This month's Archive of the Month from the RCB Library makes available online the digitised version of the Church of Ireland Directory, as it appeared in 1913. Then as now the Directory was an invaluable resource for information about the Church's structures – its parishes, dioceses, clergy and other key personnel.
The 1913 edition follows the previous online release of the first edition, published in 1862, still available here, provides a fascinating insight to the extent of the Church of Ireland on the eve of the enormous political, social and economic changes that would follow in Ireland, in the aftermath of the First World War, and other significant events of change that are now being marked as part of the Decade of Commemorations.
Whilst the size of the volume has increased – partly due to the inclusion of the Church of Ireland Constitution and partly also to an increasing number of advertisements (many of them full-page and some in colour) – the most striking change that has occurred in the five decades since 1862 is the considerable drop in the number of clergy.
Compared with 2318 clergy listed and accounted for in the 1862 Directory, by 1913, their number has fallen by almost 700 to just 1659. This is still a long way off the current 442 members of the stipendiary clergy who serve the Church of Ireland today, but nevertheless represents a staggering drop in clerical numbers, even before the First World War. The explanation for the dramatic fall is the impact of disestablishment and its knock-on effect which tightened the financial resources available to train and employ paid clergy, as well as provide for their pensions, accommodations and other expenses.
Viewers will be fascinated to view the range of information, not least the extensive advertisements section. These include Thomas Cook and Son, who were promoting tourist and circular tickets to places from Paris to the Nile and Palestine.
Closer to home several hotels took out full page adverts in the Directory, including the Shelbourne and Gresham in Dublin, and Parknasilla in County Kerry and Rosapenna Golf Links in county Donegal.
A sign of changing times is perhaps captured by the colourful full page advert for Beverly Smyth and Sons, then furniture van proprietors removal contractors and general carriers, aimed specifically 'at parties removing to or from any part of the United Kingdom' – an outward route that many Church of Ireland families would in fact take as Ireland's political and economic outlook began to change in the decades following the First World War.
The archive is available to view at www.ireland.anglican.org/library/archive
Source: RCB Library