Headlines in April 1917: the Church of Ireland Gazette

Recognising the value of digitization for unlocking information from relatively hidden primary sources, further funding to continue the process of digitizing and indexing the Church of Ireland Gazette has been committed from central Church funds to support an ongoing project, managed by the RCB Library, in collaboration with the Editor and Board of the Church of Ireland Gazette.

The Gazette is widely regarded by researchers as a first port of call to obtain an accurate insight into the opinions and attitudes of members of the Church of Ireland through changing times. A General Synod Standing Committee subvention, to be match-funded by the Representative Church Body’s Allocations Committee, will see further editions of this primary source systematically be digitized, indexed and made searchable online, thereby sharing its content available on a free-to-view basis for a worldwide audience.

The additional funding will systematically make all the content available from the paper’s foundation in 1856 up to the 1920s available over the next two and a half years, in the build-up to 2019, when the Church of Ireland will mark the 150th anniversary of disestablishment.

In the latest tranche of work just completed, all editions the Gazette for the 11-year period between 1900 and 1911 have been added to the system, so there is now a complete run of editions for the period from 1900 to 1923.

In this context, the work of Library Administrator, Robert Gallagher focuses on some of the stories making the headlines 100 years ago in April 1917. In that month, four editions of the weekly newspaper appeared, and the content of much of them was dedicated to the continuing coverage of the First World War. Writing under the initials of ‘W. B. W’, Ware Bradley Wells, the newspaper’s Editor at this time, continued his weekly column entitled ‘The War Week by Week’. Wells’ own interesting personal story in the context of the Easter Rising in Dublin has previously been analysed here: www.ireland.anglican.org/news/6413/reporting-the-rising-a-church while a full list of all Gazette editors is available here: www.ireland.anglican.org/cmsfiles/pdf/AboutUs/library/Archive/Aug13/Editors.pdf

Appeals for aid for crises in Serbia, and Syria and Palestine, as published on the front cover and inside the Church of Ireland Gazette, 13th April 1917.

The editions for April 1917 see Wells reporting more encouraging news of the Allied war effort. For example, the 5th April edition of the Gazette reports on the discovery of ‘The Hindenburg Line’, a German defensive position on the Western Front, from Arras to Laffaux, near Soissons on the Aisne.

The advertisement content of the Gazette continues to provide particularly rich insight to the stories of the day. In 1917, adverts placed were heavily influenced by the war, with numerous appeals for aid and relief. Indeed, of the four issues published in April 1917, three of the front pages featured full page appeals for donations for soldiers. The Irish Women’s Association and the Royal Munster Fusiliers Prisoners of War Fund both sought donations in order to send care packages to prisoners of war. The only exception was the cover of the 13 April edition, which featured an appeal from the Serbian relief fund. Other appeals for aid are found elsewhere in each issue, a striking reoccurring one being an appeal from the Syria and Palestine Relief Fund, urgently seeking £50,000 to help victims of famine in Syria and Palestine – a particularly sobering theme when considered alongside current events in that part of the world.

The issues of the Gazette for April 1917, as with other content, provide unique insights not only into the Church of Ireland and its perspective on the world in 1917, but the burning issues of the time. Full analysis plus access to the online search engine covering all editions between 1900 and 1923 is now available here: www.ireland.anglican.org/library/archive

To go straight to the search engine click: https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb
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