Category Archives: Articles

Bloomfield Quaker Care Centre celebrates 200 years

Over 100 people attended a special event held at Bloomfield, Stocking Lane, Dublin on 28 November 2012 to celebrate 200 years of Quakers caring for mentally ill and frail elderly people in Ireland.Friends from throughout the country were joined at the special celebration by politicians, healthcare workers and members of the local community.
 Since its foundation by Friends in 1812, Bloomfield has sought to provide person-centric mental health and nursing home care to elderly people and those with dementia. The original aim was to bring about a seminal change in the nature of care from restraint to ‘moral treatment’ and the Society proved to be pioneering in its care and treatment of both the elderly and mentally ill.
Bloomfield moved from its original Donnybrook site to its current location in Rathfarnham in 2005. In 2006 the Jewish Home of Ireland and in 2007 Kylemore Clinic (established by the MethodistChurch in Ireland) were also incorporated into Bloomfield, with the stage-2 completion in 2009 bringing the total bed count to 152.
Olivia Mitchell TD planted an oak tree in the grounds to mark the 200th anniversary before Chairman of the Board, John McNeilly (Rathfarnham Preparative Meeting), assured guests that the original mission of the founding members of the Quaker community remained at the core of everything Bloomfield does today.
CEO Damien O’Dowd then outlined how Bloomfield would respond to the needs of people with dementia and mental illness over the next few years.
Robin Goodbody (Monkstown Preparative Meeting) summarised the highlights of the 200-year history before Professor Michael Gill, Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, launched the newly-published book – ‘Bloomfield, A History 1812 – 2012’. The book, which literally arrived hot off the presses, is the result of great teamwork and painstaking research by Glynn Douglas (Monkstown Preparative Meeting), Robin Goodbody, Alice Mauger and John Davey.*
Prof Michael Gill, keynote speaker for the evening, spoke about “exciting advances” in genomic medicine and how this was being applied in psychiatry, with particular emphasis on alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism and epilepsy.
He said Trinity was delighted to be associated with Bloomfield: “I have visited Bloomfield on quite a few occasions and Ive been really amazed by what has been happening here. Bloomfield is an important resource for the College for teaching medical and healthcare students and for offering research opportunities and we look forward to continuing our relationship into the future.”
Damien O’Dowd, CEO of Bloomfield Health Services, said: “The marking of 200 years of providing treatment and care by Bloomfield is a significant achievement for the organisation and is a tribute to the steadfastness of the original mission to provide person-centred quality care to those with mental health needs and to frail elderly. The change in society over that period of time has been immense but our mission and the focus of our service provision has remained strong.
“Today at Bloomfield our commitment to our patients and residents, and the treatment and care provided to them, continues to be our focal point and the core of our mission. As we look towards the future, our continued desire to meet the expanding needs of our older generation is to provide a greater scope of services to include families and supported by the most progressive education and research.”
John McNeilly, Chairman, said Bloomfield was constantly balancing its desire to provide leading edge person-centred care while meeting the constantly changing and developing standards from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and the Mental Health Commission (MHC).
“Bloomfield’s strategic plan for years 2013 through 2015 is suggesting a slight change of direction, with a re-balancing of our nursing home and approved centre beds to allow for the development of new services around day care provision, respite, acute services and the provision of rapid assessment clinics,” said John. “To reflect the new services being offered, Bloomfield Care Centre will now be known as Bloomfield Health Services incorporating BloomfieldHospital and New Lodge Nursing Home.”
“Bloomfield Health Services has partnered with Trinity College Dublin, giving students the chance to spend time in Bloomfield, to develop hands-on experience and learning opportunities with our residents, all under the strict monitoring and tutelage of our medical and nursing teams. Bloomfield has also partnered with the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland, with the commencement of a Tuesday Club and Alzheimer’s Café within our facility.
“Bloomfield has engaged more closely with our surrounding community by starting a series of public lectures, with topics ranging from “Diagnosis of Dementia: Where to From Here?”, “Keeping it All Together” and “Relaxation for Everyday Living”. Attendance has been very encouraging and the feedback has been very positive. A repeat series is being considered for the Spring/Autumn of next year. We are also engaging with local medical professionals, mainly aimed at GPs and members of health care teams in our area, offering an educational lecture from our consultant psychiatrist and other guest speakers.”
After the speeches everyone enjoyed a splendid meal provided by Compass Group and Olivia Mitchell TD cut a specially-commissioned cake, supplied by Superquinn.
Kathleen Lynch TD, Minister for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People, had hoped to attend the celebration but due to work commitments in the Dáil was unable to attend on the evening. She did, however, send a message of congratulations in which she recognised the commitment and dedication of Bloomfield to people with mental health problems and older people.
“The delivery of mental health care services has come a long way since Bloomfield first opened its doors back in 1812 and Bloomfield itself has been very much part of that change,” she said. “Even today, we see that this important service is continuing to develop and adapt for the benefit of all their clients and family members.”                 Fiona Murdoch

*‘Bloomfield, A History 1812 – 2012’ is a beautifully-presented book which captures the life of Bloomfield over the years. A small number of copies are available for purchase at €20 from Bloomfield reception.  Also available by mail order from qhist@eircom.netat €20.65 including post and packing.


Temple Hill Burial Ground appeal

Since 1860, Dublin Quakers have been laid to rest in the beautiful cemetery that lies between Blackrock and Monkstown.  Under the shade of ancient trees, the burial places are marked by uniform simple headstones, giving brief details of the life of the deceased.  A great effort goes into maintenance of the grounds so that mourners at the funerals and casual visitors alike can share the sense of peace and tranquility.  From time to time funding is a problem and an appeal was launched in the spring of 2012.  Contributions can be sent to The Office, Quaker House, Stocking Lane, Dublin 16.

The property situated between the villages of Blackrock and Monkstown, was purchased by Dublin Monthly Meeting from the owner Robert Gray in 1859.  A Minute of Sixth Month 1859 reads:  Report is made on behalf of the trustees appointed in 12th month last that the purchase of ground prepared for the new Burial Ground has been effected, and the sum of £1,000 has been paid for same…..

