19 September 2013

The Revd Professor RM Gwynn (1877-1962): priest

The grave of the Revd Professor RM Gwynn (1877-1962) in Whitechurch churchyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford,

RM Gwynn Commemoration and Seminar,

Whitechurch Parish, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16,

8 pm, 19 September 2013


I have been asked to speak this evening about the Revd Professor Robert Malcolm ‘Robin’ Gwynn (1877-1962): priest. We are looking at his life this evening as part of the commemorations of the 1913 Lockout, and looking at him here in Whitechurch because he is buried here in the churchyard.

As the late Michael Hurley has pointed out, it was in the rooms of RM Gwynn in Trinity College that the first informal meeting was held to found the Irish Citizen Army in 1913.

Of course, Michael Hurley was generous in his assessment of the Church of Ireland at this time, pointing out that another member of the Church, George Russell (AE), in an open letter of protest, accused the employers of “refusing to consider any solution except that fixed by their pride” and scathingly told them: “You determine deliberately in cold anger to starve out one-third of population of this city, to break the manhood of the men by the sight of the suffering of their wives and the hunger of their children.”

But how do you evaluate the work and contribution of a priest who was never a curate, never a rector, and never held a parish, cathedral or diocesan appointment? He was one of the few Fellows of Trinity College, Dublin to be ordained and was described as “as near to a saint as any Fellow has been.”

To evaluate his life as a priest of the Church of Ireland, we need to have some understanding and knowledge of his life, his values and his priorities. Yet he has been the subject of no substantial biographical study, apart from a tribute of less than four short pages by Archbishop Simms in Trinity over half a century ago, and 4½ pages by JV Luce in Search 16 years ago; and, more recently, he is inexplicably overlooked completely in the published list of the Clergy of Dublin and Glendalough.

A biographical note:

RM Gwynn’s father, the Very Revd Dr John Gwynn (1827-1917), was a Biblical scholar and Church of Ireland priest. He was assistant to the Regius Professor of Greek (1853-1855), assistant to the Archbishop King’s Divinity Lecturer (1854-1856), and the Warden of Saint Columba’s College (1856-1864). However, John Gwynn resigned his fellowship at Trinity when he went into parish ministry in Co Donegal in 1864, and he was Dean of Raphoe (1873-1882) and Dean of Derry (1882-1883). While he was Dean of Raphoe, Robert Malcolm Gwynn was born in Ramelton, Co Donegal, on 26 April 1877.

John Gwynn returned to Dublin and to Trinity in 1883 as Archbishop King’s Lecturer in Divinity (1883-1888) and Regius Professor of Divinity (1888-1917) until his death. A scholar of Biblical languages, he learned Syriac later in life to relieve tedium during the long railway journeys between Strabane and Dublin.

RM Gwynn’s mother, Lucy Josephine O’Brien (1840–1907), was a daughter of the Irish nationalist William Smith O’Brien (1803-1864), and a niece of Harriet Monsell (1812-1883). As Mother Superior of the Sisters of Mercy in Clewer for 25 years, Mother Harriet Monsell was one of the people involved in the revival of women’s religious communities in the Anglican Communion, and as such she is commemorated among the saints in the calendar of the Church of England.

As parents, John and Lucy Gwynn they had the distinction of having three sons who were Fellows of Trinity College Dublin:

● Edward John Gwynn (1868-1941), Provost of TCD (1927-1937), a great Irish scholar, and a specialist in the monastic life at Saint Maelruain’s Monastery in Tallaght. It is said his appointment as Provost, following 20 difficult years under Traill, Mahaffy and Bernard, was a gesture of reconciliation on part of the Cosgrave Government.
● Robert Malcolm Gwynn (1877-1962), who we are remembering this evening.
● Lucius Henry Gwynn (1873-1904), who played cricket and rugby for Ireland, and who died from TB in Davos three years after being elected a fellow.

