Important! Reformation 500 booked out: details of reserve list

With exactly a month to go before we host our big conference marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (20-21 October), plans are gathering apace. However, due to exceptionally high demand the conference has now been fully booked out!

Still looking to attend the big event?

Those who would like to attend the conference but have not yet registered can ask to be put on a reservation list. Closer to the time we will be informed of possible availabilities where registered attendees must state their intention to come. Should there be people who are unable to make it, our secretary will contact those on the reservation list. This will work on a a basis of those who express an interest first (as of today). If you wish to be put on the reservation list, please email Dr Adrian Empey at secretary.coihs@gmail.com.

We thank you for your understanding and patience, and hope to see many of you there!

Reformation 500 is now booked out but a reserve list has been set up. Please email our secretary

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The value of Church of Ireland registers: Ballincollig military men & their families 1810-1922

The details of some 2,187 people – soldiers and their families – recorded in the registers of Ballincollig Garrison Chapel have been recovered using the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials between 1810 and 1922 now in the safe custody of the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin. Further research using a variety of additional resources has further unlocked their hidden stories.

The work has been carried out by local historian Anne Donaldson, who over the course of several years diligently extracted all of the names and details of the soldiers mentioned in the garrison chapel registers (a combined register of baptisms 1810-1864; marriages 1823-1842 and burials 1813-1882; a register of baptisms 1865-1921; and a register of burials 1871-1920). Then, using a variety of other primary sources, she fleshed out details about them and their families, all of which data she has inputted to a detailed spreadsheet, a PDF copy of which is now available online at this link: www.ireland.anglican.org/library/archive

Title page from the Ballincollig Garrison Church combined register of baptisms 1810-1864; marriages 1823-1842 and burials 1813-1882  RCB Library P695.1.1

The town of Ballincollig is situated in the Church of Ireland parish of Carrigrohane, thus explaining the survival of the registers in Carrigrohane parish church, where they have been carefully maintained through the centuries. The background to the military presence at Ballincollig may be traced to the early 19th century and strategic importance of the town for milling. After the defeat of Napoleon, the mills were allowed fall into disrepair for 20 years before being sold on to a commercial developer at half the original price but the military presence at Ballincollig remained, ending only following Irish independence in 1922. This event is very precisely captured on the last pages of the chapel preachers’ book, when the last chaplain recorded: ‘The XIX, the Green Howards, Alexandra Princess of Wales’s own (Yorkshire) Regiment together with the R.A.O.C. [Royal Army Ordnance Corps] evacuated Ballincollig Military Barracks on Wednesday morning 17th May 1922 at 11 o’c’.

Up until this point, Ballincollig had served mainly as an artillery barracks – indeed the Southern Area Command was based here for a time, but many other regiments came and went too. Whilst every movement of these men was dutifully recorded in military records, with the passage of time, fires and war, much of the valuable information was lost. In this context the survival of church records including the registers of baptism, marriage and burial from the garrison chapel, now securely housed and available in the context of many other parish register collections at the RCB Library (see http://tinyurl.com/yal2ezjr) provides a window to hidden histories.

Speaking on the worldwide launch of her work, Anne Donaldson said: ‘As a local historian with a passionate interest to recover the past, I set myself the task of trying to counteract the sad deficiency of lost evidence. This work has been underpinned by two aspirations: firstly to compile a record of as many names as possible for research by historians, genealogists and family members, which through the Church of Ireland website is fully searchable. Secondly the project is about reconciliation, celebrating Ireland’s rich and varied multiculturalism, and cherishing different identities.’

Speaking from the RCB Library, Dr Susan Hood, Librarian and Archivist, said: ‘Anne’s work and effort demonstrate what one person with knowledge and determination can achieve to unlock information from Church of Ireland registers kept safe through the generations, now shared for a worldwide audience. It has been a delight for the Library to collaborate with her on this project’.

This building will soon become the new parish centre for Carrigrohane Union of Parishes having been a former British Army officers stables which later became the gun store for the Irish Defence Forces. Image reproduced courtesy of Margaret Jordan, Ballincollig Heritage.

