Less than a mile from Callan town Blessed Edmund Rice was born in Westcourt on 1st June, 1762. He was the fourth boy in a family of seven boys and two girls. His parents, Robert Rice and Margaret Tierney were very charitable and good to the poor. At a time when the majority of his fellow catholics suffered the hardship of poverty Robert, his father, was a well-
The master taught reading, arithmetic and dancing, for which he was paid by the parents. Most children received no education because they were too poor. As a boy, Blessed Edmund invited many of his poor young neighbours to his home to teach them prayers and catechism. When the lesson ended Edmund's mother gave them wholesome food.
The family lived in a very comfortable six roomed thatched house, containing four bedrooms, a spacious parlour and a big kitchen. This house is preserved as a very genuine Heritage Centre, dating back to 1680. No structural alterations have been made to this attractive building during its lifetime. Due to its age and the good condition in which it is maintained it is a source of amazement and pride to the thousands who visit it yearly from all over the world. It contains many items of authentic period furniture dating back to 1800. The house was lived in by different families, who were descendants of the Rices through marriage, up to 1965. The Christian Brothers negotiated with the then occupants, the O'Neill family, for the purchase of their revered and cherished dwelling. The O'Neills who are splendid neighbours and great devotees of Blessed Edmund, were happy that the brothers took possession of the house and four acres of the farm.
On the 8th September, 1968, the centenary of the brothers coming to Callan, His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Birch, in the presence of President de Valera, many priests and sisters, the Superior Generals and Provincials of the Christian Brothers, Presentation Brothers & Patrician Brothers and many brothers from all over the country together with 3000 other people, blessed and laid the foundation stone for the Memorial Chapel and Monastery in Westcourt. The cost of these two buildings was raised by the Presentation and Christian Brothers through out the world.
While the house is a genuine Heritage Centre it is also a place of prayer and pilgrimage. Children as young as seven, show a remarkable interest in all aspects of the house. A guided tour of the house, which takes approximately a half hour (longer if necessary), is available to all groups.
Special emphasis is placed on the privilege of visiting and praying in the room where Blessed Edmund was born. Combining a visit to the house with a visit to the Icon the tour requires a full hour. The ideal number we recommend to parishes, societies and schools is between 50 and 60 but a few extra will be accommodated when necessary. Most organised groups like to have time to rest awhile with refreshments. We have a beautiful Visitors' Centre available with facilities for providing refreshments, if required. School groups who wish to bring their own packed lunch are welcome to use the facilities. By request, tea/coffee and sandwiches, minerals, crisps and bars are available. In the preliminary booking we would appreciate if the leader would notify us of their requirements. This will give the caterers time to prepare the restaurant.
Phone: Blessed Edmund House at (056) 7725141 or (056) 7725993.