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: https://www.ireland.anglican.org/news/6352/illuminated-address-by-renowned-heraldic

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: https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb

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: https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb

The current Church of Ireland Gazette and all editions from 2005 may be viewed via an online subscription on the Gazette website, see: https://gazette.ireland.anglican.org

The Irish Huguenot Archive

For the first time a detailed finding aid to the content of the Irish Huguenot Archive is now available online. In 1993, the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland entered into an agreement with the Representative Church Body to allow the RCB Library to host what was to be called the Irish Huguenot Archive. It was hoped that this new entity would develop as a centre for Huguenot studies in Ireland and so serve a similar purpose to the Huguenot Library in London.

The initiative was overseen by the former Librarian and Archivist of the RCB Library, Dr Raymond Refaussé, who became the Archive’s first curator, and although now retired, has written the introductory text that accompanies this latest online exhibition which is illustrated with examples from the collection.

Many of the Huguenot refugees to Ireland had, eventually, conformed to the discipline of the Church of Ireland. Whilst for a period, they continued to hold their services in French, this practice in time died out and they were absorbed into the mainstream of the Church of Ireland, being distinguished only by their names and their history. Thus even before the creation of an official archive the RCB Library had already been a place of resort for those interested in Huguenot families. The unrivalled collection of registers of baptisms, marriages and burials (the list is accessible at http://bit.ly/2Emf6JW) contains many entries with Huguenot names while its considerable collection of parish histories, many with small and limited circulations, included references to Huguenot families who had settled in various parts of Ireland.

The title page from a genealogy of the La Touche family, RCB Library Ms 128, © RCBL

The Library also had some existing Huguenot material in its manuscripts collection. This included the papers of JJ Digges La Touche, who had been Deputy Keeper of the Public Records of Ireland. He was a descendent of one of the more considerable French families to settle in Ireland and copied the minute book from the French Church of St Mary in Dublin, for the years 1706-17. In addition, he took notes on the Dublin banking firm of David La Touche and a copy of the La Touche genealogy. With such materials already in its custody, it made sense for the Church’s record repository and reference library to become the permanent home of the materials pertaining to the Huguenot community.

With the inauguration of the Irish Huguenot Archive in 1993, the RCB Library has been the primary beneficiary. Many of the accessions have been random in the sense that people have decided, for reasons of their own rather than having been targeted, to present material. In saying that Annette Camier, during her period as Honorary Secretary of the Irish Section, was a powerful advocate for the fledgling collection.

Among the manuscript collections are papers of the Hautenville family and related families of Rambaut and Cope; papers of Grace Lawless Lee relating to her researches for her seminal book Huguenot settlements in Ireland (London, 1936), generously donated by her son Dr Robin Gwynn from New Zealand; and letters from TP Le Fanu to Albert Carré relating to his book, L’influence des Huguenots Francais en Irelande … (Paris, 1937). Especially useful are the results of research by many genealogists and historians which have illuminated the lineages of families such as Cassan, d’Arabin, De Brecquet, Gaussen, Fleury, La Naze, Le Bas, Robinette, and Saurin.
The collection also includes a large number of printed books, periodicals and off-prints, all of which have been added to the RCB Library’s online catalogue of printed books which can be consulted at www.ireland.anglican.org/about/rcb-library/catalogues/printed-books

Most valuable are the Huguenot Society’s publications – the many short articles which have been published in the Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland (now titled The Huguenot Society Journal) and the more substantial publications which have appeared as parts of the Quarto Series. Scholars and researchers have furthermore been generous in presenting off-prints of articles, some published privately or in local journals, such as the many contributions to the history of the Huguenots in Portarlington by John Stocks Powell. The recent decision of the Irish Section to give an annual purchase grant has ensured that new books can be regularly added to the collection.

