More magic lanterns connecting the Church of Ireland and wider world of mission in the 1930s
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As revealed by the December 2014 Archive of the Month further sets of lantern slides were recently recovered from St Patrick’s Deanery in Dublin. As a relatively easy apparatus to use, the ‘magic lantern’ (forerunner of the modern slide projector) provided an important medium used by religious bodies and individuals, enabling clergy, educators and clergy to spread their message for a variety of charitable and educational purposes and the St Patrick’s collection fits this genre.
Previously, the March 2013 Archive of the Month demonstrated how magic lantern slides were used during the Church of Ireland’s commemoration of the 1500th anniversary of St Patrick’s coming to Ireland, in 1932, to accompany three ‘lantern lectures’. These lectures (prepared by the Revd W. E. Vandaleur, Warden of the Divinity Hostel, and Mr G.A. Ruth of the Irish Guild of the Church) aimed to visually connect members of the Church with its Celtic past and origins in the early Irish Church, but also to remind audiences of the spirit in which St Patrick had come to Ireland in the 5th century, to celebrate the ‘missionary tradition of the Irish Church’, thus promoting links with the wider world through mission in the early 20th century. In various promotional literature produced for the commemorative year, it was advertised that interested parishes and church groups could hire one or all three of the relevant slide sets, at a cost 10s.6d each, which were posted out free, together with the typed copy of each lecture.
Detail about the lantern lectures as advertised in A Handbook of Celebrations, Lectures and Literature (1932) produced in advance of events during the Commemoration of St Patrick
The materials uncovered in St Patrick’s Deanery appear to be some of the boxed slide sets, together with the relevant texts of each of the three lectures themselves, as they were distributed for use in parishes around the country. Just like a modern day Powerpoint, numbers or references in the text indicate where different slides were to be shown.
Map of Éire (Ireland) showing Christian sites of the 5th and 6th centuries, with related text from St Patrick’s Commemoration Lecture 1 p. 1, which indicates the source of the map is based on Dr MacNeill’s “Celtic Ireland”.
Judging from the number of stamps and other distribution marks on the boxes in which they were contained (and stamps on the lecture texts themselves) the slide and lecture sets were widely posted, indicating how popular the St Patrick’s series became during and presumably after the commemoration year – as had been envisaged in the promotional literature.
This box provides a vital clue to the originator of the entire St Patrick’s Deanery lantern slide collection, as it was addressed to the Revd W.E. Vandeleur MA at 25 Mountjoy Square Dublin. The Revd Canon William Elder George Ormsby Vandeleur was Warden of the Divinity Hostel in Mountjoy Square (where ordinands training for Church of Ireland ministry – who studied at Trinity College lived) between 1928 and 1934, and thus centrally involved in education within the Church. He was responsible for the lantern lectures in 1932.
As the pre–event official programme for the commemoration made clear several sets of the slides for each lecture were produced, as they bookings were reported to be ‘very numerous’. For whatever reason, the complete collection ended up in St Patrick’s after 1932. As the national cathedral, dedicated to the patron saint, it was probably not the most unlikely location for such a collection.
Selection of lantern slide images as follows: Church and Round Tower, Lusk, Co. Dublin; Church Island, Skerries, Co. Dublin; General View of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow; The Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary, RCB Library St Patrick’s Deanery lantern slide collection
Unfortunately over the years the sets were mixed up as they were presumably shown and re–shown to audiences. In the preparation of the lists of the materials, some re–ordering has been done to try and bring like materials together. As such and with their relevant lecture texts they provide rich evidence about how the Church of Ireland endeavoured to visually connect its members to their collective past, and promoted outreach to the wider world church through mission. Together with the Boer War and Great War materials previously shown here, they have been arranged into four further groups (in accordance with the four boxes in which they were found). A full list of all of the St Patrick’s Deanery slides is available here.
The text of each of the three lectures is available at the links below:
Lecture I: St Patrick His Life and Times, ‘giving the story of the life and times of St Patrick and his immediate successors up to the coming of the Anglo–Normans’.
Lecture II: The Missionary Traditions of the Irish Church from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, dealing with the missionary traditions of the Church of Ireland, it shows ‘how the same spirit is seen in later days in the work of Irish missionaries in America, India, China and elsewhere’.
