The Church of Ireland Gazette editions for 1915 digitized and fully searchable online
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The RCB Library has now released in full the weekly editions of the 1915 The Church of Ireland Gazette online, highlights from which are presented via this digital exhibition for April’s Archive of the Month. The permanent digital record which utilises Optical Character Recognition technology (OCR) is available and searchable via this permanent link. The 1915 editions add to those already available for the years 1913 and 1914, enabling further analysis of various aspects of the momentous changes that occurred in Ireland and now being marked in the Decade of Commemorations.
Regular followers of Archive of the Month will be aware that last year we launched a sponsorship appeal to continue the work of digitization of this important resource. Our efforts have come to the attention of the Irish government, and we are delighted to acknowledge the encouragement of the National Commemorations Programme (managed by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht) whose financial support has made possible the work presented here on 1915. Further support from other individuals will enable the work to continue over the next few years.
Further background about the history of the Gazette (including a full list of its editors) produced in conjunction with the digital release of the 1913 editions as the Archive of the Month for August 2013 is permanently available here. A quick guide to using the search engine is available here.
Users should note that the extent of the data is too large to provide online as a page–turnable pdf, but once they have identified an item of interest within a particular issue, it is possible to browse through the contents of that issue as each individual page appears as a thumbnail along the top of the search box.
The Gallipoli Campaign by the Allied forces began on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915, (and would continue for over 8 months until 9 January 1916). Five days after it began, the Gazette edition for Friday 30 April 1915 was published. Its by now weekly column “The War Week by Week” (narrating the latest news on the war) carried an interesting analysis of the operation to attack German and Ottoman naval vessels at sea, and land British and French troops on both sides of the Dardanelles Straits (of vital strategic importance as the main sea route into the Russian Empire).
Describing the delicacy of the operation and quoting directly from the latest War Office bulletins to most accurately describe what was happening, the piece (as with other columns of the same name throughout this year) bears the initials “W.B.W.” indicating that the editor himself, Warre B. Wells, was author of the text. As we have previously noted, Wells served as Gazette editor during the entire period of the First World War. A layman, in a letter to one of his clergy columnists in the Gazette, the Revd W.S. Kerr displayed as part of another Archive of the Month here Wells described himself as ‘imparted of Nationalist sympathies’.) and was noted for a pluralist and fair outlook. During the Great War he clearly supported Irish involvement in the military effort by endorsing and publicising active recruitment at every opportunity in his editorials and columns. Wells served as editor of the Gazette from 1906 and apparently only left the role at the end of the War when political tensions between north and south became more magnified, becoming editor of the Irish Statesman (a weekly journal promoting the views of the Irish Dominion League) in 1918. He 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). His biography of John Redmond, whom he admired, was published in 1919.
Elsewhere in the same edition as the Gallipoli campaign was announced, and continuing in true Redmondite spirt, Wells’ editorial “Ireland and the War” revealed his support for the Irish war effort in which he paid particular tribute to the “establishment of a new Council of the Organisation of Recruiting in Ireland”, approving the fact that it “includes public men of all parties and opinions” created as “an official body, which fills a conspicuous want in the war organisation in Ireland”. He hoped it would continue to stimulate “the recent improvement in recruiting in Ireland” which he noted was “better than it had been since the outbreak of the war”. Not shy in taking a swipe at the poor representation of rural Ireland amongst those signing up. Wells had these further remarks to make: “The attitude of the small farmers of Ireland in general towards the war has been a profound and shocking disappointment to those of us who look for the reconstruction of a rural civilisation and culture”.
The weekly focus on the war was not to every reader’s taste. On 30 July, Wells had to defend the column in the light of criticism from a correspondent who felt the war notes “out of place … in a Church newspaper”. Bearing the editorial title: “The Gazette and Pessimism”, he argued that “the great majority of our readers do not share these views, but, on the contrary find ‘The War Week by Week’ … a welcome feature…”, and went on to outline in detail the responsibilities of the press to throw light on the war, mirroring a statement of the Lord Primate and Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd John Baptist Crozier (Archbishop of Armagh 1911–20) that such commentary was “sacred work”.
In the same edition, a full two–page spread appeared promoting the Anti–German League, which campaigned and fund–raised in the UK and Ireland against the purchase of German and Austrian goods; employment of Germans for domestic or commercial work; contracts of any kind with German companies; and finally promotion of a boycott against any trader persisting in the stocking of German or Austrian goods”.
The first anniversary of the declaration of war was given the lead story in the edition for 6 August 1915, when the forthcoming Sunday of Intercession (as declared by the archbishops and bishops of the Church of Ireland) where every church of the Church of Ireland would pray “for our gallant men at the front” was flagged. Intended to continue the “sacred work of comforting, uplifting and strengthening the hearts and hands of our people”, Wells could not help but contrast the initiative and other first anniversary services such as that at St Paul’s in London to the spectacle of the funeral and burial of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa which had occurred the previous Sunday in Dublin (1 August 1915).
