One of the most noteworthy Bishops of the Diocese of Ardagh was William O’Higgins, Bishop from 1829-1853. He was a scholar, a capable and courageous administrator and a man with no small influence on public affairs in his time, civil as well as ecclesiastical. He is best remembered in the Diocese for the fact that he founded St. Mel’s Cathedral. The foundation stone of the Cathedral was laid in 1840.
The Diocese of Clonmacnois has a very different history from that of Ardagh. Its origins are, of course, as a monastic institution. It finally ceased to be such with the Synod of Kells 1152.
Among the most famous Franciscan Bishops of Clonmacnois, of whom there were several, was Anthony MacGeoghagan. He was the consistent friend and supporter of the Nuncio, Rinuccini. He was named Bishop of Clonmacnois in 1647 and later was translated to the Diocese of Meath.
Though Clonmacnois is the smaller part of the united Dioceses, having just six parishes out of a total of forty-one, its name is the one which is the better known. Its monastic ruins still speak eloquently of its great past and can still inspire people of our time.
The missionary spirit which characterised monastic Clonmacnois had a rebirth in the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois in modern times. In 1932 a priest of the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, Monsignor Patrick Whitney with his cousin, Father Frank Whitney founded St. Patrick’s Missionary Society. Close links between the Society and the Diocese have kept that spirit alive.