The Dublin Presbyterian Colporteur’s Notebook, 1875

To mark Culture Night 2015, the IGRS, in collaboration with Clontarf & Scots Presbyterian congregation, announces the launch ofa new and exciting database of scanned images from the Dublin Presbyterian Colporteur’s Notebook, which dates from 1875.

IMG_1268 - Copy

First page of the Notebook

The rare Notebook was compiled during January to October 1875 by William Malone, a missionary-colporteur employed by Ormond Quay Presbyterian congregation.  On his travels through the streets of Dublin between the two canals, Malone jotted biographical notes on approximately 10,000 inner-city Dublin Protestants. Given the lack of nineteenth century census records for Ireland, this unrivalled and until now almost unknown resource sheds new light on approximately a third of the inner-city’s Protestant population.

Malone’s task was to “seek out and visit unconnected Presbyterian families first, then Protestants of any denomination not attached to any place of worship…“.  His journal is a fascinating insight into the lives of Dublin’s late nineteenth century Protestant working classes. Sparing no flattery, he noted industry, clean living and godliness alongside squalor, drunkenness and child neglect. He recorded too his interaction with Roman Catholics. Of such a family he met in Prussia Street, in Stoneybatter, he noted that, having “entered the houses of several Roman Catholics & held some conversations on religious subjects…found them averse to Gospel truth & firmly attached to their own errors”.

One of the early, poignant entries notes a Presbyterian couple called John and Jane More, originally from Glasgow. Jane had been mother to 20 children, only nine of which had survived. The full entry reads:

“7th Jan 1875 – Found out a family of Scotch Presbyterians living at 5 Wellington Place – Father & Mother, John & Jane More, with 9 children living, 11 children dead. This family has been 26 years in the city & yet have not connected themselves with any church. They worship everywhere, principally the Methodist and Episcopal churches. Mother and daughter baptised by Principal MacFarlane, Glasgow. Husband works as confectioner at Connor’s, King Street…working at Robinson’s, Capel Street, by 27th March 1876.”

Ormond Quay Presbyterian Church

Ormond Quay Presbyterian Church, Dublin

Later the same month Malone found a Mrs Hickey at Walshe’s Row, off Mary’s Place. He noted: “Husband…dead, had been an Episcopalian, – she Roman Catholic – 7 children very neglected & ignorant, attend no school”. In June, he came across a Craig family in Temple Bar, “an exceedingly unhappy family, arising principally from drink…an inmate of this house, a servant…addicted to cursing.”

Thankfully, not all entries are so negative. Most note ordinary families, recording their occupations, education, number of children and places of origin, with asides about their openness to the reformed religion.

In launching this new database IGRS Chairman, Steven Smyrl, said:  “This major new source fills a huge void left by the lack of nineteenth-century census records for Dublin. Many of the descendants of the families noted are no doubt scattered across the globe and this information will enable them to bring their research back another generation or two and to identify where they came from before moving to the city. Rarely ever does a source of this importance surface, and never one with such glorious, though often heart-breaking, detail.”

The names index can be searched by all, access to scanned images of the pages from the Notebook are available to IGRS members only. Here is the link to the search page.

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