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More ‘News Behind the News’: A bolt from the blue (June 1912)

More ‘News Behind the News’: A bolt from the blue (June 1912)

Another decade and a half’s worth of editions of the weekly newspaper, the Church of Ireland Gazette, from 1924 to 1936, is now digitized and uploaded online. With the support of service provider, Informa, the RCB Library makes the 80–year run from March 1856 (when the paper first appeared) up to and including the end of December 1936 available and shared for all as a freely–searchable resource.

The RCB Library holds the only complete hard–copy run of this newspaper published weekly since 1856, and through incremental digitization has endeavoured to share its rich content with a worldwide audience. With 70 years now online and searchable, work is half–way done to complete the project to make the Gazette a completely searchable resource for in 2005 it became available as e–newspaper.

For its June Archive of the Month slot, the Library has again teamed up with the historian Dr Miriam Moffitt who demonstrates the incredible detail to be uncovered in the pages of the Gazette, and its value for historical research, in a story about the miraculous escape of the congregation in St Mark’s church, Ettagh, County Offaly, when their church was struck by lightning during the Morning Service on Sunday, 21st June 1912. The paper records how there were three great flashes, the third of which broke a capping stone on the church tower, smashing stained glass windows and even splitting a pew inside the church, causing all inside to feel the effects. While no–one was seriously injured, one man nearest to a shattered window was very shocked. The organist and rector’s wife, Mrs Charlotte Lees, felt the full effects through the organ, while the organ–blower was literally blown off his feet.

St Mark's church, Ettagh, County Offaly, with the report on its lightning strike, on Sunday, 21st June 1912.
St Mark's church, Ettagh, County Offaly, with the report on its lightning strike, on Sunday, 21st June 1912.

In the current online exhibition, Dr Moffitt illustrates this particular seemingly incidental story from local parish life, but then goes behind the scenes to show how other political forces were at work that would have longer–lasting effects than the one–off but nonetheless dramatic incident of June 1912. As she has already done in three previous ‘News Behind the News’ presentations, available at the links below, she again shows how the particular story can take on a new significance when analysed in detail and fleshed out by other resources available at the RCB Library. See these previous links:

If I Were a Clergyman … or If I were a Layman … 

The Tin Church at Laragh, County Monaghan

Divided Loyalties in a West Cork Parish: the Revd George F. Stoney of Berehaven

Miriam Moffitt says: ‘The Gazette is wonderful because it provides not only an outline of the events that impacted on the Church over the last 150 years, but also because it gives us an insight into the attitudes of its readership. It is in the small, apparently insignificant events of the past that the reality of parish life can be captured. Studies of this type are important as they illustrate the relationships and dependencies inherent in the communities that have gone before.’

Speaking from the RCB Library, the Librarian and Archivist, Dr Susan Hood, says: ‘Like a bolt from the blue, Dr Miriam Moffitt’s forensic coverage of the lightning strike at Ettagh parish church in June 1912, underpinned by our online digitization of the Gazette, brings back another fascinating human–interest story that would otherwise have remained hidden.’

The free–to–view finding aid to all editions of the Gazette between 1856 and 1936 is available here.

The current Church of Ireland Gazette and all editions from 2005 may be viewed via an online subscription on the Gazette website.

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 NI)
Tel: (048) 9082 8880 (from RoI)
Email: Press Office 

Peter Cheney

+44 (0)7774 295369

Janet Maxwell

+353 (0)87 948 4412