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


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Death of James Warren Doyle, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin

James Warren Doyle, Roman Catholic Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, who uses the signature “JKL”, an acronym from “James Kildare and Leighlin,” dies on June 15, 1834. He is active in the Anti-Tithe movement and a campaigner for Catholic emancipation until it is attained in 1829. He is also an educator, church organiser and the builder of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Carlow.

Doyle is born close to New Ross, County Wexford in 1786, the posthumous son of a respectable Catholic farmer. His mother, Anne Warren, of Quaker extraction, is living in poverty at the time of his birth. At the age of eleven he witnesses the horrors of the Battle of New Ross between the United Irishmen and British Crown forces supplemented by the militia and yeomanry.

Doyle receives his early education at Clonleigh, at Rathconrogue at the school of a Mr. Grace, and later at the Augustinian College, New Ross under the care of an Augustinian monk, Rev. John Crane.

Doyle joins the Augustinian friars in 1805 at Grantstown, County Wexford, and then studies for his doctorate at Coimbra in Portugal (1806–08). His studies are disturbed by the Peninsular War, during which he serves as a sentry in Coimbra. Later, he accompanies the British Army with Arthur Wellesley‘s forces to Lisbon as an interpreter.

Following Doyle’s return to Ireland, he is ordained to the priesthood on October 1, 1809, at Enniscorthy. He teaches logic at the Augustinian College, New Ross. In 1813, he is appointed to a professorship at St. Patrick’s, Carlow College, holding the Chair of Rhetoric and in 1814, the Professorship of Theology.

Michael Corcoran, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, dies on February 22, 1819. Doyle is a popular choice of the clergy and bishops of the Archdiocese of Dublin and is chosen by the Holy See as Corcoran’s successor. He is formally named in August 1819 and is duly consecrated in Carlow Parish Church on November 14. During his fifteen-year tenure as Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, he earns respect nationwide for his polemics in furtherance of the Catholic position in both Irish and British society, and in supporting the work of the Catholic Association. His books on pastoral, political, educational and inter-denominational matters provide a rich source of material for social and religious historians. He is a close ally of Daniel O’Connell in the political campaign for Catholic emancipation which is finally passed in 1829 by the Wellington government.

In 1830, the new tithe-proctor of Graigue, a parish of 4,779 Catholics and 63 Protestants, decides to break with the tradition of Doyle’s predecessor and to enforce seizure orders for the collection of arrears of Tithes. Tithes provide financial support of the established Anglican Church of Ireland. Some of the recalcitrant Catholics habitually transfer ownership of their livestock to Doyle in order to avoid seizure at the town fair. The new proctor requests their priest’s cooperation in handing over the assets. Doyle refuses, and the proctor, aided by the Royal Irish Constabulary, seize some of the livestock. A mass riot breaks out at the fair and there are several casualties. A civil disobedience campaign follows, peppered with sporadic violence mostly at country fairs over the seizure of livestock. A period of instability that becomes known as the Tithe War follows.

Doyle is a leader of nonviolent resistance to the Tithe, devoting himself both to strengthening the nonviolent resistance and to discouraging like paramilitary secret societies who have taken to using violence to drive out tithe-collectors and to intimidate collaborators. He says, “I maintain the right which [Irish Catholics] have of withholding, in a manner consistent with the law and their duty as subjects, the payment of tithe in kind or in money until it is extorted from them by the operation of the law.”

Given Doyle’s prior experience in education, his major contribution is arguably in helping the establishment of National Schools across Ireland from 1831, the initiative of Edward Smith-Stanley, Chief Secretary for Ireland, which are initially started with a UK government grant of £30,000. The proposed system is ahead of state provision for education in England or Scotland at that time. This Model School prototype is, in some respects, experimental. His involvement is a sign of his practicality and foresight.

Doyle makes statements on other issues: the theological status of ‘non-Catholic’ Christians, freedom to convert to Protestantism, mixed marriages and, as already mentioned, on the union of Catholics and Anglicans. On this last issue he is asked to resign by Rome and is eventually allowed to continue after agreeing not to speak on the issue again.

The construction of Carlow Cathedral of the Assumption crowns Doyle’s career, being started in 1828 and finished at the end of November 1833. He falls ill for a number of months before dying on June 15, 1834. He is buried in his new cathedral. A sculpture, by John Hogan, in memorial to Doyle is finished in 1839.

