Our Church celebrates its 150th anniversary on 26th August 2020. This is the story of the building of it as reported in the Kerry Press between 1834-70.
As a preamble it is interesting to note something of the conditions under which religion was conducted in the 1820s. The long and vexed history of the subjugation of the Irish people by the English Crown and the iniquitous use of religion as a political weapon has been documented in great detail from many perspectives in recent years. We just add a bit of local colour to that. (Click on any link in bold type to see a transcript of relevant press items.)
An article in the Kerry Evening Post 1829 April 22 p3 relates an incident outside the church (the old one that stood on this site). The Revd Arthur Hyde became ‘Rector’ of Killarney in 1809 and died there in 1834 (he is the Great Grandfather of Douglas Hyde; the 1st President of Eire). Three generations of the Bland family were ‘Rector’ for over 90 years; from 1693-1785. The Revd Bland referred to in this piece was the Curate at this time.
The year is 1834; Revd Hyde has died and the Revd Edward Herbert is newly ‘Rector’. The Herberts were a well-to-do family in Killarney and some held high office. (A separate blog will detail the lineage of the two branches of Herberts of Killarney and Muckross.) The first mention of the dilapidation of the Church of Ireland building in Killarney appears (as far as can be determined) in the local Protestant Paper in 1834. The Kerry Evening Post was one of the main newspapers in Kerry between 1813 and 1916 and served the so-called "Protestant" community. An article appears in the Kerry Evening Post 1834 November 8 p3 evincing hopes of a rebuild of what was a building in a parlous state.
The next mention of the state of the then church building comes in a post in the 1840's version of TripAdvisor. A letter to the editor is printed in the Kerry Evening Post 1840 August 19 p3 col3. The correspondent bemoans the state of the church in Killarney and sets in motion a train of events that will not culminate until August of 1870. The opinion of visitors had already become very important to Killarney's growing visitor attraction businesses. The pinnacle of visitor acclamation comes in August of 1861 with the successful visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to Killarney House and Muckross House. So the modern day resident of Killarney can well understand the angst the bad press of this letter would encourage. The near immediate opportunity to respond to the observations and encouragements of “Pro Aris et Focis” comes in the Kerry Evening Post 1840 August 26 p3 col5 on foot of a report of the impending visit of the Diocesan Bishop, the Honourable Edmund Knox.
A subsequent Visitation (an official inspection of the state of the Church of England and Ireland in the region) in the Diocese of Aghadoe & Ardfert comes in 1841 when the then Archbishop of Dublin gives the media ample opportunity for displaying the decrepitude of the Parish Church in Killarney. The press are not slow to grasp the opportunity to make press home the point made to the Prelate, as witness this article in the Kerry Evening Post 1841 September 1 p3; we are not told how the Archbishop took the matter.
This next report contains a reference to an earlier report of some months previous, regarding the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, as reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1842 May 21 p3 col3 [† the article referenced in this clipping has not yet been traced.]
In 1846 the Duke of Rutland penned some notes of his visit to Kerry and to Killarney; he wrote about the then church in Killarney, as recorded here. He makes some comments which can either be viewed as disparaging or perceptive!
Recalling the sense of urgency and the vocal demand expressed in earlier reports we find, after a whole decade has passed and three Triennial Visitations by the Primate, and then not until 1858, action, once again, on the matter of the dilapidation of Killarney Church as reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1858 March 20 / 24 / 27 when a meeting of the Church Committee resolves finally to take steps to address the problem. Well there we are, progress!! And what jubilation is felt in the newspaper edition of the Kerry Evening Post 1858 March 24 p3 col3. Indeed! And, so as not to understate the matter, Kerry Evening Post 1858 March 27 p3 col2! The media note the antecedence of the the Revd Richard Herbert (see other blog already mentioned above). So as to put things in their proper perspective it is noted £50 in 1858 would, in 2020, be about €7000! Always one to make a point, at any opportunity, the media offers a pithy remark in their report in the Kerry Evening Post 1858 July 28 p3 col3. Things are hotting up!
There then ensues a remarkable set of letters which shed light on the nature of rumours and what we now love to call “fake news” in the style of 1858. (The Tralee Chronicle is not archived online.) It is documented in the Kerry Evening Post 1858 October 28 p2 col5 with part two here and part three here. This map extract shows the site of the ‘old’ church. And so it transpires that the ancient location is the default site for the new build; which implies an absence of a worship space during the demolition and building of the new church.
