The Society publishes book reviews in the Journal, the Irish Genealogist, however the Journal is only published annually. Sometimes a book review misses the dealline for being published in the annual journal and to keep members informed in a timely manner we publish the reviews here.
Rita Harte, one of the founder members of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, had a particular interest in graveyard inscriptions and insignia. Her sketches, done between 1950- 1980s, constitute a very fine survey of some of the more important gravestones and monuments in Kilkenny. With only a bicycle for transport, Rita spent many hours drawing and sketching in the graveyards, returning time and time again to perfect the sketches. This publication is a tribute to the work of Rita Harte and a fitting acknowledgment of the enormous contribution she made in recording Kilkenny history.
Kilkenny is particularly rich in early 16th and 17th century tombs. Often the sculptors, such as the O’Tunney family, traditionally from Callan, signed the tombs which they created between 1508-1608. Their last known tomb is dated 1637. Another family, the O’Kerin family, also thought to have lived near Callan, operated from the late 1570s until about the mid 1630s. Many of these O’Kerin tombs are also signed. This booklet provides a gazetteer of known Kerin tombs, most of which are in Kilkenny but a few have strayed over the borders into Tipperary and Carlow. There is also list of O’Tunney tombs to be found in Kilkenny. These two families specialised in carving fine examples of the passion story onto the panels surrounding table top tombs. These are quite outstanding including items such as the crown of thorns, hammers, nails, flails, ladders, coats, dice, cocks, pincers, and the pierced hands and feet of Christ; each one seems to vie with the next for innovation. Of course there are many stones that not been signed but are equally as ornate. Michael O’Dywer has brought to life the O’Shea family of Callan, likewise Kilkenny sculptors, who operated between the 1860s until the early 20th century. Their work is very distinctive as they carved birds, flowers and fishes and worked on other projects beside tombstones. There are ample illustrated line drawings to show the merging styles used for headstones in Kilkenny. After the more elaborate altar tombs of the 17th century, the eighteenth century saw the development of single upright headstones; some of these are very early indeed as will be seen by the illustrations. In all this booklet is comprehensive introduction to tombstone design in Kilkenny from the 16th century to the 20th century. A packed and useful 76 pages of information.
The tomb of Richard Butler, 1571, in St Canice’s Cathedral, signed by Kerin
This may seem an unlikely title for the pursuit of Irish genealogy but it would be wrong to think so. Cricket flourished as a popular game in Kilkenny from the early days of 1820s and lasted well up to the 1950s. Part 1 of this book outlines the history of cricket in county Kilkenny and Part 2 discusses the history of the various cricket clubs in the city and county. This is what is so interesting from the point of view of family history and genealogy as nearly every townland seemed to have its own cricket club and a perusal of the names of the members is fascinating. This was not an exclusive Ascendancy game despite the popularity and support for the Gaelic Athletic Association. The game of cricket was widely played and by all social classes The game of cricket led to many social functions, including the “cricket dances” no doubt to raise money for the various teams Michael O’Dywer has done a really good job here with this unusual subject; much of his information about the various townland teams has been gleaned from the newspapers of the period, such as The Kilkenny Moderator, Finn’s Leinster Journal, and The Kilkenny People, as well as the memoires of old players. He has managed to find old score cards and many photographs of the old teams. Added to this is the use of the ordinance maps showing the location of all the clubs in Kilkenny. This is an unusual and useful social history.
Theseus entered the labyrinth in Crete in pursuit of the legendary minotaur and emerged victorious because of the ball of string given to him by Ariadne, which enabled him to find his way out. This book by Steven, which has been painstakingly and meticulously researched, may be regarded as Ariadne’s ball of string, leading one through a very complex maze of Protestant dissenting congregations, to a clear understanding of their history and record keeping. As such, this is a major contribution to the history of dissent in Dublin city and county, from the time of James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh in the mid 17th century to the near advent of the “Celtic Tiger”. Steven also outlines the style and history of the buildings of the various congregations. The history of the dissenting sects is very confusing with separating denominations, each splitting, reforming or going their own way; there appears to have been plenty of rows, disagreements and people of an independent turn of mind. The two major denominations, the Presbyterians and the Methodists, are dealt with first followed by smaller groups which are arranged in chronological order of their appearance; within each chapter the various congregations are placed in alphabetical order but because of the diversity of the Protestant dissenting denominations there is no overall uniformity in the work and some chapters are of necessity are more detailed than others. Steven has written more where little or nothing is already in print.