All of the original archive materials have been catalogued as a stand-alone collection consisting currently of 101 manuscripts, although this number is increasing incrementally with new donations. Whilst details of the printed materials have been available online through the Library’s online catalogue for some time, access to the content of the archive part of the collection was only possible in-house through index cards. Thanks to the work of Julia McCarthy, an undergraduate student at Trinity College Dublin who worked in the Library as an intern during the summer of 2017, the rich detail from these cards has now been transferred to a searchable database. This content is now available to view through the online exhibition and directly at this link: http://bit.ly/2DMpfTb

The logo of the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland with the Church of Ireland cross

The Irish Huguenot Archive has grown largely due to the generosity of those who have been involved in or who have been interested in the history of the Huguenot refuge in Ireland, and as it has grown, so too has its usefulness. The current Curator of the Irish Huguenot Archive, Dr Susan Hood, will always be glad hear of prospective donations.

Human-interest Stories in the Pages of the Church of Ireland Gazette, 1856-1923

In the run-up to marking 150 years since Disestablishment in 2019, the Representative Church Body Library – the Church of Ireland record repository – is making available more editions of the Church’s weekly newspaper, the Church of Ireland Gazette, as a freely-searchable resource online.

The Library holds the only complete hard-copy run of this newspaper published weekly since 1856, and through incremental digitization has gradually endeavoured to share its rich content with a wider audience. Now all editions for the 70-year period between March 1856, when the paper first appeared, up to and including the end of the Revolutionary period in December 1923 are shared for all.

Furthermore, beginning this month, COIHS committee member Dr Miriam Moffitt will present a new series of online exhibits entitled: ‘The News Behind the News’, to periodically appear during 2018 showcasing particular stories of interest. This will demonstrate the incredible detail to be uncovered in the pages of the Gazette, and its value for historical research, going behind the regular editorials, feature articles, advertisements, and other regular columns, taking readers on a journey of discovery to some of the hidden human-interest stories. These stories are then further fleshed out and illustrated by Dr Moffitt with other source material available in the Library.

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 first story reveals the content of a series of articles published 100 years ago in early 1918 editions of the Gazette where members of both laity and clergy provided insight into what they thought of each other. The series began with two columns entitled ‘If I were a clergyman’, published on 18th and 25th January 1918, with a third following on 8th February 1918. Most laypersons were united on one opinion: they expected their clergyman (and he was, of course, a man at this time) to have a good grasp of Scripture and doctrine and promised that, if they were in his place, they would equip themselves with the necessary training and knowledge. However, this is probably the only lay opinion of clerical life on which there was consensus and diverse suggestions were made regarding the Church’s association with wealth, home visiting, the income of the clergy, and the Church’s connection with the laity. Some lay correspondents claimed they understood the difficulties associated with clerical life: one writer went so far as to exclaim that ‘it be so difficult to combine the spirit of the dove and the spirit of the serpent at one time’.

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.’

Speaking from the RCB Library, the Librarian and Archivist, Dr Susan Hood, says: ‘Dr Moffitt’s forensic and exciting analysis of the Gazette reveals the depth of its significance as a primary source. We hope that the “News Behind the News” will be of wide interest and may stimulate further funding to complete the 80 years since then, from 1924 to 2004.’

The free-to-view finding aid to all editions of the Gazette between 1856 and 1923 is available here:  https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb

The ‘News Behind the News’ presentation begins at this link: www.ireland.anglican.org/library/archive

The current Church of Ireland Gazette and all editions from 2005 may be viewed via an online subscription on the Gazette website, see: https://gazette.ireland.anglican.org


Medieval Irish manuscript, Red Book of Ossory, digitised and online

The RCB Library has recently announced the digitalisation of one of its most significant medieval manuscripts: The Red Book of Ossory (RCB Library D11/2/1). This is now available for public consultation on the Church of Ireland website.

To mark this significant development, the well known medieval historian and COIHS honorary secretary, Dr Adrian Empey, analyses the Christmas-related content of the manuscript, including the lyrics of no less than 25 songs related to the nativity. These, like much of the content of the Red Book as a whole, were written by the Bishop of Ossory, Richard Ledred, whose tempestuous episcopate lasted from 1317 to about 1361.