The rector of Carrigrohane Union, the Revd Ian Jonas, further endorsed the Ballincollig Military Men Project. Mr Jonas remarked: ‘Anne Donaldson’s painstaking research with the old registers of the garrison church in Ballincollig has been a labour of love. We are delighted that what she has mined now comes to the light of day for researchers everywhere. Interestingly, Anne found that what we consider to be the modern idea of multiculturalism was a feature of Irish life in the 19th Century.

‘The soldiers who served in the British Army came from diverse backgrounds, not just Protestant and British but Irish and Roman Catholic, as well as others. This summer, in responding to a diverse society with the Gospel of Christ, the Church of Ireland is returning to Ballincollig with a new parish centre, having just bought the gun store at the powder mills. This is the very place where those men recorded in the registers of the garrison chapel were stationed to protect the gunpowder. Once this new centre is up and running, there will be no guards defending explosives, just a warm welcome to share in the blessings of God amongst us.’

For further information about the Ballincollig Military Men Project, contact Anne Donaldson: adonaldson@iol.ie

More information about the Library and its collections of parish registers is available from Dr Susan Hood (susan.hood@rcbdub.org)

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‘Keeping the head down’? The Protestant Folklore Project

A major collecting project being undertaken by the National Folklore Collection has been recently established. What makes it so uniques is that it focuses on Irish Protestants as a cultural group. This raises a number of questions as we mark the ‘decade of centenaries’. For example, what does the project tell us about Protestants in independent Ireland? Did the new state live up to the non-sectarian ideals of the 1916 Proclamation (‘cherishing the children of the nation equally)? History Ireland Hedge School series looks to examine these issues in more detail with particular focus on the Protestant Folklore Project, a major folklore, and oral history initiative.

Cavan County Museum

History Ireland editor, Tommy Graham, will chair a lively and enlightening round-table discussion with Deirdre Nuttall (National Folklore Collection), Niall Meehan (Griffith College), Críostoir MacCartaigh (National Folklore Collection) and Malachy Hand (Loughcrew Megalithic Centre). It takes place on Thursday, 14th September at Cavan County Museum, Virgina Road, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan. The event is free of charge and no booking is required.

The proceedings are supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

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The Church of Ireland and its past

The Church of Ireland Historical Society is pleased to announce that The Church of Ireland and its past: history, interpretation and identity, edited by Mark Empey, Alan Ford and Miriam Moffitt, is now out and available in all good bookstores. Co-funded by the Society and the Standing Committee of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, and printed by Four Courts Press, this book ‘brings together leading Irish historians who examine how the history of the Church of Ireland has been written in the 500 years since the Reformation’.

With seventeen chapters and over three hundred pages, this work has much to offer the interested reader. (For a full list of the contributors and their chapters visit the following link: http://www.fourcourtspress.ie/books/2017/the-church-of-ireland-and-its-past/contents.) It traces the emergence of a ‘distinctly Protestant narrative’ and examines key figures in the debate such as Archbishop James Ussher, Sir James Ware and Robert Ware in the seventeenth century; Walter Harris, Thomas Campbell and Revd Edward Ledwich in the eighteenth century; and J.H. Todd, Charles Elrington, Richard Mant, William Reeves and George T. Stokes in the nineteenth century. The twentieth century receives equal attention with analysis of W.A. Philips’s influential History of the Church of Ireland as well as a number of fascinating discussions on the development of the Church of Ireland’s history and how the traditional confessional interpretation was significantly challenged by the professional elite.

Mark Empey, Alan Ford and Miriam Moffitt (eds), The Church of Ireland and its past: history, interpretation and identity (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2017)

One striking feature is the inclusion of a chapter on personal reflections by three historians (Nicholas Canny, Karl S. Bottigheimer and Steven G. Ellis) who shaped and influenced the debate on ‘why the Reformation failed’ in the late 1970s and 1980s. In some respects, this is a historiography within a historiography.

