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


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Execution of John Atherton, Anglican Bishop of Waterford & Lismore

john-atherton-execution-pamphletJohn Atherton, Anglican Bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland, is executed on December 5, 1640, on a charge of immorality.

Atherton is born in 1598 in Somerset, England. He studies at Oxford University and joins the ranks of the Anglican clergy. In 1634 he becomes Bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland. In 1640 he is accused of buggery with a man, John Childe, his steward and tithe proctor. They are tried under a law that Atherton himself had helped to institute. They are both condemned to death, and Atherton is executed in St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Reportedly, he confesses to the crime immediately before his execution, although he had proclaimed his innocence before that.

More recently, some historical evidence has been developed that shows Atherton might have been a victim of a conspiracy to discredit him and his patrons. This is attributable to Atherton’s status as an astute lawyer, who seeks to recover lost land for the relatively weak Protestant Church of Ireland during the 1630s. Unfortunately for Atherton, this alienates him from large landowners, who then allegedly use his sexuality to discredit him.

English Puritan, Congregationalist and Independent activists, as well as English and Scottish Presbyterian activists, contemporaneously campaign to abolish Episcopacy (bishops) within the embattled Church of England, Church of Scotland and Church of Ireland, notionally expediting the political interest in Atherton’s downfall.

Posthumous accusations of sexual wrongdoing also include allegations of “incest” with his sister-in-law, and infanticide of the resultant child, as well as zoophilia with cattle. However, these allegations begin to be circulated several months after his death in an anonymous pamphlet, and may have been intended to further discredit the bishop’s campaign to restore the finances of the Church of Ireland.

(Pictured: Anonymous pamphlet of the hangings of John Atherton and John Childe, 1641)

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Birth of Joseph Stock, Bishop of Waterford & Lismore

joseph-stockJoseph Stock, Irish Protestant churchman and writer, Bishop of Killala and Achonry, and afterwards Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, is born at 1 Dame Street, Dublin, on December 22, 1740.

Stock is the son of Luke and Ann Stock. He is educated at Mr. Gast’s school in his native city and at Trinity College, Dublin. He obtains a scholarship in 1759, graduates B.A. in 1761, and gains a fellowship in 1763. Having taken orders, Stock retires on the college living of Conwall in the diocese of Raphoe.

Stock is a classical scholar, a linguist, and a man of general culture. In 1776 he publishes anonymously a life of George Berkeley, subsequently republished in the Biographia Britannica, the only memoir on Berkeley based on contemporary information.

In 1793 Stock is collated prebendary of Lismore, but resigns this preferment in 1795, on his appointment to the head-mastership of Portora Royal School. In January 1798 he succeeds John Porter as Bishop of Killala and Achonry. Shortly after his consecration, and while holding his first visitation at the castle of Killala, the bishop becomes a prisoner of the French army under General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert, when French forces land in support of the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Of his experiences as a prisoner of the French he leaves a partial record in his private diary — August 23 to September 15, 1798 — which is printed in William Hamilton Maxwell‘s History of the Rebellion of 1798, and in two letters to his brother Stephen, published in the Auckland Correspondence.

In 1799 Stock publishes a more complete account of the French invasion of County Mayo in his Narrative of what passed at Killala in the Summer of 1798. By an Eyewitness. The impartiality of this work is said to have been a bar to the bishop’s advancement. He also writes The Book of the Prophet Isaiah in Hebrew and English, with Notes (Bath, 1803) and The Book of Job metrically arranged and newly translated into English, with Notes (Bath, 1805).

Stock also publishes school editions of Tacitus and Demosthenes, and is an active contributor to the controversial theology of his day. He leaves two manuscript volumes of correspondence which are preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. They consist chiefly of letters written from Killala and Waterford between 1806 and 1813 to his son Henry in Dublin.

In 1810 Stock is translated to the diocese of Waterford and Lismore, and dies at Waterford on August 13, 1813.