Local History by Seán Beattie




Thomas Jenner, The candle is lit, it cannot blow out (1640s). The 15 reformers are named in the picture. It sums up the determination of Luther’s followers to spread his ideas across Europe. The original print is currently on display in the British Museum.

On October 31, 1517, an Augustinian friar named Martin Luther allegedly nailed 95 Theses on the door of the church of All Saints in Wittenberg and later sent them to the Archbishop of Mainz. Luther was Professor of Moral Theology at the University of Wittenberg at that time. Historians now question whether he actually nailed the notice on the door, but all are agreed that his protest against the issuing of indulgences led to a conflagration across Europe.

In England Henry V111 broke with Rome but England remained a Catholic country during his lifetime. Popular music in churches included the SALVE REGINA (Hail Holy Queen) sung to the music of William Cornysh (You can listen to it on You Tube). Each syllable was allowed to have only one note after Henry’s time. The hymn was sung by Catholic monks in the monastery at Cluny in central Paris as far back as the 12th century and the Archbishop of Armagh,  Eamonn Martin sung it in Latin at the graveside of Seamus Heaney in Bellaghy. Heaney studied Latin in St. Columb’s College in Derry under Fr. McGlinchey as a student in the 1960s.

Lowland Scots helped to spread Presbyterianism throughout Ulster following the Plantation although a Royal Commission of 1622 concluded that many churches were in decay and religion was in places at a low ebb. Some of the early ministers spoke English only and records show that many communities made strenuous efforts to have Gaelic-speaking ministers sent over from Scotland so the congregations could understand them.

John Wesley never visited Inishowen but he did preach in Derry on his mission throughout Ireland. The Wesley Hall in Carndonagh has served as a school, chapel and hall for 150 years since it was built on the site of a thatched place of worship in 1867. At one time, there was a congregation of 200 persons. Students of Carndonagh College also attended class there in the 1960s.

On 4 November 2017, the Ulster Local History Trust will hold a conference on the Reformation in Armagh with a group of distinguished speakers. Alan Ford, University of Nottingham, who is the opening speaker, has just published a new book on the subject. Booking may be made on Eventbrite (Reformation-Armagh).  See the programme below and get updates on the Ulster Local History Trust site on Facebook:


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