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Extension of free access to Church of Ireland Gazette and other online resources relevant to the Decade of Centenaries

As the Decade of Centenaries moves towards a climax in 2023, the RCB Library is pleased to announce that thanks to support provided by Ms Catherine Martin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, free public access to all its digital archives and exhibitions relevant to the Decade of Centenaries programme will continue to be available online until the end of 2033. Funding provided by the Department will cover the costs associated with e–cloud hosting.

The resources available include the complete digital archive of the highly–valued Church of Ireland Gazette, 1856 to 2010, the Church’s weekly newspaper which is available in full to read and search through this online portal: https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb

Resources further include the Journals of the General Synod, recording the annual business of the Church, including motions, bills, and key speeches which have additionally been digitized and made searchable for the period 1912–22, through this portal – https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb-jgs – thereby permitting deeper analysis of the period from the perspective of one institution that found itself operating then as now in two jurisdictions.

Additionally, five existing online exhibitions examine various aspects of the Decade of Centenaries:

  1. The Birth of Partition: the Southern Experience Through the Eyes of the Church of Ireland Gazette;
  2. The Foundation of Northern Ireland: Two Jurisdictions – One Church;
  3. The centenary of the Easter Rising, when the Gazette’s editor, Ware B Wells, witnessed first–hand events as they unfolded in Middle Abbey Street, where the Gazette’s premises were located;
  4. The centenary of the General Convention, 1917–18, as the last time all–Ireland representatives (including church leaders) participated in political negotiations before Partition in 1921; and
  5. The centenary of the sinking of The Leinster in 1918.

To these a sixth exhibition, entitled simply: “Christmas 1921”, has just been added, focusing on events in Ireland at the end of the pivotal year, through the lens of the Church of Ireland Gazette and other sources available at the Library. On 6th December 1921, after weeks of intense negotiations the Anglo–Irish Treaty was signed at 02:30 in the morning and the subsequent December editions of the Church of Ireland Gazette reveal opinion to be upbeat and optimistic. On 16th December 1921, the lead story stated simply: “Christmas this year will be a happy one for Ireland. During the last few weeks the sorrow of centuries have been buried, an age–old wound has been healed, and across the threshold the New Year, a new and glorious destiny is beckoning. Ireland has been born again.”

The lead article published in the Church of Ireland Gazette, 16th December 1921.
The lead article published in the Church of Ireland Gazette, 16th December 1921.

Detailed descriptions of the impact of everyday life in Dublin during this period from one lay member’s perspective are further revealed by a complementary source to the Gazette for the period being the “Record” of the Library’s founding benefactor – Rosamond Stephen (1868–1951) – effectively her diary and outward correspondence which remain in typescript format in the Library’s manuscript collections (MS 253).

An English woman by birth, who had made Ireland her home, she became a founding member of the Irish Guild of Witness from her residence “Ardfeenish”, 21 Upper Mount Street in Dublin, in 1918, to “encourage patriotism and discover fresh ways by which the Church could fulfil her mission to the nation”. Stephen’s “Record” gives colourful insight to the thoughts of one influential lay member of the Church in these tumultuous times.

Whilst not as optimistic for positive political outcomes as the Gazette, she took refuge in her faith. After recounting in some detail disturbances in Dublin which impacted her home directly, subsequent diary entries recount her attendance at uplifting Christmas services, including the annual Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, at Christmas 1921. Remarkably, just two years after the worst impact of the so– called ‘Spanish’ Flu (which resulted in excess of 50 million deaths worldwide, 23,000 of them in Ireland) she was glad to record the cathedral being “cram jam full”.

Rosamond Stephen records events at Christmas, December 1921. RCB Library MS 253.
Rosamond Stephen records events at Christmas, December 1921. RCB Library MS 253.

Speaking from the RCB Library, Librarian & Archivist Dr Susan Hood acknowledged Minister Martin’s generous support through the Commemorations Unit in her Department: “During this challenging time when physical access to original sources has been curtailed because of the Covid–19 pandemic, the opportunity to share the events of the Decade of Centenaries through the particular lens of the Church of Ireland Gazette and related resources online has been positive and worthwhile. Thanks to this Centenaries Funding we can extend access to these important resources for a further decade. This is highly valued, not just within the Church of Ireland, but especially by the wide and varied research community beyond it who use these resources for their research.”

“Christmas 1921” and related presentations are available at www.ireland.anglican.org/library/archive

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