Launch of ‘The Preacher and the Prelate’ by Patricia Byrne

Friday 4th May 2018, 8.30pm Cyril Gray Memorial Hall, Dugort, Achill Island

As part of the Heinrich Böll Memorial Weekend Arts Festival, Sheila McHugh will officially launch her book ‘The Preacher and the Prelate: The Achill Mission Colony and the Battle for Souls in Famine Ireland’. The event will include a response to the book by Hilary Tulloch and readings by its author Patricia Byrne.

Cover of The Preacher and the Prelate by Patricia Byrne

The Preacher and the Prelate tells the extraordinary story of an audacious fight for souls on famineravaged Achill Island in the nineteenth century. Religious ferment sweeps Ireland in the early 1800s and evangelical clergyman Edward Nangle sets out to lift the destitute people of Achill out of degradation and idolatry through his Achill Mission Colony. A settlement grows up on the slopes of Slievemore with cultivated fields, schools, a printing press and hospital. The Achill Mission colony attracts attention and visitors from far afield. In the years of the Great Famine the ugly charge of ‘souperism’, offering food and material benefits in return for religious conversion, tainted the Achill Mission’s work. John MacHale, powerful Archbishop of Tuam, spearheaded the Catholic Church’s fightback against Nangle’s colony, with the two clergymen unleashing fierce passions while spewing out vitriol and polemic from pen and pulpit. In the aftermath of the famine, the Achill Mission becomes one of the main Achill landlords leading to further controversy.

The fury of the island elements, the devastation of famine, and Nangle’s own volatile temperament all threaten the project’s survival. Did Edward Nangle and the Achill Mission Colony save hundreds from certain death, or did they shamefully exploit a vulnerable people for religious conversion? This dramatic tale of the Achill Mission Colony exposes the fault-lines of religion, society and politics in nineteenth-century Ireland, and continues to excite controversy and division to this day.

Patricia Byrne is captivated by Achill Island. Her book ‘The Veiled Woman of Achill: Island Outrage and a Playboy Drama’ was published by The Collins Press in 2012. It tells the story of an 1894 Achill atrocity and features James Lynchehaun who was one of the influences on John Millington Synge in constructing the character of Christy Mahon in The Playboy of the Western World. Her memoir essay ‘Milk Bottles in Limerick’ was named one of the Notable Essays of the Year in Best American Essays 2017. The piece reflects her own life through the prism of Heinrich Böll’s Irish Journal essays on Achill and Limerick. Her latest book The Preacher and the Prelate: The Achill Mission Colony and the Battle for Souls in Famine Ireland traces the dramatic story of Edward Nangle and his Achill Island colony through the middle decades of the nineteenth century. It is an extraordinary story of an audacious fight for souls in famine ravaged Achill. Patricia’s work has featured in New Hibernia Review, the Irish Times (Irishwoman’s Diary), RTE Sunday Miscellany and The Irish Story among other outlets. Mayo-born, she is a graduate of the NUI Galway writer programme and lives in Limerick. Website:

Copies of ‘The Preacher and the Prelate’ can be purchased online at Achill Tourism’s online shop or in person at the Achill Tourism shop in Achill Sound.