But they had other distinguished children too:

● Their eldest son, Stephen Lucius Gwynn (1864-1950), of Temple Hill, Kimmage Road East, Terenure, was involved in founding the Abbey Theatre. He was John Redmond’s biographer, MP for Galway City (1906-1918), and a journalist with the Times and the Observer. He is buried in Saint Maelruain’s Churchyard, Tallaght. He was the father of the Jesuit church historian Father Aubrey Gwynn (1892-1983), Professor of Mediaeval History at University College, Dublin.
● Arthur Percival Gwynn (1874-1898) played rugby and cricket for Ireland.
● Major-General Sir Charles William Gwynn (1870 -1963) was aide-de-camp to King George V (1923-1924) and later was military correspondent of The Daily Telegraph during World War II.
● John Tudor Gwynn (1881-1956) was an Indian civil servant and played first-class cricket in India. Later he worked too as a journalist with The Guardian.
● Brian James Gwynn (1883-1972), a distinguished Irish civil servant immediately after independence, was father of the late Mercy Simms (1915-1999), and father-in-law of the late Archbishop George Otto Simms (1910-1991).
● Lucy Penelope Gwynn (1866-1947), the first woman to be Registrar of TCD.

So you can see how the academic prestige of the name Gwynn brought one wit to refer to Trinity College Dublin at the time as “Gwynnity College.” And you see that with a family background like that there was the inevitable pressure to choose between a number of career options: the Church, academic theology, cricket, education, journalism, politics … which choice would he make?

Like most members of his family, Robert Malcolm (Robin Gwynn) was educated at Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, and the University of Dublin, and both places prepared him well for whichever path he would decide to follow.

Indeed, he followed all paths, and although not equally distinguished in each of them, he nonetheless made outstanding contributions that mean he is not only worth remembering this evening, but worth honouring this evening too.

From Saint Columba’s, he went to Trinity, and in 1896 he headed the list of Foundation Scholars in Classics. In 1898, he graduated BA, gaining a “first of firsts” with gold medals, in Classics and Modern Literature. That year he was also elected to a studentship, which at the time implied a type of junior lectureship role.

Meanwhile, he was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Clogher, Charles Frederick D’Arcy in 1906, the year he proceeded MA and was elected a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin.

Surprisingly, he was the only one of his father’s sons to be ordained. Yet he never served in a parish, as a curate or as an incumbent. Instead, he was one of the few remaining fellows of TCD who was also in holy orders, although this had been the norm for fellows until well into the 19th century, as was the case too in Cambridge and Oxford, for example.

So, without any parish ministry to trace and track, any assessment of Gwynn the priest, which is the task I have been given this evening, involves, first, looking at his life and career, and then asking how through this career and life did he live out the ordination vows which all priests are charged to live out, whether in parish ministry or not.

Auburn House, Harold’s Cross ... sheltered housing project founded by the Social Services (Tenements) Company (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Gwynn’s social activism predates his ordination. Two years after graduating, in 1900, along with his brother EJ Gwynn, the classicist Professor Louis Claude Purser (1854-1932), Willy Thrift and John Joly, he founded the Social Services (Tenements) Company to provide housing for Dublin’s poor. The company, which was Trinity’s only established charity, acquired houses in Grenville Street, and for many decades later continued to manage sheltered housing at Auburn House in Harold’s Cross and Merrick House in Terenure.

In 1906, the year he was ordained deacon, Gwynn also sat the annual competitive examination that led to his appointment the following year as a Fellow. The College Review declared that his marks in Hebrew would have frightened a rabbi. His other languages included Hellenistic Greek, Syriac, Assyrian and Latin.

In 1907, he was appointed Lecturer in Divinity and a Tutor in TCD, and he was ordained priest the following year (1908) by Archbishop Joseph Ferguson Peacocke of Dublin. He would remain Lecturer in Divinity until 1919, and would continue as Tutor until 1937.

Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham … Gwynn returned to his old school as acting warden in 1909 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

His old school, Saint Columba’s College, faced a major crisis in 1908-1909. The Warden, Parker, who in every other way had been an admirable headmaster since 1904, had so mismanaged the finances of the College that in December 1908 he had to resign. In January 1909, RM Gwynn, an Old Columban, was appointed Acting Warden. In February, the fellows considered closing down the college such was the seriousness of the college’s indebtedness. Gwynn acted as Warden from January to December in that critical year. GK White, in his history of the college, writes: “He went to the rescue of a sinking ship and in the summer handed her over battered, but just seaworthy, to her new (Warden).”

