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


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Murder of Nicholas Walsh, Church of Ireland Bishop of Ossory

Nicholas Walsh, (Irish: Nicolás Bhailis), Church of Ireland Bishop of Ossory and a pioneer of printing in Irish type, is murdered on December 14, 1585, by James Dullerde, against whom he had proceeded in his court for adultery.

Walsh is born in Waterford, County Waterford, in or before 1538. He is the son of Patrick Walsh, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore (d. 1578). The identity of his mother is unknown. She was Patrick’s concubine for many years and they apparently married only after 1558, meaning their son was born outside marriage. About 1551 Walsh leaves Ireland to study at the universities of Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge, eventually graduating BA at Cambridge in 1562 or 1563. He receives the MA from Cambridge in 1567. He is appointed chancellor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, in 1571.

As a fluent Irish speaker, Walsh is deeply committed to the propagation of the Protestant faith through the medium of the Irish language. In 1571 he helps to secure the publication in Dublin of a catechism written in Irish by John Kearney (Irish: Seán Ó Cearnaigh), whom he has known since his time at Cambridge. He then procures a government order for printing the Book of Common Prayer in Irish, and for the liturgy and a sermon to be communicated in Irish in a church in each large town. In practice this order has no effect. From about 1573 he and Kearney begin work on an Irish translation of the New Testament. This project is finally completed and published in 1602 or 1603. He also writes a collection of sermons in Latin.

In 1572 Walsh is offered the bishopric of Kilmacduagh in Connacht but declines as this diocese lay in a dangerous part of the country. In February 1578 he becomes Bishop of Ossory, upon which he resigns his chancellorship at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and presumably sets aside his translation of the New Testament. Through his family he has links with the area of his diocese, and he is assured of the protection of the dominant magnate, Thomas Butler, Earl of Ormond. However, Catholicism is very strong in Ossory, particularly in the diocesan capital of Kilkenny. His arrival at Kilkenny is ignored by the citizens, and he finds himself presiding over an empty St. Canice’s Cathedral during Sunday services. In November 1578 he writes for support to the Lord Justice of Ireland, Sir William Drury, who empowers Walsh to fine recusants. That month Drury comes to Kilkenny and heavily fines a number of prominent citizens of Kilkenny for recusancy. However, these punitive efforts have little long-term impact and only increased Walsh’s unpopularity.

Walsh is further hampered by a lack of revenues from his diocese, which leads him in April 1581 to seek additional benefices that he can hold in commendam. in July 1582 he seeks a licence to solicit charitable donations in England. He also initiates legal proceedings to recover church property. At a time when the Church of Ireland episcopate is characterised by venality, cynicism, and crypto-Catholicism, he stands head and shoulders above his colleagues owing to his dedication, ability, and evangelising zeal. At the installation of the Bishop of Meath in 1584 he criticises his fellow bishops for neglecting their spiritual duties for political concerns. He is married to an Englishwoman and has four children.

Walsh’s life comes to a violent end on December 14, 1585, when he is stabbed to death in his own house at Kilkenny by James Dullerde, whom he had cited for adultery in his consistory court. He is buried in a tomb in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny. Dullerde is caught and beheaded by Domhnall Spanaigh Kavanagh MacMurrough and his brother Cahir Carroughe.

(From: “Walsh, Nicholas (Nicolás Bhailis)” by Anthony M. McCormack and Terry Clavin, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, October 2009 | Pictured: Coat of arms of the Bishop of Ossory)


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Birth of Daniel Cohalan, Bishop of Cork

Daniel Cohalan, Irish Roman Catholic clergyman who serves as the Bishop of Cork from 1916 to 1952, is born on July 14, 1858, in Kilmichael, County Cork.

After graduating at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Cohalan is ordained a priest at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne, Cork on July 25, 1882. His first pastoral appointment is a curate at Kilbrittain, County Cork, from October 1883 to January 1884. He briefly resumes his post-graduate studies at St. Finbarr’s Seminary (now College), Cork, from January to November 1884. His second curacy is at Tracton, County Cork, from November 1884 to September 1896. He returns to St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, as a professor of Theology from September 7, 1896 to June 7, 1914.

Cohalan is appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Cork and Titular Bishop of Vaga on May 25, 1914. He is consecrated bishop at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne on June 7, 1914 by John Harty, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly. Two years later, he is appointed Diocesan Bishop of Cork on August 29, 1916.

