A CLARE link to the Bahá’í religion has been uncovered ahead of this weekend’s unveiling of a commemorative plaque in Ennis this weekend. On Sunday Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Paul Murphy will reveal a specially commissioned plaque at the grounds of the Civic Room in Ennis. The plaque commemorates the bicentenary of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, following on from last year’s celebration and tree-planting at the same location.
Coinciding with this event, a significant County Clare connection to the dramatic early history of the Bahá’í religion in Persia (Iran) has come to light.
Lady Mary Woulfe-Sheil was born in 1825 at Tiermaclane, near Councillor Murphy’s home village of Clarecastle. She was one of very few westerners in Persia during the early days of the Bahá’í faith and she left a vivid account of her experiences, in which she wrote about the new religion.
“This is a most exciting link to uncover,” said Ennis Bahá’í, Maria McNamara, whose brother’s research revealed the Clare connection. Ms McNamara continued, “To think that 170 years ago there was a Clare woman recording her impressions of the Bahá’í religion in the very place it began and that now, all these years later, there is a Bahá’í community in Ennis and all over the county is really quite remarkable.”
In fact, Maria may have an even closer connection to Lady Mary as Mary’s grandmother was also a McNamara. Lady Mary Woulfe-Sheil spent a number of years in Persia when her husband, Lord Justin Sheil, was the British Minister at the Court of the Shah. She recorded her impressions of the country in her diaries, which were subsequently published as Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia, a book that gained some renown among researchers of 19th century Persian history. In the book she recorded details about several significant events in early Bahá’í history, including the ferocious persecutions, the martyrdom of Tahirih, the first heroine of the religion, and also the martyrdom by firing-squad of the Prophet Forerunner of the religion, The Báb.
The plaque to be unveiled by Councillor Murphy marks the bicentenary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. “The bicentenary was actually last year,” explains Maria, “and on that occasion we had a big event in the Civic Room and also planted a tree in the grounds. We felt that it would be good this year to mark the significance of the occasion for the local Bahá’ís by adding a plaque to the location of the tree and we are delighted that Mayor Murphy has agreed to officially unveil it.”
Due to the current situation, attendance at the event is limited to invitees. “Ordinarily we love to invite all our family and friends to join with us for an occasion like this but we will, of course, be adhering to current guidelines, having a socially distanced gathering of no more than fifteen people,” says Maria.