Listen back: COIHS Armagh podcasts 2017 (members only)

Missed the last conference at Armagh Robinson Library on 1st April?

Members of COIHS can now listen to the latest papers delivered by Dr Colman Dennehy on the role of the Church of Ireland bishops in the Irish House of Lords in the seventeenth century, Dr Patrick Little on the challenges confronting the Church of Ireland during the tumultuous years between 1647 and 1650, and Ms Barbara McCormack on St Canice’s Cathedral Collection now housed at the Special Collections in Maynooth University. To hear the speakers visit the podcasts link and enter the password sent to your email from the honorary secretary, Dr Adrian Empey. You can also download the conference programme for further information about the conference by clicking on the archives link.

If you are not a member but would like to hear these papers (as well as papers dating back to November 2013) you can join the Society by visiting the membership link. The annual subscription is €40 or £35. This includes free access to the podcasts in addition to many more great offers. There is also a special student discount of just €15 or £12 for those with a valid university card (alternatively students interested in joining can email the society and inform the secretary of your institution and contact details of your supervisor).

Happy listening!

[Back row: from left to right] Dr Adrian Empey, Mr Brendan Toomey, Mr George Woodman, Dr Ken Milne, Professor David Hayton
[Front row: from left to right] Dr Patrick Little, Ms Kathryn Sawyer, Very Revd Gregory Dunston, Ms Barbara McCormack and Dr Coleman Dennehy
Photo courtesy of Ian Maginess

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Conference on the Reformation, Waterford (20 May)

On 20 May Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford, will host a one day symposium entitled ‘Religion, reform, identity: Ireland and the age of Reformations’. Registration is open at 10am but pre-booking is advised. The first paper will begin at 10.45am. Proceedings will conclude at 6pm

Speakers at the conference include Dr Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin (UCD) on religious change in the Celtic world, 1530-1650; Dr Áine Hensey (IAPH) on the parish clergy of Waterford and Lismore; Dr John McCafferty (UCD) on Luke Wadding’s ‘reformations’; Dr Marc Caball (UCD) on the career of Bishop William Bedell; Dr Ivar McGrath (UCD) on the Penal Laws; Professor Salvador Ryan (St Patrick’s College, Maynooth) on Perceptions of Protestants and the construction of Irish Catholicism; and finally, Professor Alan Ford (University of Nottingham) on Irish Protestant attitudes to  Catholics, 1600-2000.

There is a conference fee of €50 (or €30 concession). Lunch is included. The event is curated by Dr Jeffrey Cox (University College Dublin) and is supported by The Priorities Fund of the Church of Ireland.

Further details on registration and the contact details, please visit:


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Church Architectural Drawings Project: Tuam Diocesan Collection

The latest phase of the project to digitize, catalogue and make available online the Representative Church Body Library’s collections of architectural drawings of churches has resulted in the processing of drawings from the western Diocese of Tuam. To date (as of 1st May 2017) over 5,000 drawings have been made available online for the churches in some 20 of a total of 30 Church of Ireland dioceses.

With the completion of the extensive collection for the Diocese of Tuam, those for a further 10 dioceses remain for systematic processing i.e. imaging each drawing and details therein, cataloguing the details and uploading it to the dedicated web page available through the Church of Ireland website at:

The work is being carried out by architectural historian Dr Michael O’Neill at the Library, where the Church’s architectural drawings are stored in the context of many other collections documenting the evolutionary history of the Church of Ireland.

From the 12th Century, the Diocese of Tuam was part of the larger archdiocese or ecclesiastical Province of Tuam. The archdioceses of Tuam and Cashel were absorbed into the provinces of Armagh and Dublin respectively from 1833. The architectural drawings of churches for Tuam date from the middle decades of the 19th Century and give a good indication of the state of the diocese at that time, while further 20th Century drawings continue the picture up to more recent times.

Ballinrobe parish church interior plan, as executed by Welland and Gillespie, under the terms of ‘Articles of Agreement’ bearing date 23rd September 1863, signed off by the rector and various other diocesan officials, © RCB Library PF/26.

Included in the line-up are the drawings of the diocese’s two glorious medieval buildings: Tuam Cathedral and St Nicholas, Galway, are wonderful medieval churches.  As well as the diocesan cathedral and Galway parish church, other medieval churches still in use in the 1830s were at Crossboyne, Dunmore, Headford, Kilconta, and possibly Moylough.  Eighteenth-century churches were built at Ballinrobe, Drummonaghan, Kilkerrin, Ballincholla, with Annaghdown, Lewisburgh and Westport built in the last years of that century. These so-called ‘First Fruits’ churches, featuring a plain rectangular interior and western tower of the early 19th Century, had an interesting variety of furnishings, quite a number with a triple-decker pulpit located behind the communion table. Two 18th Century churches with more developed plans had the triple-decker pulpit and communion table located in different limbs within the church (Killrenan, Moore Drum).

Many of the drawings in Portfolio 26 depict the proposed rearrangements of church interiors that became commonplace by the mid-19th Century – removal of pew boxes and triple decker pulpits and their replacement with bench seating and a separate reader’s desk and pulpit located towards the east end, with more prominence given to the communion table and often the provision of chancel rails. The attached image shows how such rearrangement impacted on Ballinrobe parish church.

