Government grant for digitisation of Church of Ireland Parish Registers

The Representative Church Body Library has welcomed the announcement of a €100,000 capital grant towards the digitisation of Church of Ireland parish registers as part of the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht’s digitisation scheme.  The funding was announced by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Ms Josepha Madigan TD, during a visit to the Library yesterday (11 September). As part of the visit, Minister Madigan viewed a number of original registers, the earliest of which is dated 1619.

Minister Madigan remarked: ‘I am delighted to provide funding for the Representative Church Body Library’s project to digitise Church of Ireland Parish Registers, as part of the wider cultural digitisation scheme.  This digitisation project will make it possible for people all over Ireland and indeed the world to access these unique records as they represent an important body of evidence about the Church’s history. Digitisation of this type also provides a vital channel to connect with our Diaspora – which is estimated to be up to 70 million people worldwide – and in turn encourages cultural tourism.’

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan viewing some of the RCB Library’s records with the Librarian and Archivist, Dr Susan Hood, and Dr Michael Webb, Chairperson of the Library and Archives Committee, during the Minister’s informal visit to the Library to announce a capital grant for the digitisation of Church of Ireland parish registers.

Dr Susan Hood, RCB Librarian and Archivist, said: ‘The RCB Library is most grateful for this significant commitment to the project to digitise Church of Ireland parish registers.  With the right imaging equipment and technical support, which this funding makes possible, we can commence the massive task of making these records accessible and discoverable for all, by creating digital surrogates of original records (some of which are the oldest such records). Most importantly this will ensure the long-term preservation of the originals.  It is extremely good news not just for the Library, but the Church at large and indeed the generations of clergy and record keepers who have kept these records safe.’

The project will, over time, be extended to include register collections currently in local parish custody, and ultimately to index the content and share information from these sources with a worldwide audience in collaboration with the Department through the state website:

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan with staff and the managing committee of the RCB Library during the Minister’s informal visit to the Library to announce a capital grant for the digitisation of Church of Ireland parish registers

Note on the Representative Church Body Library:

The Representative Church Body Library, at Braemor Park, Dublin, is the Church of Ireland’s repository for archives and manuscripts, including 1,120 collections of parish records.  The Library’s collections also include the archives of the Church’s dioceses, cathedrals, architectural drawings, the administrative records of the Representative Church Body and its multiple committees, and thousands of manuscripts relating to the Church’s people, buildings and activities, spanning from medieval times to the present.

Irish Philosophy in the Age of Bishop Berkeley (CFP)

Trinity College Dublin is hosting a conference entitled ‘Irish Philosophy in the Age of Berkeley’ on 5 and 6 April 2019. Scholars in any academic discipline are invited to submit abstracts of papers for presentation. 

Bishop George Berkeley’s Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (1713) are standard texts in the philosophy curricula of most European and American universities. No other Irish philosopher, and no other work of Berkeley’s, has achieved this ‘canonical’ status. However, there was a vibrant philosophical scene in Ireland in Berkeley’s lifetime, to which Berkeley was far from the only contributor. Studying this broader Irish philosophical discussion will improve our understanding of Berkeley and also of early modern philosophy more generally.

The Irish Philosophy in the Age of Berkeley conference will include general exploration of the intellectual culture of early modern Ireland as well as examination of specific thinkers with significant connections to Ireland active during Berkeley’s lifetime (1685–1753). Such figures include Katherine Jones, Lady Ranelagh (1615–1691); Robert Boyle (1627–1691); Michael Moore (c. 1639–1726); William King (1650–1729); William Molyneux (1656–1698); Edward Synge (1659–1741); Jonathan Swift (1667–1745); John Toland (1670–1722); Peter Browne (d. 1735); and Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746).

Invited speakers will include:

• Lisa Downing, Professor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, USA

• Eric Schliesser, Professor of Political Science, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

• Kate Davison, Lecturer in Long Eighteenth-Century History, University of Sheffield, UK


Approximately nine additional papers will be selected by anonymous review of submitted abstracts.

Abstracts from scholars in any discipline addressing one or more of the following issues are welcome:

• The Irish context of Berkeley’s philosophy.

