Aristocracy/landed gentry/ascendancy

Published in Issue 2 (March/April 2021), Letters, Volume 29

Sir,—An uncharacteristic glitch occurred in the editing process of my article ‘Hurling in Thurles before the GAA’ (HI 28.3, May/June 2020). In the version submitted to your magazine I had written that the Nicholsons of Turtulla, Thurles, had a team of hurlers that played against sides sponsored by other members of the ascendancy—‘landed gentry’, ‘upper class’, etc., could similarly have been employed. However, when the article appeared in print the word ‘aristocracy’ had been inserted in place of my original expression. The Nicholson family, who were members of the dominant Anglo-Irish Protestant minority, were not aristocrats but merely members of the landed gentry. In a subsequent paragraph there is, by contrast, a reference to aristocratic patronage in the case of the Mathew and Purcell families, who were earls of Landaff (Thurles estate) and barons of Loughmore respectively.—Yours etc.,


Fair cop! ‘Aristocracy’ is not the same as ‘landed gentry’ and the online version of your article has been amended accordingly. However, nor is ‘landed gentry’ the same as ‘ascendancy’. The latter term (as in ‘Protestant ascendancy’), first coined by Sir Boyle Roche in a speech in the Irish House of Commons in 1782 and defined a decade later by Dublin Corporation as ‘a Protestant king of Ireland—a Protestant parliament—a Protestant hierarchy—Protestant electors and government—the bench of justice—the army and the revenue—through all their branches and details Protestant’, describes a system of government rather than a class. So my error was not in the original deletion but in the word substituted.—Ed.


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