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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Alfred O’Rahilly, Scholar, University President & Priest

Alfred O’Rahilly, academic with controversial views on both electromagnetism and religion, is born on October 1, 1884, in Listowel, County Kerry. He briefly serves in politics, as a Teachta Dála (TD) for Cork, and is later the president of University College Cork (UCC). He also becomes a priest following the death of his wife, his first cousin, Agnes O’Donoghue.

O’Rahilly is the eighth child of Thomas Francis Rahilly of Ballylongford, County Kerry and Julia Mary Rahilly (née Curry) of Glin, County Limerick. He changes his name to ‘O’Rahilly’ by deed poll in 1920. His fourteen siblings included Celtic scholars Thomas Francis and Cecile, and a first cousin is The O’Rahilly, killed during the 1916 Easter Rising. Educated at St. Michael’s College, Listowel, Blackrock College, and UCC, he undergoes a long period (1901–14) of training as a member of the Society of Jesus, but eventually leaves during the final stages of preparation for the priesthood, because of temperamental unsuitability. Appointed an assistant lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Mathematical Physics in October 1914, he becomes the dominant figure in the institution within six years. He becomes Professor of Mathematical Physics on June 1, 1917 and registrar on February 11, 1920, before vacating these offices when he becomes president (1943–54).

O’Rahilly’s early career in UCC is set against the background of the revolutionary period, and he becomes predominantly identified, within and without the college, with the rise of post-1916 Sinn Féin. At UCC he leads the nationalist interest that ousts the perceived pro-British old regime, personified by Sir Bertram Windle, who resigns from the presidency in 1919. O’Rahilly is flamboyant, extrovert, disputatious and dynamic. During the low-key, unassertive presidency (1919–43) of Patrick J. Merriman, O’Rahilly as registrar is heir-presumptive and acts as de facto president. All in all, the whirlwind age of O’Rahilly lasts for almost four decades.

O’Rahilly is a volatile and bristling polymath of inexhaustible energy. The vast range of his scholarly interests – politics, sociology, finance, Christology, mathematical physics, history – arouse astonishment and envy. One critique of his work Money (1941) ends with the reflection that the book would enable people to relieve rural tedium by laughing the winter nights away. His contemplated multi-volume life of Christ prompts a National University colleague to observe that a life of O’Rahilly by Christ would be much more interesting. He, who is vain but not stuffy, is not offended by such descriptions of him as “a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Jimmy O’Dea,” but is not pleased by the jibe that he has the best mind of the twelfth century, since he considers himself a very modern man indeed.

There are some negative and even frivolous aspects of O’Rahilly’s UCC presidency. He has a strong appetite for the hurly-burly of academic politics and, it is said, enters no controversy that he does not aggravate. He has the reputation of being a bully and exploiter in his dealings with junior academic staff, but he can be kind, helpful, and extraordinarily generous to staff and students with problems. His zeal for vigorously promoting a Roman Catholic ethos in a nominally pluralist institution is frequently paternalistic and extends to acts of petty supervision, particularly perhaps over women students. This is the kind of atmosphere that prompts a visiting examiner to describe the UCC of the 1940s as “a convent run by a mad reverend mother.”

All this being said, O’Rahilly is one of the most vibrant and effective presidents in the history of the National University. His initiatives include extensive improvements in the library, of which he is director, and the institution of student health and restaurant services. He founds the electrical engineering department and the Cork University Press, which he believes would provide a publication outlet for the researches of his colleagues, particularly those concerned with native learning. He strengthens UCC’s links with the city and the province, and these are significantly expressed through the provision of adult education courses, an area where O’Rahilly is particularly innovative and pioneering.