• The philosophical work of other Irish thinkers active during Berkeley’s lifetime.

• The reception within Ireland of other philosophical figures, ideas, and movements.

• The reception of Irish philosophy outside Ireland.

Particular preference will be given to papers that address figures and/or topics outside the currently recognized philosophical ‘canon’, including the work of early modern women.

Papers presented at the conference will be published as part of the Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements series, Cambridge University Press. Abstracts should be submitted by 15 October, 2018. Full details, including submission instructions, are available at:

Participants and attendees may also be interested in attending Berkeleian Minds: Will and Understanding, to be held at the University of York on 2 and 3 April (

Primary sponsorship for this conference is provided by the Royal Institute of Philosophy, together with the Mind Association. Additional support is provided by the Trinity Long Room Hub Making Ireland Research Theme and the Department of Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin.

Heritage Week! Talk at St Patrick’s Cathedral, 22 August

It’s that time of year! The brilliant initiative that is Heritage Week is back.

All across the country, Church of Ireland parishes are getting involved in what is a fabulous week to appreciate our country’s history and heritage. As part of Heritage Week, Albert Fenton will give an illustrated talk on the colourful history of the Order of the Knights of Saint Patrick which was closely associated with St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, for much of the order’s 139 year existence.

The talk will take place on Wednesday, 22nd August, at 6.30pm. It is free and anyone is welcome to attend.

Albert Fenton is the cathedral historian and board member of St Patrick’s.

The Caddy Caricature: Hidden Aspects in a Church of Ireland Parish Register

In addition to approximately 70,000 books, the RCB Library is the repository for the records of some 1,110 parishes. These registers often contain baptism, marriage, and burial records, but also numerous other items, such as vestry books, account minutes, and confirmation records, as well as other miscellaneous items. All these records capture the unique aspects of the life of a community at the local level and, on very rare occasions, allow the recovery of human stories. This might be in the form of correspondence between the rector and parishioners, but occasionally may even extend to such rare and unusual items as sketches and “doodles” on blank leaves within volumes, which uncover fascinating hidden stories.


One such example was revealed last year, when a visitor to Ireland, Kathryn Roberts, came to the RCB Library in 2017. Kathryn was researching her husband’s maternal line back to a Rebecca Caddy, who married James Leslie at St Nicholas Collegiate Church (the parish church for Galway) on 2nd April 1799. During her research, she corresponded with a person who was also tracing the same family line, and had been informed by a sexton of the church of the existence of the drawings. Kathryn visited the RCB Library in August 2017, and during her investigation of the earliest register (P.519.01.1), which records baptisms (1800-40), marriages (1792-1839), and burials (1832-38), Kathryn noticed that there were many blank pages at the end of the register. Deciding to take a chance to see if there was any further family history, Kathryn leafed through all the blank pages and came across the sketches.

One of the Caddy caricatures in the Galway parish register, (© RCB Library P.519.01.1)

At least one of the images is clearly in the hand of a child, and perhaps both (although one is suggestive of an older hand). The images are underscored by numerous names, most of them with the Caddy family name, although some of the Christian names are difficult to decipher. One such name that is clearly legible is Henry Caddy (c.1790-1853) who was a sexton of the church from around 1838 to 1847. These dates fit perfectly with the period in which the register ends. Interestingly, Henry Caddy had a son who was also called Henry, and another son, Edward (1821-1902), who succeeded his father in the role of sexton from 1848 to May 1854 (when he and his family emigrated to America).


Despite the names that have been deciphered, a question remains as to who may have drawn the images, and also who exactly they depict. A published edition of the original register, Register of the Parish of St Nicholas Galway 1792-1840,with an index of surnames and biographical notes on the clergy, edited by Brigid Clesham, is among the Library’s Parish Register publications, and is available for purchase here:


Returning to the caricature, despite the names that have been deciphered, a question remains as to who may have drawn the images, and also who exactly they depict. So in the context of this unusual story, the Library is appealing for budding graphologists or local historians to take a deeper look, and get in touch.