A small element in the recovery of the college was setting up the Old Columban Society, which helped to re-endow Saint Columba’s and established scholarships. As you probably know, Saint Columba’s runs on a house system, and to this day Gwynn is the name of a house for senior boys.

Gwynn remained a tutor and a lecturer in TCD, and after returning from Saint Columba’s, he was appointed Chaplain of TCD in 1911, and remained chaplain until 1919.

‘Seek … for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world’

The Mansion House … when the doors were shut, a crucial meeting adjourned to Gwynn’s rooms (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

One of Gwynn’s life-long passions was his sympathy for the suffering and the oppressed. From his rooms he could see the ugly face of the slums of Dublin, with their appalling housing and their high rates of infant mortality. He not only visited the slums, but went and lived in the slums for weeks and months on end, so that he not only preached but practised social service long before the welfare state was conceived.

In 1912, Gwynn instigated a meeting in his rooms of a small committee of the Divinity School to sponsor the formation of the Trinity Mission in what was then a slum area of Belfast. Those involved in the committee alongside Gwynn included two future Archbishops of Dublin, John Allen Fitzgerald Gregg and Arthur William Barton (1881-1962), who became the first head of the Trinity Mission in Belfast.

(I should mention here, as an aside, that Barton’s parents, the Revd Arthur R Barton (1848-1900), Rector of Zion Church, Rathgar, and Anne Hayes of Edmondstown Park, were married here in Whitechurch Parish in 1873.)

In 1913, Gwynn lectured to the Literary Society in his local parish church, Saint Batholomew’s in Ballsbridge, on industrial legislation. Horrified by the brutality of the Dublin Metropolitan Police towards strikers during the lockout that year, Gwynn became a prominent advocate of the workers’ cause in the bitter labour disputes that had broken out in Belfast, Dublin and other parts of Ireland. On 12 November 1913, the Mansion House was refused as a venue for a meeting of the Industrial Peace Committee, of which Gwynn was a member. The committee, chaired by Professor Charles Hubert Oldham (1860-1920), was now locked out. Gwynn then invited the meeting back once again to his college rooms at No 40, New Square.

Jim Larkin’s statue in O’Connell Street, Dublin … “The great appear great because we are on our knees: Let us rise.” (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

It was this meeting that led to the foundation of the Irish Citizen Army. The first commandant of the new army was James Larkin, who was also the Secretary of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. When Larkin left for the US, James Connolly assumed command of the army and Larkin’s former position in the ITGWU.

As JV Luce has recalled, “polite society was astonished to see a clerical Fellow of Trinity addressing public meetings from the same platform as Connolly and Larkin.”

But there were other members of the Church of Ireland who would take more prominent roles in the Irish Citizen Army. Countess Markievicz, who was born Constance Gore-Booth, is a well-known and obvious example. Less well-remembered these days, perhaps, is Dr Kathleen Lynn, chief medical officer of the ICA, who took command of the rebel unit in Dublin City Hall in 1916, and who continued to be involved in radical politics all her life. Her father was Rector of Cong, Co Mayo, in the Diocese of Tuam, and all her life she was a faithful parishioner of Holy Trinity, Rathmines.

One of earliest recruits to the Irish Citizen Army was William Scott, a member of the Church of Ireland and an activist in the Bricklayers’ Trade Union. During the 1916 Rising, Scott fought alongside William Partridge in the garrison in the Royal College of Surgeons garrison, under Constance Markievicz. An accidental recruit to the Irish Citizen Amy was Harry Nicholls (1889-1975), originally a member of the Volunteers, who ended up with Constance Markievicz in the College of Surgeons too – the only Trinity gradate to be an active Republican in 1916.

Indeed, WB Yeats was also a member of the Church of Ireland, and in 1913, at the height of the Lockout, he wrote his poem ‘September 1913’, first published in The Irish Times on 8 September 1913, provided the most scathing literary attack on the employers’ leader, William Martin Murphy, who tried to wear his Catholic Nationalism on his sleeve.

McDowell and Webb observe: “Gwynn’s support for the ‘army’ concept was based simply on the idea that military-style discipline would keep unemployed men fit and give them self-respect. Sancta simplicitas!”

