|To view the illuminated address here.|
For July, we feature one of the more unusual and artistic pieces in the Representative Church Body Library’s collections. This is an illuminated address presented to the outgoing rector of St Stephen’s Church, Dublin, the Revd James H. Walsh, by his parishioners to mark his appointment as dean of Christ Church Dublin, in 1908.
Walsh was a much–respected rector, who had a long clerical association with St Stephen’s – the “pepper cannister” or “pepper pot” church. With its portico and domed belfry tower, it is one of Dublin’s most distinctive churches, and remains one of city’s most famous landmarks today. The present church was built as a chapel–of–ease for the western edge – and at that time increasingly fashionable part – of the vast parish of St Peter’s in 1823, and was consecrated on 5 December 1824. It remained a district curacy in St Peter’s parish until 1883, when it became an independent parish.
Following ordination in 1860, the Revd J.H. Walsh served curacies in Taney (Dublin) 1860–61, and then Adare (Limerick) from 1861–64, before returning to Dublin to his third curacy at St Stephen’s between 1864 and 1866. In 1866, he returned to the diocese of Limerick for a brief period as rector of Chapel Russell from 1866 to 1870, but was called back to St Stephen’s as chaplain of the district church from 1871 to 1883. When St Stephen’s became a parish in its own right from 1883, Walsh became its first rector – in which position he remained until called to serve as dean of Christ Church cathedral.
James Hornidge Walsh was born at Calvestown, near Tyrellspass in County Westmeath in 1837, the son of a gentleman, and educated at Elphin School, County Roscommon, and then Trinity College Dublin. He earned a scholarship at university, excelling in classics and theology, gaining his Senior Moderatorship in Classics in 1859 along with Archbishop King’s Prize, and the Theology Exhibition prize in 1861. Following further studies – his MA in 1864, BD in 1872 and eventually the DD in 1876, he was appointed Assistant to Archbishop King’s Professor of Divinity at Trinity College from 1877 to 1883, and later also served as Assistant to the Registrar Professor in 1884, these latter part–time posts held in conjunction with his chaplaincy role in St Stephen’s. Once he became rector of the parish, however, ministerial responsibilities took over and his academic pursuits appear to have been put on the back burner. He also gradually rose through the ranks of diocesan clergy, being appointed canon of Christ Church cathedral in 1893, and additionally serving as chancellor from 1905 until his installation as dean in 1908.
In 1875 in the parish church of St Peter, James Walsh (otherwise James Hornidge Walsh) married Jane Mary Fitzgerald, a parishioner, the daughter of the Hon. Francis Alexis Fitzgerald, Baron (or Judge) of the Court of Exchequer, who lived at 50 St Stephen’s Green. The marriage entry may be viewed online at this link http://churchrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/.
The couple was married by Jane’s uncle, the Rt. Revd William Fitzgerald, bishop of Killaloe 1862–83). Interestingly Bishop Fitzgerald’s daughter Edith married Edward Culverwell (Fellow of Trinity College Dublin) and was the mother of the subject of our March Archive of the Month – still viewable on the Previous Archives of the Month menu.
Following an association of almost 40 years in 1908, it was with great regret that the select vestry and parishioners of St Stephen’s learned of Canon Walsh’s promotion as dean of the diocesan cathedral. The vestry minutes of the 6 January 1908 record that his appointment as dean of Christ Church would involve ‘his resignation as rector of St Stephen’s parish’. At the same meeting (after Walsh had retired the chair and left room) the vestry members unanimously resolved:
‘that whilst congratulating Chancellor Walsh upon his new dignity desire to express their deep regret at the severance of a connection which has lasted in all as Rector and Curate nearly forty years, and also to express their grateful sense of the valuable services which he has rendered to the parish’.
This was duly done and considerable sums were raised enabling the parish to commission James McConnell, an internationally–renowned master of heraldic art and illumination, (who ran a successful heraldic studio from the family home at 48 Sackville Street and was also commissioned for official heraldic work by the Office of Arms in Dublin Castle – attesting to his skill) to produce an original piece of artwork attesting to Walsh’s connection with the parish. Reflecting perhaps Walsh’s scholarly outlook, the illuminated address was presented in book format.
We have digitized the illuminated address, now catalogued as RCB Library MS 200, on the link below. Measuring 350×380mm, it consists of five folios. The first of these features the Walsh coat of arms, with its motto Noli Irritare Leonem (Do not irritate the lions). Next is the title page introducing the address, beautifully embellished in soft pastel colours that feature throughout the book, and the coat of arms of the diocese of Dublin.
The next two pages contain the formal address, summing up the gratitude of the parishioners to their outgoing rector, which are embellished by two beautiful watercolour drawings of St Stephen’s church exterior and interior (the latter complete with ornate palm trees).
The text, whilst pitched in very formal language, is also affectionately and personally directed to Walsh in the first person to acknowledge his ‘worth and scholarly attainments’, referring to his theological qualifications and learning; his ‘courtesy to all alike’ – indicating that he was pleasant and fair–minding individual; and finally his pastoral care: referred to as his ‘considerable interest in each individual member of [his] congregation’. The text also makes specific mention of Walsh’s role in the establishment of the Parochial Hall on Northumberland Road, which the address reveals had been ‘lately erected mainly through [Walsh’s] energy and perseverance’, and also acknowledges the supportive role in parish life of Mrs Walsh.
The final two pages then list the contributing parishioners. The numbers are small – only 118 names are listed – but by the early 20th century the area that the parish comprised was increasingly given over to tenement housing and the parish consisted of many families who may have been too poor to contribute directly to the subscription. Attesting to the older, wealthier families who continued to reside in the fashionable streets in the immediate vicinity of the church, the list of those who subscribed include several lawyers – including a number of judges and senior counsels – and doctors, and also such figures as William Anderson, Recorder of Galway, the Lord Chancellor, Samuel Walker and the Deputy Surgeon General, J.E. Scott.
To view the illuminated address click here.
For further information please contact:
Dr Susan Hood