Human interest stories from the Gazette: the miraculous escape of St Mark’s church congregation, 1912

Another decade’s worth of editions of the weekly newspaper, the Church of Ireland Gazette, from 1924 to 1933, has just been digitized and uploaded online by the RCB Library, where they may be consulted as a freely-searchable resource. This means that all editions for the 70-year period between March 1856 (when the paper first appeared) up to and including the end of December 1933 are shared for all.


The RCB Library holds the only complete hard-copy run of this newspaper published weekly since 1856, and through incremental digitization has endeavoured to share its rich content with a worldwide audience. With 70 years now online and searchable, work is half-way done to complete the project to make the Gazette a completely searchable resource for in 2005 it became available as e-newspaper.


By way of demonstrating the importance of the GazetteDr Miriam Moffitt, historian and committee member of COIHS, uncovers a story about the miraculous escape of the congregation in St Mark’s church, Ettagh, County Offaly, when their church was struck by lightning during the Morning Service on Sunday, 21st June 1912.  The paper records how there were three great flashes, the third of which broke a capping stone on the church tower, smashing stained glass windows and even splitting a pew inside the church, causing all inside to feel the effects. While nobody was seriously injured, one man nearest to a shattered window was very shocked.  The organist and rector’s wife, Mrs Charlotte Lees, felt the full effects through the organ, while the organ-blower was literally blown off his feet.

Report on lightning strike at St Mark’s church, Ettagh, County Offaly, on Sunday, 21st June 1912.

In the current online exhibition, Dr Moffitt illustrates this particular seemingly incidental story from local parish life, but then goes behind the scenes to show how other political forces were at work that would have longer-lasting effects than the one-off but nonetheless dramatic incident of June 1912.  She says: ‘The Gazette is wonderful because it provides not only an outline of the events that impacted on the Church over the last 150 years, but also because it gives us an insight into the attitudes of its readership. It is in the small, apparently insignificant events of the past that the reality of parish life can be captured. Studies of this type are important as they illustrate the relationships and dependencies inherent in the communities that have gone before.’

St Mark’s church, Ettagh, County Offaly. Photograph courtesy of Dr Miriam Moffitt.

Speaking from the RCB Library, the Librarian and Archivist, Dr Susan Hood, says: ‘Like a bolt from the blue, Dr Moffitt’s forensic coverage of the lightning strike at Ettagh parish church in June 1912, underpinned by our online digitization of the Gazette, brings back another fascinating human-interest story that would otherwise have remained hidden.’


The free-to-view finding aid to all editions of the Gazette between 1856 and 1933 is available here:


To view the ‘News Behind the News’ story of the Ettagh lightning strike, go here:


The current Church of Ireland Gazette and all editions from 2005 may be viewed via an online subscription on the Gazette website, see:

The Strokestown (Bumlin) Vestry Book, 1811-1870

The value of the Church of Ireland vestry minute book as a resource for social, economic, religious, and indeed legal history at parish level is immeasurable. A local historian and native of Roscommon, Alan Moran, has transcribed the entire content of the relevant vestry minute book for the parish of Bumlin (including two smaller related civil parishes of Kiltrustan and Lissonuffy), centring on the town of Strokestown. It covers the period 1811 to 1870 and is available in full online at

The vestry minute book was presented by the Revd Edward Mahon (1776/7–1847) on his appointment as vicar in 1811. The Mahon family, as the principal landowners in the area, had dominated Strokestown since the late 17th century, and laid out the town as a planned settlement, enhancing the setting of their mansion – the big house at Strokestown. The family produced several Church of Ireland clergy, including the previous incumbent of Strokestown, who was the Revd Maurice Mahon of Clonfree (father of Bartholomew Mahon who endowed the parish charity, and a first cousin of Maurice Mahon MP, the first Lord Hartland of Strokestown House), who served as vicar of Bumlin from 1790 until 1811. It is not known whether his successor, the Revd Edward Mahon, had any family connection with them. The Elphin clergy list identifies him as the son of a farmer from County Clare (he always signed as the vicar; there was a rector also for tithe purposes).

The first page of the Bumlin vestry minute book (a leather-bound volume with lettering on the front) records that there had been no regular vestry book prior to the Revd Edward Mahon’s presentation of it, in 1811. © RCB Library P.737/5/1.