The first Christmas song to appear in the Red Book is headed: ‘Cantilena de nativitate Domini’ [a song of the Nativity of (our) Lord]. Consisting of five stanzas, it opens with the words: ‘verbum caro factum est’ [the Word was made Flesh], © RCB Library D11/1.2, f. 70

The Red Book of Ossory contains 79 vellum leaves, and was composed largely in the 14th century during Ledred’s time.  Later entries were added, the latest from the reign of Elizabeth I. The Red Book derives its name from the colour of the leather binding, faded on the outside, but still visible inside the cover.  Like other medieval episcopal registers, it contains a wide range of documents that defy classification, the choice of which depended on what was important to individual bishops, in this case by Ledred, whom Dr Empey makes clear in his presentation was ‘one of the most extraordinary bishops ever to occupy the see of Ossory’.

The Red Book derives its name from the colour of the leather binding

The volume is internationally renowned for a number of reasons: it contains, for example, numerous documents of legal interest, such as the provisions of Magna Carta. More exceptionally, it contains a lengthy medical treatise on aqua vitae, or what we would call cognac, that occupies three and a half closely written pages in Latin shorthand.  While such a treatise is perhaps very seasonal, the reasons for its inclusion in the register were more medicinal, perhaps in some way linked to the Black Death that ravaged Kilkenny in 1348. Nevertheless it does provide the earliest known recipe for distillation known to exist in any Irish manuscript and its content of is particular contemporary interest to Ireland’s whiskey industry.

Another reason for the international fame of the Red Book is the collection of 60 Latin lyrics that make up the final folios, all but 13 of which were composed by Ledred. Many of the songs honour the Virgin Mary, and whilst all were not necessarily related to Christmas, Ledred intended them to be sung at the great festivals and on other occasions, so it looks very much as though he had the celebration of Christmas chiefly in mind, analysed in more detail in the online presentation.

Dr Susan Hood, RCB Librarian and Archivist, says: “We are grateful to Dr Empey for bringing the many intriguing aspects of this volume to light in conjunction with the digital release of this volume. We hope to follow digitization of the Red Book with other medieval manuscripts in the collection in due course.

Dr Adrian Empey, who is also a member of the library and archives committee, claims: ‘It is a great delight that the Library has seen fit to make available not just these songs but all of the other unique content of the Red Book of Ossory in digital format for a worldwide audience to view.

The Muniments of Swift’s Cathedral

Although by no means complete, having suffered the ravages of time, including flood, fire and neglect, the scope of the muniments of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, (Swift’s cathedral) is vast. The collection contains records from as early as the 13th century and continuing on to the present day. Since the transfer of the collection into the safe and permanent custody of the Representative Church Body Library, Dublin in 1995, these have been accessioned as RCB Library C2/ and organised into nine distinct groups of records, as follows:

  1. Volumes
  2. Deeds
  3. Maps
  4. Plans & Drawings
  5. Loose Papers
  6. Photographs
  7. Printed Materials
  8. Seals
  9. Music

Now for the first time the extensive hand-list or finding aid which provides access to the collection is available online to assist potential researchers who may wish to consult its rich and varied materials.

Timed to coincide with the Swift 350, to mark the 350th anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Swift (born on 30th November 1667 at Hoey’s Court, in the parish of St Werburgh, Dublin), the new online exhibition on the RCB Library website highlights particular aspects of the collection which relate to Swift’s tenure as Dean of St Patrick’s which he served for 32 years – from 1713 until his death in 1745. It also provides a link to the detailed hand-list available as a searchable pdf.

Popular print depicting the Very Revd Jonathan Swift at his cathedral, © RCB Library C2.7

These include the Chapter Act Books (commencing in 1643) that record the procedures of the dean and chapter. During Swift’s tenure as dean these became notably more extensive, as he was renowned for his efficiency and administrative ability. Another collection of particular interest includes in the miscellaneous loose papers section a folder of papers entitled ‘Swiftiana’ which was compiled in the late 19th century and features copies of specific papers and correspondence relating to Swift, as well as papers outlining the rediscovery of the grave containing the skulls of Swift and Esther Johnson (known as Stella), during the retiling of the floor of the cathedral in 1882.

