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Archive of the Month – October 2014

October 2014

The Church of Ireland Gazette editions for 1914 digitized and fully searchable online 

To view the search engine click: https://esearch.informa.ie/rcb
(clicking on images below will open in a larger window)

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The RCB Library has released in full the 1914 copies of The Church of Ireland Gazette online as this month’s Archive of the Month – continuing our commitment to mark the Decade of Commemorations, and in particular the centenary of the start of the First World War.

Thanks to the generous support of an anonymous donor, it has been possible to continue the work of digitization of this important resource for another year, following on from the initial pilot project on 1913. Access to the search–engine which utilises Optical Character Recognition technology (OCR) is available on this link, whilst 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.

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The extent of the data is too large to provide online as a page–turnable pdf, but users should be aware that 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 first edition of the Gazette to be published after the outbreak of the War was that for Friday, 7 August 1914, and carries a lead piece on its implications for Ireland. This has been made available as a standalone pdf and is available in full here (28Mb PDF).

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By October 1914, the War had been raging for almost two months and the Gazette‘s lead article published on 2 October demonstrated the growing atmosphere of concern about how it was taking its toll, with deaths and injuries already predicted to “stagger humanity”. Noting the impact of “modern weapons and portable entrenching tools”, it went on to describe the Allied advance whilst acknowledging also the heavy death toll and casualties on the German side.

A special column entitled “The War Week by Week” had become a permanent feature of the Gazette from as early into the War as the 21 August 1914, and would continue as a permanent feature until the end – providing weekly graphic detail of the Allied campaign for readers.

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Image 9The editor of the Gazette during the entire period of the First World War was a layman W. B. Wells, who described himself as ‘imparted of Nationalist sympathies’ – as revealed in his letter to the Revd William Shaw Kerr, who penned the Gazette‘s weekly Shebna the Scribe column during this period. For background see our April Archive of the Month available at this link.

Noted for his pluralist and fair outlook, Wells served as editor from 1906 and would only leave at the end of the War when political tensions between north and south became more magnified. He went on to become editor of the Irish Statesman (a weekly journal promoting the views of the Irish Dominion League) and also 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) as well as a biography of John Redmond, whom he admired, published in 1919.

During the last months of 1914, in true Redmondite spirt, Wells’ editorials reveal his aspiration that the efforts of the Allied forces on mainland Europe provided for Ireland a potential ‘unity of purpose’ north and south. The Gazette would promote recruitment, and urged clergy of all denominations to play their part, while later appealing for additional army chaplains in November 1914.

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The Gazette provides a useful vehicle through which to analyse how the Church’s archbishops and bishops dealt with the War during successive diocesan synods, and Wells gave some attention to scrutinizing their presidential addresses.

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Image 13In the Christmas Eve edition, published on 24 December 1914, special focus was given to the forthcoming “Day of Prayer and Penitence” (to be held on 3 January 1915) and the efforts of both Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin to encourage maximum participation in services of reflection. In his editorial, which he entitled simply “Christmas”, Wells expended considerable thought on why the awful war was morally justifiable, which he summed up as “fighting for peace”.
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The content of the advertisements placed in the weekly editions of the Gazette took on increasingly war–related themes towards the end of 1914, with the promotion of everything from prayer–time devotionals and other resources, to wartime food for children and comforts and socks for the troops.

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For regular followers of Archive of the Month who have enjoyed our various lantern slide presentations in the past, it will be of particular interest to view the various advertisements for “lantern slides of the war” available for sale or hire from the main optical supplier in Dublin, Mason’s, who made up commercial sets complete with readings. As early as November 1914, the Gazette reveals that such visual evidence was in circulation, and as the advertisements themselves make clear, the quantity of slides available grew as the war progressed.

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Overall then the contents of the 1914 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.


Can you contribute to the cost of digitizing more years of the 151–year run of Gazettes?

Click here to download a sponsorship poster.

Gift Aid (NI) your sponsorship – download a form here

Tax Relief (RoI) – download a CHY4 form here

For further information please contact:
Dr Susan Hood
RCB Library
Braemor Park
Dublin 14
Tel: 01–4923979
Fax: 01–4924770
E–mail: susan.hood@rcbdub.org