Milestones in 19th Century Irish History

Local History Talk by S Alex Blair

The final talk for 2011 in Ballymoney Borough Arts Committee’s current series of local history talks takes place on Tuesday 6 December.

For the past few months Mr Blair has been looking at Milestones in 19th Century Irish History and in this talk, he focuses on 1869: Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.

The Anglican Church, called in Ireland the Church of Ireland, was established by law as a state church. England still has the Church of England and Scotland the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) as their state churches. Such a position is often questioned today but at least they have the nominal support of the majority of the population. That was not the case in Ireland.

The Church of Ireland was a minority church. Most of the population were Roman Catholic and, even in Protestant areas, many were Presbyterians. Yet all were expected to pay for the upkeep of the Church of Ireland and many resented it considerably.

Regarded as a long-standing Irish grievance, the question was: would any British Prime Minister be prepared to deal with it? One man, himself an Anglican, believed it could not be morally justified and decided to do something about it.

What he did was inconceivable to many. The Church of Ireland lost virtually everything it owned and was left with only the church buildings and surrounding graveyards. The clergy would have to be paid by those who worshipped in the church with no outside help.

It is one of the most draconian pieces of legislation ever passed and Mr Blair’s talk will tell the story in detail. He will also tell what happened locally and assess its impact.

Although viewed as harsh and unfair at the time, the church survived and lived to give thanks for the very event which many thought would destroy it. It is a fascinating topic and deserves to be better understood by people of all denominations.

The talk takes place at 8pm in Ballymoney Town Hall. Admission £2 includes refreshments. The series is promoted by Ballymoney Borough Arts Committee in conjunction with Ballymoney Museum.