Wednesday, April 1, 2015

'A wig maker of Dublin with propense malice' & other Parish Register oddments

In addition to searching for the baptism and marriage records of ancestors, and other family members, one of the best things about perusing Roman Catholic parish registers, on microfilm at the National Library of Ireland, is that sometimes you come across odd little stories and amusing details that bring to life, foibles and all, some of the individuals who created these records so very long ago. 

In the parish register for Lusk, County Dublin, dating to 1763, the following story is related of the Reverend James Strong, whose death was apparently precipitated by the actions of a Mr. Tyans — [Tryans] — a malicious wig maker from Dublin. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

It reads:

The Reverend James Strong, Native of the Parish of Holy-wood, succeeded W. Bethel. He administered this parish five years, and some months, and was a truly pious & zealous priest. He was removed to Swords by Doctor FitzSimons, and lived there about two years and a half in general esteem. He was cut in his leg by the lash of a horse at the funeral of one of his Parishioners. One Tyans [Tryans], a wig maker of Dublin, with propense malice, made his horse kick behind at Mr. Strong & cut him. He followed Mr. Strong to his house, and struck him, wounded as he was, at his own door. The mob of Swords, at Mr. Strong’s own earnest request, let him go with his life. Mr. Strong’s leg was laid open in Dublin. A fever superseded and he died universally regretted. 

Although we will likely never know the truth, the details of the story make me wonder about the nature of the relationship between the wig maker and the priest.

Why did Tyans the wig maker have such enmity for the priest?
Was Tyans angry because he was owed money for a wig he had made for the pious Reverend?
Why did Tyans follow the Reverend Strong to his home and continue to assault him?
Was the wig maker known to the village, or was he a simply a dangerous stranger from Dublin?
From whence came the 'mob of Swords', and did any of my family members play a part in it?


The parish register of Donabate reveals that on 30 December 1798, the wedding day of my 4th great-grandparents William Cavenaugh and Mary Brien, in addition to the child for whom they stood as godparents, three other children were baptized that day.

Seems it was quite a busy day for the poor fellow who recorded these events. Although he makes note of the individual baptisms, he cannot fully recollect all of the details about those who were baptized. He refers to them as 'a child' and 'a boy and girl whos[e] names I forget'. He does manage to note the names of the parents in the first case; however, in the second case while the names are likely those of the parents, and that of a sponsor, it is unclear because he includes no such notation.

The entries read:

eadez Die [Latin translates to: the same day]
B: A Child of Peter Carpenter and Wife Margaret
Bap A Boy and Girl Whos[e] names I forget
Jean & Christopher Thorn & Briget Nugent

('B' signifies 'born of'; 'Bap' signifies Baptism)


Returning to the parish register of Lusk, and an entry from 1761, in which the Pastor of Lusk expresses disdain at the record keeping talents of his predecessor the Reverend Teeling, whose marriage records Mr. Mooney 'faithfully transcribed'.

Reverend Mooney writes,

Mr. Teeling's marriage register ends here — He never mentioned the names of Witnesses at his marriages — He barely said they were married in the presence of Parents, friends or neighbours — I have accurately & faithfully transcribed them as I found them in Mr. Teeling's hand-writing.


The last in this quartet of oddments is an entry from the parish of Lusk that introduces the register entries of 1762. It gives what amounts to a biography of the life of the Reverend Robert Bethel, and is rounded out with a paean of praise for Mr. Bethel's positive attributes.

It reads,

The Rev'd Robert Bethel, native of Dublin, took up session of the parish of Lusk, May 1st 1762. He administered this parish about a year and eight months, and was translated to Swords, thence to Chappel-Izod, thence to Crumlin. He was Dean of this District, & afterwards Dean at Swords; a pious priest, a zealous Pastor, an elegant Preacher, a warm cordial friend, eminent in the grave studies of his profession, and the polite reading of a Gentleman.

It may speak more to my suspicious mind than it does to his words; however, I cannot help wondering why the writer heaps such praise upon Mr. Bethel. Did it have anything to do with wanting to remain in the Reverend's good graces, given that Mr. Bethel became Dean of the district, or was it a genuine expression of amity?

It is perhaps reassuring to know that people in the 18th century were capable of the same sorts of inclinations and lapses — praise and deep enmity, pettiness, forgetfulness and obsequiousness — as those in the 21st century, who might have a tendency to romanticize the lives and sentiments of those who lived so long before us.


IMPORTANT NEWS: Images of the microfilm of the Catholic Parish registers held by the National Library are scheduled to be released online on 8 July 2015, so you can seek out parish register oddments of your own.


  1. Jenn, my mum used to say everyone and everything was perfect before the 60’s. Then it all went to hell in a hand basket. I sure she didn't mean the 1760’s. Nice to know not everyone was brilliant back then. :-) :-)

    1. Charlotte, thanks very much for your comments. My mom used to think the same way. I feel the same as you; it's nice that they were not all so perfect.


  2. Jennifer, these are really interesting. I like the language they used back then, like propense malice and just imagine being universally regretted when you die. Catherine.

    1. Catherine, thanks very much for your comments. I agree with you, some of language used is lovely, and I especially like the phrases you've picked out.



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