As part of the membership package to the Church of Ireland Historical Society, members are entitled to a €15 discount should they wish to purchase The Church of Ireland and its past: history, interpretation and identity. For further details, please contact the secretary. Those who are not members of the society but are interested in purchasing the book can find it available in bookstores across the country priced at €55. There is an online discount on the Four Courts Press website (see http://www.fourcourtspress.ie/books/2017/the-church-of-ireland-and-its-past/)

The Church of Ireland and its past: history, interpretation and identity will be officially launched by Professor John Morrill (Selwyn College, Cambridge) in the Treasury of Christ Church Cathedral on Friday 20 October as part of the conference marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The conference is co-hosted by the Church of Ireland Historical Society. For further details, and to register for the event (which is FREE), please click here. Please note, tickets for the conference are limited due to capacity restrictions.

Finally, we would like to congratulate the editors Dr Mark Empey (lecturer in history at NUI Galway), Professor Alan Ford (emeritus professor of theology at the University of Nottingham) and Dr Miriam Moffitt (who lectures in church history at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth) on an excellent book. We hope, and expect, this study to have a significant impact on the history of the Church of Ireland for years to come!

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Heritage Week: Talk on Jonathan Swift as Dean

As part of the Heritage Week festivities from Saturday 19th August to Sunday 27th August, Albert Fenton will deliver a talk on Jonathan Swift’s career as dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Given this is the 350th anniversary of the birth of Swift, this talk is a timely and welcome addition to the programme of events. Whereas Swift has become renowned for his political and writing abilities, this presentation will examine his career (and contribution) as dean of the cathedral.

The talk will take place on Friday, 25th August at St Patrick’s Cathedral, beginning at 2.30pm. It is free to members of the public.

For more details about Heritage Week, visit http://www.heritageweek.ie

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The Church of Ireland & the Irish Convention, 1917

Previously hidden aspects of the Church of Ireland’s input and influence on the Irish Convention which opened in Trinity College Dublin one hundred years ago (on 25th July 1917) are brought to light in a new online exhibition from the RCB Library – the Church’s record repository and reference library.

The Irish Convention is significant because it was the last time that all of Ireland participated in political negotiations to find a solution to the Irish question before Partition in 1921. By initiating a gathering of Irishmen to decide their own political destiny, the British Government’s ostensible objective was to keep nationalist and unionist Ireland together as a single political entity (albeit at this point within the British Empire).  The Government invited the two Church of Ireland archbishops of Armagh and Dublin – John Baptist Crozier and John Henry Bernard – to attend. Additionally the Roman Catholic hierarchy was represented by the Archbishop of Cashel and three other bishops – of Down, Raphoe and Ross – and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland by its Moderator. Once in session, the proceedings of the Convention were strictly secular – there were no prayers or religious formalities as part of the proceedings. Nevertheless, the juxtaposition of the church leaders among the political leaders in the front row of the official photograph that appeared in August 1917 (reproduced in the online exhibit courtesy of the National Library of Ireland) signals how highly-valued their input to the Convention was considered in political circles.

The Church of Ireland, then as now an all-island institution, and including members of all political persuasions and none, appears to have been deeply committed to support the Convention and promote the stability it offered, particularly in the aftermath of the Easter Rising of 1916. The exhibition draws on the rich resources of the weekly Church of Ireland Gazette, now digitized and freely searchable online between 1890 and 1923, for insight to what could be considered as the moderate and middle-ground opinion being written and read by its members and others during this period.

It reveals that for the duration of the Convention’s deliberations, the Gazette continued to be edited by Warre Bradley Wells. Wells had witnessed first-hand the events of the 1916 Rising from inside the paper’s premises on Middle Abbey Street – initially writing up the graphic detail in the columns and editorials of his paper, and then co-authoring one of the first contemporary histories of the 1916 Rebellion: A History of the Irish Rebellion of 1916 (published Dublin, 1916, and New York, 1917).