In the 8th June 1859 edition of the Kerry Evening Post there appears an article extolling the plethora of newly built and renovated Church of Ireland churches in Kerry. In a footnote the editorial states: "We had nearly forgotten the proposed new church in Killarney, which we believe only awaits a small addition to the subscribed fund to be at once commenced."
Picking up the pace, there is a general surge towards fundraising for the new church. The media are not slow to comment on generosity, or the lack thereof. Even neighbouring clergy are not exempt from public pressure to donate towards the erection of each other's new churches; there is a great increase in new build around this time. The edition of the Kerry Evening Post 1859 June 25 p3, col2 picks up the theme. The ups and downs of local plans ... and the reporting thereof. But one is not always prepared for the spanner in the works to come from one's most devoted supporter, namely one's own Bishop, as reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1859 October 1st p2 col3. Oops! A pastoral insensitivity by the Bishop in consort with the Lord of the Manor!
Now, here’s a fascinating idea — sermons for the purposes of raising money! It’s the 19th Century equivalent “Church’s Got Talent”. The report is found in the Kerry Evening Post 1860 July 11, p2 col4. Ouch! A public rebuke of the clergy!
The church's management committee meet once again and their deliberations are recorded in the Kerry Evening Post 1860 August 4, p2 col4 (the poor quality of the digital copy precludes an exact report).
The next appearance of this saga, in the following year, comes in the the form of a comment regarding an official intervention by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners—-an attempt to prevent the replacement of the current church——which is picked up by a correspondent with local connections in a "Letter to the Editor" printed in the Kerry Evening Post 1861 June 1, p2 col4. Later, in the same year, another committee meeting is reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1861 November 2, p2 and November 5 1861, p3. It is clear there are significant differences of opinion between those with local knowledge and interest, and those who some would classify as "officialdom". Notice that the Queen visited Killarney in between these two reports.
The year is now 1864. The Kerry Evening Post picks up the matter of the Church in Killarney with a major analysis of the search for an alternate site ... and is scathing. Lord Castlerosse of Killarney House is a Roman Catholic and a great benefactor of the building of the Roman Catholic Cathedral being erected about this time on the western fringe of the town. I might remind readers that it is now 30 years since the first mention recorded in the media of the desperate need for a new church in Killarney! The lengthy report is given in the Kerry Evening Post 1864 June 18 p2 col3 and continued here. The rejoinder from Lord Castlerosse, and its rebuttal!, appear in the Kerry Evening Post 1864 June 25 p2 col2 and continued in the Kerry Evening Post 1864 June 29th, p2 col3 with part two here. There's a lesson here in being partial with the truth in the public domain of which many have fallen foul in each generation.
Yet another three years go by before another hiccough catches the attention of the press. An apparent difference of opinion between the Rector and his Church Committee is reported in the Kerry Evening Post - July 6 1867 and promptly rebutted, in the usual style, with a "Letter to the Editor", printed in the Kerry Evening Post 1867 July 10, p2 col4. Hooray!! But problems are nothing if not persistent as reports the Kerry Evening Post 1867 October 5, p2 col3. One cannot help but be reminded of the Duke of Rutland's reflective commentary on the nature of building in Ireland.
It bears a momentary diversion to contemplate the background to these days of local intrigue over the building or rebuilding of the Church (of Ireland) in Killarney: The following appear in the back page of the Kerry Evening Post and shed an interesting reflection on the greater machinations of the Church and State debate; reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1867, Oct 19 p4 col1 and here.