Nineteenth-century vestry books have received relatively little systematic attention from scholars, though they are often mined for local and parish histories. Mr Moran’s in-depth analysis, which precedes the online transcription, enables the legal framework of the vestries at this time to be reconstructed as well as the churchwardens’ accounts, the applotments of the parishes of the Union of Bumlin, and the donations from the Mahon Charity fund in the 1830s, to be fully understood.

Such data should be of particular value to historians wishing to unpick the complexities of the parish as a unit of local administration, demonstrating how, alongside the parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, the vestry minute books form an important and significant component of the records of the Church of Ireland.

The operation and functions of the vestry are succinctly outlined, and annual income and expenditure is scrutinised, while in-depth analysis of how the applotment of the parish was carried out, and how all cess-payers (irrespective of their religious denomination) were levied for a variety of civic purposes, is gathered, with Mr Moran noting how “the churchwardens acted as custodians of the cess money collected. No bank was involved”.

The rich detail in this particular minute book further allows him to analyse payments from Bartholomew Mahon’s charitable bequest. Following his death in 1815, £800 was left in trust to the minister and churchwardens ‘for the relief of the poor of said parishes, without any distinction as to religion’.   The vestry book contains a list of the donations made from the fund in the years 1833 to 1837 even including giving the names and circumstances of the persons assisted – widows, sick, lame, blind, orphans, foundlings – and thus providing a particularly poignant glimpse of the rural poor and indeed hidden Ireland a decade before the Famine.

Speaking of his work, Alan Moran says: “I did not know what to expect when I first looked into the Strokestown vestry book, but was immediately taken by the interest and variety of its contents, and its reflection of local and national circumstances in the decades before the Famine.  There was a lot of data on the parish accounts, occupation of land, and relief of the poor, which could be useful to researchers, so I decided to undertake a full transcription to make that data more accessible, as well as to get a better understanding of the functions of the vestry myself.”

Speaking from the RCB Library, Dr Susan Hood, Librarian and Archivist, said: “We have seen how hard Alan has worked on this project over many months. Whilst clearly a labour of love for him, he has been very generous to share it with a worldwide audience. His work again underlines the significance of Church of Ireland vestry records, many of which have been gathered together at the Library.”

An alphabetical listing by county of all vestry records available in the RCB Library is available here: – and the full transcription of the Strokestown (Bumlin) vestry book is available at

Exhibition launch: Maynooth College, chaplains and the anti-conscription crisis

On Wednesday 18 April Maynooth University invites you to the launch of an exciting new exhibition titled ‘”On active service”: Maynooth College, Chaplains & the Anti-Conscription Crisis’. The launch takes place at 1pm in the Russell Library, Maynooth University. Members of the public are welcome to attend but must contact organisers. If you would like to go to the launch please send an email to:

The exhibition was jointly curated by Professor Marion Lyons and Barbara McCormack. It will be on display in the Russell Library until the end of May 2018.


Divided Loyalties in a West Cork Parish: the Revd George F Stoney of Berehaven

Sit back, relax, and read the hidden story behind the dismissal of the curate in the parish of Berehaven 150 years ago…

Having discovered that not one but three addresses affirming support for Revd George F Stoney (1826-1869) had been published within the space of 18 months in the pages of the Church of Ireland Gazette, Church of Ireland Historical Society committee member Dr Miriam Moffitt has managed to forensically recover the full background to this intriguing story.

On his departure from the parish in March 1868, Mr Stoney was presented with not one, but two, printed addresses which differed considerably in tone. A third would follow following his death in September 1869. Examination of each of these addresses, supplemented by parish and newspaper records reveals how wealth and social standing exerted considerable influence in this west Cork parish, in the mid-19th century. Printed addresses featured regularly in the pages of the Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette since its inception in 1856 (named Church of Ireland Gazette from 1900). These pieces generally lamented a clerical departure, containing the text of a lavishly-printed address which had been presented to the departing clergyman such as the example previously displayed at this link:

Usually written in rather quaint and over-enthusiastic language and signed by persons of note within the parish, such addresses were often accompanied by a response from the clergyman in question. Although a vast amount of personal, family and social history is hidden behind these published sources, few people have investigated the background and development of the stories they reveal. Such is the case of the two addresses presented to the Revd George Stoney as published in the Gazette of 23rd April 1868, offering glimpses of the workings and political interactions of a rural parish, while the third address (published in the Gazette of 22nd September 1869) from ‘The Loyal Orangemen of Shercock’ provides additional insight into his character. As the episode relating to Mr Stoney coincided with the more attention-grabbing disestablishment crisis, it serves as a reminder that while large issues of historical importance capture the attention of the reading public, stories that appear less significant can provide valuable recovery of the complexity of the past.

