Ó Conaire Christening Gown

Tom Costello from Ennis, Co. Clare (who is a relative of Ó Conaire) with the christening gown.
Photo: Andrew Downes

The Ó Conaire Christening Gown

This christening gown is believed to be that used at the baptism of Patrick Joseph Conroy, better known as Pádraic Ó Conaire. Patrick Joseph, the first child of Thomas and Kate (née McDonogh) Conroy, was born in a house by the docks on the 28th February, 1882, and baptised the following day (1st March, 1882) at St Nicholas’ Pro Cathedral, Middle St, Galway. At that time, it was common to baptise babies soon after birth, as infant mortality was high and parents feared that an infant might die before being christened, and therefore be destined for limbo.

Made of white cotton, the gown has short sleeves, a long skirt, and a round, gathered neckline. It was constructed using machine and hand stitching, and is embellished with lace, numerous pin tucks, and broderie anglaise.

How do we know that this is Pádraic Ó Conaire’s christening gown?

In 2011, Galway City Museum was offered a christening gown by Elizabeth Midgley which was believed to be that used at the baptism of Patrick Joseph Conroy. Her grandmother (also Elizabeth) and Pádraic Ó Conaire’s mother (Kate) were sisters. It was common for christening gowns to be passed through families as heirlooms, and to be re-used by subsequent generations. The family story was further corroborated by a textile conservator who examined the gown and was able to date it to the late nineteenth century. Elizabeth recalls that the gown was “handed down in our family by our maternal grandmother”, saying that “it is with great pleasure that we donate this robe worn by Pádraic Ó Conaire our cousin at his christening”.

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