As a young academic, O’Rahilly becomes caught up in the struggle for independence. He serves on Cork Corporation in the heroic age of Tomás Mac Curtain and Terence MacSwiney, and spends a patriotic period in jail and on the run. He represents Cork Borough (1923–24) in Dáil Éireann for Cumann na nGaedheal but resigns his seat in 1924. He is a constitutional adviser to the Irish delegation at the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations in 1921, argues publicly for the acceptance of the treaty, and helps to draft the Constitution of the Irish Free State. His links with the local labour and trade-union movement are long and close, and at national level he serves as Irish government chief representative in successive sessions of the International Labour Organization conference in Geneva. He is also a member of government commissions on banking and vocational organisation. After retirement he goes to reside at Blackrock College, where he is ordained a priest on December 18, 1955, and becomes a domestic prelate (monsignor) in 1960.

O’Rahilly dies at the age of 84 in Dublin on August 1, 1969.

No other layman of his day so self-confidently assumes a central role in so many areas of Catholic life – philosophy, sociology, theology, scriptural studies. The controversies in which be becomes involved are a source of interest and pride to UCC students. Their president is a pugnacious polemicist (who jousts with such eminences as H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw), a man of stature, and a formidable Catholic intellectual.

(From: “O’Rahilly, Alfred” by John A. Murphy, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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First Meeting of the General Synod of Ulster

The first recorded meeting of the Presbyterian General Synod of Ulster is held at Antrim, County Antrim, on September 30, 1691.

The Synod (or General Synod) of Ulster is the forerunner of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. It comprises all the clergy of the church elected by their respective local presbyteries (or church elders) and a section of the laity.

In 1726, the Synod expels ministers, grouped together as the Synod of Antrim, who refuse to subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Later there is a further secession by those who, insisting on the sole kingship of Christ, reject the Confession. In 1763 they organise a distinct Reformed Presbyterian Church, and in 1811 establish their own provincial synod. In 1746, some of the more doctrinaire Calvinists withdraw, forming the Secession Synod.

Within the mainline Synod there is a continuing distinction between ‘Old Light‘ supporters of theological orthodoxy and ‘New Light‘ elements more inclined to defer to conscience rather than doctrine. In the first decades of the 19th century, positions harden with New Light ministers adopting a Unitarian or Arian skepticism regarding the doctrine of the Trinity. In 1829, when the leading conservative evangelical, Henry Cooke, succeeds in pressing the General Synod for a firm declaration of Trinitarian belief they withdraw to form their own Remonstrant Synod.

The departure of the latitudinarian party makes possible a reconciliation with the earlier Seceders. Purged of its heterodox elements, in 1840 the Synod of Ulster joins with the Secession Synod to form the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.


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Birth of Charles Maturin, Clergyman, Playwright & Novelist

Charles Robert Maturin, also known as C. R. Maturin, an Irish Protestant clergyman ordained in the Church of Ireland and a writer of Gothic plays and novels, is born in Dublin on September 25, 1780. His best known work is the novel Melmoth the Wanderer.

Maturin is descended from Huguenots who found shelter in Ireland, one of whom is Gabriel Jacques Maturin who becomes Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, after Jonathan Swift in 1745. He attends Trinity College Dublin. Shortly after being ordained as curate of Loughrea, County Galway, in 1803, he moves back to Dublin as curate of St. Peter’s Church. He lives in York Street with his father William, a Post Office official, and his mother, Fedelia Watson. He marries the acclaimed singer Henrietta Kingsbury on October 7, 1804.

Maturin’s first three works are Gothic novels published under the pseudonym Dennis Jasper Murphy, and are critical and commercial failures. They do, however, catch the attention of Sir Walter Scott, who recommends Maturin’s work to Lord Byron. With their help, his play Bertram is staged in 1816 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane for 22 nights, with Edmund Kean starring in the lead role as Bertram. Financial success, however, eludes Maturin, as the play’s run coincides with his father’s unemployment and another relative’s bankruptcy, both of them assisted by the fledgling writer. To make matters worse, Samuel Taylor Coleridge publicly denounces the play as dull and loathsome, and “melancholy proof of the depravation of the public mind,” going nearly so far as to decry it as atheistic.

