Charles Parsons Reichel, Church of Ireland  Bishop of Meath 1885 to 1894

Charles Parsons Reichel had the unusual distinction of being elected twice, a ruling given to the Diocesan Synod on the first occasion by its learned Assessor having being pronounced invalid by the Court, which in the early days of Disestablishment was a much harder worked body than it is now.  The son of a Moravian minister and the grandson of a Moravian Bishop, Dr. Reichel was born in the Yorkshire Bronte country.  A delicate only child, his health improved whem the family moved to Lancaster in Pennsylvania.  But he nearly came to an untimely end when he discovered a chemistry textbook and proceeded to carry out experiments of his own devising in the kitchen!  The stove suffered from an accidential explosion, and in later life he suffered from bronchial trouble, perhaps caused by his injudicious whiffs of prussic acid and laughing gas.  He later studied in Berlin, where his health suffered from a starvation diet prescribed by a quack doctor, and in Trinity College Dublin.  In spite of physical handicaps he became one of the outstanding scholars of his day.

Presented to the Vicarage of Mullingar in 1864, he became Rector of Trim and Ardbraccan of Meath in 1875, and Dean of Clonmacnoise in 1882.  His fame as a preacher was widespread, and Provost (Infallability) Salmon - a connoisseur in the matter - declared that though he ceased to listen to some sermons after five minutes, he could listen to Reichel for forty five.  As a former Professor of Eccsiastical History, he played a leading part in the revision of the Prayer Book and was no man to be trifled with when the Greek Testament portion was under discussion at the Clerical Meeting.  As Bishop he resided at Ballymacoll near Dunboyne, and later at Dundrum, finding access to his Diocese easier from Dublin than from Ardbraccan.  The circumstances of his enthronement at Trim provide an illustration of the endurance of church congregations in those days.  First came full Morning Prayer, followed by the enthronement ceremony and then the Litany.  Next came a Confirmation at which 69 children were presented to the new Bishop.  The collection amounted to £2-4-2 1/2 - coppers readily counted then!

James Bennett Keene, Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath 1897 to 1919

Like Dr. Reichel he was one of the most accomplished men of his time, but in personality he was quite different.  At Trinity College Dublin he took the highest honours in Classics, Oriental Languages, Science, Maths, Ethics and Philosophy, as well as in the Divinity School.  "With all his knowledge he was so absolutely free from pedantry that many who knew him were quite unaware of his great learning.  His unfailing humour lit up the dullest of conversations and his readiness to drive home a point made him a companion to be desired.  He was beloved wherever he went and brought with him a geniality that was irresistible".  These words came from an appreciation of him printed in the Meath Diocesan Magazine shortly after his death in 1919.

Bishop Keene presided over the Diocese for 22 years, including the difficult period of the 1st Great War, and was one of the select few to have been promoted direct from a parish within the See.  He had been Diocesan Curate and then Rector of Navan for 18 years.  As Bishop he first lived at Bishopcourt and later in Dublin.  He always looked upon the restoration of the ancient Church of Clonmacnoise - Temple Connor - in 1914 as one of the bright spots of his epicopate.  A lover of music, his much prized American Organ was given to Ardbraccan Church, and he is also commemorated by the very pleasing Good Shepherd window near the pulpit.


Deciphering handwriting

The industry of letter writers before the days of fountain pens, typewriters and telephone was amazing.  Public men, Bishops included, wrote many epistles per day.  Members of parted families corresponded daily  and at length, and what is more, diligently kept the letters they received, to the great joy of historians.  For while official documents may provide the skeleton of an attempt to recreate the past, private correspondence clothes it with flesh and makes it live.  But some thrifty writers in Victorian times were definitely unhelpful.  They indulged in the abominable practice of writing north and south as well as east and west upon the same piece of paper!

By and large the clergy are not notable for the elegance of their handwriting.

Riocht na Midhe, 2015; Page 250.


Teaching of Irish, Ardbraccan School 1902

The Rev. L Coulter, Rector, who was manager of Ardbraccan National School indicated that there was “no room in school hours for a delicacy so rich and rare (and unprofitable generally for National Schools)” and that it was difficult enough to find time “for subjects that are likely to be useful.”

Source: Drogheda Independent, 18 January, 1902