Small Sources 30: Useful records are created in all sorts of strange circumstances, and none are more unique than this one. In the 1820s a new priest, Michael Crotty was appointed to the Catholic parish of Birr, in King’s County (now Offaly). The town was then called Parsonstown. He turned out to be a difficult and divisive person who fell out with his bishop and the other priests of the parish. However, he was also a charismatic and popular priest who gradually lead a significant proportion of his congregation (reportedly about 6,000) away from the Catholic Church into a separate church and attempted to take control of the parish church building. There followed a bitter dispute between Crotty’s faction and the remaining members of the congregation that lasted several years. The dispute involved legal proceedings, military interventions and verbal and physical battles over access to the church. The breakaway congregation eventually merged with the local Presbyterian church, but almost all later drifted back to the Catholic Church and Michael Crotty eventually became an Anglican clergyman in England. Accounts of the so-called ‘Birr Reformation’ are widely available, including a book written by Michael Crotty himself which can be read on-line. Read More
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