W B Yeats and the Story of a Castleisland Curate

In 1892, a correspondent of The Academy, writing under the concealed identity, ‘A Lover of Originality,’ complained that the newly published Book of the Rhymers’ Club contained a plagiarism.  The offending composition was ‘The Ballad of Father Gilligan’ by W B Yeats:


Will you allow me to point out what appears to me a plagiarism in The Book of the Rhymers’ Club, recently published?  It is in the ballad by W B Yeats entitled ‘Father Gilligan,’ the idea of which is evidently taken from a poem entitled ‘He sent His Angel,’ which appears in a volume by Tristram St Martin published two years ago under the title The Christ in London.[1]


Yeats responded in the columns of the same journal.  Writing from London, 16 March 1892, he admitted that both ballads had a common origin but explained that he had not seen ‘He sent His Angel’ until some time after writing ‘Father Gilligan’:


The author of Christ in London himself told me the story on which both poems are founded as a curious piece of folklore given him by a friend.  I wrote ‘Father Gilligan’ at once; but knowing that Tristram St Martin himself intended a ballad on the subject, kept it back for some time in order to give him the advantage of prior publication.[2]


Yeats went on to explain that Tristram St Martin had been informed:


When I did at last publish it, about two years ago in the National Observer, I told him that I had done so and gave him the date of the paper; and from that day to this he has never told me or any one else, so far as I know, that he considered himself illtreated.  I have never claimed the story as mine, but both in the National Observer and in The Book of the Rhymers’ Club have given full credit where it is due, namely, to its inventors, the peasantry of Castleisland, Kerry.


Yeats defended his use of the material:


Even if I had seen Tristram St Martin’s ballad before writing mine, and had never heard the story apart from the ballad, I should none the less have considered myself perfectly justified in taking a legend that belonged to neither of us, but to the Irish people.  Tristram St Martin has done one interesting ballad, but I do not think he is so triumphantly successful in the present instance as to have made the story his until time shall end.[3]


Yeats, suspecting the identity of the correspondent, jibed him:


I am even inclined to say that he [Tristram St Martin] is ‘illy blest’ in having so ardent a champion ready to come forth with quotations that certainly do not show a very subtle sense of the peculiarities of Irish folk lore.[4]


Tristram St Martin discarded his cover and responded.  Writing to the same journal from Bristol on 22 March 1892, he asked, ‘in the friendliest manner possible,’ to ‘correct one or two errors in which Mr Yeats has, I am sure, inadvertently, fallen in regard to his Father Gilligan and my He sent His Angel:


Mr Yeats says I told him ‘a piece of Irish folklore’; in reality I narrated to him the story of my poem, the revise of which I had that day passed for the press. (Hence my mind was full of it.)  It had been completed many months before, and was published, within a fortnight of our talk, in The Christ in London (March 1890).  I can show proof of this from the late Cardinal Manning, who saw the work and asked me to call and see him, this very poem having greatly struck him.[5]


Tristram St Martin went on to explain that he had not shared ‘a piece of folklore’ with Yeats but had described an incident said to have occurred in the family of an Irish friend, specifically, the great-uncle of his informant, who was warden of the church of which the priest was curate.  He also pointed out that he did not give Yeats the story as he had acquired it, but in the form it had taken in his own imagination.


Tristram St Martin side-stepped Yeats’ jibe, and ably responded to the question of artistic right:


I think, like Mr Yeats, that legends are common property, and open for any one to treat; but I think, too, that when one writer adds anything to his original, that addition is his ‘for all time.’  I may not have improved on the first story, but I altered it, and that alteration Mr Yeats followed to the letter.[6]


This appears to have been the end of the matter.   In the recently issued The Poems of W B Yeats, editor Peter McDonald remarks that no trace of Tristram St Martin remains:


If ‘Tristram St Martin’ and WBY were indeed friends, it is hard to see how the matter might not have been sorted out easily in some less formal way, out of sight of public prints.[7]