The Burial Ground was opened on the 6th day of Third Month 1860.  The first person to be interred was Hannah Chapman of 3 William Terrace Booterstown who had died on 3rd March 1860.  Sixty-three years later, in January 1923, Monthly Meeting was informed that there had been 959 interments, the Register was full and a new one provided.

Burials of Dublin Quakers had taken place in Cork Street since 1698 but that was rather a long way from the new Meeting House in Monkstown and a proposal was made in 1834 to open a new burial ground on the Friends’ property there.  This scheme was abandoned the following year and no further steps were taken until 1849 when a committee of thirty Friends was set up to find a suitable piece of land.  Four years later they reached an agreement to purchase a plot near Donnybrook – but this fell through at a very late stage.  It took five more years to conclude the search, with the acquisition of the plot between Blackrock and Monkstown.

At the end of 1858 plans were drawn up for the layout of the enclosure of the cemetery and a decision was taken to build a cottage for a caretaker.  In June the following year the need for a small meeting house was noted.  In the same month Friends agreed on the naming of the place as ‘Temple Hill Burial Ground’ and set a fund-raising scheme in motion.  By the end of 1861 the caretaker was in residence and, early in the following year, the meeting house had been built by Gustavus Hudson at a cost of £174 – 15 shillings.  Friends subscribed a total of £1,597 and the greater part of the balance was transferred from ‘Apprenticing funds’.

After the initial problems in finding a suitable piece of land, the matter seems to have proceeded smoothly and the greater part of the Monthly Meeting Minutes comprise annual reports which give details of the numbers of burials, the state of the finances and the appointment of committee members.  From time to time increasing costs led to agreement on increases in the fees.  Troubles were few – an exception was recorded in First Month 1925:

Some trouble has been experienced when opening graves by the finding of large masses of rock near the surface.  These have to be removed before the grave can be dug to a proper depth.  Before the war this was done by blasting, but now it has to be done by boring and splitting which takes more time.  In one case a second grave was opened and in another the funeral had to be postponed for a day.

The state of the caretaker’s cottage deteriorated over the years and a decision to rebuild rather than repair was taken in the 1930s.  The meeting house was enlarged by the addition of the porch in the 1920s.  Records over generations have seen frequent references to the devoted work of the care-takers and individual committee members who have kept Temple Hill in its state of beauty and tranquility.  The 21st century has seen a renewal of effort and continued improvements.

Christopher Moriarty
Friends Historical Library
June 2012


Rathfarnham Meeting Get Eco-Congregation Award

Rathfarnham has become the first meeting to receive an Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI) award in recognition of its environmental endeavours.

Rathfarnham Quaker Meeting Win Eco Award
Sr Catherine Brennan, chairperson of Eco-Congregation Ireland, presents an award to members of Rathfarnham Meeting eco committee. Pictured from left: Gillian Armstrong, Fr Hugh O'Donnell (award assessor), Sinead Brady, Sr Catherine Brennan, Fiona Murdoch, Erica Calder and Patricia Garland.

Since setting up an “eco” committee three years ago, the meeting has planted fruit trees and a herb garden. Part of the lawn has grown into a wild meadow that is now home to three beehives.  Junior meeting sessions often incorporate environmental issues. Earthcare for Friends has been a valuable resource (published by Quaker Earthcare Witness 2004 ISBN 1-881083-10-1).

The meeting has signed up to Airtricity (to support renewable energy), uses energy-efficient light bulbs where possible and has clearly-labelled bins for recyclables.  All cleaning products, soap, toilet rolls etc. are environmentally-friendly brands and containers have been put in the toilet cisterns to save water.  Fairtrade tea and coffee is always used – crockery rather than disposable cups and plates.

Presenting the award on 4th December, ECI chairperson, Sr Catherine Brennan, said, “In all the “eco” work here, which covers many of the topics in the ECI resources, there is no sense of striving, or trying to achieve, or of it being hard work.  I feel sure that your approach in all the work flows from your quiet meditation.  Only constant and consistent meditation and prayer can help us live the simplicity of Jesus.”

Sr Catherine had read the Quaker testimonies of peace, integrity, simplicity and justice and could see how the meeting had linked each of these to God’s creation.  She was impressed that the meeting had considered whether earthcare should be a fifth testimony.   She said:  “The one that touched me most deeply is simplicity.  This testament is evident in all your “eco” work here – from the planting of the herb garden and fruit trees, the development of the natural meadow to the installation of the water butt, to name but a few.”

“The variety of work done by the Junior Meeting is truly impressive – planting, studying, creating, raising money for the poor … You are truly living out the Chinese proverb –

“Tell me, I forget
Show me, I remember
Involve me, I understand.”

Topics covered in junior meeting have included celebrating creation, recycling, living simply, insects, “eco” quiz, Fairtrade, water and globalisation.  The children and teenagers have helped plant seeds, bulbs, herbs and fruit trees and they have made a bug hotel and an Easter Garden from natural materials.  They have also organised a number of fundraising cake sales, with beneficiaries including VITA and Rainforest Concern.

One of the first steps Rathfarnham meeting “eco” committee took was to reflect on its eco initiatives to date, with the guidance of the Eco-Congregation Ireland checklist (see  Resources Section 1).  This helped them identify what the meeting had already achieved and to see what areas might be prioritised.

Last Spring the meeting invited the local community to join in a spring clean that was organised in conjunction with Rathfarnham parish “eco” group.  Members of the meeting have also been encouraged to sign up to “The Litter Project” – a world-wide campaign that encourages people to commit to picking up a piece of litter every day.  One member of the committee also set up a Facebook page called One Piece of Litter a Day – Ireland.

Members and attenders have taken part in national Stop Climate Chaos campaigns and the Global Action Day on 10/10/10.

The assessment of Rathfarnham meeting was carried out by two independent assessors – Salesian priest, poet and author, Fr Hugh O’Donnell and Dean Eaton, environmental awareness officer at Dun-Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

In his report, Fr Hugh said, “This group of Quakers is dedicated to the spiritual dimension of the environmental movement.  It seems that, by nature, they find the God-space in Creation …. The Quaker ‘way’ works as a leaven – simply and effectively. They nicely stress the integration of faith and Creation. They hold an ‘oasis’ in trust for the local community, which has its own eco-resonance.”

