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A wealth of information from a West of Ireland parish archive

Our Archive of the Month for September is an exploration of Parish No.1218, a collection of material from the east county Galway parish, Ahascragh. Hand–delivered to the RCB Library by the Revd John Godfrey in 2021, the collection of records from Ahascragh parish remains the most recent acquisition of parish material to be received by the RCB Library, bringing the total number of parish collections to an impressive 1,218. The aim of this article is to give an insight into the wealth of information available within parish collections and the potential that they have as a source for local history and human–interest stories.  The full piece can be read on Archive of the Month blog at www.ireland.anglican.org/library/archive

St Catherine's Church, Ahascragh, today.
St Catherine's Church, Ahascragh, today.

The article focuses on the evolution of St Catherine’s Church, Ahascragh, by drawing on vestry minute books, account books, drawings and plans as well as the Church of Ireland Gazette (the archives of which are fully digitised and available from 1856 to 2010 at https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb). These records dating from the early 19th century describe how the parish and the wider locality was run and document the local people who were involved with its administration. The big landowning families of the time were often heavily involved with their nearest Church of Ireland parish, and this was no different for the village of Ahascragh and the families of the Barons Clonbrock (Dillon) and Mahons of Castlegar. These names made frequent appearances in all records relating to Ahascragh from baptismal registers, church ground plans, and the register of vestrymen throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection also contains a register with a record of timber given to tenants in the 19th century, which shows how records from estates could double up as parish records.

A watercolour painting of St Catherine's Church, Ahascragh, was gifted to the Revd Henry de Vere Hunt on his retirement in 1918, and recently returned to the parish.  This forms part of a watercolour series which also pictures Ahascragh village and Castlegar House.
A watercolour painting of St Catherine's Church, Ahascragh, was gifted to the Revd Henry de Vere Hunt on his retirement in 1918, and recently returned to the parish. This forms part of a watercolour series which also pictures Ahascragh village and Castlegar House.

An unusual document included in the collection is a copy of a typescript account from the late Ethel L. Dillon, daughter of Luke Dillon, the 4th Baron Clonbrock. In this account, she describes the aftermath of the burning of Ahascragh Church on the night of 9th July 1922 by a group of unknown persons suspected to be Anti–Treaty republicans. The account reveals how this tragedy affected a local Protestant family during the Irish Civil War. The building was subsequently reconstructed and it continues to be open for regular public worship.

Dr Susan Hood, Librarian and Archivist remarks: “The listing and accessioning work on the Library’s most recent parish collection is the first to be carried out by Aisling Irwin in her new role at the Library as Assistant Archivist, and we are grateful for her thorough analysis of the content.”

For further information please contact:

Church of Ireland Press Office 
Church of Ireland House 
61–67 Donegall Street 
Belfast
BT1 2QH 

Tel: (028) 9082 8880 – from Northern Ireland & Great Britain

Tel: (048) 9082 8880 – from Republic of Ireland

Email: Press Office

Peter Cheney

Press Officer 07774 295 369

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