Page 6, 20th May 1988

20th May 1988
Page 6
Page 6, 20th May 1988 — Brothers keeping the Faith

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Brothers keeping the Faith

Faith and Fatherland by Barry Coldrey (Gill & Macmillan, £27.50).

BARRY Coldrey's admirable study is sub-titled The Christian Brothers and the Development of Irish Nationalism 1838-1921. The author, an Australian Christian Brother, considers the work and influence of the Brothers in the context of Irish education, the challenge their independent system presented to the Board of Education, and the Brothers' text-books which reflected the Catholic and national ethos.

In the first chapters the author narrates the original efforts made by the Brothers who ran "poor schools" for the masses in urban centres, in England as well as in Ireland. Later they proceeded to provide secondlevel schools for the sons of tradesmen and labourers boys whose sons and grandsons, also Brothers' boys, were to produce most of the 1916 leaders.

The Christian Brothers wrote their own text-books for "these explosive subjects," history and geography. As the century progressed these texts became more and more patriotic, incorporating rousing ballads, folk-tales and potted biographies of ancient heroes and prominent Irishmen of later centuries. Towards the close of the century the Brothers became closely connected with the language revival, Gaelic games and other aspects of the IrishIreland movement.

Though Brother Coldrey has given some passages taken from contemporary letters and speeches, he might have drawn more widely on episcopal pastorals and government debates to make the Brothers' contribution to education in Ireland more clear. In final chapters he contrasts the minimal involvement of the Brothers and their past pupils in Fenian times with their undoubted influence between 1900 and 1921.

The very fact that the author is an Australian has enabled him to write with objectivity and detachment; his vocation as a Christian Brother has, at the same time, enabled him to pay a worthy tribute to his confreres, past and present, to whom Ireland owes so much.

Mary Doyle

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