Ministers and Mines: Religious Conflict in an Irish Mining Community, 1847-1858
Thomas P. Power
Religious conflict in Ireland has had a long history. Ministers and Mines: Religious Conflict in an Irish Mining Community, 1847-1858 is a case study of religious conflict in the copper-mining community of Bunmahon, Co. Waterford, Ireland, in the mid-nineteenth century.
By the time an English evangelical clergyman, Rev. David Alfred Doudney, came to the area in 1847 intense exploitation of its copper resources had begun. Depression in the industry followed by famine and its legacy spurred Doudney to initiate educational establishments to help the poor and deprived of the area, children particularly. These initiatives brought him into conflict with Catholic clergy who suspected him of engaging in proselytism.
Doudney was more interested in encouraging a more vital Christianity in opposition to the nominalism he found around him whether among Catholics or Protestants, rather than in forced religious conversion. However, such a distinction was not clear at popular level. In the rising tensions that ensued and against the backdrop of a suspected suicide, Doudney was the object of bigoted opposition, a narrow xenophobia, and of threats to his life, that together forced his departure. Not without blemish himself for, characteristic of the Victorian age, he articulated a strong anti-Catholic rhetoric, which he directed against the doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church.