Fr Hugh believed that the members of the meeting were living out a conviction “to live as a family with all creation.” “This aspiration comes from a spirituality that is essentially ecological,” he said.

Dorking meeting is the only meeting in Britain to have received an award from Eco-Congregation England and Wales (two awards, in fact!) although several other meetings in the UK have signed up to Eco-Congregation.

We would love to hear how other meetings in Ireland are incorporating earthcare into their worship and activities!

You can find out out more about Eco-Congregation Ireland from the website or contact Fiona Murdoch.

Quaker Youth in Ireland Yearly Meeting, June 2011

This article appears in the September-October 2011 issue of The Friendly Word the Irish Quaker bi-monthly magazine.

CAROLYN MCMULLAN, Youth Coordinator, Ireland Yearly Meeting, reports on a years activities:

On 1st July 2010 Ireland Yearly Meeting had their first Youth Coordinator take up post. This meant starting from scratch with the Young People aged between 10-30 years of age. The database which has now been set up tells us that there are just over 500 members and attenders within this age group.

My overarching aim is to raise the profile of our Young Friends in Ireland, to empower, enabling them to feel valued and a real sense of identity with The Religious Society of Friends here on this island.

How was I going to achieve this considering there were very real anxieties from many parents and some Meetings who did not know this new Youth Coordinator and there was a sense of too little too late!

First Objective – Youth Clubs

My first objective was to work on setting up some Youth Clubs I spent a lot of time working with parents and older young people to recruit helpers to enable the clubs to run effectively.

Over the year there have been 3 monthly youth clubs started up in various parts of the country. There are also 2 youth groups which meet every 2-3months. The regularity of these events reflects the wishes of the young people involved in the groups and my availability to organise and run them.

There has also been a worship and bible study evening on the first Sunday in the month. This was at the request of Young Friends.

The numbers of young people who have attended these occasions vary from 5 to 27.

Second Objective – Visit Meetings

It is planned that each Meeting be visited by the Youth Coordinator twice in the 3 year term. To date 16 Meetings have been visited. This has been an opportunity for members and attenders to meet with the Coordinator and find out what is happening with young people and how the youth of that Meeting can become involved.

Two Monthly Meetings have asked the Youth Coordinator to speak to them abou how things are going and how they can get involved in supporting the work being done.

Third Objective – Residential Events

The goal was to be involved with any existing or new residential events for young people in IYM. There have been a number of overnight events throughout the past year. These include Senior Moyallon Camp, Churchtown weekend, Over 18’s, JYM(arrangements and actual event), Yearly Meeting Youth Programme, Junior Moyallon Camp and Leadership Training Weekend.

Fourth Objective –  Work with Individuals

Part of the role has been to meet with individuals on a one to one basis just to touch base and bring encouragement both socially and spiritually. Involvement in planning and running group occasions has taken priority this year. None the less, if a young person asked to meet up the time was always made available.

Fifth Objective: Leadership Training Course

The Leadership Training was developed to help equip older young people to lead in a servant-hearted manner and yet be aware of health and safety and child protection issues. From the feedback it would appear to have been very helpful to all who attended. It is hoped that training of this nature will be an ongoing process throughout the 3 year term.

Sixth Objective: Programme for Young Friends at IYM

This proved to be a really successful time where we had loads of fun while addressing how we Quakers do business as well as playing many games and attending some of the main YM sessions. I know the more mature folk really enjoyed having up to 29 young people attending.

This has been a busy yet productive year, where a number of young people who were not actively involved in The Religious Society of Friends have been willing to attend get-togethers that have been organised.

The first year has been a time of learning, where the young people have openly expressed what it is they want from the Youth Coordinator. It has been my desire to implement their wishes to the best of my ability. I would hope that over the next 2 years there will be a strong network of Young Friends throughout Ireland who have a strong sense of Quaker identity and are committed to both the spiritual basis and social witness of the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland.

Irish Quaker Faith in Action Funded Projects 2010-2011

Irish Quaker Faith in Action (IQFA) has funded the following projects between June 2010 and June 2011:

Masizame Children’s Shelter, Prettenberg Bay, Republic of South Africa.  Since 1992 this early childhood development centre has been caring for deprived children from the streets and from dysfunctional families.  Masizame aims to get these disadvantaged children back into main stream education and society.  IQFA provided €2,000 in June 2010 to extend the shelter to accommodate the increased number of children (120 in June 2010).

Cork Penny Dinners: 4 Little Hanover Street, Cork, has been providing a nourishing mid-day meal to hungry diners in return for a small coin for many many years.  In June 2010 IQFA gladly supported this entirely voluntary charity by providing funds to upgrade a bain marie.  Take a look at Cork Penny Dinners excellent website for pictures and

Afri: 134 Phibsborough Road, Dublin 7. In June 2010 Joe Murray, Afri Coordinator applied for funding from IQFA for the cost of the production of an information booklet on depleted uranium and towards the cost of holding two public meetings. IQFA gave €2,300 towards the cost of producing the booklet. The booklet, with a foreword by Denis Halliday, has been published and politicians, including every TD has received a copy.

Relebohile: Day Care Centre, Tumahole, Parys, 9585 Free State, South Africa.  Relebohile means “we are grateful”.  It was established in July 2007 by a German organisation and run by Murray and Margaret McMillan since 2009.  The centre received €2000 for Christmas food hampers, school uniforms and other school needs, books, emergency food aid, blankets and medicines.  The centre cares for 220 orphans (June 2010) on a daily basis providing food twice a day and other supports.

Let Agogo: (meaning ‘Flowing Milk’) Dairy Project, Haiti, a Christian Aid project in association with local partner Veterimed, received €4,500 in 2010. Also in 2009, thirty women were provided with loans to purchase a cow. A small dairy supplies locally produced  pasteurised milk to schools; training is offered to breeders; herds are vaccinated; technician training in agroforestry and other agricultural techniques is also provided;  Although damaged by the earthquake the work continues and IQFA will again support the project in 2011.

