The extraordinary story of a fight for souls on famine-ravaged Achill on Ireland's Atlantic coast in the nineteenth century
Edward Nangle’s mission aimed to lift a destitute people out of ignorance, poverty and idolatry. The fury of the island elements, the devastation of the Great Famine, Edward Nangle’s own volatile temperament, and the unbearable suffering of his wife Eliza and their children, all threatened the project’s survival.
The ugly charge of ‘souperism’, offering food and benefits in return for religious conversion, tainted the work of the Achill Mission. A spectacular conflict erupted between Edward Nangle and John MacHale, the fiery archbishop of Tuam. The two clergymen unleashed fierce passions with vitriol and polemic spewing out from pen and pulpit.
Did Edward Nangle and his Achill Mission save hundreds from certain famine death? Or, did they shamefully exploit a vulnerable people in their hour of need? This story spectacularly exposes the fault-lines of religion, society and politics in nineteenth-century Ireland. It is a story that continues to excite controversy to this day.
Editorial Reviews of
The Preacher and The Prelate
‘Fascinating Achill Island story.’
Selected by Aoife Barry, TheJournal.ie, as a ‘culture pick’
on Today with Sean O'Rourke, RTÉ RADIO 1
‘This epic tale of famine and evangelisation, sectarianism and medieval imperialism, evictions and decimation, souperism and cultural clashes reveals universal themes while telling a fascinating story of one man’s passion...on its impact on a remote community. The themes explored and unfurled bedevil many other areas of the world today.’
‘In a fascinating book, Patricia Byrne tip-toes skilfully through this minefield, looking for the human stories amid “the collision of opposing dogmas”.’
IRISH EXAMINER, Michael Duggan
‘In an absorbing narrative history of the Achill Mission, its fervent supporters and its strident critics, Byrne has laid bare a fascinating episode of 19th century Irish history.’
‘It is not difficult to appreciate the enthusiasm of this author in her love of this place [Achill] and her interest in relating this part of its history. She excels with a beautifully written conclusion in the three-page epilogue at the end of the book.’