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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 Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery

Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery, English nobleman, statesman and patron of the sciences, is born in Little Chelsea, London on July 28, 1674.

Boyle is the second son of Roger Boyle, 2nd Earl of Orrery, and his wife Lady Mary Sackville, daughter of Richard Sackville, 5th Earl of Dorset. He is educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and soon distinguishes himself by his learning and abilities. Like the first earl, he is an author, soldier and statesman. He translates Plutarch‘s life of Lysander, and publishes an edition of the epistles of Phalaris, which engages him in the famous controversy with Richard Bentley. He is a member of the Parliament of Ireland and sits for the Charleville constituency between 1695 and 1699. He is three times member for the town of Huntingdon and, upon the death of his brother, Lionel, 3rd earl, in 1703, he succeeds to the title.

Boyle enters the army, and in 1709 is raised to the rank of major-general and sworn one of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. He is appointed to the Order of the Thistle and appointed queen’s envoy to the states of Brabant and Flanders. Having discharged this trust with ability, he is created an English peer, as Baron Boyle of Marston, in Somerset. He inherits the estate in 1714.

Boyle becomes a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1706. In 1713, under the patronage of Boyle, clockmaker George Graham creates the first mechanical solar system model that can demonstrate proportional motion of the planets around the Sun. The device is named the orrery in the Earl’s honour.

Boyle receives several additional honours in the reign of George I but, having had the misfortune to fall under the suspicion of the government for playing a part in the Jacobite Atterbury Plot, he is committed to the Tower of London in 1722, where he remains six months, and is then admitted to bail. On a subsequent inquiry he is discharged.

Boyle writes a comedy, As you find it, printed in 1703 and later publishes together with the plays of the first earl. In 1728, he is listed as one of the subscribers to the Cyclopaedia of Ephraim Chambers.

Charles Boyle dies at his home in Westminster on August 28, 1731 and is buried in Westminster Abbey. He bequeaths his personal library and collection of scientific instruments to Christ Church Library. The instruments are now on display in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.

Boyle’s son John, the 5th Earl of Orrery, succeeds to the earldom of Cork on the failure of the elder branch of the Boyle family, as earl of Cork and Orrery.


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Birth of Henry Grattan Guinness, Evangelist & Author

henry-grattan-guinnessHenry Grattan Guinness, Irish Protestant Christian preacher, evangelist, and author, is born in Kingstown in Taney Parish, Dublin, on August 11, 1835. He is the great evangelist of the Evangelical awakening and preaches during the Ulster Revival of 1859 which draws thousands to hear him. He is responsible for training and sending hundreds of “faith missionaries” all over the world.

Guinness begins preaching in 1855. He offers to join the China Inland Mission founded by James Hudson Taylor in 1865, but takes Taylor’s advice to continue his work in London.

In September 1866, while in Keighley, Yorkshire, Guinness sees a notice advertising a series of lectures by the freethinker and communist Harriet Law. For a week he holds a series of meetings at the same time to try to counteract her influence. He is appalled at the “scoffing unbelief” of such speakers. With the help of Professor John Couch Adams, some astronomical tables, and examination of the scriptures, Guinness works out the prophetic chronology of the bible in terms of a series of “solilunar cycles.” This proves to him that he is living at the end of the sixth unsabbatic day of creation, 6,000 years from Adam, and that the “redemption Sabbath” will soon arrive. This revelation becomes the subject of many of his books and sermons.

In March 1873, Henry and his wife Fanny start the famous East London Missionary Training Institute, also known as Harley College, at Harley House in Bromley-by-Bow, East End of London with just six students. The renowned Dr. Thomas John Barnardo is co-director with Dr. Guinness and is greatly influenced by him. The school trains 1,330 missionaries for 30 societies of 30 denominations.

Harley College becomes so successful that it needs a larger home. In 1883, Elizabeth Hulme offers Guinness Cliff House near Calver, Derbyshire. Harley College is renamed Hulme Cliff College. Now known as Cliff College it continues to this day training and equipping Christians for mission and evangelism.

In 1873, Guinness founds the East London Institute for Home and Foreign Missions, the root of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union. In 1877, he founds the Livingstone Inland Mission. His son, Dr. Henry Grattan Guinness, founds the Congo-Balolo Mission in 1888 and co-founds the Congo Reform Association in 1904.

Guinness dies in Bath, Somerset, England, on June 21, 1910, at 75 years of age.