Like his Redmondite brother Stephen Gwynn, it becomes increasingly difficult to place Robin Gwynn in any one category in the nation’s conflicts at the time. And this becomes increasingly difficult as ultra-nationalists seek black-and-white definitions of nationalism and unionism. RM Gwynn is an example of the subtleties, or complexities, that we should keep in mind when looking back on this period of history, for while he was involved in founding the Irish Citizen Army he was also a leading member of Trinity’s OTC, and served briefly during World War I as an army chaplain.

Meanwhile, in 1914, he married Dr Eileen Gertrude Glenn, a rector’s daughter from Pomeroy, Co Tyrone. They had six children, four daughters (Cecil, Hannah, Beatrice and Frances) and two sons (Harry and John).

Front Square, Trinity College Dublin … in 1916, RM Gwynn was appointed Professor of Biblical Greek (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In 1916, he was appointed Professor of Biblical Greek, a post he held for forty years (1916-1956). But during those four decades, he held a number of other, often overlapping, academic appointments at the university, including Professor of Hebrew (1920-1937), Registrar (1941), Vice-Provost (1941-1943), Senior Lecturer (1944-1950), and Senior Tutor (1950-1956), and in 1937 he was co-opted to Senior Fellowship.

In 1929, he preached a sermon in the Chapel in Trinity marking the centenary of Catholic Emancipation, one of the few – perhaps even the only – public acknowledgments in the Church of Ireland of that significant anniversary. As a regular preacher in Chapel, it was often his task to pay tribute to deceased fellows.

His senior fellowship was also marked by Gwynn changing places with the junior member of Department, Professor Jacob Weingreen (1907-1995), so that Weingreen became Professor of Hebrew in the swop, and Gwynn became his assistant.

And it is in these academic posts that Gwynn had a formative and lasting influence on the shape of ordained ministry in the Church of Ireland, lecturing and tutoring wave after wave of ordinands in succession. Gwynn and Weingreen taught them Biblical languages and providing them with first-hand immediate access to the basic tool-of-the-trade of every preacher – the Bible in its original text – supplemented by Gwynn’s love for Syriac, Latin and other Biblical and Patristic languages.

However, academic demands did not detract from his sporting interests, and in 1919 he became a founding member of what eventually became DUCAC. He retained a life-long interest in cricket, and JV Luce beautifully portrays him as President of the cricket club, with his “tall rangy figure … a familiar sight at matches in College Park.”

The Revd RM Gwynn (fourth from left, back row) with a group of missionaries at the Jubilee Meeting in Trinity College Dublin in May 1935

In 1930, when failing health caused Dean Hugh Lawlor (1860-1938) to stand down as chair of the Dublin University Fukien Mission (later the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission), Gwynn was an obvious choice as chair. He had been involved with the mission for 20 years since 1910, and had been Honorary Home Secretary, Honorary Foreign Secretary and editor of the Dublin University Missionary Magazine.

Gwynn chaired the mission’s jubilee commemorations in Trinity in 1935, and remained chair of the mission for almost thirty years until 1959, and in 1952 was also elected president. He said his involvement with the mission was “one of the greatest privileges and inspirations of his life.”

He was appointed Senior Master Non-Regent for the academic year 1937. The only duty of this office is to sit with the Chancellor and Provost as a member of the Caput Senatus. At the autumn meeting of the Senate, as the Chancellor sought the approval of the masters and doctors for honorary degrees, he exercised his right as Master Non-Regent to veto conferring of an honorary degree on the editor of The Observer James Louis Garvin, because Garvin was a strong supporter of Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia. Garvin, who was from a poor Irish background in Merseyside, had opposed Irish Home Rule and advocated appeasement in the 1930s. Gwynn’s voice rang-out with a resounding “Non Placet.” There was consternation, but constitutionally but the veto could not be reversed.

There was widespread approval for Gwynn’s vocal veto, although Gavin’s name was known only through rumour and college gossip. It was an event that has many parallels with the later refusal of an honorary degree at Oxford to Margaret Thatcher.

The late George Simms said later Gwynn’s “gentle humility inspired trust and drew confidences, his stubborn integrity brought surprises for those who mistook charity for easy-going indifference, who had discerned [his] candour and athanasian courage.”

