The Doutney memorial

Fr. William Doutney, born in St. John’s on 29 June 1845, succeeded Fr. James Walsh in St. Kyran’s in 1876 and held that appointment until 1913. One of the first tasks he undertook was the completion of the interior of the new stone church on the road between St. Kyran’s and St. Leonard’s built under the supervision of Fr. Walsh.  It was consecrated as the Church of the Assumption on August 15, 1859 by Fr. Walsh. Unfortunately the church was gutted by fire in December 1879 and was rebuilt as Mary of the Assumption church and reconsecrated on 15 August 1886.

For practically all of Fr. Doutney's 37 years in St. Kyran's, "all of his travels within the the parish had to be done in small open boats, sharing the dangers, privations and hardships of the hardy fisher folk.  At the time of his leaving there he left behind a very vibrantparish, both spititually and materially." Fr. Doutney's last appointment was to Holy Apostles Parish in Renews where he passed away in June, 1919.

In July, 1921 a committee was formed with the intention of recognizing Fr. Doutney's contribution to the parish.  The text of that document is as follows:

St. Kyran’s July 20, 1921

After the death of the late Venerable Dean W.P. Doutney, the parishioners of the Parrish of the Assumption of the B. V. M., St. Kyran’s decided to erect a Memorial worthy of him, who for almost forty years worked for the salvation of their souls. First, it was planned to add a Sanctuary to the Parish Church, but owing to the disastrous fire last year, which destroyed the Presbytery and Chapel, no further action was taken. Now it is proposed to erect to his memory, a chapel in place of the one destroyed by fire, and which will be on the very spot where stood the house in which he dwelt.

The Venerable Dean attended during all those years to the many settlements between La Manche, and Petite Forte inclusive - a district which is now divided into three parishes. We can hardly form any idea of the inconveniences and hardships he had to undergo, for Placentia Bay had not yet attained its present prosperity, neither were their modern means of conveyance then in vogue.

The undersigned Committee trust that all his old friends will help according to their means to erect the proposed Memorial worthy of the memory of such a grand old man.

Donations will be gratefully received by any of the undersigned Committee, or by the Reverend A. Fyme, the Venerable Dean's successor.

T.J. Sullivan, Stipendiary Magistrate, Presque
G. Hickey, St. Kyran’s
Ed. Leonard, St. Leonard's
Denis Ryan, Paradise
J. Pittman, Merasheen

Under the guidance of Fr. Fyme, the cornerstone for the new church was laid in 1922 (the passageway in 1921) and was consecrated in September, 1923 by His Grace, Archbishop Roche.  As a sign of remembrance, Father Walsh’s body was exhumed from the ruins of the old stone church and re-interned under the altar of the new church, where it still lies today.

As part of the memorial to Fr. Doutney, Fr. Fyme commissioned a painting from Italy titled the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It was painted by artist Tito Ridolfi (1886-1956) and completed in 1930.  The rectangular painting, about twelve feet by eight feet, designed to fit the curved area behind and above the altar and portraying a life size image of the Virgin against a sky background, was a beautiful depiction of the Assumption of the Mother of the Son of God.

When many of the churches in Placentia Bay were closed due to resettlement in the 1960s, much of the contents of the churches was left behind in shambles. When complaints were raised about the damage to parish property, in the summer of 1969 a group of priests visited the abandoned parishes and gathered up any artifacts including Denis Walsh, Jim Doody, Leo Shea and others. Fr. Shea took charge of the Assumption painting for safe keeping while awaiting a decision as to where it would be hung or stored and had it mounted in St. John Bosco Parish church on Shea Heights, where he was pastor.  Fr. Shea died suddenly at age 37 at Torbay Airport while making reservations for a trip to New York to determine if a treatment was available to take care of a heart problem he was suffering from.  The painting remained at Shea Heights until the church closed in 2022.  From there it was moved to St. Theresa's Church in Mundy Pond  in March 2023.

Credits: Ernie Walsh and Ernest Ennis for the background information, St. Leonard's/St. Kyran's FB group, Fred Tucker for the recent photos, Lives Recalled by Msgr F. Coady.

Although the painting is a little weathered on the frame, it is still a vibrant piece of art as can be seen from the pictures:

BVM main

BVM committee

BVM Doutney 1

BVM gold 2

BVM Tito