Mutoto Friends Church, PO Box 365, Mbale, Uganda received £stg.500 in June 2010 in respect of an appeal following a landslide which happened on 1st. March 2010.  More than 340 residents of hamlets on the slope of Mount Elgon were swept away.  Many people lost everything and the funds were to provide essentials.

La Source Centre, Madagascar was founded in 1990 and registered since 1996; La Source is a specialised school and training centre for children and adolescents with learning disabilities. The centre is non-residential and families are consulted and helped so that there is an integrated approach to the child’s training and support  Activities include communication and general life skills, basic numeracy and literacy, adapted sport, vocational training in vegetable growing, poultry rearing, crafts.  A bakery funded by IQFA in the past is currently inoperative because of high cost of ingredients.  IQFA sponsored twelve children’s fees in 2010 which amounted to €2634.12

Maitiú Ó Murchú
Clerk – July 2011

Quaker Marriage

An article by J. Glynn Douglas

For the right joining in marriage is the work of the Lord only, and not the priests’ or magistrates’; for it is God’s ordinance and not man’s; and therefore Friends cannot consent that they should join them together; for we marry none; it is the Lord’s work, and we are but witnesses.
George Fox, 1667

George Fox circulated a paper to Friends in 1653. This, with an epistle of Margaret Fell in 1656 and Advices from various General Meetings, established the basis of Quaker marriage procedure early in the days of the Society of Friends.  The procedure stressed the three principles of adequate preliminaries, an open ceremony (including an exchange of declarations and the signing of a certificate), and an efficient method of registration.

Two years after the restoration of Charles II in 1660 came the Book of Common Prayer, the Act of Uniformity and the restoration of the Church Courts with their responsibility for proving Wills.  Quaker marriages were not legally recognised by the established church and their doubtful status was liable to be disputed by non-Quaker relatives anxious to prove the illegitimacy of children and thus claim an inheritance.  All marriages according to Friends usage are recorded in the registers which have been kept, along with registers for births and deaths, since the 1650s.In Ireland this started in 1669 with the setting up of Men’s and Women’s Meetings.

From 1661 onwards Friends had secured successive civil law judgements upholding their marriages as good in law. Nevertheless, the precarious position of Quaker marriage made Friends very careful to ensure that they could demonstrate adequate preliminaries, an open ceremony and efficient registration procedures.These early preliminaries were cumbersome: both parties had to appear before the Women’s Monthly Meeting and then before the Men’s Monthly Meeting and, if there was no objection, Friends were appointed to report on clearness from other engagements, on parental consent and if the man belonged to another Monthly Meeting on a certificate from that body.The couple had to appear and declare their intentions a second time.If there were objections to be overcome the couple might have to appear at ten or more meetings.When finally agreed the marriage could be solemnised at the mid-week Meeting for Worship in the Meeting House to which the woman belonged.

The social and legal problems associated with clandestine marriages in the 17th and 18th Centuries were notorious.Wealthy young men were plied with liquor and paired off with unsuitable girls. Unfortunate heiresses were abducted and married under duress to scoundrelly adventurers.Even Quakers were not immune. Mary Pike of Cork, became a cause célèbre in 1797 when subjected to this treatment.

Lord Hardwicke’s Act of 1753 regularised the situation in England and Wales.The Act provided that all marriages, other than those of the royal family or covered by special licence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, should be conducted in the parish church and publicity was ensured by public banns or common licence.There were two exceptions, the Act did not apply ‘to any marriage amongst the People called Quakers or Persons professing the Jewish Religion where both Parties to any such marriage shall be of the People called Quakers or professing the Jewish Religion respectively’.Quaker marriage was thus recognised implicitly in England and Wales and eventually explicitly in the Marriage Act of 1836.

Things were very different in Ireland.The Irish Parliament did not enact a similar act to Lord Hardwicke’s and the problem was to continue in Ireland for nearly another 100 years.At the end of the 18th Century some Friends protested against the increasing formalism of the Society in Ireland as evidenced in the numerous and unnecessary formalities associated with dress, language and Quaker marriage.They also disagreed with the reverential attitude to the Bible.In 1801 this led John Rogers and Elizabeth Doyle to publish their intention of marriage in the town of Lisburn and one month later, in the presence of 16 well concerned Friends at the school house on Prospect Hill, they took each other in marriage.For this rebellion against authority the two Rogers and most of the witnesses were disowned.The spread of the New Light opinions resulted in many resignations and disownments. All those holding the office of Elder in Ulster Quarterly Meeting resigned.The result for the Society was tragic: many able and thoughtful persons were lost to Friends and the effects were to be felt in the Society in Ireland well into the next century.

It was not until 1844 that an Act established the registration districts in Ireland, similar to those in England and Wales, and made Quaker marriages solemnised after 1st April 1845 ‘good in law’.The 1847 Act provided that Quaker and Jewish marriages solemnised before the Acts of 1836 and 1844 were to be ‘good in law’ provided that both parties were Quakers or Jews. The 1860 Act provided recognition for Quaker marriages solemnised in England, Wales and Ireland in accordance with Friends usages where only one of the parties is in membership provided that the other is ‘professing with Friends’.In 1872 the ‘professing with Friends’ clause was removed and replaced by a certificate of permission to marry from the Quaker Registering Officer involved.

The disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1869 had interesting repercussions.The Archbishop of Armagh, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, could issue Special Licences for a marriage at any time and place on behalf of the established church. The Act of 1870 extended this privilege to the heads of most of the other churches, including ‘The Clerk to the Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends in Ireland’.Irish Friends were seriously exercised by this development and the Yearly Meeting of 1873 ‘whilst gratefully acknowledging the kindly feeling manifested by the Legislature towards our Society’ minuted two pages of regulation to safeguard the privilege from possible abuse!The privilege applied only to marriage of member to member.

The setting up of the two jurisdictions in Ireland in 1922 did not affect marriage legislation and they both continued to use the 19th Century Westminster legislation.The Special Licence provision was modified in 1954 by Northern Ireland Parliament and in 1972 by Dáil Eireann so that it applied to marriages where only one of the parties was in membership.When the Clerk of the Yearly Meeting resided in the Republic of Ireland the NI regulations required that the Clerk appoint a deputy, living in Northern Ireland, to act in his/her place.