Tristram St Martin


Tristram St Martin was a nom de plume.  It appears only in 1890 in connection with The Christ in London and other Poems, a review of which in early May that year noted six poems, the longest being the title poem, The Christ in London (over one hundred pages divided into three parts), the others named as Chant Democratic, The Baby Prophet, He Sent His Angel, Haro, and After the Dance.[8]


It received an excellent review in The Phrenological Magazine:


A striking book … a somewhat extraordinary book, extraordinary because, setting all laws of congruity at defiance, the author has, with what may be called a wildly revolutionary pen, given us a picture which challenges the very bases of society.  Its setting is astounding in originality.[9]


The theme of the title poem was a visit of Jesus Christ to London during the course of one night – a theme that puts one in mind of Leopold Bloom’s day in Dublin in 1904.


Authors’ Co-operative Publishing Company


The volume was published by the Authors’ Co-operative Publishing Company, established in the summer of 1889.[10]  A prospectus was announced on application to the secretary of the organisation at St Martin’s House, 29 Ludgate Hill, London EC.[11] The company seems to have flourished for about three years, 1889-1891.


At the time of the publication of The Christ in London and other Poems (1890), the address of the Authors’ Co-operative was 20 St Bride Street, London EC.[12] Since about 1888, this address had been identified with the Christian Kingdom Society and Christian Fellowship, whose founder and secretary was Rev Alexander Henry Smith.[13]  Among the writers published by the company, which included James Hume Nisbet (Ashes: a Tale of Two Spheres, 1890) was Alfred Thomas Story, whose Book of Vagrom Men and Vagrant Thoughts appeared in 1889.


Alfred Thomas Story, journalist, poet, prolific writer, was identified as the author of The Christ in London in the book collection of American bibliophile, James Carleton Young, who desired that author’s signed their work.[14]  It is unclear why Story, whose earlier and later works appeared under his own name, chose to remain anonymous in this particular publication.[15]


Unfortunately, there is not enough known about the life of Alfred Thomas Story to identify the Irish friend who shared the story about the Castleisland priest, or to comment on his relationship with W B Yeats.


Alfred Thomas Story was born in North Cave, Yorkshire in 1842, one of at least nine children of builder James Story and Sarah Leake.[16]  He married Rosa Sommerville in Walsall, Staffs, on 14 May 1869 and they had seven children.[17]  Alfred and Rosa divorced in 1887 after both admitted adultery, Rosa with Dr Alfred Bannen (or Banner) O’Connor and Alfred with a nurse-girl, Lizzie.


In 1903, Alfred married Mary Anne Benn in Lewisham, London.  They had no children.  Alfred Thomas Story died at 1 West Parade, Horsham on 24 October 1934 aged 92.  He was buried at Hills Cemetery, Horsham.  His estate was left to his widow, Mary Anne Story, who died at the same address on 8 January 1935.[18]


The Ballads


Alfred Thomas Story provided the original account of the Castleisland priest as follows:


The priest was called up after he had gone to bed to attend a dying man; he promised to follow the messenger at once, but fell asleep again, and did not awake till dawn, when, in a state of great trouble, he hastened to the house of the dying man.  Arrived there, he was told that he had already been, had administered extreme unction, and that the man had died happy (not ‘merry’).  The people believed the priest had gone there in his sleep.  The story added that he died shortly afterwards.[19]


This might be regarded today as a community displaying kindness to an aging, much loved priest, but in times of great devotion, and indeed hardship, the story gained currency as a modern-day miracle.  ‘He sent His Angel’ was, according to its author, appreciated by no less a man than the converted Cardinal Manning, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster.[20]

He sent His Angel
by Alfred Thomas Story

One dull grey evening in the autumn time
A parish priest approached his cottage door
Foredone with toil; for it was his to climb
Each day the steep hill-path and cross the rugged moor.

Wide was his parish, scattered his toiling flock,
And death’s deft hand was never – never still!
Full many a mile of mingled bog and rock
His foot had trod since morning streaked the hill.

