HC Deb 04 December 1890 vol 349 cc629-39
*(11.40.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

I am exceedingly sorry to detain the House for a very few minutes on a question affecting one of the schemes of the Endowed Schools Commissioners in Ireland. I hope the Debate will be a very short one, and as I understand that there will be a practical consensus of opinion in my favour, so far as the Irish Members are concerned, and even as far as the Ulster Members on the Government side of the House are concerned, I hope the Government will see their way to make the small concession asked for by my resolution. I do not make a claim on behalf of any locality in Ireland. I make it on behalf of the entire Presbyterian community, represented by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, numbering at least half a million of people. They ask not for any favour, but for simple justice, and for the restitution of what is their own. The facts are exceedingly simple. One Hugh Rainey died, I think, in the year 1708. By his will he left a freehold estate of the value of £400 per annum. Some of that went to his representatives, and the residue he devised for a school for boys in the town of Magherafelt, County Londonderry. The school was established, and is in existence now, but it has a very peculiar history. That Hugh Rainey was a Presbyterian is beyond all manner of doubt. The Endowed Schools Commissioners admit that, at least they do not deny it, but the simple matter of fact is that Mr. Hugh Rainey was a ruling elder in the Presbyterian, congregation at Castledawson. The question arises, what kind of a school did he intend to set up under his will, and under what kind of auspices did he intend it to be conducted? I think I shall prove that beyond all possibility of dispute out of the scheme sanctioned by the Commissioners. In his will, Hugh Rainey, after providing for the setting up of a school, directed that two old and good men, known Christians, such as feared God, and were qualified to read the Scriptures, sing Psalms, and instruct boys, should be appointed and maintained, and that if any such old men should be found defective or unable to perform such duties, he should be replaced by a person selected by the Presbytery of Ulster. I have not only proved that Hugh Rainey was a Presbyterian, but that he intended this school to be conducted under Presbyterian auspices. The startling part of the matter comes in now. In the year 1713, five or six years after the old men's death, an Act of Parliament was passed, the second of George II., Chapter 2, which vested this Presbyterian endowment of £177 a year not in the Synod of Ulster, but in His Grace the Archbishop of Armagh. and Primate of all Ireland. From that day the Episcopalian Church of Ireland has been in possession of this purely Presbyterian endowment, and at the present moment the Rector of Magherafelt, and not the Presbyterian minister, is in charge of the school. In that position it came before the Endowed Schools Commissioners who inquired into and reported upon it. The Commissioners were brought face to face with the facts I hare stated. They could not agree, and the scheme as it is framed is not the work of the entire Commission, it is the work of the two Judicial Commissioners, Lord Justice Fitzgibbon and the late Lord Justice Naish. Those two distinguished lawyers said that if Rainey's endowment was alone to be dealt with and the intentions of the founder were to be regarded they would have considered it their duty to place the institution under Presbyterian management. That gave away the whole case, for it was a distinct admission that this was a Presbyterian endowment. They added, however, that £177 per annum was found not to be sufficient for the maintenance of the school, and that the Salters Company, on whose land the school was built, intervened and gave an additional sum of £66 per annum in aid of the original endowment. Granting that this complicates the matter a little, I say the Presbyterians are in an enormous majority in County Derry, and they are fairly entitled to their share of the Salters' endowment. Will the House believe that in framing the scheme the two Committees actually so arranged the Board of Governors that the Episcopalians were given the majority of the Board, and therefore the whole control of the school? The Primate of all Ireland was made Chairman of the Board, and practically the entire control of the school was given to the Episcopalians. That is substantially what I have to bring before the House. The Presbyterian Church do not object to this being a mixed school. They do not object to the Episcopalians being represented on the Board of Governors— far from it. Their claim is simply this, that as the endowment was originally a Presbyterian one, and as the small addition to the endowment by the Salters Company cannot affect the real issue, the Presbyterians have an undoubted right, not to the second place on the Board of Governors, bat to the first place. The Chief Secretary has disappeared, but I think I know what the Attorney General for Ireland is going to say. I don't know whether he is going to speak as the representative of the Government or of Trinity College, but I know what his case will be. The doctrine of user commends itself to all legal minds, and I suppose the right hon. and learned Gentleman's case will be that, inasmuch as his Grace the Archbishop of Armagh, and Primate of all Ireland, grabbed this endowment in 1713– [Cries of "Grabbed?"] I have no other word for it, and I refuse to withdraw it unless Mr. Deputy Speaker calls on me to do so. I say it with no ill-will to the Episcopalian Church in Ireland. My constituents are largely Episcopalian; but I say this annual endowment passed unjustly and unfairly into the hands of the then Established Church of Ireland. I do not hink that in this House the legal doctrine of user should be allowed to ride over the moral claim of the Presbyterians to this endowment. I entreat Conservative Members not to sanction a proceeding of this kind. I may be told that the matter was argued before the Privy Council, and that the Privy Council decided against us. What is the Privy Council? The Presbyterian Church has only one representative on the Privy Council of Ireland. There is room found on that Council for every class of Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, but to get a Presbyterian merchant on it is almost impossible. I beg this House to undo the work that has been done, and to establish justice in this small matter in the province of Ulster. I move the Motion standing in my name.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her consent from that part of the Scheme of the Educational Endowment (Ireland) Commissioners for the administration of the endowment in the town of Magherafelt, known as the Rainey School, in so far as the proposed com position of the Board of Governors is concerned."—(Mr. T. W. Russell.)

