torment as he considers leaving the priesthood is graphically portrayed. He is all too aware of the consequences.

In 1884, Michael was ordained and sent to New Zealand as a missionary priest, where he discovered an unhappy environment: the diocese was run by Marists who looked down on Secular priests and treated them as ‘only there to assist the Marists’. This attitude led to Michael and other Secular priests sending a petition to Pope Leo XIII.

Did the powers that be in All Hallows know this when they sent out young priests as missionaries? And if they did, did they conveniently ignore it? Unfortunately, despite meticulous research by the author, this question remains unanswered.

He returned to Ireland in 1899 and two years later departed for a destination undisclosed to his family. He was eventually found to be in Buenos Aires, no longer a priest. He died there in 1909, just 48 years old. 

An interesting and enigmatic life, well told by author Vincent Murphy and a joy to read.

The Echo January 11, 2022

ADOPTED Cork man, Vincent Murphy, who has been living in the city since the 1970s and is the founder of the Cork charity, The Next Step, has been doing some extra-curricular activity. It has resulted in a book about his granduncle, Michael Kickham, who was something of a mystery, particularly in the last years of his relatively short life.

Born in Mullinahone, Co. Tipperary in 1861, Micheal died at the age of 48 in Buenos Aires, having left the priesthood. What evidence exists reveals an interesting life that included petitioning Pope Leo XIII and a diary of Michael’s time as a Jesuit novitiate.Eighteen Irish secular priests, including Michael, sent a petition to Pope Leo XIII in 1888 giving out about how they were treated by the Marists, who saw the secular priests as merely being there to serve them.

Review by Cian Murphy

A fascinating account of an unusual life, this book tells the true story of Fr. Michael Kickham’s journey from early life in Mullinahone to missionary work in Australia and New Zealand, conflict with church authorities, and the mysterious last chapter of his life in South America.

In his meticulously researched work, Vincent Murphy brings to life the exploits of his grand uncle, and leaves us wondering about the ultimate fate of his relative. Highly recommended for those with an interest in the history of everyday lives, the book vividly illustrates the magnitude of what was involved in leaving home and family as well as the ordinary lives of people living in “the colonies” in the latter part of the 19th century and into the 20th.

Review by Michael Nolan

During his lifetime, Father Michael Kickham travelled from Ireland to the opposite ends of the earth. Here was a man who was not afraid to confront his Bishop or write to the Pope when circumstances demanded.

Letters from Michael and others form a central part of the story. There is an honesty and simplicity with a very respectful structure to the letters, an art form that is rapidly diminishing with modern technology. The author, a grand-nephew of Michael, was so fortunate that these letters, which span thirty-three years from 1877, were safeguarded by the Kickham family for future generations. 

Perhaps they were kept in the hope that someone might pick up the mantle and record his story for young generations to come, long after Michael had passed away. If so, their vision is realised in Vincent Murphy’s book.

The author has woven these personal family letters, archive material from various sources and quotations from poems into a memoir which is a joy to read.

Review by Margaret Madden

This is a really interesting account of the life of an Irish Priest on the other side of the world. The original letters are fascinating, the details in them are like gold dust.

I found the section on New Zealand absolutely fascinating. The author really captured the environment in which Michael lived and the tough life he had to endure as a country priest, really tough on someone who seems to have been a high achiever.

The controversy between Marists and Secular Priests was so well portrayed from Michael’s view, that it aroused rage at the injustice.

I really enjoyed the book and finding out about a period and a life that was not previously well known to me.