Now he was weary – weary and fit to sink,
As in his chair full fain he sat him down!
“At last I rest!” he muttered; “Sure I think
I could not go a mile were’t for a Crown,

How sweet to rest!”  But while he spake, a lad
lifted the latch and entered out of breath:
“You must come quickly, father; Moran’s bad;
He can’t outlast the night, and would be arm’d for death.”

“More ill and dying!  Shall one never rest?”
He cried, “There is no peace for sick and dead,
Ah, who would choose a life so illy blessed!
What am I saying?  Lord! what have I said?

Boy, say I come – say, I will quickly come –
Haste!  Ah, what sin – what dreadful sin is this?
Lord, hear me not – for once be wholly dumb;
’Twas not my heart spake – ’twas my weariness!”

So saying, sank the good man on his knees
To pray, and, praying, fell fast – fast asleep,
Murmuring: “We have no strength unless it please
Thee, Lord, us ever in Thy hands to keep.”

The youth brought home his message, and anon
They heard the good priest mount the creaking stair,
Console the dying, and, when that was done,
One who sat watching marked his absent air,

As he descended, and, with sad sweet face,
Passed through the door and out into the night;
Whence came his footfall as with steady pace
He trod along the highway to the height.

The dying man was happy as a bird
That soars aloft in spring-time as he passed,
Blessing the priest whose holy aid had stirred
His soul so deep, all fear away he cast.

The shades of night sped westward, and the morn
Was touching the east as with pale finger tips,
Opening the gates of day, it to adorn
With golden light and thrill with songful lips.

The house was still, and still was all abroad;
The cock attuned his clarion in the byre:
None heard him but a lone man on the road –
A holy man judged by his black attire.

It was the priest; he had returned once more;
Low was his knock, his eyes were very sad,
And sad he murmured when they oped the door, –
“I’m late – too late, I fear!  ’Tis very bad.

I slept; I was so overdone and spent!
Where is he?  Dead?  I feared it would be so!
Was ever heart with such sad trouble rent?”
He seemed as though he’d sink for very woe.

“To die so – unattended!” murmured he,
And bent his head and beat his anguished breast.
“But he was happy – happy as could be;
You dream, good father; you sped him to his rest.”

So spake the woman, ’mazed at what she saw;
She thought he sleeping walked, or waking dreamed –
“He was so happy his last breath to draw,
He almost in his Saviour’s presence seemed!”

The man stood awed; his eyes grew passing bright,
“You have forgotten; sure you are not well;
We heard you mount the stairs –  I held the light
To guide your steps in parting lest you fell.”

“It must be so!” he murmured.  “’Twas not I –
I slept: He came and did my work for me –
Or sent His Angel – when I failed: His eye –
It is upon us all unceasingly.”

So spake the man and turned and went his way,
Full of a wondrous light, and marvelling
At the great thing vouchsafed him, that all day,
All days, he seemed as though he saw the King.[21]


The Ballad of Father Gilligan


‘A delightful variant of an antique and widely-diffused legend’


‘The Ballad of Father Gilligan’ was first published in The Scots Observer of 5 July 1890.  It appeared in The Book of the Rhymers’ Club in 1892 and was thereafter reproduced in various publications.


The Ballad of Father Gilligan
A legend told by the people of Castleisland, Kerry
by W B Yeats

The old priest Peter Gilligan
Was weary night and day,
For half his flock lay in their beds
Or under green sods lay.

Once while he nodded on a chair,
At the moth-hour of eve,
Another poor man sent for him,
And he began to grieve.

‘I have no rest, nor joy, nor peace,
For people die and die’;
And after cried he, ‘God forgive!
My body spake, not I!’

And then, half-lying on the chair,
He knelt, prayed, fell asleep;
And the moth-hour went from the fields,
And stars began to peep.

They slowly into millions grew,
And leaves shook in the wind;
And God covered the world with shade,
And whispered to mankind.

