Irish Church Music - 1538 to 1598 (2)

William H. Grattan Flood
Chapter XV (concluded) | Start of chapter

Between the years 1539 and 1545 the Irish monasteries and nunneries were dissolved, and the church furniture, including many valuable organs, were sold "for a song." Some of the prices given for precious relics were only a few shillings. On November 8th, 1546. Henry VIII. issued a commission to sequestrate the property of St. Patrick's Cathedral, with a view of dissolving the metropolitan dignity of said church, and having Christ Church as the State Cathedral of Dublin, which surrender was formally made in the following January.

We learn from one of the Christ Church deeds that the English monarch "died on Thursdaie the xxviiith of January," 1547.

Under the boy king, Edward VI., St. Patrick's Cathedral was formally suppressed, and, on April 25th, 1547, a pension of 200 marks sterling was assigned to "Sir" Edward Basnet, the Dean, followed, some months later, by pensions of £60 each to Chancellor Alien and Precentor Humphrey, and £40 to Archdeacon Power. The silver, jewels, and ornaments, were conveyed to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church.

By King's letter, dated Westminster, March 24th 1547, the residence of the Vicars-Choral of St. Patrick's was assigned for a Grammar School, with Matthew Talbot as schoolmaster, at a salary of £20, and William Talbot as Usher, at a salary of £10 a year; but it is certain that no such school was established for years afterwards. In fact, it was only on October 28th, 1552, that the residence of the Vicars-Choral in St. Patrick's Close was given over for the purpose of a School.

By King's letter of March 24th, 1547, pensions of ten marks each annually were assigned to Christopher Rath, John Herman, Nicholas Dardis, William Walshe, Richard Betagh, and John Claregenete, priests, "for performing Divine Service in Christ Church Cathedral"; and pensions of four marks a year were given to John Golding and Leonard Fitzsimon, choir boys, as two additional choristers.

During the years 1548 and 1549 strenuous efforts were made to propagate the reformed doctrines in Ireland, but all to no purpose. Even the year 1550 passed by without any development of the schism, and the Roman Ritual continued to be used throughout the country.

Easter Sunday of the year 1551 is memorable in the annals of Christ Church, as, on that day, the "reformed" liturgy of Edward VI. was used for the first time, under the auspices of Archbishop Browne, who had been accused of "gluttony and drunkenness," and called a "brockish swine," from whom "all virtue and honesty were almost vanished." The learned Archbishop of Armagh, George Dowdall, openly repudiated the innovation of an English liturgy, and boldly proclaimed that "henceforth any illiterate layman would have the power to say Mass."[6]

To stimulate their loyalty Patrick Clinch and Robert Hayward, organists, were given valuable leases early in 1552. However, the English services do not seem to have been received favourably, and, as yet, only the Litany and the Book of Common Prayer were set to music. The Sarum Rite was in full swing, and the figured Masses of Taverner, Aston, and Fairfax were in use. Neither the first nor second edition of Sternhold and Hopkins—issued in 1549—nor the Supplement, of 1550, contains music.

With the death of Edward VI., on July 6th, 1553, ended the brief reign of the English liturgy, and almost immediately, on the accession of Queen Mary, Dean Lockwood, of Christ Church, was quite assiduous in destroying any evidences of the "reformed" tenets. On March 25th, 1555, St. Patrick's Cathedral was restored as a metropolitan church, with Bishop Leverous, of Kildare, as Dean, and William Browne, as Organist. At the Provincial Synod held by Archbishop Curwen, of Dublin, regulations were made for the restoration of the ancient creed, in which year a Jubilee was proclaimed.

On May 20th, 1555, Philip and Mary confirmed the grant of Edward VI. in regard to the increased number of priests and choristers of Christ Church—the six additional priests receiving ten marks each, and the two "chorister boys" four marks each—whose nomination was vested in the Dean and Chapter. Thomas Radcliffe, Viscount FitzWalter, took the oath of office as Lord Deputy during Whitsun week of the year 1556, in St. Patrick's Cathedral, according to the old Catholic ceremonial; and Parliament assembled on June 1st, by the acts of which the Roman Catholic religion and ritual were formally restored, heresy was ordered to be suppressed, and the "first fruits" were again given to the Church. The principal officials of Christ Church at this date were:—Thomas Lockwood, Dean; Christopher Rathe, Precentor; John Herman, Chancellor; John Kerdiff, Treasurer; Christopher More, Robert Lloyd, and Thomas More, Prebendaries; and Robert Hayward, Organist.

Almost the last official document of Queen Mary's short reign is a deed, dated April 27th, 1558, in which there is a release by Thomas Leverous, Dean, and the Chapter of St. Patrick's, of the "goods, chattels, musical instruments, etc.," belonging to said Cathedral, and which had been in the possession of the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church.[7] The lands of the various abbeys and monastic establishments were permitted to remain in the hands of lay impropriators, except the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem, which was confirmed to the Hospitallers, and of which Sir Oswald Massingberd was appointed Prior.

Primate Dowdall died in August, 1558, and with him expired the project of completely restoring the Catholic religion in Ireland, and of re-integrating the 380 dissolved religious houses, the revenues of which amounted to £35,000 yearly. The intended restoration of Dublin University also came to nothing. Three months later Queen Mary departed this life, and Queen Elizabeth was crowned, according to the accustomed Catholic ritual, on the 25th of January, 1559, after which the mask of fidelity to Rome was thrown off.

In Reeves' great work on the Culdees the following entry occurs:—"A.D. 1574, September 26th, died Nicholas MacGillamurry, late Master of the Works, and Culdee of the metropolitan church of Armagh; he was a blameless priest, and a great proficient in the art of music."

It is certain that the Roman Catholic ritual was observed in Armagh till 1598, as Ussher admits.



[6] In 1551, the "Book of Common Prayer" was printed in Dublin, by Humphrey Powell "in the great toure by the Crane"—-being the first work printed in Ireland. Only two copies of this book are known to exist, of which one is in Trinity College, Dublin.

[7] On August 30th, 1559, when Thomas, Lord Sussex, was sworn Lord Deputy in Christ Church, the Prebendaries, Vicars, Choral, and Organist absented themselves. We read that the Rev. Nicholas Dardis "recited the Litany in the English Language, after which the Deputy took the oath, and the Te Deum was sung in the same language to the sound of trumpets" From the Fiants of Elizabeth we learn that Christopher Rathe (precentor), John Herman (chancellor), and John Cardiff (treasurer) refused the oath of supremacy.