Significantly, as the exhibition demonstrates, Wells co-authored the first independent contemporary record of the proceedings of the Irish Convention written in the immediate aftermath of its demise in March 1918, which was actually published as a sequel to his history of the Rising, as The Irish Convention and Sinn Fein, in Continuation of “A history of the Irish rebellion of 1916” (Dublin, 1918). Whilst this book would lament what could have been achieved had the Convention succeeded, back in July 1917 through the pages of his Church of Ireland Gazette, Wells used his editorials and lead articles to foster hope: ‘The Convention has in its power to rescue us from our tragic confusion’ he wrote on the eve of its convening, in the 20th July 1917 edition’s lead article.

Aspects of the Church of Ireland’s input to the Convention provide the lead in “The Week” column, Church of Ireland Gazette, 27th July 1917.

In the next edition, published on 27th July 1917, two days after the Convention got under way, the paper’s opening ‘The Week’ column was pleased to report the first day’s proceedings had resulted in the ‘happiest omen’ with the unanimous appointment of Sir Horace Plunkett as Convention chairman, adding with some pride that Plunkett was ‘a member of our Church’. The paper further reveals that whilst the actual proceedings of the Convention did not contain any religious content, the Church of Ireland appears to have hosted a pre-Convention ‘special Service for delegates in St Andrew’s Church, Suffolk Street’. Rather than use the adjacent chapel building within Trinity’s precincts, added political symbolism was provided by staging the service in what had been the parish church for the Irish Houses of Parliament. The only detailed report of this service appears in the Church of Ireland Gazette on 27 July 1917, which observed how ‘Wednesday’s Service’ appeared to revive the old tradition being ‘the first Service of the kind since the Act of Union’, and was well attended: ‘about one-third of the congregation were gentlemen chosen to deliberate on the future of Ireland’.

Other interesting stories of Church of Ireland significance presented in the exhibition include Wells’ revelation that the operating procedures to regulate the work of the Convention were in fact modelled on those of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, with Archbishop Crozier selected as ‘Chairman of the Procedure Committee’, while the typescript memoirs of the RCB Library’s founding benefactor – Rosamond Stephen (1868-1951) – include a personal and hopeful exchange of correspondence with Sir Horace Plunkett on the eve of the Convention, and its opening day.

The personal diary of Rosamond Emily Stephen (1868-1951) entitled The Record 1902-1940 includes her personal reflections on the Convention and copies of her correspondence to and from Sir Horace Plunkett on the day the Convention opened, © RCB Library Ms 253/4.

The RCB Library gratefully acknowledges the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs for supporting this online exhibition, and covering the costs of hosting the Church of Ireland Gazette search engine online to the end of the Decade of Commemorations in 2023.

The Church of Ireland Gazette (available in complete hardcopy format in the Library from 1856 to the present) is also fully viewable and free to search from 1890 to 1923 here: https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb

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Sneak peak: Episcopal visitations of the diocese of Meath 1622-1799

To mark the publication of the Representative Church Body Library‘s latest volume in its Texts and Calendars series: Episcopal visitations of the diocese of Meath 1622-1799 (taking place tomorrow, Thursday, 6 July at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trim) we offer a brief insight into this important study. Edited by Dr Michael O’Neill and published by the Four Courts Press (www.fourcourtspress.ie), in association with the RCB Library, this book will make a significant contribution to our knowledge of the diocese of Meath in the early modern period.

Episcopal visitations are formal/structured accounts – parish by parish – which build up to give an in-depth state of a diocese at a given time. Specific questions were asked and the answers – and indeed non-answers or evasions – helped the bishop to build up a picture of the diocese, and the strengths and weaknesses of individual parishes and clergy. The early visitation records of the Church of Ireland were largely destroyed in the fire at the Public Record Office of Ireland in 1922, which greatly enhances the significance of those that have survived in copy form.

