Canon Joseph Canton

Map of Mayo
Authors Collection
St. Jarlath's College, Tuam, Co. Galway
St. Jarlath’s College, Tuam, Co. Galway 2009
St. Patrick's College, Maynooth
Athenry Priory, Co. Galway
Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland

Athenry Administrator

He was responsible for the Presentation Sisters contribution to Athenry’s educational requirements.

Joseph Canton was born in the parish of Aglish in Castlebar, Co. Mayo on 5th April 1850. His father was Michael, his mother Sarah Mc Loughlin. He was christened on 13th April in the local church.  He was the eldest of four siblings: Mary b. 19th July 1853. John b. 7th June 1856, Catherine 2nd July 1859, also Jane 29th February 1863.  Joseph’s father taught in a small school in Castlebar, they were called Educational Academies at that time, during the 1850’s.  An uncle Patrick had previously taught in a school erected by Rev. Denis Egan on the site of the Da La School Monastery, now the priests’ residence.  Joseph attended St. Jarlath’s College in Tuam, Co. Galway following on from his initial education.  (King Rev. Fr. Athenry Parish) [i]


His next educational experience was at The Irish College in Paris. An entry in the colleges accounts of Student & Fees dated 10th April 1866 referred to Master Joseph Canton (Freshman) having paid bills of £3 on September 1st. on £5.12.6 and September 1st 1869 £3. He also appears list of Boarders and Students of August 31st 1870 with payment of £8 on September 20th 1870. (Christy Kelly.)  Joseph Canton entered the College on 22nd September 1871 according to their records.  He went straight into first Theology.  This suggests he had studied Philosophy before arriving in Paris as a ‘Theological, Psychological & Classical education’ was provided at St. Jarlath’s. (John Cunningham, St. Jarlath’s) During his first year at The Irish College his conduct was record as Valde Bene & Talent as Capax.  There also is an entry for his second Theology with another Valde Bene.  Under ‘Observations’ it was reported that Canton joined the Congregation of the Mission in September 1872 but ‘seems to have left soon after.’ (Liam Chambers) [ii]


Canton was ordained a priest by Archbishop John Mc Hale at Tuam Cathedral on 8th November 1874.  He was appointed Professor of Second Development of the Humanities with the teaching of Science, History & French at St. Jarlath’s College in Tuam.  Entries in the College Accounts show various sums from November 1874 /75 plus of £21.13.4. Apart from his teaching duties he had responsibilities with record details of payment for labour & repairs undertaken during vacation time. (King Rev. Fr. Athenry Parish) [iii]

Pastoral Moves

Fr. Canton was moved to Killascobe, Menlough in Co. Galway during 1876. For a year.  He was transferred to Cong during 1899. He spent from 1878 – 1890 as a Curate in Tuam Cathedral.  He was appointed Administer during 1888. (Kieran Waldron ‘Archbishop of Tuam) (King Rev. Fr. Athenry Parish) [iv]


An invitation to establish a Presentation Convent in Athenry by Canon Canton was initiated in early 1900’s.  On 18th June 1907 he wrote his first letter to the Presentation Sister to come to the town.  In his letter to the Reverend Mother he  earnestly requested a few sisters, ‘I don’t know whether you can spear any sisters, but I heard some time ago you have some novices and postulants, if, unfortunately, you cannot entertain the project, I shall seek elsewhere….my most earnest desire after my salvation is that you may be able to commence work here, in Athenry in the next year of 1908.’ He also enlisted the support of Archbishop Healy to persuade the sisters to come to the town in a letter dated 4th October 1907. (King Rev. Fr. Athenry Parish) [v]

New Accommodation

When the nuns arrived, Canon Canto provided them with the Parochial House (now the Presentation Convent.)  He rented a house for himself with his sister until St. Mary’s was completed. The following year.   (King Rev. Fr. Athenry Parish) [vi]

Later Years

It was reported in the Tuam Herald of 27th February 1904 that the P. P. of Athenry Canon Canton relinquished his Canonry.  He was awarded the new title of Vicar General as he held the Position of Precentor of the Diocesan Chapter.[vii]


The demise occurred of Canon Canton on 14th August 1920.  He is interred in the Boyhill Cemetery in Athenry, Co. Galway.  His story plus images with his Will are included in article by Gerry Costelloe. [viii]


Canon Canto was ‘a visionary in his attempts to raise the morale of the people he served and created opportunities for a better future for the people of Athenry.’ (King Rev. Fr. Athenry Parish) [ix]


‘Scoil Chroi Naofa & Presentation College Athenry 1908 – 2000’ Ahern Gerald J. (King Rev. Fr. Athenry Parish) [x]

In the Connacht Telegraph 10th August 2010, it was mentioned that one of the first teachers in the parish school in Castlebar was Patrick Canton.  Also, that a Member of the Canton family entered the priesthood, later became an Archdeacon.  He was P. P. in Athenry.  The Canton Hall there was erected in his memory.  The Canton family had an Hotel on Castlebar’s Main Street, they were extensive landowners.  During the 179 Races of Castlebar the Canton family treated several injured French soldiers plus provided accommodation for them.


[i] Canon J. Canton ( ) [assessed 11th July 2020]

[ii] Canon J. Canton ( ) [assessed 11th July 2020]

[iii] Canon J. Canton ( ) [assessed 11th July 2020]

[iv] Canon J. Canton ( ) [assessed 11th July 2020]

[v] Canon J. Canton ( ) [assessed 11th July 2020]

[vi] Canon J. Canton ( ) [assessed 11th July 2020]

[vii] Canon Canton ( [assessed 11th July 2020]

[viii] Canon Canton ( [assessed 11th July 2020]

[ix] Canon J. Canton ( ) [assessed 11th July 2020]

[x] Canon J. Canton ( ) [assessed 11th July 2020]


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