Much of the work of organising the cathedral archive into a structured arrangement was carried out to facilitate the research for and publication of the cathedral’s most recent and comprehensive published history – edited by the late Canon John Crawford, and Professor Raymond Gillespie – St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin: A History (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2009), but more recently the collection has been expanded as new items continue to be transferred to the Library’s custody, and in particular the Library Administrator, Robert Gallagher, has completed a listing of the extensive  collection of the cathedral’s photographs, dating from the 1940s, and including some dramatic images of the cathedral’s interior and exterior, as well as many human interest pictures from numerous services such as the annual Remembrance Service, and the Christmas Eve carol service, that have a national resonance. The photographic collection also contains a number of items relevant to Swift and his legacy, including significant services commemorating his life, the display of his death mask and other items in the area of the cathedral designated as ‘Swift’s corner’, and even the dramatic portrayal of his life in a stage production entitled: ‘Mr Handel’s Visit to Dublin’ premiered in the cathedral as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival on 29th September 1969.

The photographs are further complemented by an extensive run of scrapbooks, which commence in 1884 that include a wide range of miscellaneous press cuttings, orders of service, and other memorabilia that flesh out not only Swift’s association with the Church of Ireland’s National Cathedral of St Patrick, but also many other stories of interest too.

Thinking about Reformation 500: the warm up to the big weekend

As part of the build-up to the Reformation 500 conference jointly organised by the Church of Ireland Historical Society and the Catholic Historical Society of Ireland on 20-21 October (for further details visit http://churchofirelandhist.org/reformation-500-conference/), the History Ireland Hedge School starts the discussion on Martin Luther and the wider significance.

It is 500 years since Luther composed his ninety-five theses at Wittenberg, in which he criticised the Catholic Church’s practice of selling indulgences to absolve sin. This set in motion an unexpected turn of events that led to the Protestant Reformation. A panel organised by the History Ireland Hedge School, in association with the Church of Ireland Historical Society, will reflect and discuss Luther’s actions and whether it was really about religion or a cynical power-grab by some of the princes of Europe. Other themes will explore whether it was an early manifestation of Brexit – a disillusionment of the periphery with the perceived corruption of the cosmopolitan centre? Ultimately, the panel will consider Luther’s actions and the relevance this has (if any?) today.

History Ireland Hedge School, in association with the Church of Ireland Historical Society, St Werbugh’s Church, 18 October at 7pm

History Ireland editor, Tommy Graham, will chair a lively and enlightening round-table discussion with Adrian Empey (COIHS, Hon. Sec.), John McCafferty (University College Dublin), Alison Forrestal (National University of Ireland, Galway) and Gesa Thiessen (Trinity College, Dublin). It all takes place on Wednesday, 18th October at 7pm in the beautiful surroundings of St Werburgh’s Church, Werburgh Street, Dublin. The event is free of charge and no booking is required.

Little books with big interest at the RCB Library, Dublin

The Representative Church Body Library, Dublin, has an exhibition showcasing some of its collection of miniature and small books available on display in the Library. Two particular items are worth noting: one is a miniature Bible presented to the Library by CJ Lundy, son of the Revd St George Lundy (1914-1976), and the other a beautiful edition of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), which was purchased from a local charity shop after the Library was notified of its existence by a member of the public.

The RCB Library holds well in excess of 80,000 books, many of which have been donated by those associated with the Church of Ireland and other religious institutions, as well as by members of the public. These items in particular attest to their innately personal nature.

The first item, donated by CJ Lundy, is an intricate, miniature version of the Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments. Measuring only 4.3 cm in height and 3 cm in width, the Bible is bound in a dark blue cover. A particularly delightful aspect of the volume is that it includes drawings of notable biblical events. This miniature book was a product of David Bryce & Sons, a publishing house noted as masters of miniaturisation, using the latest technological advances in photolithography and electroplating to produce ever-smaller versions of popular texts. It comes complete with a magnifying glass to help the reader with deciphering the text, such aids being a particular feature of these kinds of books produced by Bryce. On the front endpapers of the book, the inscription that states: ‘From the Library of John Knott, M.D. given to St George Lundy by Eleanor Knott with best wishes 23 IV 1938’.