Lecture III: The Continuity of the Church of Ireland with the Early Irish Church as Illustrated by its Sacred Sites. This lecture sets out the connection between the Church of Ireland in its present situation and the ancient Irish Church.
Allowances must be made for some of the simplistic and generalised history in the texts of these lectures – bearing in mind that those who put them together were trying to reach a general audience nationwide and instil a sense of pride in the Celtic origins of the Church of Ireland. The two extracts below from Lecture I demonstrate the definitive simplicity of this language.
Nevertheless, the text of the Lecture II demonstrates the desire to connect in the public mind the original Christianization of Ireland by St Patrick and the early monastic settlements island–wide with Ireland’s ongoing contribution to international mission, is of particular interest.
After describing the early travel from Ireland of missionaries such as St Columba and others, the text of this lecture then focuses on the contributions of more recent missionaries such as ‘Bishop Inglis’, the Rt Revd John Inglis (1777–1850) who served with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) initially in America and then in Canada where he was ‘consecrated first bishop of Nova Scotia and first Colonial Bp. of the British Empire’.
Another was ‘Bishop Balfour of Co. Louth and Assistant and Bp. of Blomfontein’, Francis Richard Townley Balfour (1846–1923) who served with the SPG in Africa from 1875, and became in effect the first bishop of what is modern Lesotho.
Of particular mention among the pioneer priests is the celebrated Revd Henry Irwin, known as ‘Father Pat’ , the son of the Revd Henry Irwin, rector of Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow, who devoted his life as an ‘apostolic missioner’ in the challenging terrain of British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies.
The text then turns to the role of graduates of divinity at Trinity College Dublin, who served at the three university missions founded in the late 19th–century in China, India and Iran, a point illustrated with an image of the ‘our mission boat – the TCD’ being the boat used to explore China where the first Dublin University Mission who established in Fukien Diocese in 1887. Here the text of the lecture is at pains to emphasise ‘over 50 men and women, most of Irish birth’, brought Christianity to native populations through education: primary and secondary schools and college, a point illustrated with images of the main mission building in Foochow, and the College Chapel.
Next, the text moves to India with particular attention to the Dublin University Mission in the Chota Nagpur district, on which the focus is both ‘educational and medical mission’, and for which there are the most slides in the lecture set all of which can be viewed here. For a complimentary collection of early lantern slides depicting the work of the Mission in the late 19th and early 20th centuries available here see another previous online exhibit available here.
However, some of the new ones in the St Patrick’s collection – including an ornately decorated elephant; an afternoon tea party, a group of college staff with ordinands and construction of one of the mission buildings have not been seen before.
Selection of lantern slide images as follows: Ornately–decorated Indian elephant carrying perhaps a wedding party; mission building under construction; group of ordinands and staff outside college; slide labelled ‘tea in camps’, Dublin University Mission, Chota Nagpur, India RCB Library St Patrick’s Deanery lantern slide collection
Moving to Persia, or modern Iran, the text notes that ‘Persia too has received many missionaries from Ireland’ including Bishop Linton (the Rt Revd James Henry Linton, 1879–1958) and his wife, Mrs Linton, who served at the Church Missionary Society Training College in Julfa. Quoting the bishop, the lecture notes: ‘the growing consciousness of Persia’ and that ‘the most important contribution we can make to the Persian Church is in the way of full education of the Christian community stressing this need for a Divinity School for training evangelists and catechists.’
Rt Revd James Henry Linton, and Mrs Linton, missionaries in Persia, 1919–1935 with slide labelled ‘David, Jerry and Prince carrying the pack’, RCB Library St Patrick’s Deanery lantern slide collection
The lecture concludes that at the present time (1932) no less than 170 missionaries of Irish birth and connected with the Church of Ireland were serving the worldwide church through active mission.
The digitization work for this online display has once again been supported by the Dublin University Mission to Chota Nagpur in India, which continues to work in close collaboration with US:Anglicans in World Mission, to support the work of the Anglican Church in Chota Nagpur. More information about this work is available on the Mission’s website: www.dumcn.org
For further information please contact:
Dr Susan Hood