The following is a profile of the life and times of Dr. Denis Meany, who died April 2, 1892. It was compiled from the diaries of Dr. Meany by Eddie Cantwell.
The simple inscription which marks the final resting place of Dr Denis Meany at Garranbane Church yard would hardly fetch a second glance if you were to make your way toward the church entrance. Void of any remarks relating to the deceased's most interesting history, the legend merely reveals the following;
" Dr Denis Meany. Clonea. Who died April 2nd
1892 in the 58 year of his life "
Denis Meany was born to Pierce and Mary Meany at Clonea Dungarvan Co Waterford in the year 1834. He was educated at the Christian brothers' school in Dungarvan and later at the famous "Mount Mellary Abbey" which is a twenty-minute drive from Dungarvan.
At age 23 we find him studying Medicine in Manchester, here he qualified as a Doctor in 1857. He most probably chose Manchester because his brothers who were priests worked in a nearby Parish. It would be another fifteen years before Denis undertook his remarkable journey.
The Journals of Dr Meany make for fascinating reading, containing little treasures of information which, as well as being of great interest to research students, also reveal the charismatic personality of a man who must surely have been a most impeccable Ambassador for Ireland during the latter part of the 19th century. Remarkably, Denis was 38 years of age when he started out on his journey. Why he embarked on such a journey one can only guess at. Certain clues can be found in a letter, which he sent to his sister Mrs Mary Coffee in the U.S.A. dated July 1874. Referring to his single status, he informs her "I could have married a few times in England". Further, along the letter we learn that shortly before he embarked on the journey to the U.S. he had made a proposal of marriage to a certain young lady who was not in the marrying mood". Referring to the particular incident, he writes."Before I close I'll tell you a big secret and it's the truth. -I don't like anybody who tells lies-. I once and once only asked a girl if she would say yes, you know the rest …she said she was not going to marry. If she does not go before I get back to Ireland, I'll lay hard siege to her, and storm her with my blarney and all the love I can bring to my aid".
The lady in question was the Daughter of Mrs Dobbins, who was- along with other business concerns- the owner of "The Grand Devonshire Hotel" in Lismore Co Waterford. Denis, on occasion, would sing to the duo while Mrs Dobbins accompanied on the Piano. He later in his letter asks of Mary Coffee. "Now don't you think it was wrong of me to propose to a girl without first having the means to keep her?" Was it this then that prompted him to strike out for the States with the intention of perhaps amassing a fortune? While the refusal of marriage certainly may not have been a motivating factor, it is quite probable that the realisation that he was 38 years, and as he himself said, "Without means" May well have spurred him into action.
Author: Eddie Cantwell