These values continued after World War II. The Dublin University Fabian Society was founded at the end of the 1940s, and became the focus for the student left. The President was Robert Lynd, and RM Gwynn was one of the vice-presidents along with Senator Joe Johnston, a Trinity senator, Louie Bennett, the women’s trade union leader, AJ Leventhal, Arnold Marsh and JT Wigham.

‘His best book was never written’

The cross on RM Gwynn’s grave in Whitechurch churchyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

His scholarly publications are few in number, despite “his well-stocked mind and gifted pen,” and it was said at his funeral that his best book was never written. His less than considerable output includes his introduction to The Book of Amos (1927) as part of the Cambridge University Press schools series.

Yet even the choice of Gwynn as the theologian to write this introduction is telling, for in that introduction – which says so much about his prophetic values and his understanding of priesthood – he writes:

“Yet in the midst of joy and splendour of the scene one man struck a jarring note. One voice was heard uplifted to denounce king and nobles, priest and people, sacrifice and music, merry-making and luxury; to tell them that their seeming prosperity was hollow, their religion a mockery, their justice a cheat, their state rotten to the core; that the God on whose protection they relied with the gratitude that anticipates greater favours to come, would surely cast them off and doom them to utter distraction. No wonder the head of the priesthood was roused to rebuke this bold intruder.”

Another publication of significance was a collection of his chapel tributes to deceased former fellows of Trinity. Some Tributes to the Departed (Dublin: Dublin University Press, 1932) includes five of those tributes: to Louis Claude Purser, with whom he was involved in some of his early social activism, and to Edward Parnall Culverwell (1855-1931), the first professor of education in TCD, George Randolph Webb, SG Stewart and the Revd Thomas Kingsmill Abbott (1829-1913), his predecessor as Professor of Biblical Greek (1875-1888) and Professor of Hebrew (1879-1900).

He also assisted his father in editing the Book of Armagh, contributing a critical study of Saint Paul’s epistles, and in 1936 he was one of the co-authors and editors of a history of the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission, TCD in China.

To aid his hearing, he carried large ear trumpets with him, and this, with his height and white hair, made him an impressive figure round Trinity College, clearly recalled well into this century.

Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge … RM Gwynn was a faithful and devout communicant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

In February 1950, he was appointed Senior Tutor, an office which was old but had been long obsolete, and in which he was eventually succeeded by TW Moody.

He never held a parochial, cathedral or diocesan office in the Church of Ireland, and he ceased to be chaplain in Trinity in 1919. Yet he never ceased to exercise a pastoral ministry, and his sermons were filled with love for college and even more so for people. He was Warden of the Churchmen’s Guild, which met every Saturday evening in his rooms in No 40, New Square.

The figures he found inspiring ranged across the board, and included Matt Talbot, the medical missionary Wilfred Grenfell, the war-time chaplain ‘Woodbine Willie’ (the Revd Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy), and Armitage Robinson, Dean of Westminster Abbey and later of Wells Cathedral.

Although he has rooms in Trinity, for most of his academic life he lived at Botanic House on Lansdowne Road, a site later occupied by Jury’s Hotel and the Berkeley Court Hotel in Ballsbridge. It was a delightful address for someone who had once played rugby for Ireland, and it also meant he was a devout communicant at nearby Saint Bartholomew’s Church until his death in 1962.

Death and legacy:

Robin and Eileen Gwynn had six children, two sons and four daughters:

• Cecil Gwynn (born 1918), who married Douglas Gibbins and lived in Hampshire.
• Hannah Gwynn (1919-2002), a Scholar of TCD, who married in 1942 James Charles Frederick Quinn (1919-2008), Director of the British Film Institute and lived in Brighton.
• Beatrice Violet Gwynn (born 1920), an author, who lived in London.
• Robert Henry (Harry) Gwynn (1922-2000), Associate Professor of Natural Sciences at the University of Hartford in Connecticut.
• Frances Gwynn (born 1923), secretary in the Department of English in Trinity College Dublin; she was a poet and author, and her books include: The Bond, The Exile, The Death of Aoibhinn, The Deep Liking, Selected Poems and The Donkey.
• John Gwynn (1924-2013), of Claremont Park, Sandymount, and Glengariff Road, Dublin 7. He was an engineer, a senior partner in Garland & Co, and one-time president of the Consulting Engineers of Ireland (1974-1975); he was the last survivor of this family and died a few months ago on 23 May 2013, and his funeral took place in Saint Ann’s Church, Dawson Street.