Upon the time of sparrow chirp,
When the moths came once more,
The old priest Peter Gilligan
Stood upright on the floor.

‘Ochone, ochone! the man has died,
While I slept on the chair’;
He roused his horse out of its sleep,
And rode with little care.

He rode now as he never rode,
By rocky lane and fen;
The sick man’s wife opened the door:
‘Father! You come again!’

‘And is the poor man dead?’ he cried.
‘He died an hour ago.’
The old priest Peter Gilligan
In grief swayed to and fro.

‘When you were gone he turned and died,
As merry as a bird.’
The old priest Peter Gilligan
He knelt him at that word.

‘He who hath made the night of stars
For souls who tire and bleed
Sent one of His great angels down
To help me in my need.

‘He who is wrapped in purple robes,
With planets in his care,
Had pity on the least of things
Asleep upon a chair.’


‘Father Gilligan’ has been described as ‘the hard pressed priest of Famine times.’[22]  Though the original may belong to Castleisland, tradition has it Yeats based his idea of the parish priest on one he met at Dromahair, Co Leitrim.[23]


The ballad was popular – and perhaps remains so – for its simplicity.[24]  Throughout the twentieth century, it was frequently dramatised and recited at concerts and in competitions.[25] Johnnie Roche, Chairman of Castleisland District Heritage, recalls ‘Father Gilligan’ being recited on the social scene of his youth.  He writes:


While the subject and occasion of this poem may be a work of fiction, it is embedded in the relevance and reality of the period it encapsulates.  It is not alone possible but quite likely that the poem was inspired by the observance of a specific priest of the time who gave his all with zero resources.  It is obviously a ballad about the Famine period though written later by people who survived that terrible period.  As someone who grew up before the influence of the ‘all-powerful’ church was transferred to the ‘all-powerful’ media, I would have listened to numerous tales and anecdotes of the supreme bond that existed between the curate and his flock in those times.  He was referred as the Saggart Aroon.  Not all but a high proportion of them were regarded as ‘walking saints.’  A priest to administer the final rites, officially known as Extreme Unction, was the main concern of the dying person and their family.  They usually left it until they felt the patient was in the final throes of this life, which usually went into the night time, to send for the priest.  By that time I would expect most priests would own a horse or fairly worn nag of some kind.  Previous to that, during the Penal Times, most priests lived amongst the people in remote rural areas, dodging the authorities, in many cases with a price on their heads.  Priests depended on contributions from their flock to purchase and maintain a horse and we can imagine what that amounted to during that terrible period.  I heard mention of priests leaving the saddle and bridle on the nag in the stable  because they didn’t have the energy to remove and replace it each time.  A horse can sleep standing as they rest one leg at a time.  Many young priests, and nuns too, succumbed to the dreaded fevers (TB, Typhoid etc) that raged after a couple of years of the Great Hunger, and more people were dying of the ‘fever’ than of actual starvation.  We know of two young priests still in their 20s, in parishes not far west of Castleisland, who succumbed to that fever in those years.  A perusal of the convent burial ground headstones will demonstrate the difference and contrast between nuns of a relatively young age passing in those years and the almost 80/90 years lifespan of succeeding generations of the sisters.  In that period rural roads were extending into the most remote countryside, but there were virtually no bridges.  A feature of the times in those areas was the (voluntary) services of a local ‘strong man’ who would take the young, the weak and the elderly across through the waters on his back and deposit them on the other bank.  In many cases they were there to take the priest or the doctor through the waters, dry in their shoes, and be there to bring them back again.  One story I remember was of an old priest who couldn’t coax his nag to enter the fast flowing stream and the local ‘strong man’ was substituted.  I don’t know his name so we’ll call him Jack.  Jack was recognised as a massively powerful man who could do a decent job on a pot of spuds in a day before the ‘Ocras’.  But that was a couple of years ago and Jack’s power had been seriously diminished – but of course he wouldn’t admit it.  He took the old ‘Padre’ into the fast flowing waters from up the hill, but a couple of yards into the mountain stream Jack’s great strength deserted him and he tumbled forward, depositing the priest near the other bank where willing hands pulled him from the water.  But Jack wasn’t so lucky as, being in the middle when he fell, he was immediately taken with the flow downstream before being pulled from the water 100 yards further.  The old priest survived in the care of a local family but poor Jack succumbed on the bank of the mountain stream that he had been mastering for a generation.  We’ll never know who the priest was who was christened ‘Fr Gilligan’ but we should treasure the poem as a true and honest account of the role of the Saggart Aroon who kept civilisation alive and well in remote rural Ireland between Cromwell and the Black and Tans.


