A Rift amongst the Missionaries
By Mary Kyne
Major difficulties arose in Doon when Mrs. Blake, who founded the school at Doon around 1845, became seriously ill. Divisions among the missionaries followed her death. Captain Blake, her husband, barred John O Callaghan, rector of Oughterard, from the schoolhouse in a dispute over who would distribute and control the Society’s money. A Galway Protestant with whom Alexander Dallas shared a coach from Tuam to Dublin was disbelieving and dismissive of his claims regarding the esteem in which the people held him. He stated that they were more likely to want to shoot him.
The reports of Dallas himself and his missionaries seek to give the impression of the Oughterard people as that of a warm people well desposed to receiving the Protestant faith. He gave as an example Honor D’Arcy and her daughter Mary, who lived in or near Curraun, “had cheerfully volunteered to take him across the lake in her tiny boat (with a hole in the bottom blocked by a sod of turf) when the ferry was unavailable.”
Rev. Abraham Jagoe – Graduate of Trinity College, Dublin 1863
Following the initial burst of activity, Castlekerke settled down to become the main missionary centre. In 1861 it received its first permanent minister, Rev. Abraham Jagoe. It is said that Jagoe used to read the Bible at a place known as “ Scárdan Walker” on the old road between Currarevagh and Oughterard.
Rev. John Garrett
A visiting English clergyman, Rev. John Garrett, agent for the West Connacht Church Endowment Society, visited Jagoe at Doon where he was met “by a large number of people”. Rev Garrett in his writings paints a very rosy picture, “of 38 children from both sides of the lake, accompanied by their parents, enjoying tea and biscuits: it had a particularly pleasant effect when the clergyman, after the opening prayers, called upon these children for their normal ‘ three cheers for the Queen’ – a right royal demonstration it was, the cheers being accompanied with joyful clapping of hands”
A petition for the building of a new Protestant church in Doon had been signed, he said, by 229 locals – 112 Protestants and 117 Catholics.
The Gullibility of the Clergyman
A further incident suggests that the clergyman might have been a little gullible. He was to leave in the afternoon for Westport, where he expected to arrive at midnight after changing cars at Ashleagh. He had ordered a car from Maam and had been sent an outstanding driver, the celebrated Fitzhenry, who spent some hours in Doon waiting for him? The story continues: “ With considerable management, the drive was accomplished as far as the Hotel at Maam, where both horse and driver deliberately stood still at the door, and I found that a stoppage of nearly an hour would be required, as neither of them had taken food since breakfast time. There was no good in any remonstrance and I pleaded that they had been waiting several hours at Doon and ought to have refreshed themselves there; but I was told that it would have made no difference, as the horse could never have been persuaded to pass his master’s place without being fed” The me this is a good story whether it is true or not.
It is interesting to note that local people were not mentioned by name in the missionaries report. They referred to local people by initials only. We do know from papers I received from the late Christy Butler, Curraun that a long and bitter controversy raged between Jagoe and Walter Butler, owner of a public house at Cleggan since 1851. According to family tradition, the source of the enmity was Walter Butler’s refusal to send his children to the Protestant school at Doon. As a consequence of Jagoe’s opposition his publican’s license became an issue. He gave up the license in 1869 but was evicted in February in 1870. The Butler family moved to Carrick West, Cornamona, where, after many disagreements with Jagoe and the government, they were finally granted a license for a public house.
Why did Dallas’s Mission Fail?
1. Dallas’s boundless energy and love of great schemes blinded him towards obstacles he encountered – including the feelings of other people. The project once imagined and planned was, in his mind, accomplished and with an eye fixed on the goal, the difficulties of the intervening course were overlooked.
2. The movement was English in origin and design and in the goals it tried to achieve. Irish Protestants did not support the English crusade as few responded to Dallas’s ideas.
3. During the famine years, Ireland’s difficulty was England’s opportunity. Only for the famine Dallas and his followers might never have been able to launch their crusade.
4. Dallas was not a peace loving man. He was always a source of irritation to the people of this area. The Irish countryman, in his starving condition, would calculate how he might direct, to his own benefit, the abundant and misdirected energy and wealth which Dallas seemed to possess when he set out to “convert the whole Catholic population”. So called “ Soupers” were the victims of circumstances – famine, poverty and ignorance. As soon as their material resources improved they returned to their Catholic allegiance.
The Demise of Dallas
Dallas was a disappointed man at the end of his life. He had to consider how to keep his agents out of the workhouse in their declining years. Funds were really low. It grieved him that the Irish Church Mission had no place in the structure of the Church of Ireland let alone in Irish society. Dallas’s strategy and tactics were faulty from the start. He was not a good general because he did not consult sufficiently with his staff particularly his Irish auxiliaries. If he had listened more to his Irish advisors he might have realized the unlikeness of total Protestant victory when there had been such a long cultural struggle between the two peoples in Ireland.
Note: A sincere word of thanks to the late Christy Butler for the use of his private papers.