‘I have given thee a wise & an understanding heart’ (I Kings 3: 12) … the inscription at ground level on the Gwynn grave in Whitechurch churchyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

RM Gwynn died in Dublin in June 1962, aged 85, and was buried here in Whitechurch churchyard. His simple gravestone reads:

Robert Malcolm Gwynn BD SFTCD 1877-1962 Man of God Eileen Gertrude Gwynn MB 1890-1965 his wife. Friends of the poor.

Another, oft-missed stone on the grave reads: “I have given thee a wise & an understanding heart” (I Kings 3: 12).

What a tribute to any priest: “Man of God” and “Friend of the Poor.”

George Simms said of his wife’s uncle that he had “an independence of mind, a rare moral courage, and an unruffled serenity of spirit.”

The address at his Memorial Service in the chapel of Trinity College Dublin was delivered by the Rev Professor Arthur Aston Luce (1882-1977), Professor of Philosophy and Precentor of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. In that address, AA Luce said:

“All his life-long, RM Gwynn loved the habitation of God’s house. Sundays and weekdays, year in, year out, whenever there was Divine Service in College Chapel, Gwynn would be there, if he could. Thus for more than fifty years the College has had the benefit of his prayers, and our common life has been enriched by his example. Now his pilgrimage is done. The valley of the shadow is passed and he dwells in the house of God forever …

“In the things of the spirit he left his deepest mark. To know RM was to know that the human soul has wings and that man is capax Dei. The beauty of holiness shone in his character and conduct and rugged features. He was self-effacing, utterly unselfish and good. He had a quick and pungent wit, but you never heard from him a harsh, biting word. He followed the Lamb of God. His was the anima candida. The sanctuary of his soul he kept white, clean and lit, with the door unlatched; and the Master’s spirit came and knocked and entered, and men took knowledge of him that he had been with Jesus.”

As a priest, RM Gwynn fulfilled those reminders in the Ordinal that a priest is to called to be a Messenger, Watchman and Steward of the Lord; to teach, premonish and provide for the Lord’s family; to seek for Christ’s scattered and lost sheep; and to never cease in labour, care and diligence, with no place for error in religion or viciousness in life, forsaking and setting aside all worldly cares and studies, becoming a wholesome and godly example for the people to follow.

Oh that today the Church of Ireland were served by priests and prophets who had no ambition other than to see the Church be the living and sacramental embodiment of the essential truth that God hears the cry of the poor … Friends of the poor with wise and understanding hearts.

Appendix 1: A note on Gwynn the cricketer:

Robin Gwynn was the third of four brothers to captain Dublin University for six of the ten seasons between 1894 and 1903 … although it is also said he was the least talented of the four. But he was a very useful all-round cricketer, both for Dublin University, and later for Phoenix. A right-handed batsman and right-arm slow bowler, he played once for Ireland in 1901, and also played four first-class matches for Dublin University in 1895.

On gaining a place in the University XI in 1895, his first season, his batting blossomed. He was six seasons in the XI, playing on after graduation. In all, he scored six centuries for the XI, with a highest of 135 against Pembroke (14 fours), in 1900, the year he was captain.

That season, he also hit a remarkable 110 against Cork County, out of a total of 150-5 declared. As late as 1903, when on the staff of the University, he hit a brisk 104 for the Long Vacation XI against Dundrum. He also bowled effectively.

He played in the University’s four first-class matches in 1895, aged just 18. He made his first-class debut for Dublin University against the MCC on 20 May 1895, when played a key role in the victory over MCC, with second innings figures of 3-21 removing the visitors’ most dangerous bats, Tim O’Brien and WC Oates.

In 1895, directly after the university match, MCC were one short for the game against Ireland at Rathmines. Robin, as the youngest member of the University XI, had little choice and was recruited to play for MCC.

He played three further first-class matches for Dublin University throughout the year, two against Cambridge University and one against Leicestershire, and dismissed Frank Mitchell, who later played Test Cricket for England and South Africa, in the first Cambridge match.