Additionally, and not found in the drawings for any of the 16 dioceses catalogued to date, are churches described as ‘mission churches’ or as ‘licensed houses of worship’. Drawings for Achill missionary church date to 1851, while those for an additional missional church in Achill date from around 1855. There are also drawings for Roundstone in 1865 and Bunlahinch in 1866 which are described as licensed houses of worship.

The Achill Island Mission, located near the village of Dugort was founded by the Revd Edward Nangle who moved permanently to the new colony in 1834. Nangle died in 1883 and the colony was failing by that time. Indeed the Welland plan for the church on file in the portfolio dating from the mid-1850s shows a proposed spire for the building, which does not appear to have been executed, and to this day the little church remains a humble structure.

The church drawings for Tuam diocese will undoubtedly be of interest to parishioners, vestry members and historians of the various parish churches within the diocese. Moreover, taken as a collection, they assist in tracing the history of the Church of Ireland in 19th and 20th Centuries. These visual records document the reform and extension movements of the first decades of the 19th, and then the further expansion and remodelling in the decades leading up to Disestablishment. In the case of this diocese, they also document part of the story of the ‘Second Reformation’ campaigns in Achill and Connemara.

When we consider that today the diocese consists of just four unions and 14 churches, the content of this particular portfolio provides an important visual record of many buildings that may no longer be in use as churches, yet continue as part of the rich architectural tapestry of rural Ireland.

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Looking back: COIHS conference Armagh 2017

On Saturday 1st April, the Church of Ireland Historical Society (COIHS) hosted its first conference of the year at the Armagh Robinson Library.

[Back row: from left to right] Dr Adrian Empey, Mr Brendan Toomey, Mr George Woodman, Dr Ken Milne, Professor David Hayton
[Front row: from left to right] Dr Patrick Little, Ms Kathryn Sawyer, Very Revd Gregory Dunston, Ms Barbara McCormack and Dr Coleman Dennehy. Photo courtesy of Ian Maginess

Dr Coleman Dennehy began proceedings with an assessment of the Church of Ireland bishops in the Irish House of Lords in the seventeenth century. He revealed the complexities of their parliamentary role. Ms Kathryn Sawyer, the recipient of the 2016 W.G. Neely Postgraduate Prize, presented her award winning paper on prayer and social order in Ireland between 1660 and 1689. The third paper of the day was delivered by Dr Patrick Little, a Senior Research Fellow at the History of Parliament Trust, London. He examined the Church of Ireland between 1647 and 1650. He discussed the ambiguities of the situation in which the Church found itself under the Cromwellian regime. The final presentation was by Ms Barbara McCormack. She explored the riches of the St Canice’s Cathedral Collection now housed at the Special Collections in Maynooth University.

2016 W.G. Neely Prize Winner, Ms Kathryn Sawyer receives her reward from Very Revd Gregory Dunston and Dr Adrian Empey (COIHS Hon. Sec.). Photo courtesy of Ian Maginess

Members of the Society have been notified that papers given by Dr Dennehy, Dr Little and Ms McCormack are available on podcast. Those wishing to hear these papers but have not joined the Society can subscribe to our annual membership by visiting our membership page. Postgraduate students can avail of our special discount membership but are asked to email the secretary with proof on institutional affiliation prior to subscribing. Please visit the contact page for further details. All members of the public are welcome to join COIHS.

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Ecclesia Semper Reformanda, 22 April 2017

On 22 April a conference entitled Ecclesia Semper Reformanda will take place at the Long Room Hub, Trinity College, Dublin. The theme focuses on continuing ‘reform’ in the Church but takes a very historical approach to understanding modern aspects. Registration is at 9.30am and proceedings begin at 10am sharp.

Presenters at the conference include Professors Werner Jeanrond, Alan Ford and Linda Hogan, Canon Maurice Elliott, and Bishops Kenneth Kearon (Limerick and Killaloe) and John McDowell (Clogher). Details of respective papers can be viewed from the flyer below.

The event is organised by SEARCH/TCD Chaplaincy. A registration fee of €35 includes lunch and mid-session tea and coffee. Those interested are asked to pre-book through the organisation’s treasurer:


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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: while a full list of all Gazette editors is available here:

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:

To go straight to the search engine click:
and for assistance see Informa Search Guidelines

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The case of the Clough meeting house (1836)

The 33rd Hugh M Fitzpatrick Lecture in Legal Bibliography, in association with the Confederal School of Religions, Peace Studies and Theology, Trinity College Dublin, is hosting a lecture delivered by John F. Larkin, QC, Attorney Generals for Northern Ireland.

The paper is entitled ‘The Case of the CLogh meeting house (1836): law reporting and pamphleteering.’ It will be held at the Confederal School of Religions, Peace Studies and Theology at Trinity on 30 March 2017 at 6pm. 

The event is free and open to the public but booking is required. For further details see the flyer below.

