Rowan tree planted to mark launch of new book on history of St Macartin’s Cathedral
A rowan tree has been planted in the grounds of St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, in Clogher Diocese to mark the forthcoming launch of a new book about its history, ‘St Macartin’s Cathedral – At the Heart of the Community’.
The tree was planted by Mr Sam Morrow, author of the book. The Rowan tree leaves and berries are symbolic of the name Macartin meaning ‘Son of the Rowan Tree’.
The book which spans 400 years of history will be launched on Wednesday, 13th November, at 7.30pm in the Cathedral Hall and everyone is welcome to attend.
One aspect which the book covers is the pivotal role which the Church of Ireland Parish of Enniskillen and St Macartin’s Cathedral played in society over the course of the 400 years of history of the Cathedral.
In the 18th Century as part of the Established Church then, the parish had a statutory responsibility to provide for all orphans and deserted children and when poverty and famine was widespread, the parish paid for the cost of coffins for those who died.
In this section below, Sam examines some of the social issues in Enniskillen in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
Over the centuries the Church of Ireland in Enniskillen, as part of the Established Church, had responsibilities beyond providing for acts of worship and the pastoral care of its members. These included health and welfare issues. In the 18th century the vestry had a statutory responsibility to provide for all orphans or deserted children, known as foundlings, within the parish. The vestry also had a similar statutory duty to care for the poor. Responsibility for deserted children was regarded as a significant liability for the vestry and at times there was the suspicion that some parents or guardians may have deliberately used the parish’s finances to help rear their children. Measures to prevent possible abuse of the system were implemented in 1738 when the rector was empowered to pay the sum of one pound ten shillings to any person who shall convict and apprehend any Person whatsoever who shall leave in a clandestine manner a child upon the parish so as to become a charge thereon. The need to provide for these children continued over very many years.
In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, poverty and famine among the population were sources of major concern. In the vestryminutes of 1774 there is a list of 16 people who were classified as the Registered Poor of the Parish. Poverty was obviously a very serious problem in the nineteenth century and people found difficulty in making arrangements for the burial of the dead. One way the parish assisted was in meeting the cost of coffins. Over the 10–year period from 1825 to 1834 the parish spent a total of over £100 on coffins for paupers. A coffin for a foundling cost two shillings and three pence in 1832. Consequently, £100 would have bought a large number of coffins. The lower part of the St Macartin’s graveyard (without headstones) is known as the burial place of the paupers.
There was close co–operation between the Roman Catholic priest and the Church of Ireland rector in Enniskillen in relation to the needs of the poor. Both clergymen preached charity sermons in their churches in 1831 with the collection taken up in aid of a society that supported 136 wretched families. Their cooperation extended beyond the needs of the people of Enniskillen. Both clergymen sponsored a public meeting in Enniskillen Townhall in 1831 to raise funds for The Relief of the Suffering of the peasantry in the West of Ireland.
A relief committee was also established to address issues arising from the famine. In May 1847, the rector, The Hon and Rev J. C. Maude, who was the ex officio chairman of the relief committee, called a meeting which was held in the vestry of the church. In the process of their work they were also exposed to the risk of infection through the close communication with those who were ill. At that time the committee had £700 in hand and had a provision house which was a base from which the distribution of food was organised to the hundreds of starving and diseased people.