RICHARDSON, John. Rector of Annagh. Seanmora ar na Priom Phoncibh, na Chreideamh. Ar na Ttaruing go Gaidhlig, agus ar na Ccur a Ccló a Lunnduin tre Ebhlin Everingham, 1711. Sermons upon the Principal Points of Religion translated into Irish. With a second Sermon by Seon Tillotson Ard Easbug Canterbury. 140 London: Printed by Elinor Everingham, 1711. pp. vii, 155, 1 (Irish Alphabet). Modern antique style panelled calf, title in gilt on red morocco label on spine. Occasional light browning. A very good copy.
“John Richardson (c.1669-1747), clergyman, was born in County Tyrone, one of the five sons and four daughters of William Richardson, gentleman, possibly at his father’s home at Tullyreavey, near Cookstown. His father’s means were comparatively modest and Richardson trained for the church, entering TCD at the age of 14 in 1683 and graduating in 1688. He was ordained in 1693 and was rector of Derryloran (Cookstown), County Tyrone, in 1694-1709 and of Annagh (Belturbet), County Cavan, from 1709. A brother, William Richardson, made his fortune as an agent of the Irish Society of London, acquired the Somerset estate near Coleraine, and was MP for Augher, Co. Tyrone.
Richardson was a prominent advocate of the use of the Irish language as a means of converting the Irish Roman Catholics by means of the Bible and liturgy in the native language. In 1711 he travelled to London to present a petition calling for the publication of testaments, prayer books, catechisms, and sermons in Irish, to the lord lieutenant, the Duke of Ormond, to whom he was introduced by Jonathan Swift. In the same year he published he published a ‘Proposal for the Conversion of the Popish natives of Ireland to the Established Church’ at the New Post-office Printing House in Essex Street. There was a good argument put forward in this pamphlet for the publication of Books in Irish. This of course was strongly opposed by the Government of the day on the grounds that it would keep the native language alive and foster national consciousness. Contemporaries give us a vivid picture of this energetic clergyman. Swift in his ‘Journal to Stella’ for March 6th, 1710-11, wrote “”I presented a parson of the Bishop of Clogher’s, one Richardson, to the Duke of Ormonde today; he is translating prayers and sermons into Irish””.
Richardson, who was Servant and Chaplain to the Duke of Ormonde, dedicated these ‘Sermons’ to him. This is his first publication in Irish, a collection of sermons entitle ‘Seanmora ar na Priom Phoncibh na Chreideamh’, appeared in 1711 and contained an original sermon by himself as well as translations by Seon Ó Maolchonaire and Philip Mac Brádaigh. Also in 1711, the House of Commons voted him £200 in recognition of his ‘zeal and service’. Richardson succeeded in winning the endorsement of the lower House of Convocation for his project, but the proposal was opposed by bishops in the upper House despite being strongly supported by Archbishop William King of Dublin. Having failed to obtain the official backing of the church for his strategy, Richardson turned to the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) for assistance and in 1712 his ‘Short History of the attempts that have been made to Convert the Popish Natives of Ireland to the Establish’d Religion was distributed to the society’s members’. In the same year, the SPCK helped to partially defray the costs of printing ‘Leabhar na nOrnaightheadh gComhchoitchionn’ – a revised version of the Book of Common Prayer, based on the previous translation of 1608 – and a bilingual edition of ‘The Church Catechism’. There was little demand for either work and most of the copies printed were still in the SPCK’s warehouse five years later. Richardson suffered a loss of several hundred pounds and was forced to abandon the project.
Richardson’s efforts to reverse his church’s neglect of the Irish language had antagonised certain members of the episcopal bench and one, Archbishop Thomas Lindsay of Armagh (1714-24), tried to have him deprived of his living on grounds of neglect. Richardson was repeatedly passed over for preferment, but in 1731 he finally obtained the deanery of Kilmacduagh on the recommendation of Lindsay’s successor, Archbishop Hugh Boulter, who represented him to government as having met with ‘great opposition, not to say oppression’ (King: ‘A Great Archbishop’, 293n).
Richardson continued to live at Belturbet and was disabled by gout in later life.” RICHARDSON, John. Rector of Annagh.