He played his only match for Ireland, a two-day match against South Africa in June 1901 … because most of the other Irish clubs boycotted the match. He fell for 6 and 4. In 1905, the Australians played the University Past and Present XI in College Park. Robin turned up to watch the match and found himself in the side, as the Revd WS Caldwell, a former prominent batsman, arrived late from England having been delayed after assisting Worcestershire.

He was an Irish selector in 1905, and he continued his involvement in cricket for many years.

After World War I, College Park was a hayfield and the cricket club was defunct. But Gwynn resurrected the club abd restored its playing fields. In 1919, he was one of the founder members of the Dublin University Central Athletic Committee (DUCAC), the governing body for all sports within the university; and he was President of the University Cricket Club 1941-1951.

His obituary in Wisden (1963) attributes to him the distinction of bowling WG Grace for a first ball duck in a match in College Park. Grace was indeed dismissed first ball in the London County match of 1903. However, he was caught and bowled, and the bowler was Tom Harvey (1876-1966), ordained that year as curate of Saint Stephen’s, Dublin, and later Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (1933-1935) and Bishop of Cashel and Waterford (1935-1948) … Robin was not even playing in the match. The Irish Times erred like the Almanack, but at least they were both an advance on The Times, which said “the feat should more properly be attributed to his brother Lucius.” Robin, at least was on the ground watching; Lucius had died almost six months before.

Robin also played rugby with the University XV and for Leinster. In 1899, he appeared for the University XV against Stades Francais, the first French team to play in Ireland.

Appendix 2: ‘September 1913’ by WB Yeats

What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the ha’pence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone? For men were born to pray and save?,
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone –
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet they were of a different kind,
The names that stilled your childish play,
They have gone about the world like wind,
But little time had they to pray
For whom the hangman’s rope was spun,
And what, God help us, could they save?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone –
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide?
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died?
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone –
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet could we turn the years again,
And call those exiles as they were
In all their loneliness and pain,
You’d cry – “Some woman’s yellow hair
Has maddened every mother’s son” –
They weighed so lightly what they gave.
But let them be, they’re dead and gone:
They’re with O’Leary in the grave.

Further reading and sources:

Cricket Europe.
Crockford’s Clerical Directory (1961/1962 ed), pp 485-486.
Dictionary of Ulster Biography, ‘Robert Malcolm Gwynn (1877-1962)’.
RM Gwynn, Some Tributes to the Departed (Dublin: Dublin University Press, 1932).
RM Gwynn, EM Norton and BW Simpson, TCD in China (Dublin: Church of Ireland Printing and Publishing, 1936).
Michael Hurley (ed), Irish Anglicanism 1869-1969 (Dublin: Allen Figgis, 1970).
Irish Church Directory (various eds).
JV Luce, ‘In Retrospect: Robert Malcolm Gwynn,’ Search XX/2, Winter 1997, pp 121-125.
RB McDowell and DA Webb: Trinity College Dublin, An Academic History 1592-1952 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).
Diana M McFarlan, ‘Whosoever Plants …’ (Dublin: Dublin University Far Eastern Mission, 1993).
Martin Maguire, ‘Harry Nicholls & Kathleen Emerson: Protestant Rebels’ Studia Hibernica 35 (2008), pp 147-165.
Kenneth Milne, S. Bartholomew’s, A History of the Dublin Parish (Dublin: Allen Figgis, 1963).
Kevin Morley, A Descriptive History Of The Irish Citizen Army (Dublin: Original Writing, 2012).
Henry E. Patton, Fifty Years of Disestablishment (Dublin: APCK, 1922).
‘Robert Gwynn,’ Wikipedia.
George Seaver, John Allen Fitzgerald Archbishop (London: The Faith Press, 1963).
GO Simms, ‘Robert Malcolm Gwynn,’ Trinity: an annual record (Trinity College Dublin), No 14, Michaelmas 1962, pp 12-15.
WJR Wallace (ed), Clergy of Dublin and Glendalough (Dublin: Ulster Historical Foundation/Diocesan Councils of Dublin and Glendalough, 2001).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. This lecture was given at the RM Gwynn Seminar in Whitechurch Parish, Rathfarnham, Dublin, on 19 September 2013.

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