Several biographies are written on Doyle before 1900 and his influence on the later Irish Catholic bishops in the period 1834-1900 is considerable. He had proved that negotiations with government could be beneficial to his church, his congregation, and its finances.


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The Whiteboys

the-whiteboysThe Whiteboys, a secret Irish agrarian organisation in 18th-century Ireland which uses violent tactics to defend tenant farmer land rights for subsistence farming, is created on October 1, 1761. Their name derives from the white smocks the members wear in their nightly raids. They seek to address rack-rents, tithe collection, excessive priests’ dues, evictions and other oppressive acts. As a result they target landlords and tithe collectors. Over time, Whiteboyism becomes a general term for rural violence connected to secret societies. Because of this generalisation, the historical record for the Whiteboys as a specific organisation is unclear. There are three major outbreaks of Whiteboyism: 1761–64, 1770–76 and 1784–86.

Between 1735 and 1760 there is an increase in land used for grazing and beef cattle, in part because pasture land is exempt from tithes. The landlords, having let their lands far above their value, on condition of allowing the tenants the use of certain commons, now enclose the commons, but do not lessen the rent. As more landlords and farmers switch to raising cattle, labourers and small tenant farmers are forced off the land. The Whiteboys develop as a secret oath-bound society among the peasantry. Whiteboy disturbances had occurred prior to 1761 but were largely restricted to isolated areas and local grievances, so that the response of local authorities had been limited.

Their operations are chiefly in the counties of Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and Tipperary. This combination is not political. It is not directed against the government, but against the local landlords. Members of different religious affiliations take part.

The first major outbreak occurs in County Limerick in November 1761 and quickly spreads to counties Tipperary, Cork, and Waterford. A great deal of organisation and planning seems to have gone into the outbreak, including the holding of regular assemblies. Initial activities are limited to specific grievances and the tactics used non-violent, such as the levelling of ditches that closed off common grazing land, although cattle hamstringing is often practised as the demand for beef prompts large landowners to initiate the process of enclosure. As their numbers increase, the scope of Whiteboy activities begins to widen, and proclamations are clandestinely posted stipulating demands such as that rent not be paid, that land with expired leases not be rented until it has lain fallow for three years, and that no one pay or collect tithes demanded by the Anglican Church. Threatening letters are also sent to debt collectors, landlords, and occupants of land gained from eviction, demanding that they give up their farms.

March 1762 sees a further escalation of Whiteboy activities, with marches in military array preceded by the music of bagpipes or the sounding of horns. At Cappoquin they fire guns and march by the military barracks playing the Jacobite tune “The lad with the white cockade.” These processions are often preceded by notices saying that Queen Sive and her children will make a procession through part of her domain and demand that the townspeople illuminate their houses and provide their horses, ready saddled, for their use. More militant activities often follow such processions with unlit houses in Lismore attacked, prisoners released in an attack on Tallow jail and similar shows of strength in Youghal.

The events of March 1762, however, prompt a more determined response, and a considerable military force under Charles Moore, 1st Marquess of Drogheda is sent to Munster to crush the Whiteboys.

On April 2, 1762 a force of 50 militia men and 40 soldiers set out for Tallow. By mid-April at least 150 suspected Whiteboys have been arrested. Clogheen in County Tipperary bears the initial brunt of this assault as the local parish priest, Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, had earlier spoken out against tithes and collected funds for the defence of parishioners charged with rioting. An unknown number of “insurgents” are reported killed in the “pacification exercise” and Fr. Sheehy is unsuccessfully indicted for sedition several times before eventually being found guilty of a charge of accessory to murder, and hanged, drawn and quartered in Clonmel in March 1766.

In the cities, suspected Whiteboy sympathisers are arrested and in Cork, citizens form an association of about 2,000 strong which offer rewards of £300 for capture of the chief Whiteboy and £50 for the first five sub-chiefs arrested. They often accompany the military on their rampages. The leading Catholics in Cork also offer similar rewards of £200 and £40 respectively.

Acts passed by the Parliament of Ireland (to 1800) and Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (from 1801) to empower the authorities to combat Whiteboyism are commonly called “Whiteboy Acts.”


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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)