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.

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: 

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.

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.

BIG NEWS! Reformation 500 Conference, October 2017

The Church of Ireland Historical Society, together with our friends in the Catholic Historical Society of Ireland, have been working tirelessly in the background organising a big conference to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We are delighted to reveal our provisional programme that includes some of the leading scholars of the period.

The conference will be take place over two days and in two locations. The proceedings for the first day will take place on Friday 20th October 2017 in the Music Room at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin beginning at 3pm, while events on Saturday 21 October will be held at St Patrick’s College Drumcondra (Dublin City University), starting at 10am.

Dr Scott Dixon (Queen’s University, Belfast) will kick off the conference with a presentation on ‘Martin Luther and the Reformation‘. After a short coffee break, Professors Peter Marshall (University of Warwick) and Alec Ryrie (Durham University) will lead an open discussion entitled ‘Tudor Brexit: How European were the British and Irish Reformations?‘. This will be followed by the launch of a book edited by Dr Mark Empey, Professor Alan Ford and Dr Miriam Moffitt, entitled The Church of Ireland and its past: history, interpretation and memory, which was co-funded by the Church of Ireland Historical Society.

On Saturday 21 October 2017, the conference will be at St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, Dublin City University, where Professors Alan Ford (University of Nottingham), Graeme Murdock (Trinity College, Dublin) and Jane Dawson (University of Edinburgh) will discuss reform movements in England, Ireland and Europe. This will be followed with presentations by Dr Alison Forrestal (NUI Galway) and Professor Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin (University College Dublin) who will examine the Catholic reformations in Ireland and Europe. Professor Mícheál Mac Craith (St Isidore’s Irish College, Rome) and Professor John McCafferty (University College Dublin) will then look at how the Reformation was written in Europe and Ireland. The conference will end with a roundtable discussion on commemorating the Reformation, which will be chaired by Professor Marian Lyons (Maynooth University).

The event is FREE to all members of the public. Anyone wishing to attend can register via Eventbrite. Please click on the following link: We strongly encourage early registration as places are limited.

For informal inquiries, you can contact either Professor Marian Lyons ( or Dr Adrian Empey (

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

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:


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.

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.

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:


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