Sunday, February 10, 2013

Church of Ireland

I've been trying to place the historical figures that were mentioned in The Gillespie Family Record, written and handed down to us by our beloved Aunt Edith Gillespie (1896-1986).  Here is one of the quotes from that record:

"James Gillespie, who was employed on the estate of Lord Beresford, "Primate of all Ireland," was married in Lisnadill Church on December 31, 1835, to Mary Jamieson (b. 3-3-1814), one of four daughters of Arthur Jamieson and Mary Orr, who had a farm about five miles from Armagh. She had a good voice and sang in the choir of Lisnadill Church, her father being precentor."

Well, first, who was Lord Beresford?  Lord John George de la Poer Beresford (22 November 1773 - 18 July 1862) was an Anglican archbishop and Primate.  Click here to read the highlights of his life.  The gist is that in 1822 (when James Gillespie was 12 years old), Lord Beresford became the 106th Archbishop of Armagh and therefore also Primate of All Ireland.  To be clear, we are talking about the Church of Ireland.

So let's figure out where Lord Beresford's estate was.  According to the Irish Landed Estates database, none of the lands or houses owned by Beresford family were located in either County Armagh or County Monaghan.  And I'm going to guesstimate we're talking about over 70,000 acres of land.  So if our James Gillespie was employed on the estate of Lord Beresford, he was either commuting or not living in County Armagh.

Ah, but maybe I take these things too literally (sometimes).  We do have a letter of recommendation written for James Gillespie by the chaplain of the Lord Primate of the Lisndill church, Stephen Radcliffe, in 1837.  It was written from the Palace Armagh.  Well, it turns out the Palace Armagh was built in 1772 as a place of residence for the Archbishops of Armagh.  Lord Beresford raised the building to four stories during his tenure as Archbishop.  So was James employed at Lisnadill or Armagh?  I tend to think James did indeed work at the Palace Armagh where the Lord Primate of all Ireland resided.

Second, James Gillespie was known to be a devout Presybterian after his emigration to Quebec around 1837, leading me to look primarily for Presbyterian records.  So let's start with James' marriage in the Lisnadill Church in 1835.  That church, built in 1772, is called the St. John's Church of Ireland, Lisnadill.  It has quite a wonderful history, which you can read about here.  It's not clear to me yet if any records from this church survive. 

I have noted before there might have been a good reason for this seeming contradiction - a Presbyterian getting married in the Church of Ireland.  Here is a quote from the book "Frontiersmen and Settlers, The Bells in Scotland, Ireland and Canada" by William C Wonders:

"Although Presbyterian marriages by Presbyterian ministers were admitted to be legal in civil courts ... (it was) not until 1782 that the Irish Parliament passed a bill by which marriages of Dissenters celebrated by their ministers were legalized beyond doubt" (Falley, 705) However "before 1844 banns had to be published in the Established Church (The Church of Ireland) of the diocese in which the marriage was to be performed and clerygymen of the Established Church had to issue licenses: (so that) a great proportion of marriages, regardless of the sect, were entered in the Parish Registers of the Established Church of Ireland." (Falley, 707)  Until 1844 Presbyterian marriages had no complete legal security and, where property rights might be involved, Presbyterians often took the precaution to be married and have their children baptized in the Church of Ireland.  This latter practice probably stopped about the same time that Roman Catholics were emancipated, i.e., about 1830 - however, some Presbyterians never baptized their children in the Church of Ireland! (McCabe, John conversation with author 3 Oct 1996)"

So this explanation might have been the case with our James Gillespie.  All I can say for sure is this.  John Gillespie, supposed father of James, was married in the First Presbyterian church in Armagh - that record has survived.  And the Presbyterian congregation for the townland of Lisnadill was located in Armaghbrague, but we don't know if James Gillespie ever attended there.  After all, he was employed for 10 years at Palace Armagh, and married by the Church of Ireland in Lisnadill.  Was he hiding his true faith?  Maybe.  Maybe by the time he started having children, he wanted them baptized in his true faith, and thus made the long journey to Quebec to start a better life.  

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