Diocese of Elphin

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The DIOCESE of ELPHIN is said to have been founded by St. Patrick, who placed over it St. Asicus, an austere monk, who soon filled the cathedral with members of his own order. Several small surrounding sees appear to have been annexed to it at an early period, and a short time before the arrival of the English in Ireland it was enriched with many large estates by the annexation of the see of Roscommon. On an inquisition made in the 28th of Elizabeth, the see was valued at £1103. 18. per annum: it was greatly impoverished by Bishop John Lynch between 1584 and 1611, but was restored to its previous value by his successor, Bishop King. On the death of Bishop Hudson, in 1685, James II. kept the see vacant for several years and distributed the revenue among the Catholic clergy. Elphin is one of the six dioceses which form the ecclesiastical province of Tuam, but under the Church Temporalities act of the 3rd and 4th of William IV. c. 37, its temporalities are, on the next avoidance, to be transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the see is to be united to the bishoprick of Kilmore.

It comprises parts of the counties of Galway and Sligo, and the greater part of Roscommon, and is computed to contain 420,150 acres, of which 48,800 are in Galway, 87,700 in Sligo, and the remainder in Roscommon. The gross revenue of the bishoprick, on an average of three years ending Dec. 31st, 1831, is £7034. 8. 9.; and the see lands comprise 42,843 acres, of which 29,235 are profitable. The Episcopal palace is a good building in an extensive demesne near the town, and was erected by an accumulated fund of £500 bequeathed by Bishop Hudson in 1685. The chapter consists of a dean, precentor, archdeacon, and the eight prebendaries of Kilgoghlin, Tirebrine, Kilmacallane, Kilcooley, Tibohine, Ballintubber, Oran, and Tarmon.

The dean and chapter have no patronage, and there are neither minor canons nor vicars choral connected with the cathedral. The economy fund arises from a moiety of Bishop Hudson's bequest, and consists of rents arising from lands in the county of Cavan, at present amounting to £50 per ann. late currency. The consistorial court, which is held at Elphin, consists of a vicar-general, registrar, and apparitor. The diocesan school, which is also at Elphin, is endowed with £25 per annum from Bishop Hudson's fund, and has a house with 15 acres of land; the master's salary is £100 late currency.

There is a diocesan society for the promotion of scriptural schools, to which the bishop subscribes £100 and Viscount Lorton £50 per annum. The diocese contains 32 benefices, of which 19 are unions and 13 are single parishes. Of these one is in the gift of the Crown, one in lay patronage, two in joint or alternate patronage, and the Bishop has the right of presentation to the remainder. The number of parishes or districts is 74, of which 71 are rectories or vicarages, and three are perpetual curacies. It contains 39 churches and three other places where divine worship is performed, also 22 glebe-houses. The R. C. diocese corresponds in extent with that of the Established Church, and is one of the six suffragan to the Archbishoprick of Tuam. Within its limits there are 43 parochial districts, containing 80 chapels, served by 85 clergymen, of which 43 are parish priests and 42 coadjutors or curates. Sligo is the R. C. bishop's parish, in which he resides.

The rectory of Elphin is united time immemorially with the rectory of Ogulla, forming the corps of the deanery of Elphin, which is in the patronage of the Crown. The tithes of Elphin amount to £221. 10. 9., those of Ogulla to £93. 16. 5 ¾., and the annual value of the deanery, including 238 acres of glebe land, is £532. 12. 9. The glebe-house, or deanery, is a good residence on the western side of the town, built by aid of a gift of £100 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1816.

The cathedral, which has for more than a century been used as the parish church, is dedicated to St. Mary: the late Board of First Fruits gave £300, in 1759, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners recently gave £121 for repairing it. It is a plain modernised building, about 80 feet long by 28 feet broad, with an ancient square tower: the interior is very neat, and at the eastern end are the bishop's throne and the dignitaries' stalls; several tombstones of bishops interred here are built in the wall of the vestry, and in the body of the church a handsome monument has been recently erected to the memory of the late Rev. William Smith, V. G., and master to the diocesan school, by his pupils.

In the R. C. divisions this parish is the head of a union or district, comprising Elphin, Shankill, and Kilmacumsey, and containing chapels at Elphin, Ballyroddy, and Flask. Besides the diocesan school, in which the celebrated Oliver Goldsmith was educated, there are two public schools, to which the bishop contributes £20 and the dean £7 annually: about 230 children are educated in these schools, and about 570 in nine private schools. The children who attend the public schools are clothed annually by the bishop, who also contributes largely to the support of a dispensary. Here is a loan fund, with a capital of £700. A cromlech which stood here has been thrown down, and a patron that was held at Tubbermurry is almost discontinued. Here are Rath Croghan and Rilickna Riagh, places remarkable for their caves and ancient burial-grounds, as well as for some rude remains connected by tradition with the history of the kings of Connaught, who are said to have been crowned at the former and buried at the latter place.

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