The current volume provides editions of the visitations of the diocese of Meath for the years 1622, 1693, 1733 and 1799, covering the episcopates of James Ussher (Bishop of Meath from 1621 to 1625), Anthony Dopping (bishop from 1682-97), Welbore Ellis (1732-34), and finally Thomas Lewis O’Beirne (1798-1823).  Two of these sources are located in Marsh’s Library, Dublin, the third in the RCB Library, and the fourth in the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

This is the eighth volume in the RCB Library’s Texts and Calendars series, and the first to focus on sources outside Dublin. It brings all four diocesan visitations together as a single edition, offering unique insights into the life of the Church of Ireland and its interaction with the wider community, from the post-Reformation period to the eve of the Act of Union. As the enlightening introduction reveals, there is much in the content of these records about the spiritual and temporal life of the Church in a large Irish diocese during the 17th and 18th centuries, providing a framework for more detailed studies of localities, based on the records of individual parishes.

The editor, Dr Michael O’Neill, is well known as an architectural historian, who has written widely on the heritage of the Irish Church, and manages the project to digitize, catalogue and make available online the Church of Ireland’s extensive collections of architectural drawings, available at: www.archdrawing.ireland.anglican.org

All are welcome to attend the launch in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trim, on Thursday, at 6.30pm, or for those who cannot make the launch the book may be purchased through the Church of Ireland online bookstore here: https://store.ireland.anglican.org/store/product/129/episcopal-visitations-of-the-diocese-of

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The Jacobite Risings: material from St Canice’s Cathedral collection

The Russell Library at Maynooth University is hosting an exhibition for the month on July on the theme ‘Exploring the Jacobite Risings’. This includes material from the St. Canice’s Cathedral collection which is now preserved at the library following a long-term lease agreement with the Representative Church Body Library last year.

The exhibition will be launched on Friday, 30th June at 3.45 pm. It will be up for the month of July and is viewable during the library’s normal opening hours, which are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday from 10.00 am until 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm – 5.00 pm.

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Treasures from the RCB Library: The Faith Journey of Joseph Blanco White

A rare insight to the faith journey of the theologian and writer Joseph Blanco White, is made possible by the survival of an exchange of correspondence with Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin, 1831-1863, housed at the Representative Church Body Library.

Born in Seville in 1775, José María Blanco y Crespo (Joseph Blanco White) has been described as a theologian, poet, novelist, critic, and political journalist. One of the central tenets of his life was a constant striving for ‘truth’, primarily the idea of absolute truth in religion. It led him on a fascinating journey, both in the physical sense – he migrated from Spain, and lived in Oxford, Dublin, and Liverpool – and in the theological sense – born into Roman Catholicism, he became a priest, converted to Anglicanism, and eventually became a Unitarian.

The collection of manuscripts and books that the RCB Library holds concerning Blanco White encapsulates an overarching narrative of his life of a journey in faith. The Library holds two volumes of his Second Travels of an Irish Gentleman in Search of a Religion (Dublin; Richard Milliken and Son, 1833) written as a riposte to Thomas Moore, Irish poet, singer, songwriter, and advocate for Catholic emancipation (indeed, the title page of both volumes states that it is ‘not by the editor of Captain Rock’s Memoirs’). The RCB Library copies are handsomely rebound (probably later 19th century) books, with half-tan calf, and spines panelled by raised bands with gilt-tooled panels, with marbled sides and endpapers. Given the intended riposte, it is perhaps unsurprising that the book is less a travel memoir (although it includes elements of this) and more a detailed theological argument, albeit in novelistic form. It has been suggested that the Most Revd Richard Whately (1787 – 1863) with whom Blanco White was residing in 1833 as tutor to his only son, Edward, was instrumental in encouraging the completion and publication of the manuscript.

Signature of J. Blanco White ‘dear friend and ever affect[tionate]in letter to Richard Whately ‘His Grace, the Lord Archbishop of Dublin, Palace, Stephen’s Green, Dublin’, 25th January 1835, © RCB Library Ms 707/1/1/6.5.