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Southern Loyalism in Context conference, 21-22 July 2017

On 21 and 22 July 2017, Maynooth University is hosting a conference entitled ‘Southern Loyalism in context’. The conference is focused on loyalism not just in Ireland but also in its international contexts. Papers are very much welcomed from outside the academic community. The call for papers closes on 30 April 2017. Abstracts of 300 words and a short biography of about 100 words should be submitted to Brian Hughes. Email him at

The conference is supported by the Irish Research Council’s New Foundations scheme, under its ‘Decade of Centenaries’ strand, and will contribute to the Decade of Centenaries Programme 1917-1922 (

Further details of the conference call for papers can be seen below.

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Harry Clarke’s unique gift to Archbishop Gregg of Dublin (1922)

The fusion between books and archives is brought to life from the RCB Library, the Church of Ireland’s library and archive repository. In time for spring, the unique gift given to the former Archbishop of Dublin, The Most Revd Dr John Gregg (1873-1961) who was archbishop from 1920 to 1939, by renowned stained-glass artist Harry Clarke (1889-1931) is the focused item.  

The gift, personally inscribed by Clarke on the half-title page with his compliments to the archbishop, in December 1922, is a limited edition volume of the collection of poems entitled The Year’s at the Spring for which Clarke was illustrator. Published by George G. Harrap in September 1920, the book’s print-run was limited to just 250 copies, of which Gregg’s was number 50.


Clarke’s illustration accompanying Walter de la Mare’s ‘Arabia’ showing the ‘demi-silked, dark-haired musicians’, from The Year’s at the Spring, © RCB Library Special Reserve Collection

Harry Clarke was best known as a stained-glass artist, with his work being displayed in religious and secular places throughout Ireland and, indeed, the world. Visitors to Dublin will be familiar with Clarke from his 1928 work in Bewley’s Oriental Café, with windows depicting the Corinthian, Doric, Ionic and Composite orders of architecture. Clarke’s art was not limited to the secular, and he carried out many commissions for the Christian Churches, all of which from a Church of Ireland perspective are imaged, catalogued, and available on a  free-to-view basis together with stained glass throughout the island here: 

Clarke had been working on numerous stained-glass commissions for the Church of Ireland during the late 1910s and 1920s which may explain his personal connection with Gregg. These include his work for St Barrahane’s in Castletownsend, Co. Cork (1918, 1921, and 1926), Christ Church in Gorey, Co. Wicklow (1922), and St Patrick’s in Carnalway, Harristown, Co. Kildare (1921), as well as Holy Trinity in Killiney, Co. Dublin (1919), Eneriley and Kilbride Church near Arklow, Co. Wexford (1924), Sandford Parish Church in Ranelagh, Co. Dublin (1927) and St Brigid’s in Castleknock, also Co. Dublin (1928), all of which were located in Gregg’s own Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough. 

Personal inscription to Archbishop Gregg from Harry Clarke, dated December 1922, for the archbishop’s presentation copy (number 50 of the limited run) as it appears in the volume in the RCB Library Special Reserve Collection. © RCB Library


Clarke’s stunning originality as a stained-glass artist extended to other media, but what is often forgotten is the fact that he was also an accomplished book illustrator. Indeed, there are many similarities in his style in both art forms, and this is perhaps fitting, as his book illustrations and his work on stained-glass are examples of two-dimensional art focused on the telling of a story. 

The current online exhibition, which has been put together by Assistant Librarian Bryan Whelan, tells the story this particular unique and rare volume, which is just one of more than 60,000 volumes of printed books held in the Representative Church Body Library. Many of these volumes have come into its safe custody from members of the Church of Ireland laity, clergy and bishops. The bibliographic records of most of these books are now catalogued and accessible to a worldwide audience through the online printed books catalogue available

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Church of Ireland Historical Society Conference, 1 April 2017

The Church of Ireland Historical Society’s spring conference will take place at 11am on Saturday, 1 April 2017 in Armagh Public Library. Tea and coffee will be served from 10.30am. As always, all members of the public are welcome to attend.

Speakers include Dr Coleman Dennehy (University College London), Dr Patrick Little (History of Parliament Trust, London) and Ms Barbara McCormack (Maynooth University). The research paper will be delivered by Ms Kathryn Sawyer who is pursuing her PhD at Notre Dame, Indiana.

Dr Dennehy will talk about the role of the clergy in the Irish House of Lords in the early modern period. Ms Sawyer, who is the recipient of the Society’s W.G. Neely Prize for 2016, will present a paper on prayer and social order in Ireland, 1660-1689. Dr Little will discuss the challenges facing the Church of Ireland between 1647 and 1650. And, finally, Ms McCormack will speak about the collections of St Canice’s Cathedral which are now preserved in the Special Collections at Maynooth University (see programme below or download it via our archives link). It promises to be an exciting day.

Anyone and everyone is more than welcome to come to our event. We would ask non members of the Society to pay €10/£7 to assist in conference expenses. The registration desk will be located at the top of the stairs upon entering the library. Those wishing to join the Society can pay online by going to our membership page (this includes lunch, access to the Society’s podcasts, book discounts, and many other offers). Annual membership is set at €40. Students can avail of our special discount rate of just €15/£12 for annual membership.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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