Eleanor Draper’s Book of Common Prayer, complete with distinctive frontal brass piece, clasp, and gold-edged papers. © Representative Church Body, Library.

St George Charles Hubert Lundy was baptised in St Mary’s Church in Donnybrook parish on 20th May 1914, with the family residing in 4 Churchill Terrace. After moving to 11 Strand Road in Sandymount, the family became members of St Michael’s parish in Irishtown. He trained in Trinity College with the aim of becoming ordained in the Church of Ireland, eventually becoming curate in Christ Church in Lisburn and St Mary’s in Belfast. In 1938, he received his Divinity Testimonium from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and so began his deaconship, but given that it was St George’s birthday on 24 April, it might be assumed that this book was a gift to mark this anniversary. It was given to Lundy by the remarkable linguist Eleanor Knott (born 18th November 1886).

The Knott family resided in Dublin in 34 York Street, near St Stephen’s Green and the miniature Bible came from the library of John Freeman Knott, a medical doctor and Eleanor’s father. Eleanor was encouraged by her Cornish mother, Philippa Annie Knott (née Balcombe), to study Irish, and came to focus on Old Irish at the School of Irish Learning in 1907. She began working for the Royal Irish Academy in 1911 and eventually became a lecturer in Celtic Languages in TCD in 1928. A year after presenting St George with the miniature Bible, a Chair of Early Irish was created for her in TCD. Her gift to Lundy was both a deeply personal and an innately respectful gesture. We can only speculate as to whether the two initiated their friendship on the campus of the university, but it is without doubt that their friendship had already begun during this important time for both.

The RCB Library was alerted to the existence of the second featured volume by a member of the public who saw it for sale in a local charity shop. It has a small budget for purchasing materials of direct relevance to the Church, and on inspection of the item in question, purchased it for longevity. This edition of the BCP, published in 1861 by G. E. Eyre and W. Spottiswoode, is in remarkably good condition, being a near-perfect copy, with a simple ‘Church Service’ in gold on the segmented spine. The book is bound in brown leather and the pages are gold-edged. What really takes the eye is the metal clasp that protects it, as well as the gold brass symbol on the front which states ‘peace’.

Eleanor Knott’s miniature Bible, complete with magnifying glass and a pencil for scale. © Representative Church Body, Library.

In contrast to Knott’s miniature Bible, biographical information on the provenance of the BCP indicates it may have been a treasured keepsake. On the front endpaper are two inscriptions, in different hand and ink. The first reads simply ‘M Draper. 1863’ while underneath is the inscription ‘Given to Eleanor Draper by Aunt Helen Montague March 20 1908’.

These tantalising bits of information led staff on a quest to find more information about the elusive Eleanor Draper, using online genealogical sources such as the 1901 and 1911 census forms. From this research one can argue with a degree of confidence that Eleanor Draper was born in Dublin on 3rd January 1867. Her parents, Carter and Sophy, were married in Rathmines Chapel of Ease in 1866 and had moved to Blackrock by the time of Eleanor’s birth. Eleanor’s father was an architect from Wicklow, whose notable work was the Halpin Memorial, in Fitzwilliam Square in Wicklow town.  The civil record of Eleanor’s death on 6th December 1962 states that she was a teacher.

Items such as this often contain dedications, notes, or personal items to underline their importance. In addition to the dedication, an original photograph of the British Legation at Kabul was inserted into the middle section. There is no indication of the reason that Eleanor placed this image in the book. On the back, in pencil, it simply states: ‘British Legation Kabul’. It would be fascinating to know if, for example, her father had worked on the construction of this building.

These rare items are just two examples of the many unique items that the RCB Library holds and the stories they help to uncover. Visitors are invited to view both volumes in the context of a selection of other miniature and small books in the RCB Library hall.

For more information about Eleanor Knott, click here: www.ria.ie/library/eleanor-knott-collection

The online exhibition, available through this link (www.ireland.anglican.org/about/rcb-library/archive-of-the-month) was researched and compiled by Jennifer Murphy, Library Assistant, and Bryan Whelan, Assistant Librarian.

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