The Church of Ireland takes note of these and earlier criticisms and, having discovered the identity of Bertram‘s author after Maturin had shed his nom de plume to collect the profits from the play, subsequently bar his further clerical advancement. Forced to support his wife and four children by writing on his curate salary of £80-90 per annum, compared to the £1000 he made for Bertram, he switches back from playwright to novelist after a string of his plays meet with failure. He produces several novels in addition to Melmoth the Wanderer, including some on Irish subjects and The Albigenses, a historical novel which features werewolves. Various poems have also been ascribed to Maturin on dubious grounds and appear to be the work of others. The prize-winning “Lines on the Battle of Waterloo” is published in 1816 under the name of the university graduate John Shee. “The Universe” appears with Maturin’s name on the title page in 1821, but is now thought to be almost completely the work of James Wills.

The exaggerated effectiveness of Maturin’s preaching can be gauged from the two series of sermons that he publishes. On the occasion of the death of Princess Charlotte, he declares, “Life is full of death; the steps of the living cannot press the earth without disturbing the ashes of the dead – we walk upon our ancestors – the globe itself is one vast churchyard.” A contemporary account records that there had seldom been seen such crowds at St Peter’s. “Despite the severe weather, people of all persuasions flocked to the church and listened spellbound to this prince of preachers. In his obituary it is said that, ‘did he leave no other monument whereon to rest his fame, these sermons alone would be sufficient.'”

Maturin dies in Dublin on October 30, 1824. A writer in the University Magazine later sums up his character as “eccentric almost to insanity and compounded of opposites – an insatiable reader of novels; an elegant preacher; an incessant dancer; a coxcomb in dress and manners.”

A sister of Maturin’s wife marries Charles Elgee, whose daughter, Jane Francesca, becomes the mother of Oscar Wilde. Thus Charles Maturin is Oscar Wilde’s great-uncle by marriage. Wilde discards his own name and adopts the name of Maturin’s novel, Melmoth, during his exile in France.

Maturin’s eldest son, William Basil Kingsbury Maturin, follows him into the ministry, as do several of his grandsons. One of these, Basil W. Maturin, dies in the sinking of RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915. The second son is Edward Maturin, who emigrates to the United States and becomes a novelist and poet there.


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Birth of Richard Chenevix Trench, Anglican Archbishop & Poet

Richard Chenevix Trench, Anglican archbishop and poet, is born in Dublin on September 9, 1807.

Trench is the son of Richard Trench (1774–1860), barrister-at-law, and the Dublin writer Melesina Chenevix (1768–1827). His elder brother is Francis Chenevix Trench. He is educated at Harrow School, and graduates from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1829. In 1830 he visits Spain. While incumbent of Curdridge Chapel near Bishop’s Waltham in Hampshire, he publishes The Story of Justin Martyr and Other Poems (1835), which is favourably received, and is followed by Sabbation, Honor Neale, and other Poems (1838), and Poems from Eastern Sources (1842). These volumes reveal the author as the most gifted of the immediate disciples of William Wordsworth, with a warmer colouring and more pronounced ecclesiastical sympathies than the master, and strong affinities to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, John Keble and Richard Monckton Milnes.

In 1841 Trench resigns his living to become curate to Samuel Wilberforce, then rector of Alverstoke, and upon Wilberforce’s promotion to the deanery of Westminster Abbey in 1845 he is presented to the rectory of Itchen Stoke. In 1845 and 1846 he preaches the Hulsean Lectures, and in the former year is made examining chaplain to Wilberforce, now Bishop of Oxford. He is shortly afterwards appointed to a theological chair at King’s College London.

Trench joins the Canterbury Association on March 27, 1848, on the same day as Samuel Wilberforce and Wilberforce’s brother Robert.

