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Reviewed by:
  • The Vestry Records of the United Parishes of Finglas, St. Margaret’s, Artane and the Ward, 1657–1758
  • Mary Ann Lyons
The Vestry Records of the United Parishes of Finglas, St. Margaret’s, Artane and the Ward, 1657–1758. Edited by Maighréad Ní Mhurchadha. (Dublin: Four Courts Press, distrib. ISBS, Portland, OR. 2007. Pp 240. $65.00. ISBN 978-1-846-82052-6.)

This is the third volume in the Texts and Calendars series published by Four Courts Press in association with Ireland’s Representative Church Body Library. Focusing as it does on a largely rural Church of Ireland community in north Dublin, it complements the first two volumes that are editions of the Dublin city parishes of St. John (1595–1658) and Ss. Catherine & James (1657–92), edited by Raymond Gillespie. As Raymond Refaussé, the series editor, explains in his preface, this series aims to provide critical editions of important Church of Ireland archives and manuscripts with substantial interpretative and explanatory apparatus. Combining vestry minutes, parish accounts, and fragmentary lists of baptisms, marriages, and burials, this meticulously presented edition of the Representative Church Body Library Manuscript (P 307/1/1) brings to light a largely neglected, vibrant Church of Ireland worshiping community with a viable local administration.

The value of this edited manuscript for researchers is significantly enhanced by Ní Mhurchadha’s scholarly introduction in which she provides a concise, contextualized overview of the structures and operation of the [End Page 614] vestry as well as tantalizing glimpses into the world of clerics and parishioners living in this rural community. Drawing upon her extensive knowledge of the region—Ní Mhurchadha is the author of Fingal, 1603–60: Contending Neighbours in North Dublin (Dublin, 2005)—she provides a useful commentary on the evolution of the united parishes from the thirteenth century onward and also profiles this Protestant community that, in the mid-1630s, was reportedly termed the “Irish Geneva” (p. 11) by its inhabitants. Ní Mhurchadha draws upon an impressive range of contemporary printed and manuscript sources to construct a finely nuanced and well-structured interpretative framework within which researchers may trace the evolution of this community and explore the wide range of issues addressed in this rare archival source. Her commentary deftly intertwines evidence extracted from the vestry records with material garnered from such diverse sources as Archbishop Launcelot Bulkeley’s visitation report (1630), the Convert rolls, the 1659 census, the travel narratives of writers such as John Dunton (1698) and Richard Pococke (1753), Pue’s Occurrences, and The Dublin Journal.

The editor offers a clear exposition of the structure, chronological development, and operation of this vestry in its three key areas of responsibility—namely, the church, local government, and finance. In highlighting major issues such as structural repairs and additions to the church, cess collection, appointment of personnel, and founding schools, as well as colorful vignettes including the vestry’s ruling in 1682 that only persons wearing blue coats and badges given them by the churchwardens could beg in the area, Ní Mhurchadha accurately reflects the mixed composition of this archival source, much of which is inevitably composed of lists of names, expenses, indentures, and minutes of meetings. By its very nature, this edition will be of particular interest to scholars with a specialist interest in religious, family, and local history, and readers will find the accessibility of the text is greatly enhanced by extensive annotation and an excellent index.

Refaussé, Ní Mhurchadha, and Four Courts Press are to be commended on publishing this handsome volume that adds significantly to the growing corpus of archival material made available in print, thus enabling historians to reach a fuller understanding of Church of Ireland parish community life and the mechanics of poor relief and local government in early-modern Ireland.

Mary Ann Lyons
St. Patrick’s College, Dublin City University


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pp. 614-615
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