The Castleisland Curate


A rough calculation of dates suggests that the story of the Castleisland priest, whose name does not come down to us, fits the period of the Great Famine.  At this remove, it is but a grapple in the dark to identify the weary priest called upon so frequently in those years.  Records of parish priests from the nineteenth century can be found: Fr Kieran O’Shea included them in Castleisland Church and People, but records of curates are less common.[26]


Perhaps it would be fair to conclude that ‘He sent His Angel to Father Gilligan’ might symbolise the heavy role of all churchmen of all denominations during this particular chapter in Irish history.


Note on Rev Smith and the Christian Kingdom Society


The Christian Kingdom Society was conceived in 1885:


On Christmas Day 1885, Rev Smith definitely decided that he would thenceforth make no compromise with what he knew to be false and wrong but would endeavour in everything, as a follower of Christ, to be loyal to the dictates of his conscience, and would encourage and help to the best of his ability all whom he believed to be living in the same spirit.[27]


The aim of the non-political organisation, which formed branches in India and America, was to unite men and women ‘who had the good of the world at heart,’ its members to render ‘faithful and loyal obedience to the Spirit of Christ.’[28]


In 1890, Rev Alexander Henry Smith approached the press for help in promoting his society:


Sir – Will you kindly allow me to bring the Christian Kingdom Society under the notice of your readers.  Its aim is to emphasise the importance of individual responsibility and to afford opportunities to Christians of all classes and parties to take counsel together on questions affecting the public welfare.  It is an outcome of the spirit of the times.[29]


A few years later, Rev Alexander Henry Smith enlarged on the object of the society and its progress:


I should like to give you fuller information of our work.  Over 1000 men and women have been enrolled without public meeting or lecture and, although we demand no special service from our members, many of them have voluntarily undertaken to do simple and commonplace work for the society.  Most of our work is very elementary, and there is nothing mysterious or marvellous about it – it is very commonplace.[30]


In 1899, the society was reported to be making steady progress:


The society has pursued its course steadily without noise or quarrel since 1885 and does not interfere in the more distinctive work of the Church but seeks to develop and make use of the sociable and kindly instincts of humanity and to increase the spirit of fellowship and co-operation among conscientious people of all classes.[31]


Within months of the above notice, on 7 January 1900, Rev Alexander Henry Smith succumbed to a short illness, his death occurring at his address, St Leonard’s, Penge.  He was forty-five years old.  He was laid to rest at Elmer’s End Cemetery in Beckenham.  It was recorded that during fifteen years of the Christian Kingdom Society, over 2,500 men and women of all denominations had been enrolled as members.[32]


Rev Alexander Henry Smith, founder and secretary of the Christian Kingdom Society, was born in Ireland.[33]  He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin of which institution he was a gold medallist.  In December 1878, he was ordained priest, and appointed to the curacy of Christ Church, Rotherhithe.  In the autumn of 1882, after working for several years in London and the north of England, he vacated the senior curacy of Stockport Parish Church to devote his life to his own vision of Christian life.[34]


Rev Alexander Henry Smith was a contemporary of Alfred Thomas Story.  Peculiarly, his quest to interpret Christianity in his own way ‘without noise or quarrel’ sits well with remarks about the author of The Christ in London, described as a doubter, and ‘scarcely more than a shadow.’[35]


Special thanks to Marie H Wilson, Tralee, for genealogical research.


