Canon Ulick Bourke: cultural nationalism, popular politics and the Knock apparition

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Faherty, Shane
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University College Cork
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Accounts of the Knock Apparition, academic and devotional, always start by relating that the Virgin Mary, St Joseph, and St John the Evangelist appeared to fifteen people on a rainy Thursday evening at the south gable of Knock chapel, Co. Mayo, on 21 August 1879. They usually mention that the Land War was in progress. Despite the fact Knock supposedly receives one and a half million visitors a year, until three decades ago no scholar had examined accounts of the apparition. Recent work has sought to define the Knock Apparition in light of the Land War, the ‘devotional revolution’, which took place in Irish Catholicism in the quarter century prior to the apparition, and the influence of the parish priest, Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanagh. This thesis acknowledges these factors, but contends that the single greatest force in shaping accounts of the apparition was Canon Ulick Joseph Bourke, one of the three priests on the commission of investigation into Knock. Furthermore, this thesis proves that Bourke’s role as a central figure in influencing the later Gaelic revival has been overlooked by scholars of cultural nationalism. By examining Bourke’s cultural nationalism and views on antiquity and language, as well as his politics and reaction to the Land War, this thesis argues that Bourke sought to create an orthodox version of the apparition which could be reconciled to his views on Irish Catholic identity, while serving as a bulwark against threats to the temporal power of the clergy. In addition to influencing accounts of the apparition through his role in interviewing the witnesses and recording their testimony, Bourke further shaped the narrative of the apparition by controlling its dissemination, to the extent that all accounts of Knock are based on a text largely created by him.
History , Gaelic revival , Land League , Irish history , Land war , Knock apparition
Faherty, Shane. 2015. Canon Ulick Bourke: cultural nationalism, popular politics and the Knock apparition. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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