Irish Quaker marriage regulations have long been a source of wonder and concern to the Monthly Meeting Registering Officers, each revision becoming more complex than the one it replaced, and taking up one third of the content of the 1929 Christian Experience book. This growing complexity was in response to the changing legislation. Initially they were only for Quaker marrying Quaker, then Quaker to non Quaker was added, then neither party being in membership was allowed, then marriage by Special Licence had to go through the same procedure. Each revision of the regulations had to leave earlier clauses in place because the Act they referred to had not been withdrawn and thus new sections had to be added.

Traditionally Canon Law has prohibited the marriage of a man with his deceased wife’s sister although this was allowed by civil law. Ironically the 1836 Marriage Act, that gave recognition to Quaker marriages, referred to the Canon law prohibitions of affinity and consanguinity, thus suddenly making marriage with two sisters illegal.Amongst Friends opinion was divided on the issue.Some Monthly Meetings went as far as disownment, whilst others, reluctantly, accepted it as fait accompli.Jonathan Pim (1806‑1885) of Dublin published, anonymously, in 1860 Is it right for a Christian to marry two sisters? This was then countered by another Quaker leaflet, also anonymous,An examination into the scriptural lawfulness of marriage with a deceased wife’s sister and the principles and enactments of English law respecting such marriages. Repeated attempts to change the law were always defeated in the House of Lords and it was not until 1907 that the Deceased Wife’s Sister Marriage Act made all such marriages legal.Quaker Books of Discipline have always required Quaker marriage to comply with the law of the land but have not included a list of prohibited relationships.The Civil Registration Act, 2004, in the Republic of Ireland and the Marriage (Northern Ireland) Order, 2003, both set out in detail the allowable degrees of affinity and consanguinity which now govern all marriages on the island of Ireland.

As the Clerk of the Committee that drafted the marriage regulations in Organisation and Christian Discipline I am delighted that the complicated 31 pages of Chapter 14 have now been superseded and can be relegated to the Society’s Archives in the Historical Library. The new regulations are more easily understood and hopefully Friends and their families will find them less irksome than they have been in the past.I am indebted to Ted Milligan’s booklet, Quaker Marriage* and Irish Quaker Books of Discipline of the 19th and 20th centuries in the preparation of this article.

*Quaker Marriage by Edward H Milligan published 1994 by Quaker Tapestry Booklets, c/o Friends Meeting House, New Road, Kendal, CumbriaLA9 4AY

This article was first published in The Friendly Word: Ireland’s Quaker Journal
Jan-Feb 2009 Vol 26, No. 1, pp 13-15

Irish Quaker Public Lecture 2011

Called to be Friends


Traditionally called the ‘Public Lecture, the text of the Ireland Yearly Meeting Address 2011 follows.  It was presented by W Ross Chapman who lives in Newry and is a member of Bessbrook Meeting

Before entering into the topic chosen for this evening, here is a preamble about this annual event that we have practised at our Yearly Meetings for 80 or so years. It was officially commenced in 1926 and the minute which gave authority to its setting-up reads as follows:
‘The Yearly Meetings Committee is directed to arrange for an address or lecture dealing with some aspect of Quaker teaching or history to be given annually before or during the Yearly Meeting’. Of the addresses or lectures which have been given in accordance with that minute, about 30 of the speakers have been Irish, and about 40 from England, with a few from America and other parts. It tends to be the best attended event of the Yearly Meeting but I wonder sometimes about the title.
Have you come this evening to be lectured to? The title ‘public lecture’ brings up some ideas of attentive students receiving information from a person of greater knowledge, a form of instruction, a sermon, a dissertation. This room, as you can see, is a lecture room. An address seems more suitable on this occasion; like a letter addressed to you.

Is it public ?
A second question is, is it public? It is called a public lecture and is advertised as such. However, down the years I would say it has largely failed in that endeavour. Certainly the public are warmly invited and welcomed here but it is a matter of some interest to me that we have this event, a so-called ‘public’ lecture. When do you think was the first public lecture given by Friends in Dublin? It seems to me that it was in 1655. Two women Elizabeth Smith and Elizabeth Fletcher stood up in St. Audoen’s church just beyond Christ Church cathedral, it’s there still. They probably faced a hostile and amazed congregation. After the priest had finished his liturgy, they took their stand and preached or gave our first public lecture. Probably they got some heckling and jeering. Yes, they preached good news. Had they, and others, not done so, would we be meeting here this evening?

A further point about this Yearly Meeting Address as I prefer to call it, is that it is, for those who are new to the Society of Friends, a misleading introduction. One person is authorised to speak from a script for maybe an hour and no one else is permitted to add anything. It’s preposterous, yet these are the fetters with which we have shackled ourselves, in the interests of good order. We fear it would be too much of a risk to throw the topic open and have an invited speaker criticised or questioned. And so we have decided that it is best to let the lecturer go ahead without challenge or without having the topic deepened and augmented. I would suggest that it might be a good idea that we have a shorter address and then an appointed Friend, having seen the text in advance, to be the opener, as it is called. Or the chairman might give a more expanded and broader view on the topic, rather than leaving it all to one individual. It is out of line with Friends’ ways for one person to deliver a long, prepared text and everyone else told to be silent.

You are my friends
Having got that off my chest, now we may go ahead with the talk. It is as you know from John’s gospel: ‘You are my friends; I call you not servants but friends. You are my friends if you do what I ask you’.
The word ‘friend’ is the topic this evening. Do you remember the radio game where a speaker had to talk without hesitation, deviation or repetition? I will be guilty of all three flaws in an effort to cover the subject. It is a delight every time I hear the word ‘friend’, and it’s better said than written because it allows a happy ambivalence. Has it a capital F or not, you ask? Aha.

This lovely word implies fellowship, camaraderie, concord, fraternity, warm-heartedness, shaking hands, holding out the olive branch. As I look at the word in other languages I think we can learn something. Maybe the first phrase we should learn in any language should be ‘My friend’. I’m no linguist but I do like the address in Irish, A Chara or French, mes Amis or German, meine Freunde. We have been called friends, that was the word that Jesus gave to those close to him. We have inherited those words and by extension, we are called to be friends and continue to be called to be friends. It is our ongoing destiny.

