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the west to be distributed for the relief of destitution. A few weeks afterwards, he succeeded in forming the “ Belfast Ladies' Relief Association for Connaught "-which, before the end of the financial year, was able to report that it had expended between £4,000 and £5,000 in rescuing the poor people of a portion of that province from death by hunger. Another fund, established by him on a broader foundation, contributed £16,000 towards mitigating the national distress.
Whilst Dr. Edgar was labouring to remove the pressure of temporal want, he was not unmindful of the moral and spiritual improvement of the peasantry in the west of Ireland Industrial schools were established, in which young females were instructed in knitting and embroidery, and thus enabled to earn a subsistence; and they were, at the same, time taught to read, and made acquainted with the Scriptures. Soon afterwards, ministers were sent to preach to the people; and, in a few years, Presbyterian congregations, composed largely of converted Romanists, were collected at Dromore West, Ballinglen, Clogher, and other places. In the report of the Assembly's Mission to the Roman Catholics for 1864, Dr. Edgar was able to state that, in Connaught, fourteen churches and fourteen manses had been erected within a few years. Some of these churches were built on sites where dilapidated meeting-houses had existed; but the greater number were entirely new foundations. Several additional churches were opened by Dr. Edgar for public worship before his death in 1866.4
Whilst Irish Presbyterians were labouring to promote the Scriptural enlightenment of Romanists, the Protestant Establishment was not inactive. Achill-an island about sixteen miles long and seven miles broad, separated from the mainland of County Mayo by a narrow sound—was the scene of perhaps its most interesting mission. With the exception of six or
* Memoir of John Edgar, D.D., LL.D., p. 225. See also Transactions of the Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends, pp. 436-438. • Ibid. p. 226.
According to the First Report of the Commissioners of Public Instruction (Summary, p. 44) there were in the ecclesiastical province of Tuam in 1834, exactly 800 Presbyterians. According to the census of 1861 (part iv., p. 558) there were in the province of Connaught in that year 3,088 Presbyterians.
4 Dr. Edgar died in August 1866, in the sixty-ninth year of his age.
seven coastguards and their families stationed in it to prevent smuggling, its inhabitants-amounting to from five to six thousand souls—were all Roman Catholics. With an area of upwards of forty-six thousand acres, it exhibited few signs of civilization ; for in 1831 it had but one road ; and even that had been made by Government, and had been only very recently completed. The islanders were little—if at allabove the rank of savages; they were totally uneducated; they lived chiefly by fishing; and though, in the valleys, there was some good land, tillage was almost entirely neglected. Superstition, in some of its most absurd forms, reigned throughout the place; even adults were afraid to venture out after night-fall through dread of the fairies; and Achill might well have been pronounced one of the most benighted spots in Europe. In 1831 it suffered from famine; and, in the summer of that year, the Rev. Edward Nangle, a pious minister of the Establishment, at the request of a friend, accompanied a steamer which went to it, freighted with provisions for its relief. This good man contemplated its spiritual destitution with deep concern; and conceived the idea of originating a mission for its benefit. The proprietor of a large portion of the island favoured the project; a lease of one hundred and thirty acres, at a nominal rent, was granted for the erection of buildings and the accommodation of a missionary establishment; and, in 1833, a steward was engaged to superintend the reclamation of this wild tract of moorland. The farm was soon inclosed ; a house was erected; and in the November of that year a schoolmaster was sent to the settlement. He was soon followed by a Scripture reader; and, another house having been meanwhile built for the missionary, Mr. Nangle—who had himself undertaken the office-arrived there with his family in August, 1834. At that time there were two places where mass was celebrated ; and there was a resident priest of a somewhat passive tem
According to the First Report of the Commissioners of Public Instruction (32nd) there were in Achill in 1831 seventy-six Protestants. These were the coastguards and their families, and probably some strangers connected with relief committees. 2 Memoir of last Archbishop of Tuam, p. 599.
perament. But when Mr. Nangle had erected a number of schools, he was not permitted to proceed without disturbance; for two opposition schools, patronized by the priest, and under the care of the National Board, were soon established. When the Protestant missionary complained that one of the teachers of these schools had been dismissed from the coastguard service for his connection with Ribbonism,' the Commissioners pleaded, in reply, that they supported the schools in accordance with the regulations of the Board ; that Mr. Nangle was not the Protestant incumbent of the parish; and that the master was bound to institute an action at law against his accuser, in vindication of his character. But the mission schools commended themselves to the support of a large number of the people; and, though denounced by the partizans of Rome, children continued to attend in the face of various forms of annoyance and intimidation. Mr. Nangle was soon joined by another missionary ; additional Scripture readers were employed; a Protestant church made its appearance; the congregation gradually increased ; and in 1852 no less than twenty-seven mission schools were in operation." These things were not unnoticed by Dr. M.Hale, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tuam; and he became alarmed. A new Roman Catholic chapel was built; the Archbishop himself visited the island; two priests of fervid zeal were settled in it; and no means were neglected which were likely to counteract the operations of the missionaries. But Scripture truth continued to advance; many withdrew from the authority of the Pope and joined the standard of the Reformation; and, within less than thirty years after the commencement of the mission, the Protestant population amounted to nearly seven hundred.4
