Fascinating historical records of the Quakers in Limerick will be available from today (Tuesday) for public viewing on Limerick City Council’s website, www.limerickcity.ie

Limerick City Council and the Society of Friends have launched the transfer of a digital copy of the Limerick Quaker Archive to Limerick City Archives.
The records date from the early eighteenth century and are a wonderful record of the Quakers in Limerick. The original records are held in the Quaker Library in Dublin and the Society of Friends approached Limerick City archives proposing to extend access to their records by microfilming the records and placing a digital copy of the microfilm online. 

The project was funded by Limerick City Council and city archivist Jacqui Hayes said these records are of great interest to the Limerick area as the Quakers played a significant role in Limerick’s business and mercantile history in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

 “The Quakers are meticulous record keepers- From July 1729 we have a complete record of the Women’s meetings in Limerick.  The men’s meetings survive for a little later- from 1779 and they are unbroken also up to 1956.  This is an incredible record of Limerick men and women meeting and is a wonderful addition to the city’s digital archive.” 

The records were initially microfilmed as this offers excellent preservation qualities.  The microfilm images were then converted to digital and delivered on CD in PDF format. 
The Religious Society of Friends was founded in 1652 and the first meeting of Friends in Limerick was held in the home of Richard Pearce in 1655.  Later in 1671 a meeting house was erected in Creagh Lane, they remained here until 1807 when a new meeting house was built in Cecil Street and in 1832 a Friends Burial ground was established near Peters Cell.

The principle element of Quaker faith was, and remains, the idea that each person is capable of direct experience with the Holy Spirit without interference from any other person. The Quakers advocated a simpler way of practicing the Christian way of life, which included freedom of religious choice and equality of the sexes.  Friends were to be sober, simple, plain, honest, industrious, and courageous. The poor would be cared for, there would be no tale-bearing and there would be no swearing of oaths.

City Archivist Jacqui Hayes went on to say that the Religious Society of Friends is well known for its charity work and innovation. 
 “Perhaps the most cited incidence of this is during the Famine in Ireland when Friends formed Relief Committees which provided food to anyone in need regardless of their religion,” she said. 
 The Relief Committee Minutes Books record the decisions of the relief committee in relation to relief in Clare and Limerick during the Famine period.
 This collection contains the minutes of the Limerick men’s and women’s committee. The minutes record discussions on travel, marriage, removals and correspondence from friends in Ireland and abroad.  

The collection also includes Account Books, Notices of Removals records friends
 removed from the Society for improper behaviour, notices of friends transferring from and to other meetings and records of Quaker Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Kevin Kiely said he was delighted that the historical Quaker records are now on-line on www.limerickcity.ie for public viewing.
“The collection is a wonderful insight into the Quaker community in the Limerick area, documenting their births, deaths and marriages, their monthly meetings and their response to prevailing social and economic conditions,” he said.  “In my view this project is an excellent example of how the City Council can work with communities to support them and enrich the general cultural value to all interested parties.”

(see editors note for further information on the Quakers in Limerick)

Issued by Laura Ryan, Limerick Co-Ordination Office, 061-400010/086-6042544
For further press information, please contact Jacqui Hayes, Limerick City Archivist 061-407293

 Religious persecution was rife in the 18th/19th centuries largely due to the refusal of Friends to swear Oaths. This was to be a source of continual contention for the Friends, who were forced to pay tithes to the Established Church of Ireland. 
 Goods were seized in lieu of payment and details of Limerick seizures are in the Book of Sufferings from 1777-1857.  This is a record of goods seized from Friends in lieu of tithes to the Established Church. 
 These goods included household cooking pots, agricultural goods, furniture, fabric-anything that could be sold.

The Relief Committee Minutes Books record the decisions of the relief committee in relation to relief in Clare and Limerick during the Famine period;  ‘we are directed to place at thy disposal five pounds, to be given on loan to assist the poor fishermen of Kilkee in repairing nets, boats…which we trust may be useful to them.’  6 July 1847. 
On the same day the committee also refused an application from the Guild of Weavers in Limerick City, writing that they expect to be able to adopt such measures as will assist the destitute poor in parts of this City without reference to any particular class. 

They provided for the setting up of soup kitchens as well as distribution of seeds for other food crops. About €14 million in today’s money was raised for the entire country mainly from Friends living abroad. (www.quakers-in-ireland.org)

Last update:13/01/2010