In 1851 Trench establishes his fame as a philologist by The Study of Words, originally delivered as lectures to the pupils of the Diocesan Training School, Winchester. His stated purpose is to demonstrate that in words, even taken singly, “there are boundless stores of moral and historic truth, and no less of passion and imagination laid up” — an argument which he supports by a number of apposite illustrations. It is followed by two little volumes of similar character — English Past and Present (1855) and A Select Glossary of English Words (1859). All have gone through numerous editions and have contributed much to promote the historical study of the English tongue. Another great service to English philology is rendered by his paper, read before the Philological Society, On some Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries (1857), which gives the first impulse to the great Oxford English Dictionary. He envisages a totally new dictionary that is a “lexicon totius Anglicitatis.” As one of the three founders of the dictionary, he expresses his vision that it will be “an entirely new Dictionary; no patch upon old garments, but a new garment throughout.”

Trench’s advocacy of a revised translation of the New Testament (1858) helps promote another great national project. In 1856 he publishes a valuable essay on Pedro Calderón de la Barca, with a translation of a portion of Life is a Dream in the original metre. In 1841 he had published his Notes on the Parables of our Lord, and in 1846 his Notes on the Miracles, popular works which are treasuries of erudite and acute illustration.

In 1856 Trench becomes Dean of Westminster Abbey, a position which suits him. Here he introduces evening nave services. In January 1864 he is advanced to the post of Archbishop of Dublin. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley had been first choice, but is rejected by the Church of Ireland, and, according to Bishop Wilberforce’s correspondence, Trench’s appointment is favoured neither by the Prime Minister nor the Lord Lieutenant. It is, moreover, unpopular in Ireland, and a blow to English literature, yet it turns out to be fortunate. He cannot prevent the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, though he resists with dignity. But, when the disestablished communion has to be reconstituted under the greatest difficulties, it is important that the occupant of his position should be a man of a liberal and genial spirit.

This is the work of the remainder of Trench’s life. It exposes him at times to considerable abuse, but he comes to be appreciated and, when he resigns his archbishopric because of poor health in November 1884, clergy and laity unanimously record their sense of his “wisdom, learning, diligence, and munificence.” He finds time for Lectures on Medieval Church History (1878), and his poetical works are rearranged and collected in two volumes (last edition, 1885). He dies at Eaton Square, London, on March 28, 1886, after a lingering illness. He is buried at Westminster Abbey.

George W. E. Russell describes Trench as “a man of singularly vague and dreamy habits” and recounts the following anecdote of his old age:

“He once went back to pay a visit to his successor, Lord Plunket. Finding himself back again in his old palace, sitting at his old dinner-table, and gazing across it at his wife, he lapsed in memory to the days when he was master of the house, and gently remarked to Mrs. Trench, ‘I am afraid, my love, that we must put this cook down among our failures.'”


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Dom Columba Marmion Beatified by Pope John Paul II

Dom Columba Marmion, a Dublin priest who is credited with curing an American woman of cancer, is beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000.

Marmion is born April 1, 1858, in Dublin, the seventh of nine children of William Marmion and Herminie Marmion (née Cordier). He attends St. Laurence O’Toole’s, a primary school run by the Augustinian Fathers of John’s Lane. On January 11, 1869, he transfers to Belvedere College, where he receives an excellent grounding in Greek and Latin from the Jesuit Fathers. From there, he proceeded in January 1874 to Clonliffe College, where he remains until December 1879, when the new Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Edward MacCabe, selects him for further theological studies in Rome.

Marmion is in Rome at the Pontifical Irish College, studying theology at the Propaganda College, for eighteen months (December 1879 – July 1881). Although invited by the authorities at Propaganda to present himself for the doctorate degree, he turns down the offer for health reasons, on account of the necessary extra year in Rome which this would entail. On returning to Dublin he spends the first year as curate in Dundrum parish. This is followed by four years (1882–86) as professor of philosophy at Clonliffe. On October 25, 1886, he receives from the newly appointed Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. William Walsh, his dimissorial letters, granting him permission to join the Benedictine order. On November 21, 1886, he enters the newly founded Belgian Maredsous Abbey, with which, by virtue of the Benedictine vow of stability, he is to be associated for the rest of his life.