1 Memoir of last Archbishop of Tuam, p. 602, note.
2 See Third Report of the Commissioners of National Education, p. 53. Dublin, 1851.
3 Incidents in the Life and Ministry of the Rev. Alex. R. C. Dallas, p. 405. London, 1872.
4 According to the census of 1861 the population stood thus :- --Roman Catholics, 5,083; Protestants of the Established Church, 649 ; Presbyterians, 37; Methodists, 7; or 693 Protestants in all. Census of Ireland for 1861, part
The history of the Achill mission mournfully illustrates the fiendish spirit of blind bigotry. Genuine religion is peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated; it abhors strife: and it seeks to make way by the truth spoken in love. But bigotry is sullen, truculent, and ferocious; it is impatient of contradiction; and it is unscrupulous as to the agency it employs to put down opposition. Even in a temporal point of view, Achill was immensely indebted to the Protestant mission. Since its organization, the island had been intersected with roads; many of the people had been trained to habits of industry ; a considerable quantity of land, which before was barren, had been brought under profitable cultivation; improved modes of husbandry had been introduced ; multitudes of children had been taught to read and write ; a post-office had been established ; and even the comfortable buildings of the Protestant settlement added much to the beauty of the landscape. But Romanism had been disturbed ; and it was implacable. In September, 1852, Miss Harriet Martineau paid a visit to the place; and though, as a Unitarian, she could take little interest in the missionary operations, she was impelled to describe in terms of generous indignation the horrid spirit in which they were encountered. “A month ago,” says she, “Dr. McHale visited the island, and opened a Catholic chapel not far from the settlement. He left behind him two priests, who are to be tried for assaults on the Scripture readers belonging to the mission. .. The admitted facts are, according to the report of Petty Sessions, that the two priests collected the people in the village of Keel (Catholic, and the largest place in the island); that they supported each other in instigating the attack by which a Scripture reader was stoned, knocked down among the turf and beaten. . . . . An impartial person, arrived from a place where such quarrels are not heard of, happened to be present, and to see the convulsive rage of one of these priests; to see him run after a woman, who escaped by a stratagem from his blows; to hear him say that to think of the settlement made
iv., vol. ii., p. 520. In 1861 the entire population amounted to 5,776. In 1831 it was only 5,277, so that it had increased considerably meanwhile.
? She adds in a note : "One priest has been since convicted and fined £ 5.”
his hair stand on end; to see him endeavour to enter the girls' school, presided over by a modest young woman; and to hear him, when the door was, by order of her superior, shut against him, shout out against her, in the hearing of the crowd, names too foul for repetition.”1
The case of this mission proved that it is quite possible for a Protestant evangelist to make progress, among the adherents of the Pope, in the face of the most determined opposition; and whilst Mr. Nangle was diligently prosecuting his work in Achill, the Rev. Alexander R. C. Dallas, an earnest English clergyman, was led to take a deep interest in the spiritual condition of the Irish Romanists. Mr. Dallas had been at one time connected with the Commissariat Department of the British army; he had been with the troops in Spain and Portugal; he had been present at the battle of Waterloo; and he had saluted the Iron Duke as, surrounded by his staff, the wearied general rode away slowly from the field on the evening of his crowning victory. Mr. Dallas was then a gay and handsome young officer; but, by a remarkable chain of providences, he was brought to think seriously of religion; he entered the ministry of the Established Church; and for many years he was the rector of Wonston, in Hants. One of his first efforts, for the spiritual good of the members of the Church of Rome in Ireland, was of a somewhat original character. With great care, and at considerable expense, he collected the addresses of about twenty thousand of the most respectable of the Irish Romanists; and each of these received, through the post-office, from an unknown source, on the same day-the 16th of January, 1846—a packet containing a number of religious tracts fitted to arrest attention—including a paper entitled, “A Voice from Heaven to Ireland.”2 On the following Patrick's Day, every priest in the country received a letter, urging him to head a movement to lead forth the people to light and liberty: 3 Immediately after the famine, Mr. Dallas entered more directly on the work of conversion. In 1847 a special fund was formed
1 Letters from Ireland, by Harriet Martineau, pp. 121-122. London, 1852. 2 Incidents in the Life and Ministry of Dallas, pp. 337, 338. 3 Ibid. p. 343.