[1] The Academy, 12 March 1892.

[2] The Academy, 19 March 1892.  ‘For some time’ was, in effect, a matter of months, ‘He Sent His Angel’ appearing in March 1890, and ‘Father Gilligan’ in The Scots Observer, 5 July 1890, p174.

[3] The Academy, 19 March 1892.

[4] Yeats alluded to a line in Tristram St Martin’s verse, ‘Ah, who would choose a life so illy blest!/What am I saying? Lord, what have I said?’

In a quip in the ‘Mustard and Cress’ column of the Bradford Daily Telegraph, 25 October 1909, a writer alluded to Tristram St Martin’s verse: ‘The path of literature is strewn with the bodies of poets guilty of stuff like this: ‘More ill and dying?  Shall one never rest!/He cried, ‘There is no peace for sick and dead./Ah, who would choose a life so illy blest!/What am I saying?  Lord, what have I said?’

[5] The Academy, 26 March 1892.

[6] Ibid.  ‘I make these corrections in all kindliness, believing Mr Yeats (whose friendship I value) wrote his ballad under a misunderstanding.’

[7] ‘The Ballad of Father Gilligan,’ The Poems of W B Yeats Volume Two: 1890-1898 (2020) edited by Peter McDonald.

[8] Newcastle Daily Chronicle, 7 May 1890.

[9] The Phrenological Magazine edited by Alfred T Story, Volume VI, 1890.

[10] ‘A practical attempt is to be made to put into effect Mr Walter Besant’s ideas on the publishing question.  A prospectus has been issued on behalf of a company which calls itself the ‘Authors’ Co-operative Publishing Company,’ which is to apply the co-operative principle to publishing.  The capital required is £10,000.   The secretary and manager is Mr William Tarver, of The Christian Million, who will control the whole concern on consideration of receiving a fixed number of shares.  The writers, of course, will be paid according to profits like the members of any other co-operative society.  It only remains to say that the success of a combination of writers – a dangerously indefinite term – will be a most difficult thing to maintain.   One unsuccessful book will swamp the profits of a quarter.  It is not all authors that like to bear one another’s burdens.  The success of the concern will entirely depend on the number of good authors secured, but if every shareholder is to be allowed to write, then I am glad, for the sake of the rest, to see that it is a Limited Company’ (Dundee Courier, 5 August 1889).

[11] ‘Danger ahead for Publishers.  A London correspondent learns that a new publishing company is about to be floated.  I do not know whether it is an outcome of Mr Besant’s revolt against the publishers, and a further development of the position taken in the establishment of the Authors’ Society, but it undoubtedly arises out of the same general dissatisfaction of authors with publishers.  The name of the company is the Authors’ Co-operative Publishing Company, and the prospectus, of which I have seen a proof copy, sets forth a very fair programme for the author of the future.  One of the leading promoters is Mr Tarver, manager of the Christian Million Publishing Company’ (Glasgow Weekly Herald, 6 July 1889). 

[12] John Richard Brooks, Manufacturer of Novelties and Fancy Goods, operated from St Martin’s House, 29 Ludgate Hill, EC London from about October 1890, his prior address being Hatton Garden. 

‘What is a ‘novelty manufacturer’?  Whatever it may be, the business seems not to be a very remunerative one.  Mr John Richard Brooks, who answers to that description, went to borrow £10; and when the request was refused, Mr Brooks felt so weary of the ‘demnition horrid grind’ of life that he shot himself.  He was not very much hurt, and is at present repenting – under remand’ (St James’s Gazette, 16 April 1889).

[13] The address was also identified with the Christian Million Publishing Company Ltd from at least 1889.  The Christian Million Publishing Company Ltd and the Christian Million newspaper were founded in 1883 by William Tarver JP (1846-1924).  Other names associated with this venture were Charles R Mackay and William Harral Johnson (‘Anthony Collins’).