The first thirteen years of his monastic life (1886–99) are spent at Maredsous Abbey itself. After an unsuccessful start in the abbey school as a kind of housemaster to the junior boys, he finds his feet within the community through congenial work, notably the teaching of Thomistic philosophy to the junior monks. He also gradually builds up a reputation as a spiritual guide through the exercise of ministry on a small scale in the surrounding area. The next decade (1899–1909) finds him in Louvain as prior and professor of dogmatic theology at Mont César Abbey, which is founded and staffed by Maredsous. This decade provides a wide outlet for his matured spiritual doctrine through his lectures on dogmatic theology in Mont César, his retreats to priests and religious, and his private correspondence. The third and final phase of his monastic life begins when the chapter of Maredsous elects him as its third abbot in 1909.

An invitation is received from the Belgian government from December 1909 to April 1910 to undertake a Benedictine foundation in Katanga, part of the Belgian Congo. In spite of pressure from government quarters the chapter of Maredsous refuses the offer, and Marmion accepts this negative decision. In 1913 the entire community of Anglican Benedictines of Caldey Island, Wales, transfer their allegiance from Canterbury to Rome. Marmion becomes deeply involved in the spiritual and canonical process of the reception of the community into the Catholic church.

The outbreak of World War I ushers in four years of grave anxiety for Marmion. Belgium is not completely occupied, but retains sovereignty over an area extending inland about twenty miles to the Ypres Salient. This enables the young monks of Maredsous, for whom Marmion had found a temporary home in Edermine, County Wexford, to travel to and from the Western Front, where they are being called up to serve as stretcher bearers in the Belgian army. He does his utmost to maintain the unity of his community between those who had remained in Maredsous and the Edermine group.

The first of Marmion’s great spiritual books, Christ, the Life of the Soul, appears in 1916, and its phenomenal success has been described as a silent plebiscite. This is followed by Christ in His Mysteries (1919), Christ the Ideal of the Monk (1922), and Sponsa Verbi (1923). The books are able to appear in rapid succession since they are compiled from his existing conference notes.

One final piece of important monastic and ecclesiastical and even political business absorbs much of Marmion’s energies, although strictly speaking it is not of his remit. His strenuous efforts to install Belgian monks in the Abbey of the Dormition on Mount Zion in Jerusalem following the internment (November 1918) of the original German Benedictine community by the victorious British forces are of no avail, the question being finally settled by the reinstallation of the German (Beuronese) monks in 1921.

Marmion dies at Maredsous on January 30, 1923, following a brief illness which originates in a chill and is aggravated by influenza.

Marmion is beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000. This is the outcome of a popular reputation for holiness which had increased steadily since his death and the procedures for beatification prompted in 1954 by Mgr. Montini, the future Pope Paul VI. The canonical steps are: diocesan process at Namur (1957–61); examination at Rome of Marmion’s writings (1960–73); a critical biography (1987–94), written by Mark Tierney, OSB, for the Roman process on the ‘heroicity’ of Marmion’s virtues which concluded in June 1999; and finally an inexplicable cure of cancer through Marmion’s intercession, judged as miraculous by Rome on January 25, 2000.

The originality of Marmion’s spiritual doctrine lay in his truly central emphasis on the doctrine of our adoption as the children of God in baptism. Many of his predecessors had also emphasised this doctrine, but few had made it the focus from which everything radiated and to which everything returned. The second characteristic of Marmion’s teaching, a much more personal trait, is the conviction of authenticity communicated by his writings, of the greatness of our sharing in the sonship of the Word. This makes a deep and lasting impression on the reader, and gives an infinitely sacred meaning to the title ‘children of God’ and thereby to the whole of life. The third characteristic of Marmion’s teaching is the simplicity with which the deepest theological truths are presented – truths which preachers often feel their people cannot ‘take,’ and hence are left unsaid. Marmion presents these truths directly from St. John and St. Paul, and not merely in familiar extracts but in the whole sweep of their texts.

(From: “Marmion, Dom Columba” by Placid Murray, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Enactment of the Papist Act 1778

The Papists Act 1778, an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, is enacted on August 14, 1778, and grants rights of leasing and inheritance to those who have taken the oath of allegiance, the first rolling back of the Penal Laws and the first Act for Roman Catholic relief. Later in 1778 it is also enacted by the Parliament of Ireland.

