Columnist perpetuates family lore, but it’s just a myth



Judith Sutherland is the victim of lying ancestors and her own gullibility when she claims Irish authorities wanted to prosecute an ancestor of hers for dropping out of the priesthood (“May the luck of the Irish be with you,” March 18, 2004).

England, which serial lecher Henry VIII made into a Protestant country, colonized Ireland and persecuted Catholics in the Emerald Isle.

England controlled the area around Dublin from the time of Henry II in the 1100s. When Henry VIII turned Protestant to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry his mistress Anne Boleyn, he ordered persecution of Catholics in England and in the part of Ireland England controlled. When his bastard daughter Elizabeth became queen, her armies seized most of Ireland and extended the persecution of Catholics.

Oliver Cromwell, the Puritan dictator of England, burned the roofs of the Catholic churches he found. William of Orange destroyed the Catholic churches Cromwell didn’t, including my family’s little parish church in County Mayo.

From the time of Henry VIII in the 1500s until well into the 1800s, Catholic priests in Ireland had British-enforced prices on their heads. Those wishing to become priests had to study in a Catholic country in Europe, and then smuggle back into Ireland and live on the run the rest of their lives because of England’s anti-Catholic bigotry.

Father Paul Sherlock, the brother of one of my ancestors, studied in Spain because there were no Catholic seminaries allowed in Ireland.

British persecution of Ireland’s Catholics continued in most of Ireland until the Irish threw them out of most of Ireland in the 1920s and became free. Savage anti-Catholic bigotry akin to persecution of blacks in the South before the 1970s continues in British-held Ulster today.

Since England ruled Ireland when Judith’s ancestor Andrew Kelly left Ireland in the early 1800s, he clearly was not a turncoat Catholic priest. The Protestant British wouldn’t have tolerated him if he was a priest, but they might have rewarded him for selling out the Catholic faith and snitching on other priests if he was.

Andrew Kelly may have made up the lies to ingratiate himself with America’s anti-Catholic bigots, who were a majority of the country. Judith is guilty of swallowing a whopper without skepticism.

But she is not alone.

My grandmother claimed our Czech ancestors were really French nobility escaping the French Revolution. I hired a genealogist to check on this, and his search of church and town records in Bohemia showed our ancestors were Czech peasants long before the fall of Marie Antoinette’s head.

Genealogists can help readers with ancestry in European lands besides Ireland. I invite you to research the history of Ireland, and contact the heritage societies in the Irish county your ancestor was from. Irish records are publicly available and are not expensive.

Kevin Sherlock

Akron, Ohio

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