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Editions of the Church of Ireland Gazette for 1960s now available Online

Archive editions of the Church of Ireland Gazette, covering 1960 to 1969, are now available online alongside a further presentation in the ‘Borderless Church’ series from the Representative Church Body Library.

On 18th October 1963, the first edition of a new series of the Gazette was published, following a move of the paper’s operation from Dublin to Belfast under the management of a new company, the Church of Ireland Press. The same edition noted how the paper predated the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland by some 14 years, having been founded in 1856, originally operating from premises on Middle Abbey Street, and by the 1960s from Mark Street, where the editor was Canon FAG Willis, incumbent of Urglin and Staplestown (Leighlin diocese). 

Offices had been acquired in Ann Street, Belfast, with staff recruited in the previous months. It is clear that efforts were made to retain its all-Ireland character. Canon Willis became the southern editor while the Revd Dr WG Wilson, rector of Armoy and Loughguile (Connor diocese), was appointed northern editor. 

The then newly elected Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Dr George Otto Simms, with government and Aer Lingus officials on return from a journey abroad, published in the Gazette edition of 25th July 1969.

The new edition of the paper became bigger, and was redesigned to a more modern, well-illustrated format, with features for women and a special youth page. While the former paper had been sold mainly through newsagents, distribution of the new paper was largely direct to parishes. Indeed, after a year, the paper reported that circulation had increased sevenfold, thanks in part to an arrangement whereby parishes could arrange to have parish supplements with their Gazette (4,000 copies had parish supplements for some 140 parishes). It recorded on 30th October 1964 that sales were up to 40 per week in Skreen parish in Tuam diocese and 85 per week in Ardoyne parish in Connor diocese. On 31st December 1965, sales of 178 Gazettes a week were reported for Knockbreda parish, Down diocese.

The full story is revealed in a new presentation as the part of the RCB Library’s ongoing online exhibition, under the banner headline ‘The Borderless Church’, by Brian M Walker, Professor Emeritus of Irish Studies at Queen’s University Belfast. Reaching out to both parts of Ireland was an important feature of the new Gazette, with an editorial on 1st January 1965 declaring: ‘The Gazette brings us news from every part of Ireland, North and South, and important events in the Church throughout the world are brought to our attention’.

Professor Walker explores further aspects of this, and how strong editorial input ensured that events of national importance in both jurisdictions as well as international events were well covered and carefully analysed.  He concludes: ‘The 1960s were a time of great change in Ireland, north and south, and this is revealed in the pages of the Church of Ireland Gazette. We see how in spite of such differences the Church of Ireland maintained an all-Ireland approach. These years showed evidence of considerable vitality for the parishes and the clergy. Progress was made to tackle existing political and denominational divisions, but serious problems remained. While the challenge in the 1960s involved the building of many new churches and other buildings, the challenge would move in the 1970s to facing the effects of violence and civil strife. The Gazette would continue to record and to comment about the life and faith of the Church in response to these events.’

The new online presentation is made possible with the support of the Irish Government’s Reconciliation Fund, administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs. To search and view the 1960s releases, and all the other editions of the Gazette up to 1969, click https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb

Dr Marie Coleman’s analysis of the 1950s editions of the Gazette is already available here, while a contrasting southern perspective on the 1960s by Dr Ian d’Alton (Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Irish History, Trinity College Dublin) will be posted next month, November 2020.

The Gazette continues to be published, now in a monthly format, both in print and in an e-paper available on its website at www.gazette.ireland.anglican.org