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Bishop of Killaloe Kieran O Reilly with John Bradley, PRO Clare Roots Society, Paddy Waldron chairperson Clare Roots, Helen Walsh, County Librarian, Larry Parks, project co-odinator and Eric Shaw, committee member, at the online launch of the Papal Army Records for 1860. Photograph by John Kelly.

Raising funds for Papal ‘crusaders’

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IN 1860, over 1,200 volunteers from Ireland travelled to Italy to fight for the Papal States in the Papal Wars. An appeal was made throughout the country for funds to support the volunteers.

Twenty-three Catholic parishes from Clare published lists of subscribers in newspapers of the day and, now, members of Clare Roots Society have undertaken to transcribe the names of these subscribers, resulting in a database of over 4,000 names.

This week, members of Clare Roots Society handed over the Papal Army database to county librarian, Helen Walsh.

In recent times, staff at the library’s Local Studies Centre came across extensive lists of subscribers names published in The Clare Journal, the local newspaper of the day. The subscriptions were in response to an appeal for funds to support the Irish volunteers to the Papal Army in the summer of 1860.

Peter Beirne, Local Studies Centre librarian, immediately saw the value of these lists to genealogy researchers tracing Clare families. The printed lists not only included the surname but also the Christian name of subscribers and the sum contributed. In some cases, the list included the title of prominent citizens or business names, and some area names of residence.

Clare Library and Clare Roots Society have collaborated on a number of genealogy-related projects over recent years, with the projects published on the Clare Library website. Discussions took place with Larry Brennan and Eric Shaw of Clare Roots and all agreed on the potential of the project, with Clare Roots agreeing to undertake the research, with Clare Library hosting the database.

Oversight of the project was provided by Larry and Eric, with co-ordination of the project research and transcription undertaken by Larry Parks.

A comprehensive search of publications commenced last March, with the discovery of 14 parish Papal collections in support of the Papal Army, all published in The Clare Journal. The estimated number of names was 2,400, ensuring the project was worthy of transcription.
The quality of the printed pages, currently in a microfilm archive, varied greatly however and some required careful analysis and proofing due to limitations of typesetting and printing of the day.

With the proximity of Clare county boundaries, within the Killaloe Diocese, to other population centres, it was thought other regional newspapers could be a source of published church collections.

To this end, the assistance of Lucille Ellis, also of CRS, was enlisted to search other newspaper archives in the National Library of Ireland.

An experienced researcher and author of a recent local history publication, Ennis at Work in the 19th   Century, Lucille came up trumps with nine additional parish lists. Five were found in The Munster News and Limerick and Clare Advocate and a further four in The Limerick Reporter and Tipperary Vindicator.

The search considered other possible sources, in particular the Killaloe Diocese archives. However contact between CRS and the diocese failed to unearth any additional information.

Clare Roots has a dedicated group of volunteers scattered across the globe who undertake genealogy transcriptions of church and public records related to County Clare for the society. The volunteers are ably co-ordinated by Chris Goopy in Australia. The release of this extensive database to the general public would not have been possible without the dedication and commitment of these volunteers.
In the summer of 1860, the Papal States were at war with Garibaldi’s Revolutionary Army. The Papal States straddle Italy around the Rome area and were an obstacle to unifying Italy and achieving freedom for its people.

An appeal to join the Papal Army in this war was heard by over 1,200 Irishmen, who made their way across the continent to join the fight. The full list of names of individuals and their place of residence was contained in a British Intelligence Report (59th report of the Duty Keeper of the Public Records of Ireland 1860) as volunteers left Ireland.

Thirty-seven  persons are noted as resident of Clare, all listed as from Ennis. Apparently this referred to the administration centre in Ennis and not their actual place of residence in the county.

An appeal was made for funds and, in total, collections of 23 parishes or parish parings were printed in the various newspapers. Many additional parishes contributed but, it would appear, never published in print.

The ad-hoc nature of the Papal Army – poorly organised and badly equipped- ensured a short war with surrender to the Revolutionary forces in September of that year.  It is estimated between 70 and 100 Irish died or were wounded. The Irish officers and soldiers were held as prisoners in Genoa for a brief time before their release.

Most men returned to Ireland by November of that year to a hero’s welcome. The Clare Journal published an article on their homecoming with the following extract:

Soiree to the Irish Brigade at Ennis
The Catholic Young Men’s Association entertained the Ennis section of the returned crusaders in their large hall in Old Chapel Lane. The room, which is a large one, capable of accommodating 1,000 persons, was well filled,
and there could not be less than that number present.

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