The former St Peter’s Church, Castletownbere. Image provided courtesy of the Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross.

With the disestablishment debates dominating the newspapers throughout the years 1868 and 1869, it is likely that little notice was paid to the experiences of the Revd George Stoney, who was dismissed from his curacy in Berehaven in March 1868, returning thereafter to ministry in his former parish of Ballyjamesduff in County Cavan until his death 17 months later. While in Beara, Stoney ministered at the chapel-of-ease at Allihies, where the population was largely comprised of the mining families from the nearby copper mines. The former parish church, dedicated to St Peter, was sited in the town of Berehaven (now Castletownbere); Berehaven Miners church (also known as Kilnamanagh church) was located 12 miles further west.

The backdrop to his sudden dismissal was a socio-economic one linked with the copper-mines at Allihies, owned by Berehaven’s leading landowner: Henry Lavallan Puxley of Dunboy Castle. In operation since 1812, Allihies mines had attracted an influx of Cornish miners. Changes introduced by a new manager appointed in the aftermath of a miners’ strike in 1864, combined with a sharp fall in the price of copper, led to a drastic reduction of the workforce. Although there was an attempt to replace some Irish workers with Englishmen, most of the miners were natives of Beara and Roman Catholics. Allegations were frequently made that the better positions were awarded to English workers and that the Irish miners were exploited and forced to live in squalid conditions, charges that were validated by Mr Stoney in a letter published in the Cork Examiner of 4th March 1868 which detailed the ‘real agonising poverty of the people’. A subsequent letter of Stoney’s was published in The Nation on 16th May 1868, and even more direct in its criticism of the mine-owner and more stark in its description of the lives of the miners. Needless to say, the Revd John Halahan, rector of Berehaven, was not impressed to learn that his curate was speaking out, and examination of the full presentation will reveal that the Revd George Stoney came off second in the ensuing conflict.

The uncovering of this episode again confirms the usefulness of the Church of Ireland Gazette as a primary resource for locating, exploring and understanding the experiences of the wider Church community. The stories uncovered in the ‘News Behind the News’ series are typical of those available to us through the pages of the Gazette, the content of which may be explored in full between its foundation in 1856 and 1923 using the search box in the link to the digitized version of the Gazette available here:

Date for your diary: COIHS Spring Conference 21 April 2018

The Church of Ireland Historical Society’s first conference of the year will be on Saturday, 21 April 2018 in Armagh Robinson Library. The library is located at the northwest entrance gate to the Church of Ireland Cathedral. Tea and coffee will be served from 10.30am and the first paper will start at 11am.

Confirmed speakers are Dr Annaleigh Margey (Dundalk IT), Dr Myrtle Hill (Queen’s University, Belfast), and Dr Marie Coleman (Queen’s University, Belfast). The research paper will be delivered by Mr Matthew Houston, who is pursuing his PhD at Queen’s University, Belfast.

The full programme can be seen below.

The conference is open to all members of the public. There is a daily fee of €10 (or £7) for non-members to assist with conference expenses, payable at the registration desk in the Music Room, but anyone can become a member for €40 (or £35). Those who join the Society but are unable to attend either of our conferences in Armagh or Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (in November) will be given exclusive access to the podcasts which record these papers. For further details of our membership package please visit our membership page.

We’re looking forward to an interesting day and hope to see many of you there.

A weekend read: The Tin Church at Laragh, County Monaghan

One of the fascinating aspects from the pages of the Church of Ireland Gazette (formerly Ecclesiastical Gazette up until 1900 and the Church’s weekly newspaper since 1856) are the lesser known stories that can be found when researching. Unearthing how Laragh Tin Church, in the diocese of Clogher and county of Monaghan, came to be constructed at the end of the 19th century is one such example.