The RCB Library also holds an interesting body of primary source material relating to Blanco White, most of which has never been published before. Being an exchange of correspondence, it forms a part of the RCB Library’s substantial collection of papers of the Most Revd Richard Whately, containing correspondence and papers relating to religious and political developments of his day, and has previously been featured with a catalogue list here: https://www.ireland.anglican.org/news/6389/correspondence-and-papers-of-the 

As one of the leading thinkers of his day, Whately drew all kinds of intellectual dialogue his way, sometimes leading to controversy. The material pertaining to Blanco White consists of an exchange of 25 letters between Archbishop Whately, White himself, and Mr Clemente de Zulueta (a Spanish merchant and intellect, based in Liverpool, and a member of the Socinian community).  They cover the period between 12th January and 30th April 1835, although there is one letter from Archbishop Whately, dated 7th September 1835, and one undated letter. White’s letters are also interesting in that, despite coming from Seville and a family that embraced its Spanish connections, as well as its social and linguistic norms,  there is a linguistic fluency that is impressive. Furthermore, they contain beautiful cursive handwriting, particularly that from de Zulueta’s hand.

White’s friendship with the future Archbishop of Dublin had developed during their time in Oxford, where the two could be found engaging in intellectual pursuits with the Noetics at the time, including Baden Powell, Edward Hawkins, R. D. Hampden, and Nassau William Senior.  Indeed, the Whately collection in the RCB Library contains a detailed paper prepared for the archbishop by Senior on the political economy of Ireland in 1830s, and the problems presented by the ratio of population to land.

By the time that Whately was appointed to the see of Dublin in 1831, his friend White’s theological convictions were still developing. Indeed White was beginning to stray from – and, indeed, criticise – the orthodoxy of Anglicanism of the time. It was this criticism that led to White’s evolving interest in Socinianism (more commonly known as Unitarianism) and would eventually result in his departure from Dublin for the Socinian community in Liverpool, initially staying with Clemente de Zulueta at 56 Steele Street.  It would thus be easy to imagine that the correspondence between the archbishop and Mr de Zulueta – given their diverging theological convictions – would be primarily arguing the finer points of Anglicanism and Unitarianism, but in fact what they reveal is the archbishop’s deep concern for Blanco White’s well-being. 

 Although he was concerned that White wished to publish another more controversial book which did eventually get published Observations on Heresy and Orthodoxy (London, J. Mardon, 1835), it is the archbishop’s pastoral concern for his friend’s theological isolation which remain to the forefront. Indeed, Whately would continue to support White for the remainder of his life with an annual subsidy of £100, as well as helping to secure for him a Queen’s bounty as a former Anglican priest, of £300 in 1838.

The volumes of Second Travels of an Irish Gentleman in Search of a Religion and the correspondence between Blanco White, Archbishop Whately, and Mr de Zulueta can be viewed in their entirety at the RCB Library, while the new online presentation (which has been assembled by the Assistant Librarian, Bryan Whelan) provides an illustrated snapshot of their content, again emphasising the fusion between books and archives in the Library collection.

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Episcopal visitations of the diocese of Meath, 1622-1799

On Thursday, 6 July, the Most Revd Pat Storey, Bishop of Meath & Kildare, will launch the latest volume in the Representative Church Body Library’s Texts and Calendars series: Episcopal visitations of the diocese of Meath, 1622-1799. It is edited by Dr Michael O’Neill and published by Four Courts Press. The launch will take place at St Patrick’s Cathedral, St Loman’s Street, Trim, Co. Meath at 6.30pm.

Episcopal visitations of the
diocese of Meath,
1622–1799 (Four Courts Press) edited by Dr Michael O’Neill

The visitation records of the Church of Ireland were largely destroyed in the fire in the Public Record Office of Ireland in 1922, thus greatly enhancing the significance of those that have survived in copy form. This volume provides editions of the visitations of the diocese of Meath for the years 1622, 1693, 1733 and 1799, which offer unique insights into the life of the Church of Ireland, and its interaction with the wider community, from the post Reformation period to the eve of the Act of Union. These records reveal much about the spiritual and temporal life of the Church in a large Irish diocese and provide a framework for more detailed study of localities based on the records of individual parishes.

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