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Donlevy, Andrew (1680–1746), Roman Catholic priest, was born near Balymote, in co. Sligo, into a comfortably off family. He was educated locally and it is likely that he was trained as a priest and ordained in Ireland before travelling to France about 1710. There he registered in the Paris law faculty in 1718, and took his BA in 1719 and his licence in law in 1720. In Paris he sided with a reforming party (zelanti), which believed that the Irish church should conform to European practices, especially with regard to the education of priests. This was contentious as the Irish seminary community, housed in the Collège des Lombards, was divided into two groups: already ordained priests who had travelled to Paris for theological training, and younger clerics who were following the Tridentine discipline. Longstanding financial tensions between the two groups were exacerbated by Donlevy's proposal, as prefect of the clerics since 1722, to remove ordained priests from the seminary. He was supported by Abbé Vaubrun and Cardinal de Fleury, but excited the ire of Irish bishops who feared that exclusively Paris-formed clerics would be unlikely to return to the mission. Donlevy, exercising influence with Fleury, succeeded in having a new code of discipline drawn up for the college. Pending royal ratification, the community of priests complained to Ireland and to Rome. In the college elections of 1734 the Donlevy party was ousted. Rome intervened to allow priests to remain but removed from the students their right to elect college officers; future appointments were made the responsibility of the archbishop of Paris. Donlevy continued as superior of the clerics until his death.

Donlevy lamented the decline of the Irish language and worked to preserve its monuments. He recognized the language's importance in religious education and was anxious to modernize the increasingly scarce Franciscan catechisms in Irish of the early seventeenth century. He was helped by Philippe Joseph Perrotin, who funded a school of Irish in the college to print catechisms and works of piety for the mission. As part of this scheme Donlevy published, in 1742, the bilingual An teagasg Críosduidhe, to which was appended a verse abridgement of Christian doctrine, compiled by Bonaventure O'Heoghusa, and Donlevy's treatise, ‘The elements of the Irish language’. Donlevy's catechism, conceived as a resource book for more advanced religious education, was written in Irish; the English version was a literal translation. It is the most complete formal text in Irish for this period and draws on the author's spoken Irish, but it was influenced too by the technical vocabulary of the early seventeenth-century Irish Louvain Franciscans.

Donlevy died at the Irish College, Paris, on 7 December 1746 and was buried in the Irish College chapel.

Thomas O'Connor


L. Swords, A hidden church: the diocese of Achonry, 1689–1818 (1997) · L. W. B. Brockliss and P. Ferté, ‘Irish clerics in the 17th and 18th centuries: a statistical survey’ (typescript), Royal Irish Acad., 1016 · M. Tynan, Catholic instruction in Ireland, 1720–1950 (1985) · W. Hayden, An introduction to the study of the Irish language based upon the preface to Donlevy's catechism (1891) · L. Swords, ‘History of the Irish College, Paris, 1578–1800’, Archivium Hibernicum, 35 (1980), 3–233 · DNB


Irish College, Paris, archives

Wealth at death  

poor: Swords, Hidden church, 214