Cohalan is an outspoken critic during the Irish War of Independence, condemning acts of violence on both sides. In particular, he denounces the policy of reprisals. In July 1920, he pronounces an interdict on the killers of a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) sergeant, shot dead in the church porch in Bandon. He declares that anyone killing from ambush will be excommunicated. On December 12, 1920, Cohalan issues a decree saying that “anyone within the diocese of Cork who organises or takes part in ambushes or murder or attempted murder shall be excommunicated.” In turn, his life is threatened by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). In August 1928, he condemns the British government which had allowed Terence MacSwiney to die on hunger strike in 1920.

The Bessborough Home in Cork is run by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and when the department “sought a change of superior in Bessborough because of the appallingly high death rate, he [Catholic Bishop of Cork Dr. Daniel Cohalan] denounced the request. The replacement of the Bessborough superior was delayed for four years after the department requested it, and many infants died during that time. It seems probable that the bishop’s intervention was elicited by the congregation.” In general the report finds that the major causes of infant mortality in the homes were respiratory infections and gastroenteritis, while “public attention has focused on marasmus [malnutrition]” suggesting “willful neglect.” However, it says that “the term marasmus is best seen as indicating that a child was failing to thrive, but medical experts suggest that this was due to an underlying, undiagnosed medical condition.”

Cohalan dies in office at the age of 94 at Bon Secours Hospital, Cork, on August 24, 1952. A story, current at the time in Cork, refers to his antipathy towards bishops of the Church of Ireland who styled themselves “Bishop of Cork.” A month before his death, and on his death-bed, word is brought to him of the death of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Robert Hearn. The response of Cohalan, known “affectionately” as “Danny Boy”, is reputedly, “now he knows who’s Bishop of Cork.”

Originally buried at St. Finbarr’s College, Farranferris, Cohalan is reinterred in the grounds of St. Mary and St. Anne’s Cathedral, Cork, in 1996. His nephew of the same name, Daniel Cohalan, is Bishop of Waterford and Lismore from 1943 to 1965.


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Birth of Melesina Trench, Writer, Poet & Diarist

melesina-trenchMelesina Trench (née Chenevix), Irish writer, poet and diarist, is born in Dublin on March 22, 1768. During her lifetime she is known more for her beauty than her writing. It is not until her son, Richard Chenevix Trench, publishes her diaries posthumously in 1861 that her work receives notice.

Melesina Chenevix is born to Philip Chenevix and Mary Elizabeth Gervais. She is orphaned before her fourth birthday and is brought up by her paternal grandfather, Richard Chenevix (1698–1779), the Anglican Bishop of Waterford and Lismore. The family is of Huguenot extraction.

After the death of Richard Chenevix she goes to live with her other grandfather, the Archdeacon Gervais. On October 31, 1786 she marries Colonel Richard St. George, who dies only four years later in Portugal, leaving one son, Charles Manners St. George, who becomes a diplomat.

Between 1799 and 1800, Melesina travels around Europe, especially Germany. It is during these travels that she meets Lord Horatio Nelson, Lady Hamilton and the cream of European society, including Antoine de Rivarol, Lucien Bonaparte, and John Quincy Adams while living in Germany. She later recounts anecdotes of these meetings in her memoirs.

On March 3, 1803 in Paris she marries her second husband, Richard Trench, who is the sixth son of Frederick Trench and brother of Frederick Trench, 1st Baron Ashtown.

After the breakdown of the Peace of Amiens, Richard Trench is detained in France by Napoleon‘s armies, and in August 1805 Melesina takes it upon herself to petition Napoleon in person and pleads for her husband’s release. Her husband is released in 1807 and the couple settles at Elm Lodge in Bursledon, Hampshire, England.

Their son, Francis Chenevix Trench, is born in 1805. In 1807, when they are on holiday in Dublin, their son Richard Chenevix Trench is born. He goes on to be the Archbishop of Dublin, renowned poet and contemporary of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Her only daughter dies a few years later at the age of four.

Trench corresponds with, amongst others, Mary Leadbeater, with whom she works to improve the lot of the peasantry at her estate at Ballybarney. She dies at the age of 59 in Malvern, Worcestershire on May 27, 1827.

Melesina Trench’s diaries and letters are compiled posthumously by Richard Chenevix Trench as The remains of the late Mrs. Richard Trench in 1861 with an engraving of her taken from a painting by George Romney. Another oil painting, The Evening Star by Sir Thomas Lawrence, has her as a subject, and she is reproduced in portrait miniatures – one in Paris by Jean-Baptiste Isabey and another by Hamilton that is copied by the engraver Francis Engleheart.

Copies of a number of her works are held at Chawton House Library.

(Pictured: “Melesina Chenevix, Mrs. George, later Mrs. Trench,” attributed to George Romney (British, 1734–1802), oil on canvas)


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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.