The mark of the Christ
Who is calling us? My theology is weak. I couldn’t win an argument in catechetics, I can hardly say the word. My theology was shaped somewhat in Dublin 1950 or so, attending Churchtown meeting now and again, listening to a little bearded 90-year-old man, William Wigham. The messages that he passed on I can hear them yet. ‘Do you ever look closely at a donkey?’, he did say, ‘Did you ever notice the cross on his back? Do we show the mark of the Christ as we go about day by day?’ Also a similar message he gave about a robin getting its red breast from wiping away the bleeding from the brow of the One who wore a crown of thorns. Are we bearing the mark of the Christ in our lives? Here is my little bit of theology this evening. My feeling is that ‘the Christ’ is an accurate name for that spirit that is eternal; the link stretching from Ruth and Samuel and Daniel, then shown in the light of the world that blazed in Jesus, and continues evident in lives ever since. It inspires and is revealed in human beings today and tomorrow. We are called to be friends of the Christ .

There are now, in Ireland, two threats to this calling. The first is to insist on articles of belief within the Society of Friends. Since Robert Barclay there have been attempts to formulate a Quakerism argued out, point by point. How we have survived without a systematic man-made construction of doctrine gives pause for thought; and thankfulness. The second challenge is a more seductive blind alley which is being offered today. It is to ditch our Christian basis; to abandon our relationship with the Divine; to offer ethical humanism as the alternative way for us to travel along.

Quaker service
We are called to be friends. Not so much servants, as the text of scripture says. A servant implies a lord. If we accept this offer of being a friend, does it replace the lord/servant relationship? What place should that favoured word ‘service’ have amongst us? Frequently used and treasured, Quaker service, our service for others. It’s the old tension between Martha and Mary.
Not so much followers or disciples, though I like those words, they imply a guru, a teacher.
It’s like an apprentice learning under a skilled craftsman, under a discipline and a system of rules. Yet to be called to be a friend is a quite different relationship. A follower is a position many of us adopt. It implies a leader. It is a rather passive position.
When we think of friend, another word comes to mind, enemy; the opposite of friend; a relationship which we have to endure and manage somehow. The Christian commandment, Love your enemies, in human terms it’s impossible, by definition. We members of the Society of Friends tend to want people to like us. After all, don’t we like everyone? We try to be pleasing. In preparing for this talk the devil’s whisper tempted me, ‘Say things that they will like to hear. Say things that will go down well with the audience’. Then the truer word came through, ‘Woe unto you when all men think well of you’. In Aesop’s fable of the man, his son and the donkey the folly of agreeing with everyone is shown up. I have had my enemies, some in my working life, some even in the Society of Friends. It’s a disturbing, unsettling and destructive part of the human condition. John Wesley aimed to be the friend of all and the enemy of none, so do we all here, I think. But honesty compels me to say that how we cope with enemies is a defining feature of every friend.

Friendliness to strangers
Another word is ‘stranger’. One thought on friendship which is in scripture and has eternal quality about it is: ‘I was a stranger and you invited me in, etc. Inasmuch as you did it unto one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it unto me’. Our calling is to unite with the Christ within that stranger. From The breastplate of Patrick, he calls us to find the Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. A hallmark of Ireland is friendliness to the stranger. Those of our Society have often done the befriending, the spiritually strong being the subject rather than the object. It’s good sometimes that we are in the position of need, of receiving the touch of a good Samaritan.
When I think of previous Yearly Meeting lectures the ones that stand out in my mind are the ones which were upsetting. Thirty years ago, Gerald Priestland, a BBC radio religious affairs correspondent, came with the title, ‘Quakers and sin’. He was a brave man. Our local experts in that topic were dismayed at his offering on the subject, and wanted to have some redress, though by then he had flown back to the safety of England. Some years later John Tod in Waterford gave a lively address ‘Life is an adventure’ which was disturbing to several of those attending. His generalisations about missionary work in Africa were too sweeping so a meeting was hastily arranged next day to allow time to talk it over with him. I intend being here tomorrow should the occasion arise.
The purpose of this address is to provide food for thought; not that you must agree with me, or must disagree but chew it over and after rumination see what comes of it.

It has been said that the two words, Quaker and Friend are synonymous. I’m not so sure. There are shades of meaning and implications; there are contrasting emphases. So, not so much a Quaker as being more of a Friend. Over recent years within the Society of Friends I notice the demise of the word ‘Friend’. It is being eroded from our vocabulary. The word ‘Quaker’ has taken over. Looking at the titles of previous lectures, and of the 80, 25 have included the word Quaker, only 4 have included the word ‘Friend’.

Meanings: Quakers and Friends
Quaker, I would suggest stands for something that is different from its original meaning. Then, there was a physical trembling in the presence of God in a powerful way caused by the presence in which they lived. Friends quickly accepted the term. William Penn used the word in a pamphlet he published in the 1670’s. But never till this present generation has the word ‘Quaker’ been so widespread as to supplant the word ‘Friend’. I know the reason why. It is said to be misleading to use the word ‘Friend’, people don’t understand when you say Society of Friends whereas the word Quaker is distinctive. My address this evening is a call to re-instate the word ‘Friend’ and encourage its use; to grasp its underlying significance and its precious beauty.
There has been a thread running through our history, the Quaker thread, which causes trouble, is argumentative, condemnatory, insulting, discourteous, all in the interests of Truth. Just as a quake causes earth tremors, so a Quaker set about to upset the status quo, whether in the steeple-houses of Dublin in 1655, or on the streets in recent times, or in newspapers denouncing the government, lobbying the powers that be, and using that phrase, speaking truth to power. It is rather presumptuous for a group which comprises 0.005% of the population; it’s like rejection of the ballot box. The Quaker thread appeals to the political activist, impatient for a revolution and re-alignment of the wider community. This Quaker trend wants to be noticed and courts publicity, it enjoys being guilty of conduct liable to lead to a breach of the peace. Yes, Jesus did it. George Fox etc did it and it has been an enduring aspect of our Religious Society. But, it is different from being a Friend.
A friend is fallible and imperfect
A friend is fallible and imperfect. Friendship does not expect or imply a perfect companion.
Jesus said to Judas at the time of his betrayal, ‘Friend, wherefore art thou come?’
And on another tack, when John’s gospel says ‘I have called you friends’ there is a group, a plurality there, a society. We are in an era of stressing the importance of the individual—- I’ll do it my way – not in tune with the ways and practices of Friends down the years. Do we hear the voice, calling us together to be Friends, calling us to be friends together?

