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Canon Frederick Donovan’s Dunlavin, 1884-1896: a West Wicklow village in the late nineteenth century


Chris Lawlor

Canon Donovan served as parish priest of Dunlavin for twelve years towards the end of the 19th century. This short book highlights Canon Donovan’s diary, which provides a picture of the life of Catholics in the area during a time of great change. The book is based on a thesis prepared by the author as part of a Master’s Programme in Local History at Maynooth University.

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ISBN: 9780716527244 Categories: , ,


Frederick Augustine Donovan served as parish priest in Dunlavin for twelve years, during which great changes occurred both nationally and locally. He recorded many of these changes in his diary. This study utilises the diary – an important primary source – for the first time. It portrays the history of ordinary people as they experienced it themselves and, specifically, as Canon Donovan perceived it. Many other sources are also used to reveal political, religious and social divisions within the local community. Such divisions were particularly evident in two strands of village life, religion and politics. Donovan was a significant figure in the Catholic parish during the devotional revolution and emerging Catholic confidence is compared to the experience of the Rev Samuel Russell McGee’s local Church of Ireland parish. Politically Donovan was involved in the Irish National League and, as an anti-Parnellite, in the Irish National Federation. Although he saw the fortunes of Nationalists improve during his tenure in Dunlavin, when Donovan died in 1896 he left behind him a party, a county and a parish bearing the scars of recent division.

Table of Contents

Donovan’s place: the Dunlavin region, 1881-1901
Donovan’s parish: religion in Dunlavin, 1881-1901
Donovan’s politics: nationalist Dunlavin, 1881-1901