[14] Inscribed Books by Nineteenth Century Authors American and Foreign from the Library Collected by James Carleton Young of Minneapolis, Minn, Part I, published c1916, p98.  ‘When a young man Mr Young resolved to devote his life to the collection of modern literary masterpieces in all languages, believing that this would be the best tribute he could pay to literature, and he particularly desired that each book should be inscribed by its author.’  James Carleton Young died on 7 January 1918.

Alfred Thomas Story cited himself as author of The Christ in London on the title page of his Songs of a New Age (1918). He is also mentioned as the author in a study of the painter, Edward Burne-Jones by Colette M Crossman, PhD, Art as Lived Religion: Edward Burne-Jones as Painter, Priest, Pilgrim, and Monk (2007).

[15] For example, Woman in the Talmud appeared in 1880 and, in 1893, The Life of John Linnell.

[16] His siblings were John Leake Story, born c1836; Sarah Elizabeth Story, born c1839; Emma Story, born c1841; James Ambrose Story, born c1845; Mary Harriett Story, born c1847; William Story, born c1850; Richmond Story, born c1853; Rhoda Story, born c1855.

[17] Alfred Sommerville Mondon Story, born 1870; Bessie Story, born 1871; Edgar Story, born 1875, Ethel Story, born 1875; Francis Story, born 1878; Wilfred Story, born 1880; Rosa Story, born 1883.  Edgar and Francis had died by 1886 when their parents divorced.

[18] Executors Frederick Warren Dillow and Frank Fraser Haddock.

[19] The Academy, 26 March 1892.

[20] Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892) English prelate of the Roman Catholic Church and the second Archbishop of Westminster from 1865 until his death.

[21] The Christ in London and other Poems (1890), pp142-147.

[22] The Nationalist (Tipperary), 23 August 1997.

[23] Obituary to postmistress, Gertie Downey, Sunday Independent, 10 July 2011.

[24] One writer recalled an occasion when Yeats’s Purgatory was read in Dublin, and a member of the audience asked if anyone could tell him what it was about.  ‘Apparently nobody could.  One of the few things Yeats wrote that might be read with comfort at a Munster fireside in the country was his Ballad of Father Gilligan’ (Irish Independent, 19 August 1946). 

[25] A one-act play, Father Gilligan and the Angel by Mr F G Webb, BA, English teacher in Ballymoney Technical School was staged in April 1939.

[26] A number of curates identified with Castleisland are found in the article, ‘Castleisland: The Early Roman Catholic Church’ on the Castleisland District Heritage website, http://www.odonohoearchive.com/castleisland-the-early-roman-catholic-church/

[27] Beckenham Journal, 4 January 1896.  Statement made during a meeting of the society held at Penge. ‘A new society has been formed known as the Christian Kingdom Society, the object of its members being to put the Christian spirit into daily life’ (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 11 April 1886).

[28] In India (Thana, Bombay), Secretary of the Society was C E G Crawford.

[29] ‘Men of all denominations are longing for a band of union based upon thus influencing for good all with whom they associate.  At its conferences, which are held monthly in different districts of London and various large towns, doctrinal matters are excluded, but all other phases of political and social life are freely discussed.  The unsectarian and non-party spirit of the Society and its association with various philanthropic movements have gained for it the sympathy of men of all classes. Alex H Smith, 20 St Bride-st, London, EC’ (Widnes Examiner, 12 July 1890).

In 1891, David H Niven, East Wallace Street, Grahamston, Falkirk, wrote in praise of the society (Alloa Journal, 29 August 1891).

[30] The Queen, 20 February 1892.  Rev Alexander H Smith MA was writing from St Leonards, St John’s Road, Penge, SE.  His letter continued: ‘If we could get the majority of men and women to endeavour in everything to be truthful, just, considerate, and unselfish, we should soon strike at the roots of many of our social evils.  We are not satisfied with the results of the work of the pulpit and the platform, and we are doing what we can to encourage frank and friendly conference, and to have moral and social questions fully discussed in the public press.  We are anxious that people should look to the press as a great moral teacher.  We do not, as a society, profess to work among the very poor, and we have no desire to become the dispersers of other men’s charity; but many of our members are inspired with a desire to relieve the distressed and are doing what they can individually.  Our silent and simple methods, and our refusal to make public appeal for funds, prevent us from become widely known; but I believe we are doing a sound and useful work.’