Before the Act, a number of “Penal laws” had been enacted in Britain and Ireland, which varied between the jurisdictions from time to time but effectively excluded those known to be Roman Catholics from public life.

By this Act, an oath is imposed, which besides a declaration of loyalty to the reigning sovereign, contains an abjuration of the Pretender, and of certain doctrines attributed to Roman Catholics, such as that excommunicated princes may lawfully be murdered, that no faith should be kept with heretics, and that the Pope has temporal as well as spiritual jurisdiction in Great Britain.

Those taking this oath are exempted from some of the provisions of the Popery Act 1698. Although it does not grant freedom of worship, it allows Catholics to join the army and purchase land if they take an oath of allegiance. The section as to taking and prosecuting priests is repealed, as well as the penalty of perpetual imprisonment for keeping a school. Roman Catholics are also enabled to inherit and purchase land, nor is an heir who conformed to the Established church any longer empowered to enter and enjoy the estate of his “papist” kinsman.

The passing of this act is the occasion of the Gordon Riots (1780) in which the violence of the mob is especially directed against William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, who had objected to various prosecutions under the statutes now repealed.

This Act remains on the statute book until it is repealed by the Promissory Oaths Act 1871.

(Pictured: The royal coat of arms of Great Britain, 1714-1801, used by King George I, George II and George III)


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Birth of Cornelius Denvir, Mathematician & Lord Bishop of Down and Connor

Cornelius Denvir, Roman Catholic Prelate, mathematician, natural philosopher and Lord Bishop of Down and Connor, is born on August 13, 1791, at Ballyculter, County Down. He is noted for ministering in Belfast amidst growing sectarian tension, taking a moderate and non-confrontational stance, to the annoyance of his pro-Catholic followers. He is also a professor at Maynooth College as well as Down and Connor Diocesan College, and is active in the local scientific community.

Denvir is educated at Dr. Nelson’s Classical School in Downpatrick, being described by peers as an enthusiastic child with a love for sight-seeing. According to one biographer, young Denvir also shows interest in the catechism by attending local visits from the then Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr. Patrick MacMullan, who is resident in Downpatrick. In September 1808, he enrolls at Maynooth College, and is appointed chair of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics there in August 1813.

As chair of mathematics and natural philosophy at Maynooth College, Denvir is noted for changing the style of education at the college from pure logic-based reasoning in Mathematics to a more holistic, topical approach. He is also noted for emphasising experimentation and the importance of the scientific method in teaching natural philosophy, with several sources noting his well-stocked labs.

While at Maynooth College Denvir teaches both Nicholas Callan, the inventor and physicist, and Dominic Corrigan, the noted Irish physician. According to several accounts, both speak fondly of their old professor, to the point of Callan gifting Denvir one of his induction coils in thanks.

Denvir is ordained first as deacon in June 1813, then a priest in May 1814, performing his liturgical duties in conjunction with his academic ones. In 1826, he leaves Maynooth College to become the parish priest of Downpatrick. In 1833 he becomes a professor at the newly founded St. Malachy’s College, teaching classes in Latin, Greek and Mathematics. He continues his duties as parish priest and professor until 1835, when he is appointed Bishop of Down and Connor in succession to Dr. William Crolly.

As 22nd Lord Bishop of Down and Connor, Denvir emphasises the teaching of the Catechism to youth as well as emphasising the importance of scripture to the diocese. In 1841 he helps fund the start of construction of St. Malachy’s Church in Belfast, which is completed in 1845. In his later years, he falls under criticism by other Belfast Catholics, who claim he is neglectful of his duties, especially those relating to expanding and defending Catholicism in the face of growing Protestant influence. Some accounts attribute his shortcomings to poor health and temperament, while others suggest that he backs away from expansion to avoid conflict with Protestant groups.