Telling the full story behind this little news piece, illustrated with extracts from the newspaper and complementary sources, historian and Church of Ireland Historical Society committee member, Dr Miriam Moffitt recovers the full story of Laragh church – a delightful chapel-of-ease in the parish of Crossduff and located midway between the towns of Carrickmacross and Ballybay. The story begins with a fund-raising effort to build the church, which was kick-started through the newspaper.

The death of his eldest son Henry, a 14-year-old pupil at Harborne School in Birmingham, may have prompted James McKean to seek to erect a church adjacent to his residence and close to his milling industry at Laragh. On 21st March 1890, less than 12 months after the boy’s death, the Revd Thomas Joseph Charlton, rector of Crossduff (1884-1903), placed a notice in the Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette (forerunner of the Church of Ireland Gazette) in which he appealed for funds to erect a church at Laragh. This advertisement outlined a need for a permanent place of worship and alerted readers to the presence of eight Church of Ireland children in the area.

List of subscribers to the tin church at Laragh, as published in the Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette, forerunner to the Church of Ireland Gazette, 20th June 1890

The Gazette would republish Mr Charlton’s appeal during the spring and summer of 1890 and as the months went by, further notices would appear including the names of donors and amounts contributed, with the most complete list published on 13th June 1890. The building, dedicated to St Peter, was consecrated by the Rt Revd Charles Stack (Bishop of Clogher 1886-1902) in August 1891. Its tower was topped with a weather-vane surmounted by a cockerel (signifying repentance); its pulpit sat atop a chunk of uncarved rock (petris), while an image of the saint holding the keys to heaven occupied a prominent place in the stained glass of the east window. The full-page account of its consecration published in the Gazette of 21st August 1891 also described the church interior in detail. The building reflects two important movements of the late 19th century: the Arts and Crafts movement and the movement to identify the contemporary Church of Ireland with the early Irish Church.

Tin churches (also known as ‘tin tabernacles’ or ‘iron churches’) were an inexpensive way to provide rapid-build accommodation and were often replaced by more permanent structures as funds permitted. They were commonly used in the late 19th century, delivered as factory-produced kits to be erected and finished on-site and were regularly advertised in the Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette. The only tin church currently used by the Church of Ireland is situated at Lurganboy in County Leitrim (diocese of Kilmore), while two Roman Catholic tin churches are still operative at Sallins in County Kildare and Rearcross in County Tipperary. Although de-consecrated since 1962, Laragh Cchurch remains an architectural gem sited in a delightful wooded setting beside a river. By contrast to the norm, however, Laragh church, was elaborately decorated and built to last. Its windows were filled with cathedral glass with ruby-coloured borders; the chancel floor was covered in mosaic tiles; the pews in the nave were pitch pine; the choir seats were oak, their tops adorned with fleurs de lis; the oak communion table was an ornately-carved construction and the ‘exceedingly handsome’ oak altar-rail was finished with clusters of brass and bronze pilasters.

Dr Moffitt says: ‘The Gazette is wonderful because it provides not only an outline of the events that impacted on the Church over the last 150 years, but also because it gives us an insight into the attitudes of its readership. This is especially revealed in its coverage of episodes that might appear insignificant from today’s perspective, but which can show how members of the Church of Ireland understood their own role and the role of their Church in rapidly shifting political and cultural landscape.’

The tin church at Laragh, photographed © Dr Miriam Moffitt

Laragh church operated as a chapel-of-ease to Crossduff parish church for 71 years until its de-consecration in 1962; it subsequently fell into disrepair. A group of local enthusiasts has recently undertaken a sensitive restoration of the building, enabling public access to the building which is used as a venue for concerts and social events. The Church of Ireland Gazette reports have helped to shine a light on its origins, and these like all of the content of the newspaper from 1856 to 1923 may be explored in full by using the search box in the link to the digitized version here:

The current Church of Ireland Gazette and all editions from 2005 may be viewed via an online subscription on the Gazette website, see: