Sunday, December 25, 2011

Looking in the newspaper...

The other day I was browsing through a website called PapersPast which is run by the National Library and gives online access to a range of NZ newspapers from the period 1840 to 1945.

So of course I searched for Mulligan in the Dunedin papers - the Otago Daily Times & the Otago Witness. And found a bunch of items - from reports of Lodge meetings to death notices, from the results of Sunday School exams to an accident report. A trove - small but valuable to a family historian nonetheless.

So I have added the key text from the items to the Mulligan Family History site.

And what does it all tell me?

Firstly, James had found a joined a 'community' relatively quickly after arriving in Dunedin. That community appears to have been based around the Loyal Orange Lodge. Not only did he join the Lodge, but he took a number of active and significant roles within it and associatedn aggregations. Clearly, he felt, and was seen to be, competent and worthy of performing the roles he assumed.

Secondly, there was a an affiliation with his Church. Evidence from Ireland indicates the family had a reasonably close connection with their local Church of Ireland congregation (see the pictures of memorials); the emphasis in his Lodge on Protestantism and his children's attendance at Sunday School indicate that continued in Dunedin.

Lodge membership probably reflected three strands of James communal life: firstly, an identification with militant Protestantism ('No Surrender'), and an attachment to British imperialism (evenings finishing with the singing of God Save the Queen); secondly, an opportunity and vehicle for social entertainment, especially musical (see the 1884 story); and thirdly, a need for 'social welfare' provision (the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society and the Medical Dispensary), probably felt more acutely as he aged (and so began to see old age and the need for support around the corner) and as his family grew and grew up.

From where I stand today, that's quite a shift! A militant Protestantism does not sit well with me; nor does the imperial attachment; nor an apparent unwillingness to acknowledge one's Irishness.

But it does cast an interesting light on my family and upbringing. Lodge membership and ingrained Protestantism are traits still part of the wider family. I remember talking to one of my father's cousins about Lodge membership (although, foolishly I didn't question him about it in any depth!). And the family are at least nominally Protestant - apart from the renegades like me who have no religious affiliation and married a Catholic.

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