Significant progress is recorded in 1868. Remember the intrigue over the possibility of having a new site for the church, so that the old church could continue to be used during the building of the new? We now see tangible evidence that things have settled——much to the chagrin of the Rector——on knocking down the old to build the new on its foundations. Given the state of things and the motivation of the interested parties to erect a magnificent edifice worthy of the visitor extra land is needed to extended the footprint of the new building. More importantly, there needs to be due respect paid to the deceased who's remains are interred in the church and its grounds. The report is given in the Kerry Evening Post 1868, April 15 p2. Preparations are now being carried on actively for the re-building and enlargement of the Killarney church. The new piece of ground lately procured as an addition to the graveyard has been consecrated to the sacred purpose for which it is intended. On Tuesday evening the Lord Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert, and Aghadoe, and his chaplain, the Rev. James Walsh, arrived in Killarney, and on Wednesday the ceremony of consecration was performed. At the close of the service used on such occasions, the Rev. James Walsh read the Act of Consecration, and the ground was formally given in charge to the vicar. There were present the vicar, the Rev. E. Herbert, and his curate, the Rev. F .C. Wills, the Archdeacon of Aghadoe, Rev. B. Herbert, Cahernane, and many others. The work will be commenced as speedily as possible. Further progress is reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1868, May 27 p2 col4. It is pertinent to make an aside regarding the reference to “Mr Gladstone’s anti-church propositions”. Mr Gladstone, in seeking for high office in the Parliament in London was campaigning on the back of the Disestablishment of the Church in England in Ireland. His prospects was that it would aid moves towards Irish independence if the Anglican Church was no longer the official state church in Ireland. He suggested that the Church of Ireland would have all its land and resources assigned to the State in return for an endowment of money, form which the Church would fund itself. You can see the echoes of the article reprinted in the Kerry Evening Post from the Times Newspaper given earlier. The Church in Ireland was disestablished by an Act of Parliament in 1869 and was given the Royal Assent in 1870 (150 years ago).
Once again we see recorded the resolutions of the Church Building Committee as reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1868, June 13 p2. And, finally, an auspicious milestone is reached with the reporting of the proposed ceremonial laying of the new Foundation Stone as recorded in the Kerry Evening Post 1868, July 29 p2. Not to be shy about the matter the paper adds to the growing sense of anticipation by building up the event as reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1868, August 1 p2, culminating in a fulsome record of the event itself as reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1868, August 5 p2 and continued here and concluded here. It is now 34 years since the first mention of hopes for a new building were first evinced. The laying of the foundation stone of the new church in Killarney has given the Tralee-Chronicle occasion for one of those pointless articles — declamation and misrepresentation - in which "our local contemporary delights to defame Protestantism and Irish Protestants in particular". A Dublin correspondent of the Chronicle enlightens us on a point in the Rev. Mr. Wills letter to that journal on the subject of the broken cross in the Muckross graveyard - which, by the way, we have the authority of a party who visited the place last week, may most easily have been and most likely was caused by accident. This writer tells us that the particular type of Protestantism to which that gentleman referred "is evidently the malignant spirit of Calvinism". Another letter, published in the paper, begs a corresponding rebuttal, as reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1868, August 8 p2. In the same paper a report is given of the additional 'proceedings' of the great event of "Tuesday last", as reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1868, August 8 p2 and here. The construction of the new church here is progressing rapidly, not withstanding Mr. Thomas Gallwey's brochure, which it is remarked, does him little credit. The building, when complete, promises to be substantial, and at the same time ornamental.
The construction of the new church is progressing; the next we hear is of a small accident, reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1869, October 23 p2.
And finally, in 1870, we arrive at the completion of this very longstanding project. The plans for the consecration of the new church, the old one having been demolished 2 years earlier, are finalised as reported in a series of news clips in the Kerry Evening Post 1870, August 6 p2 and Kerry Evening Post 1870, August 10 p2 and Kerry Evening Post 1868, August 13 p2.
The day soon dawns, and the long-awaited church is nearing its inauguration, and the newspaper waxes lyrical about the importance of the event as against the backdrop of the recent passing of legislation to disestablish the Church of England in Ireland, a time of great angst for Anglicans and, it seems from reading this, a time of jubilation for many ‘passionate’ Roman Catholics… as reported in the Kerry Evening Post 1870, August 20 p2. Reassuringly the paper confirms (DV Deo volente) the planned consecration in a short clip in the Kerry Evening Post 1870, August 20 p2. The relief and joy expressed by the newspaper at finally having a new consecrated church for the ‘protestant’ people in Killarney is evident in the gratitude expressed to those who laboured for so long to ‘pull it off’ in a report in the Kerry Evening Post 1870, August 27 p2 and here and concluding with the Bishop's sermon here and here.
It is now a year since the consecration of the new church; when damage is done to the windows. The sense of shock and horror is profound at the apparent indifference of the authorities. The report comes in the Kerry Evening Post 1871, August 23 p2.
And finally we see a sign of prosperity and a settled life for the new church building and it congregation in a report in the Kerry Evening Post 1872, August 7 p2. We'll meet the successful applicants when we revisit the church's story in the late 1880s, reported in a forthcoming blog, as another important but this time unwelcome event occurs.
... to be continued.