Dealing in one sentence with the biggest event to occur in within the republican movement in Ireland during 1915, and most certainly a national event, Wells was scathing of the sight of “six or seven thousand of the various Nationalist Volunteer organisations marching through Dublin in various stages of equipment to the burial of O’Donovan Rossa – a man convicted of treason–felony”.
Underlining the Gazette‘s political outlook at this time, the week before these events in Dublin, the paper had covered the Lord Primate’s address to over 8000 men of the Ulster Division stationed at Seaford in Sussex en route to the Front: “to see all these men who have volunteered for service on behalf of King and country … will not readily be forgotten”. Taking Daniel 32 as the text for his sermon, the archbishop had declared and justified their actions: “the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits”.
Throughout the remainder of 1915, regular updates on events at Gallipoli and indeed all the other theatres of war were provided in some detail in Wells’ war column. By August, when the campaign had entered its third month and the heavy casualty toll became apparent, he remained keen to justify it on the grounds of “the Grand Alliance … fighting for Russia”. Although many had condemned the Dardenelles landings “as blunder”, he chose to see the action in the context of wider operations in Poland and Eastern Europe: “every man who falls in Gallipoli falls to enable ten new Russian soldiers to take to the field”.
Harsh realities were further observed by a correspondent, the Revd Samuel Hutchinson, curate at St Ann’s Dublin and serving as a temporary Chaplain to the Forces between 1915 and 1917, who got his “first taste of war” as he “stood on the deck of the troopship and watched the warships bombard the shore batteries”. Whilst admitting to be initially excited, his feelings changed when he came “within the zone of fire” with “shells busting round us” as they landed on shore. The piece was used to demonstrate the work of the army chaplain.
Elsewhere, Wells used many editorials to defend John Redmond, with some interesting remarks on what he regarded as the “scandalous letter” addressed to Redmond by the Roman Catholic bishop of Limerick, Dr O’Dwyer, in which he advised Redmond to be “the Pope’s agent with the British Government in the cause of peace”, on the grounds that “Germany cannot possibly be beaten to her knees”. Wells described O’Dwyer’s suggestion as monstrous and suggested he should consult with the chaplains of his own church before he sneered at the Allied resolve.
In the final edition of the year, 24 December 1915, Wells further dealt with the ‘awkward dilemma’ faced by Redmond and members of his party on the issue of compulsive recruitment, and categorically defended his right to interfere with and be involved in the political affairs of the United Kingdom.
Other significant events of 1915 that received special attention in the Gazette included the cowardly torpedo attack which sank the cruise ship Lusitania, in which all 1198 passengers and crew were lost off the coast of Cork on 7 May 1915, with subsequent coverage of the memorial service to remember the lives lost at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
A significant new feature introduced to the weekly Gazette from the 24 September 1915 was the “Roll of Honour of Clergy” which sought to illustrate the military service of clerical families, through publication of a series of portraits with accompanying biographical sketches of the sons, or near relations of Irish clergy who were either ‘bearing arms’, or had already ‘laid down their lives in their country’s cause’.
Perhaps, not surprisingly this new feature began with figures connected to the top tier of the clerical hierarchy, with the eldest son of the Lord Primate (the Most Revd John Baptist Crozier) who was Major Baptist Crozier, serving with the Royal Artillery, together with his detailed biographical profile, being the first of the series. Alongside Crozier, and more poignantly appeared the picture of Robert Bernard, the younger son of the Rt Revd J.H. Bernard, Bishop of Ossory, who, having served with the Royal Fusiliers in India, is reported in the biographical account as being killed in action on 26th April 1915 at Sedd–el–Bahr on the Gallipoli Peninsula, the day after the Fusiliers effected a landing on this beach.
The archbishop’s second son, the Revd John Winthrop Crozier, serving as an army chaplain with the 29th Brigade, was more fortunate, having landed safely at the Dardanelles in early August. Here he is profiled alongside Winslow Seymour Sterling Berry, elder son of the bishop of Killaloe, serving as a medical officer in charge or the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, who on 1 October 1915 was reported as “en route to France”.
The Roll of Honour became, as we shall see, a regular feature of the Gazette into 1916, and many other clergy down the ranks encouraged to submit photographs and sketches of their own sons and relatives so as to build as a catalogue of information and visual images. The complete run of rolls of honour for 1915 may be easily accessed by entering “Irish Clergy Roll of Honour” into the search engine.
On a lighter note, a special mid–summer supplement to the Gazette that appeared in the 30 July edition, encouraged readers not to forget their holidays “in spite of the stress and strain” of the past ten months. Given that many seaside resorts in England and Scotland were billeted with troops, readers were reminded to “spend a holiday in Ireland”, north, south, east and west. Some of the principal destinations accessible via Ireland’s extensive railway network, as well locations in Dublin were featured, along with prominent advertisements.
Overall then the contents of the Church of Ireland Gazette provide an invaluable insight to the opinions and attitudes of members of the Church of Ireland through changing times. Written and read by lay and clerical members of the Church north and south, access via the online search engine brings to life at the touch of a button how unfolding political events in Ireland and abroad were communicated to and received by members of this significant minority community on the island one hundred years ago.
To view the search engine click: https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb
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