[31] Dover Express, 13 October 1899.

[32] Norwood News, 20 January 1900.  ‘We regret to announce the death of the Rev Alexander Henry Smith, founder and secretary of the Christian Kingdom Society who, after a fortnight’s illness, passed quietly away on January 7th.  The funeral took place on Friday, January 12th at Elmer’s End Cemetery, Beckenham.  The deceased, who was a scholar and gold medallist of Trinity College Dublin was born in Ireland on May 12th 1854.  In 1877 he was ordained, his first curacy being Christ Church, Rotherhithe.  After working for several years in London and the north of England, he withdrew from parochial work in order to devote his life to the Christian Kingdom Society which he founded in 1885.  During the last 15 years over 2,500 men and women of all denominations were enrolled as members.  The object of the society is, ‘The extension of the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth by the promotion of personal holiness, national righteousness and a spirit of sympathy and unity among Christians’ and ‘its one rule – That the members shall endeavour, in all things, to render faithful and loyal obedience to the Spirit of Christ.’  As several of the members of the Christian Kingdom Society have expressed a wish to join in some tribute to the memory of Mr Smith, it has been decided that the best form it could take will be the erection of a memorial stone.  Any subscriptions towards this object should be sent to Mr Robt Temple, 10 Queen Adelaide Road, Penge.’

[33] The place has not been identified.  The Census of England 1881 records him living at 3 Seafield Terrace, Alverstoke, Hampshire with his Irish-born parents Michael Smith, aged 47, a scripture reader, and mother Anne, Smith aged 46.  He was then curate of St Mary’s, Stockport.  Electoral records of 1889 and 1890 record him living at 340 Harrow Road, Paddington North, London.  The Census of 1891 records him living at St Leonards, St John’s Road, Penge, London with his sister Mary, aged 30, a headmistress, and his widowed mother Anne, who was living on her own means.  In the Census of England 1901, Maria Agnes Smith is a Primary School Mistress, aged 39, is living with her older sister, Frances Eleanor Smith, aged 43, of the same profession.  Maria Agnes was born in Castle Connell, Ireland and her sister Frances in Aughrim, Co Galway.  There is no mention of Mrs Anne Smith at this address in 1901.  Miss Maria Agnes Smith of St Leonard's, 8 St John's Road, Penge was married at St Saviour’s Church Paddington, on 23 December 1901, to widower George William Robert Hoare of Brixton, a Professor of Music.  The marriage certificate named her father as Michael Smith, Agent to the Royal Naval Society.  Maria Agnes Hoare died at Herne Hill Railway Station on 9 September 1919.  A report of the incident stated that ‘for about 20 years, in conjunction with her husband, she has carried on the educational work at Queen’s College’ (Norwood News, 12 September 1919).  A report of the inquest of Mrs Agnes Maria Hoare, Principal of Queen’s College, Penge, found that she had been unwell and may have been overworked.  A witness who had sat with Mrs Hoare on a seat at the platform regretted that she could not state Mrs Hoare had fallen:  ‘A trainload of German prisoners had passed through the station and the deceased remarked to witness, I did not know they were Germans, else I would have gone and looked at them, but my eyes are bad today and I do not feel very well.  As the train came into the station the deceased walked from the seat to the edge of the platform and the next moment it was all over’ (Sydenham, Forest Hill & Penge Gazette, 19 September 1919).

[34] In October 1883, he was described as a congregational minister when he addressed an audience of the Liberation Society (Manchester Branch) as a principal speaker, together with Sir Stafford Northcote.

[35] The Phrenological Magazine edited by Alfred T Story, Volume VI, 1890.