Edward Nangle, (descended from a notable Catholic family, Nangle Family held the Title of Barons of Navan for over six hundred years previously) was raised as a member of the Church of Ireland. He was born on 25th November 1799 in Dublin, where he spent his early years. (His father, Walter was married trice,) firstly to Jane Callan, (they brought up their six children as Catholics) his 2nd marriage was to Catherine Anne Sall, daughter of George Sall a Dublin Merchant, they had eight children. When Edward’s mother Anne died in 1808 he was sent as a boarder to Cavan Royal School. His father re-married for the third time during 1813 to Elizabeth daughter of William Toole of Kilkock, Co. Kildare, they had one daughter.
Along with being a committed Clergyman he was an accomplished Irish Speaker, Artist, Musician, Writer, (he translated the Church of Ireland Bible into Irish.) Edward Nangle married Elizabeth Warner of Marvelstown House, Co. Meath at St. Thomas’s Church in Dublin in 1828, they had eleven children. Unfortunately during his ministry on Achill Island he suffered the loss of his wife also some of his children whom are all buried on Achill Island.
Edward Nangle graduated with a B.A. from Trinity College, Dublin during 1823. He initially intended a profession in Medicine but decided to become involved with the Church of Ireland Ministry. He was ordained Deacon in 1824 then a Curate in Athboy parish, Co. Meath where he stayed for a few months. He transferred to Monkstown, Co. Dublin for two weeks. Aged 24 years he moved to Arva in the Diocese of Kilmore as Curate. He resigned after two years due to ill–health. During his recovery he read Christopher Anderson’s “Historical Sketches of the Native Irish,” thus became aware of the injustices perpetrated on the Irish by depriving them of their own native Language. He contemplated the establishment of a mission among a portion of the Irish-speaking population.
An awareness of the Famine and outbreak of Cholera on Ireland’s West Coast encouraged him to sail on the S.S. Nottingham from Dublin to Westport, in the company of Reverend James Freke with a cargo of Indian meal. In Westport, he met Reverend William Baker Stoney who persuaded him to visit Achill. He spent a night at Achill Sound prior to crossing on foot at low–tide then on horseback to Bullsmouth, Dooniver and Keel. He discussed his findings with Rev. Stoney when he returned to the mainland thus a mission was put in train. Nangle leased 100 hundred acres from Sir Richard O’Donnell of Newport. A Committee was set up of Daly later Bishop of Cashel, Bishop Joseph Henderson Stringer also Reverend Ceasar Otway. Nangle also had the support of Archbishop Power Le Poer Trench of Tuam.
On July 30th, 1834 the Nangle family moved to Dugort in Achill. He was appointed Rector and Vicar of Achill plus Canon of Tuam Cathedral. The Nangle family were joined by an assistant Reverend Joseph Duncan, two Scripture readers plus Dr. Neason – Adams and family. A school at Slievemore was opened two days prior to Christmas with 43 pupils. The schools in Dugort, Cashel, Keel along with Slievemore catered for four hundred and ten children by the following Sunday! It is a testament to the hard work and commitment of Nangle that a Settlement of a church, hospital, a Stewart’s house, substantial Clergyman’s dwellings, thirty cottages, a dispensary, a corn mill, plus farm buildings were founded. With support from friends in London and New York a Printing Press was established in December 1937 with the publication of the first edition of Achill Missionary Herald and Western Witness. (This newspaper lasted for forty years when it merged with other Ministry Publications.) An Orphanage was established during 1838. By 1847 it was reported that the Mission had 2,192 laborers’ also that food was available for eight hundred Islanders. During the following year over 2,000 children attended the schools. The Nangle family suffered severe trauma when five of their eight children died in infancy, Elizabeth herself died during 1850.
Hundreds of people from Dooniver, Bullsmouth and Ballycroy approved a declaration of thanks during 1848 to Canon Nagle for the supply to them of potatoes and turnips from a Mission field. On September 30th 1849 the foundation stone of St. Thomas’s Church in Dugort was laid by Lord Plunkett, Bishop of Tuam. The lands leased from O’Donnell were purchased by the Mission Committee in 1851. Four years after his arrival Nangle wrote; “The Missionary Settlement has since grown into a village – the sides of a once barren mountain are now adorned with cultivated fields and gardens… and the stillness of desolation which once reigned is now broken by the hum of the school and the sound of the church – going bell.” Achill was to him; “the happy valley, in spite of all our trials, I know of no place like it.”
Edward Nangle left Achill to become rector of Skreen, Co. Sligo, in the Diocese of Killala during 1852 after 18 years on the Island. He remained there until September 1873 when he resigned as a Trustee of the Mission and Rector. During 1879 he lived briefly in Achill “As I have now completed my 80th year, and am very infirm, I am unable to work for our dear people in Achill as I did for upwards of 40 years of my life.” Nangle wrote “The Tourist’s Guide to Achill” during 1879 which was published in the Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette. He returned back to Dublin during 1881.
Edward Nangle died at his home 23, Morehampton Road, Dublin with his second wife, Sarah by his side on 9th September 1883. Edward and Sarah had four children but his surviving son Dr. Edward Nangle had emigrated to Africa. Nangle is buried in Deansgrange Cemetery, Monkstown, in Dublin. [i]
The Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette reported his obituary with “Nangle is an Evangelical of the old school.” The Church Advocate stated that “few Clergymen of the Church of Ireland were better known or more highly valued in his day, as he was a man of much intellectual power, a clear expositor of sound scripture, and a powerful writer.” Several Years after his death a Committee was set up chaired by William Johnston at 17th Upper Sackville St, Dublin to raise funds “for the purpose of purporting in a suitable manner…the memory of Reverend Edward Nangle of Achill and Skreen” this led to a memorial stone being erected at St. Thomas’s Church, Dugort, Achill. [ii]
The Congested District Board took over the Mission during 1921; the Estate was purchased in 1916. [iii]
On September 24th, 2011, a Healing and Memorial Ceremony was conducted by Rev. Michael Neary Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, Church of Ireland Clergymen Rev. Val Rogers, Westport, and Rev. Patrick Rooke Bishop of Tuam, in remembrance and memory of the one hundred and nine unmarked graves of Nangle’s Mission also for all Famine victims of the 19th Century. [iv]
Edward Nangle is mentioned in the following Publications; “A Forgotten Part of Ireland” by P. J. Joyce B.D. of Philadelphia Tuam 1910, [v] “The Apostle of Achill, a Memoir and History’” by Henry Seddal 1884, London, Halchards, pgs 31 – 32 [vi] plus “Achill Island Archaeology, History, Folklore” by T. Mc Donald Dublin 1997
[iv] Mayo News September 20th 2011 / Mayo News September 27th 2011.