To be a friend is a mutual relationship. Can you be friends with someone who does not respond or reciprocate? I don’t think so. It takes two or more to create trust and understanding. It is a mutual, bilateral and multilateral relationship.
Another aspect is that offering friendship does not ensure that we will be liked. Looking for the best in everyone, a key practice of our Society, expecting a warm response to our offer of friendship; some accept it, some reject it, reject us, see our failings, or see our self-confident pride and run a mile. ‘Woe unto you when all men like you.’ You’ve heard of the book ‘How to win friends and influence people’. It was a best-seller. Are we wanting to ‘win’ friends? That sounds a bit of a selfish agenda. To be friends is more what we are about.
The idea of the ‘friend’ which Jesus used and which we have embraced is portrayed in the picture of the Christ at the door, knocking, and if the door is opened the divine visitor is welcomed, and in a colloquial translation we might say, ‘Come on in for a drop of tea and a while’s crack’. In turn this divine friendship inspires a similar type of friendship in our daily encounters with all sorts of the human race and with other creatures too.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Only a sincere friend can make a wise criticism or correction. Human weakness, blindness, arrogance and self-interest make correction from outside ourselves necessary. Who is going to do that correcting? The current wisdom in some quarters of Quakerism is that we must be non-judgmental. It is expounded as a worthy ideal, but a faithful friend should and will make timely and wise criticism in the best interests of one’s friends. A friend needs to be sincere enough to speak unpalatable truth. A faithful friend is the medicine of life.

So, we are called to be friends, to practice this friendship with the Christ, the spiritual source, and meet together. Another word closely related to friend is ‘meeting’. Wherever you have Friends you have meetings. Our worship times and our business times are called meetings. Other branches of the church conduct services, implying the other idea of a leader or master and servant or follower. Friends meet together in meeting; the presence, the Christ, is in the midst.

Is there any danger or weakness in this analogy? Maybe. Remember every one of our attempts to grasp the divine are imperfect. When we see the Christ as a friend is that to trivialise the relationship? Today’s trend is towards informality, wisecracks, flippancy; all tending to diminish the sense of reverence, wonder and respect in worship.

Mother Teresa knew a thing or two about being a friend of the Christ. She was asked ‘When you pray what do you say? I say nothing. And what does the Christ say to you? Nothing. We just gaze at one another.’ She lived in the presence. She knew about being called to be a friend, on the banks of the Ganges or in Ballymurphy. Her life showed us there need be no choosing between either Martha or Mary; let’s include them both.
Who is my neighbour ?

When Jesus used the word ‘ neighbour’, the pernickety, pedantic lawyer asked, ‘But who is my neighbour?’ Instead of giving any definition, a story was used as illustration. Rather than me trying to analyse any more it is better to gives examples of those who are beacons of what it is to be a friend. Some belonged to our Society, some did not but all were called to be friends. None of them looked for publicity.

Arthur Kelly

   1.      Ireland 300 years ago was a harsh place. ‘In the County Tyrone near the town of    Dungannon’ as the song says ‘There’s many’s the ruction meself had a hand in’. A place of    distrust and intolerance. A young fellow called Arthur Kelly grew up in that area and went   abroad to train as a priest, it being the time of the Penal Laws against Catholics. When he     returned his functions were greatly curtailed but he travelled around offering in secret places             the sacraments in the manner of that branch of the Christian church. Priest-hunters were paid        to catch anyone like young Kelly. The authorities gave rewards for help towards his arrest.             There were not many safe houses where he could find a haven. But, in his home townland of Syerla there were several members of Grange meeting living nearby. They had grown up    with Arthur, maybe cut turf together, maybe they had saved hay together as neighbours            would. So they provided safe shelter for him. Friendship can be risky; if caught they would have suffered along with him. Maybe their friendship would be misinterpreted by some of            the Monthly Meeting who would accuse them of condoning popish practices. Their calling      to be friends made them follow the right course. Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter.

Catherine McAuley

  1. In the early 1800’s in Dublin a young orphaned teenage girl was fostered by a wealthy childless couple. Her name was Catherine McAuley. She says her foster-mother was a Quaker and that the bonds between them were strong. So much so that when the couple died they left all to Catherine. She founded the Order of the Sisters of Mercy and with the money set up the premises in Baggot St which remain to this day. Her life-story is too long to unfold but her practical attention to detail is inspiring. In times past a person’s dying words were often recalled and respected as being of eternal significance. Maybe they are still. On the afternoon of Catherine McAuley’s death some guests had arrived after a long tedious journey, of which she was quite aware, so from her death-bed her final words were ‘See that those sisters get a cup of tea’.


Friendship can be costly

  1. There’s another instance of friendship that I want to salute. It comes from the Ulster poet, John Hewitt, and he tells how his great-Granny, we’ll call her Hannah Hewitt, was living not far from Richhill. If she wasn’t a member of the meeting she was an adherent because many had been disowned for marrying someone, not according to Friends regulations of that time. John Hewitt tells us that it was the time of the Famine and after it there were many tramps on the roads. One cold morning a man came by and leaned over the half-door and says ‘ Any chance of a drink of water, ma’am?’ Hannah Hewitt was after baking a few farls on the griddle; she had churned that morning so she said ‘Come on in, pull your chair up to the fire. I’ll get you a cut of bread and a mug of buttermilk’. And he told her he’d been walking for days, sleeping rough trying to get to Belfast or somewhere away from the terrible pestilence. As he talked he had a dreadful hoarseness in his voice. He didn’t stay long. He got up after gobbling down the home-made food. He called all the blessings of God and his saints upon her and her family. But he left her something more. Within a week, Hannah had sickened and died of the famine fever. Friendship can be costly.