Denvir suffers from personal finance problems during his time as Bishop. The construction of St. Malachy’s Church puts him into deep personal debt, which he is apparently arrested for some time after 1844. He is also criticised for selling seats in the newly constructed church to offset costs. He is also described as reluctant in asking for funds from parishioners, severely limiting his resources with which to care for the church.

Denvir is appointed Commissioner of National Education in 1853. He is noted for being supportive of non-denominational education and investigating reports of proselytism in public primary education. He later resigns this position in 1857 on request of the Holy See to focus on expanding the local Catholic school system.

In 1860, after years of illness compounded by age, Denvir is assigned Dr. Patrick Dorrian as a coadjutor bishop to assist in his episcopal duties. While ill health is said to be the predominant reason for the appointment of a coadjutor, contemporary newspaper accounts suggest there also might be an ideological reason for the appointment. In The Spectator it is noted in December 1859 “it may be, because he is too liberal for the Cullen epoch.”

In May 1865, Denvir resigns as Bishop and is succeeded by Dorrian. He dies one year later on July 10, 1866, in his residence on Donegall St., after suffering from fainting fits a few days prior. He is buried in Ballycruttle Church.


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The Irish Church Act 1869 Receives Royal Assent

The Irish Church Act 1869 receives British royal assent on July 26, 1869. The Act is an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which separates the Church of Ireland from the Church of England and disestablishes the former, a body that commands the adherence of a small minority of the population of Ireland. The Act is passed during the first ministry of William Ewart Gladstone and comes into force on January 1, 1871. It is strongly opposed by Conservatives in both houses of Parliament.

The Act means the Church of Ireland is no longer entitled to collect tithes from the people of Ireland. It also ceases to send representative bishops as Lords Spiritual to the House of Lords in Westminster. Existing clergy of the church receive a life annuity in lieu of the revenues to which they are no longer entitled: tithes, rentcharge, ministers’ money, stipends and augmentations, and certain marriage and burial fees.

The passage of the Bill through Parliament causes acrimony between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Queen Victoria personally intervenes to mediate. While the Lords extort from the Commons more compensation to alleviate the disestablished churchmen, in the end, the will of the Commons prevail.

The Irish Church Act is a key move in dismantling the Protestant Ascendancy which had dominated Ireland for several centuries previously.


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Death of Francis Lenny, Roman Catholic Bishop

Francis Lenny, Irish Roman Catholic bishop in the last third of the 20th century, dies in Mullavilly, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, on July 16, 1978.

Lenny is born in Cookstown, County Tyrone, on September 27, 1928. He is educated at St. Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh, and St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. He is ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Armagh on June 21, 1953. Pursuing his studies in ancient classes and canon law in Maynooth and the Dunboyne Institute, in July 1955 he is named secretary to Cardinal John D’Alton, Primate of Ireland, and upon his death in 1963, proceeds in the same position with his successor, Cardinal William Conway.

Lenny is appointed parish priest in Mullavilly in 1972. Less than two years later he is named coadjutor bishop of Armagh, receiving his episcopal consecration with the titular see of Rotdon from Cardinal Conway on June 16, 1974. Financial secretary to the Bishops’ Financial and General Purposes Committee, upon Conway’s death, he becomes vicar capitular of the archdiocese until Tomás Ó Fiaich is named his successor.

Lenny is a well known canonist and it is he who transfers a major relic of Saint Oliver Plunkett from Downside Abbey to Ireland in 1975, and is presently preserved in Oldcastle, County Meath, Plunkett’s birthplace.

A man of great charity and deep disposition, Lenny experiences great opposition from members of the Protestant community of Mullavilly, refusing to leave the village despite threats he receives. His bungalow is maliciously set on fire and he dies at the early age of forty nine on July 16, 1978, the fourth anniversary of his episcopal consecration, from injuries received complicated by a heart attack. Dressed in chasuble and mitre, he is laid to rest in a simple solid oak coffin following the celebration of a Funeral Mass celebrated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, presided by Archbishop Ó Fiaich which sees the participation of thousands.