Presbyterianism arrived in Dublin in the 17th century. If you suspect your Presbyterian ancestor of being a Seceder, or part of a Burgher congregation or belonging an Anti-Burgher congregation, a Trinitarian or a Unitarian then you will find information here on the history and the records of these groups. There are fascinating glimpses into the unexpected; who would have thought that the Presbyterian Church of Wales had a chapel in Dublin for Welsh seafarers? This chapel was distinguished by having segregated pews, on one side fitted with doors for the women, whilst the male pews on the other side had no doors but the added luxury of spittoons. Or the story of the Rev William Jacque, who in the mid 17th century, was a disruptive influence with his Bull Alley congregation with an unclear mind regarding Independency versus Presbyterianism; this left his flock in much confusion and caused no end of trouble.
Soon after John Wesley’s first visit to Ireland in 1747 Methodism gained a foothold in Dublin. This was not without the usual disputes but it took until 1817 for Irish Methodists to split into two, the majority severing their links with the Church of Ireland and forming a distinct denomination. Later there were other splits such as the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Connexion, Methodist New Connexion and Primitive Methodist Connexion; this all seems terribly complex to me but Steven valiantly sorts it all out. In 18th century Dublin rioting was fairly frequent and dissenting meeting houses were frequently attacked. Wesley’s diary is quoted and shows just how difficult life could be for dissenters in Dublin. “Woe is me, for my soul is wearied because of murders, which the city is full of.......a poor Constable, was the last , whom they beat and dragged about, till they had killed him, and then hung him up in triumph. None was called to question for it; but the earth covered his blood. Last week a woman was beaten to death by the rabble but that was all fair, for she was caught picking a pocket: so there’s an end to her.” In other words she got her just desserts! By the mid 19th century Methodists were maintaining membership registers and quarterly class rolls; these rolls are often a good source for brief details of the fate of the membership with notes on marriages, deaths, emigration and “backsliding”.
Want or need to know the difference between “Strict Baptists” and “General Baptists”? You will find the answer here. Baptists first arrived in Ireland with Cromwell’s army but few Baptist congregations survived in Ireland after the recall of most of the army to England, except in towns and cities. Unlike the Presbyterians and the Methodists, the Baptist were never able to establish strong congregations in the newly expanding suburbs of Dublin. On the whole they have been poor record keepers but in Dublin much has survived from the 18th and early 19th centuries in the form of minutes, accounts and membership rolls.
Other denominations included in this book are the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Huguenots, the Moravians, the Congregationalists, the Christian Brethren Assemblies, the Evangelical and Gospel Halls, the Salvation Army, the Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Scientists) and sects such as the Kellyites and the Walkerites. This last sect is worthy of further mention and was formed by John Walker, the son of a Church of Ireland clergyman; this sect was also known as The Church of God or The Church of Christ. Walker believed that St Paul’s numerous calls in the epistles “to salute one another with a holy kiss” should be taken literally. This led to a “kissing controversy” after a newly married lady, unused to the custom, was kissed soundly by her blacksmith neighbour in her pew. The ensuing very unholy row led to the “kissers” forming one group and the “anti-kissers” yet another break-away group. Another sect, called the White Quakers, after their habit of wearing undyed cloth, was led by Joshua Jacob who wanted to recapture the original ideals of the Society of Friends. They were, however, quite fanatical and believed in the disposal of any unnecessary ornamentation. Their cause was somewhat advanced by the ideas of one Solomon Eccles who in the 18th century had run naked through the streets of London. This, they thought, was surely the ultimate in divesting oneself of unnecessary ornamentation and some of Jacob’s followers, greatly taken with this idea, organised a much publicised nude procession in Dublin. Jacob and his followers lived in a commune but he later abandoned all his early Quaker principles and adopted Roman Catholicism. Yet another sect, the Catholic Apostolic Church, more commonly known as the Irvingite Sect, was established in Dublin in the 1860s . This had been formed by Henry Drummond and former Church of Scotland minister called Edward Irving. When Irving died he left Drummond and “twelve apostles” to carry on his work, hence the name. It was extinct by the 1930s.
The Appendices list the surviving records, dates and locations, all arranged by denominations and congregations. Also listed are the Dublin Methodist Circuits, useful addresses and a substantial list of printed and manuscript sources which have been consulted, plus a detailed index. There is also a Select and Concise Glossary of terms used by dissenting congregations with explanations of words such as antinomianism, quietism, old light theology and socinianism.
Steven is to be congratulated on this comprehensive study which must surely become a standard reference work on the history of dissent in Dublin and the location of dissenting records. If searching for dissenting ancestors, remember Ariadne’s ball of string, and turn to this reliable work to guide you through the labyrinth of multiple records.