Bulmer Hobson
4. Among the renegade Friends that have been in our Society in Ireland but could not comply with our principles is one, Bulmer Hobson. His involvement with Irish republican gun-running and similar activities was more than Friends could tolerate. As a boy he had attended Friends School at Lisburn and carried memories of events there to his dying day. As an old blind man living in Connemara he was asked to give his memories of his time at Lisburn 70 or more years earlier. As happens at schools, he had been punished for some misdemeanour which was not his doing. Remarkably, a couple of days later Charles Benington, the strict but fair master involved, came and said ‘Bulmer, I punished you unfairly. I am sorry.’ The old man recalled the incident clearly and with wonderment, ‘Just think, that he should apologise to me, a mere slip of a lad. You know, you learn things at school, things you never forget.’

Androcles and the lion
5. This world is a place of wonder. Human beings are not its only inhabitants. We share this globe with other creatures who can teach us lessons of friendship.
In the time of the Roman Empire a man was trekking in a remote part of Africa when he heard a pitiful meowing and moaning. It was a mighty lion struck down by a painful thorn jagging into his paw. The man was in two minds whether to go closer or not, when the lion held up the swollen paw as much as to say, ‘Can you help me? I’m in a desperate state.’ So this brave man sucked the thorn out and the lion licked his hand in gratitude.
Some years later the man, Androcles by name, was taken captive and dragged to Rome. To give amusement for the high and mighty ones he was thrown into the arena at the Coliseum to face a lion which had been starved so as to be keen and ready for the kill. The lion bounded up to the poor slave but the audience were aghast when the beast got a whiff of his scent and purred and rubbed up against the terrified Androcles. Friendship is stronger than the base appetites.
Another story of a faithful four-legged friend concerns a member of Grange meeting, Isaac Edward Haydock. He was a bachelor farmer and as such relied much on his collie dog. The dog was his right-hand man on the farm, and also his constant companion in later life. When Isaac Edward died and the hearse slowly covered the few miles to Grange for burial, the dog padded alongside. After the burial, the dog lay on the grave and would not move till a week later some neighbours came and dragged it away. There is that of God in every dog.

Preparing for worship

6. Sometimes a newcomer to our meetings asks how we prepare for our time of worship. A woman Friend in the 1950’s had this practice. She would arrive for Sunday meeting quite early and seat herself where she could see everyone as they came into the room. Then as each one entered she flashed a quick wordless prayer towards them, invoking a blessing on them individually, whether she knew them or not, that they would be liberated to join in the time of united worship. This woman lived out her calling to be a friend by her unassuming concern for those meeting with her. She was Isabel Douglas.

7. Coming to more recent times in my home town of Newry, I think of a time in the 1970’s two young men in their teens were sent with a bomb to carry into a pub in the town on the morning of Christmas Eve. They walked in with this bomb and at the same time another 18 year old lad walks to look for his father. The bomb went off prematurely and the two IRA volunteers along with the other fellow, Aubrey Harshaw, were all blown to bits. Only one of the numerous tragedies that happened but what makes this one memorable was that young Harshaw had two uncles who in their sorrow and distress went to their Methodist minister, an austere and forbidding figure, George Watson, and said to him, ‘Would you come with us up to the houses where the two IRA fellows lived and speak to their parents?’
George Watson and the two uncles went up to find where these two families were mourning.
They were received very warmly. They were called to be friends and responded to the call.
We don’t know what words were said, but the action spoke louder than any words could utter. There was no publicity and few now know of this uniting in grief which was done without any underlying agenda.

Quiet friendship
8. At the Yearly Meeting in Dublin about 20 years ago there were two appointed representatives from Germany, Gerd and Christel Wieding. They came a few days early and expressed a wish to meet a variety of political opinions. So that was arranged for them. Among those they met was a republican activist who after chatting with them for an hour, asked a favour of them.
‘There is a young woman in prison in Germany from this town. She is being held on remand accused of a bombing of army barracks in Germany. She has no one to visit her. Would you do this for us, for me? Would you go and see her?’ They could not promise but said they would see what might be done. They did visit her and through their visit doors were opened back here. And hearts and minds were opened too.
As a contrast to that act of quiet friendship let us picture a peace march in this city in those troubled times. Some hundreds gathered by special train from north and south in righteous indignation to condemn the actions of the leading paramilitary organisation. The march with placards and banners had as its destination the headquarters in Kevin Street where we intended to deliver a letter of protest and hold a rally. The confrontation, shouting and heckling meant that no one listened. The protest only got backs up that caused resentment and bad feeling. The action of Gerd and Christel Wieding in being a friend was far more productive and in keeping with the best that we have to offer.

9. It is as well to remember that sometimes an offer of friendship is not welcomed or reciprocated. Not every story has a happy ending. In the time of the hunger strikes in 1981 an Ulster Friend wanted to express her concern for the bereaved family after their son had ended his life in such an appalling fashion. Eithne Doran was a fearless and hugely optimistic Friend, so she went alone to the home to say what? Who knows? She was called to be a friend in that situation but was not well received. Perhaps it was her cultivated accent. Perhaps the family were still too raw and bitter. Perhaps her action did have some good result later when emotions had simmered down.

All these nourished their friendship with the Christ within and that led to friendship becoming a way of life . These human friendships in turn nourished their friendship with the Christ. One nourishes the other.

The breath of kindness
Maybe next week someone will ask you, ‘Did you go to the Yearly Meeting lecture? What was it about?’ Your reply might be, ‘I can’t remember much of it. But do you know who I saw there? It was good making up with her again after that dust-up we had. And there was tea afterwards when I met a young fellow who put new heart in me and gave me hope for the future. No, those long talks are not for me. I think it was about friendship.’
If that is the result of to-night’s encounter, it is enough.

I have come here with a good deal of old baggage. What else can you expect from an 80-year-old Ulsterman? If we don’t like someone or what they stand for, it’s easy to diminish them by saying ‘They carry too much baggage’ . On the other hand if we like them, then we say, ‘Oh yes, a friend of vast and profound experience.’ I come with a good deal of old baggage and now I rest my case.

A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

Ross Chapman   29-4-2011