Archive of the Month
The Church of Ireland Gazette editions 1911–1923 digitized and fully searchable online: a contribution to the Decade of Commemorations
Archive of the Month – January 2016
To proceed to the search engine click: https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb
The ongoing project to digitize the historical issues of the Church of Ireland Gazette has entered a new and exciting phase, with the successful uploading and indexing of this invaluable resource for the period 1911–1923. It is re–launched as Archive of the Month for January 2016, making editions during those years accessible and searchable to a worldwide audience.
Written and read by lay and clerical members of the Church of Ireland, the Gazette (in print since 1856) provides the longest–running public commentary on the opinions and attitudes of members of the Church of Ireland and indeed wider Protestant community on the island. It is thus a recognised resource for understanding the complexities and nuances of this identity, north and south. The project to make it available for research and public interest is a collaborative venture between the RCB Library (which holds the only complete hardcopy set) and the Editor and Board of the Gazette and to date has been funded largely through sponsorship. For a list of sponsors to date see this link.
Grant support secured through the secured through the Church of Ireland Historical Centenaries Working Group has made possible the latest phase of work, with the result that all the editions for the revolutionary period, 1912–22 have been scanned and made fully searchable, with an additional year either side of that, bringing to light this crucial period from a Church of Ireland perspective in general, but also specifically making it possible to find events, people and places hidden until now through the pages.
This is particularly appropriate for the centenary year marking events such as the 1916 Rising and Battle of the Somme, enabling the Church of Ireland to make another positive contribution to memory and knowledge for the Decade of Commemorations. We are most grateful to the Irish government for backing our project, and also to our service provider, Informa, who have delivered an exceptionally high–quality search engine.
The Gazette was originally published and printed by its founder/proprietor Mr James Charles, from his premises at 61 Middle Abbey Street Dublin. In the initial stages, it is likely that Charles took a lead role in the editorial style, format and layout of the publication, but there was no official editor as such. From 1871 onwards however, editors were formally appointed (and a full list is available on this link) the first of whom was the Revd James Anderson Carr, vicar of Whitechurch in the diocese of Dublin from 1871–1900 who served as editor from 1871 to 1893. Thereafter the paper’s editors were all clerics until at some point between 1906 and 1916 a layman, Ware W. Wells, began to play a prominent role in the paper’s editorial work, and crucially was in the Gazette premises in Abbey Street for the duration of events of Easter Week.
This gave him a bird’s eye view of events unfolding in the area near the General Post Office. As the lead article of the special edition 28 April–05 May noted, he was ‘probably at closer quarters with much of the fighting in the capital than any other civilian in Dublin’, with ‘access to special sources of information’ enabling him ‘to supply a lengthy and exhaustive analysis of the circumstances of the insurrection’. The edition (publication of which was suspended for a week because of the fighting) thus became an important contemporary source about events in Easter Week, and was reprinted and went to wide circulation for a general audience – well beyond the Church of Ireland community.
The offices in Middle Abbey Street reportedly had a remarkable escape from the fire which devastated the Sackville Street area, and it was the last building on its side of the street to be saved from the fire which ‘stopped immediately short of this office’.
Elsewhere Wells described himself as ‘imparted of Nationalist sympathies’, and was noted for a pluralist and fair outlook. Indeed after his role at the Gazette ended, c. 1918, he went on to become editor of the Irish Statesman (a weekly journal promoting the views of the Irish Dominion League) and also wrote one of the first histories of the Irish Rebellion, 1916 – with N. Marlowe, A History of the Irish Rebellion of 1916 (Dublin, 1916) and its sequel The Irish Convention and Sinn Fein (Dublin 1918) as well as a biography of John Redmond, published in 1919.
For the duration of the Great War, Wells as with other writers in the Gazette strongly supported Irish involvement in the Allied military effort by endorsing and publicising active recruitment at every opportunity in editorials and columns. As we have previously noted, in 1915 he introduced a “Roll of Honour of Clergy” featuring the portraits and accompanying biographical sketches of the sons, or near relations of Irish clergy, and this continued into April 1916. We have extracted the additional portraits/biographies as they appeared in editions up to that time, available as a stand–alone album, here: The Clergy Roll of Honour 1915–16
Unfortunately the Gazette could not cope with the flood of portraits it received and this scheme – intended as it was to pay tribute to the men at the front – stopped suddenly from 28 April 1916, ironically the first edition following the Rising, when the pages filled up with the evolving political news and commentary.
Later in 1916 when pressure for the partition of Ireland mounted in the context of a proposed settlement for Ireland based on Home Rule, Wells was at pains to appeal to readers in Ulster, particularly those in the Ulster Unionist Council not to accede to Ulster’s exclusion. In a series of editorials headed ‘The Somme or the Boyne?’ he argued that ‘Surely “common sacrifices and glories” should make for a united and not a divided Ireland’, and in the same spirit in which Irish Unionists and Nationalists, Roman Catholics and Protestants had fought side by side and laid down their lives in their thousands at the Battle of the Somme, so they should remain together united as one nation.
For all of these political issues and much more, the public is now invited to explore the Gazette using the search engine, while a quick guide is available here.
Given the depth of content, users are also advised that they can refine their searches, using the refine button, which groups search results by year.
To proceed to the search engine click:
Librarian and Archivist
Dr Susan Hood
Librarian and Archivist