COI Gazette Archive of the Month – November 2020

A Republic of Ireland Perspective on the 1960s through the lens of the Church of Ireland Gazette.

November 2020’s Archive of the Month from the Representative Church Body Library (RCB) provides a further examination of the transformative decade of the 1960s on the island of Ireland from a Church of Ireland perspective. Following on from Dr Marie Coleman’s analysis of the 1950s and Prof Brian M Walker’s personal perspective on the Gazette’s Coverage of the 1960s from north of the Border, Dr Ian d’Alton, Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Irish History, Trinity College Dublin, now provides an insightful and contrasting piece on the 1960s.

Adding to the dynamic of the Borderless Church series and drawing on his own personal experience of growing up firstly in Dublin and then Cork, Dr d’Alton provides critical insight to the value of the Gazette as a primary source, and asks the thought-provoking question: ‘Was the Church of Ireland a “borderless church” during this critical period?’

On his move to Cork, he writes: ‘For a while I might as well have been in Timbuctoo. The city seemed an alien place, and so small. The Cork accent was impenetrable. A fraction of Wesley [College’s] size, my new school, Cork Grammar, had only 120 pupils and its struggles reflected the sensitivity of education for southern Irish Protestants. Money was always the issue. In January 1960 the Gazette reported on the lack of grants for secondary schools in the Republic. My parents had to pay school fees; they did not benefit from Minister Donogh O’Malley’s announcement of free secondary education in the Republic in early September 1966.’

Yet also during the 1960s, he continues by remarking that ‘we southern Protestants began to emerge from self-cocooning. The Gazette in 1960 had expressed wariness of John F. Kennedy’s Roman Catholicism … [but] by the time of his assassination it praised him “in proving that men of goodwill of many faiths could work together for the common good”. Ecumenism was the single biggest subject covered in the Gazette in the decade, especially after the Vatican Council’s influence began to permeate even traditional and devout Ireland.’

In January 1963, it was a matter of some comment in the Gazette that, at a lecture in Queen’s University Belfast given by a Jesuit scholar, the front row had the Anglican bishops of Connor and Derry alongside the Catholic bishop of Down and Connor, and the Presbyterian Moderator. On the ground relations steadily improved too, with the opening of a new rectory at Portarlington, Co. Laois, in 1965 witnessed by the local Catholic priest and providing an ecumenically-positive photo op.

COI Gazette Archive of the Month - November 2020
Opening of a new rectory at Portarlington, Co. Laois, Church of Ireland Gazette, 19th July 1968

The piece further explores political and cultural identity, and notes how the Gazette was never afraid to challenge governments in both jurisdictions. When Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin was blown up, for example, the paper took the southern government to task for what it claimed were intelligence failures in preventing it, as revealed in the editorial published on 18th March 1966.

The new presentation further emphasizes the value of the Library’s long-term project to digitize and make freely available the complete run of the Church’s all-island newspaper, the Church of Ireland Gazette (in print since 1856), and has again been made possible with the support of the Irish Government’s Reconciliation Fund, administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

You can read previous Archive of the Month articles on the Church of Ireland website here.

To search and view all the other editions of the Gazette from 1856 up to 1969, go to the relevant ‘search’ page here.