*(11.55.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN, Dublin University)

In the short statement I have to make to the House, I think I can show that the arrangement come to by the Charitable Endowment Commissioners, and confirmed by the Privy Council, ought to satisfy the House, and that the decision which was come to was a fair and reasonable one. No doubt the original foundation of the school was Presbyterian. In the time of George II. an Act of Parliament was passed dealing with the question, and from that time to the present day the school has ceased to be a Presbyterian school, and has become, rightly or wrongly, an Episcopalian one. It is not necessary to consider whether it had rightly become so. The Education Commissioners and the Privy Council have recognised the right of the Presbyterians in this matter, and they have made that full restitution which ought to be made in the circumstances of the case. After the passing of that Act the school-house was permitted by the managers to fall into decay, the rent-charge had become insufficient, and it became unsuitable for the reception of pupils. In 1862 the Salters' Company entered into an arrangement for the building of the existing school-house on the terms that the scheme should be settled by the Court of Chancery. In accordance with that arrangement, in 1863, the then Lord Chancellor of Ireland settled a scheme under which the entire management of the charity devolved upon the Archbishop of Armagh, and the local management of the school was committed to the Rector of Magherafelt. The arrangement was arrived at under judicial sanction in 1863, and it was with this state of facts that the Charity Commissioners had to deal. They said, in effect, "We will not consider that this is an exclusively Episcopalian endowment, as doubtless it has been for more than a century; but we will have a fair regard for the original foundation and the population of the district, and will equally divide the Governing Board between the Presbyterians and the Church of Ireland." Now, the Governing Body to which my hon. Friend objects, as settled by the Commissioners, consists of four ex-officio Governors, who are the Archbishop of Armagh (Dr. Knox), the Moderator of the General Assembly, the Episcopal Minister who is the Incumbent of the Parish of Magherafelt, and the officiating Minister of the Presbyterian congregation of Magherafelt. Can anything possibly be fairer than that?


What about the Chairmanship of the Board?


I am coming to that matter in due course. As to the other half of the Board, the representative Governors are also equally divided.


I quite admit that the Board is fairly divided; but after having been so divided it is provided by the scheme that the Primate of Ireland shall be the Chairman for life, and that position gives him the casting vote, whereby the Episcopalians are practically invested with the entire government of the school.


It is provided that so long as the Most Reverend Dr. Knox shall hold the office of Archbishop of Armagh he shall continue to be Chairman. The sole point that appears to be raised by my hon. Friend appears to be that the status of the Archbishop is to be preserved during his life. That seems to be the hon. Gentleman's only objection. I submit that in fairness no better course could have been taken. The Archbishop of Armagh has been the Chairman of the Governing Body for more than a century, and it does not seem unreasonable that the present Archbishop should continue in that position during the remainder of his life. The endowment is one which no doubt was originally a Presbyterian endowment, but since its foundation it has been very largely added to, and, in fact, almost doubled from other sources. The Commissioners, finding themselves in this position, divide the management between the two bodies equally, retaining the present chairman for life. It would, in my opinion, have been an act of injustice to have taken away from the Archbishop the position he and his predecessors nave so long held. After the present Archbishop the person holding that position instead of being the head will merely become one of the Governing Body. I appeal to the House not to assent to the Motion of my hon. Friend. The case is one that has been thoroughly threshed out, and in the fullest detail, by the able Counsel who represented the Presbyterian Body before the Commissioners, while previous to that the whole matter had received the careful attention of the Commissioners of Charitable Endowments. The Report was signed by two eminent Judges, the late Lord Justice Naish, one of the fairest-minded men who ever sat on the Irish Bench, and Lord Justice Fitzgibbon, who is one of the ablest and most distinguished Judges in Ireland. They fully examined the case, and the result is that we have before us what I trust the House will regard as a fair decision, equally apportioning the government of the school between the representatives of the Church of Ireland and Presbyterian Church. Under all the circumstances, I appeal to the House not to take upon itself the responsibility of reversing a decision which has been come to after so much argument and consideration. I may add that this is the only case in which the decisions of the Irish Commissioners have been questioned in this House. The conclusions arrived at by the Commissioners are such as have hitherto commanded the general confidence of the country. The matter now under consideration is one that has been well threshed out and considered, and, submitting that the decision arrived at is one that is fair and just to the interests concerned, I venture to hope that the House will refuse its assent to the Motion of my hon. Friend.

(12.8.) MR. DICKSON (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)

I wish to remind the House that this endowment was originally a Presbyterian endowment, and that we Presbyterians, in asking that it should be restored to our control, are merely asking for our own. The Attorney General for Ireland has referred to the Privy Council. I am afraid I have not so high an opinion of the decisions of the Privy Council as the right hon. Gentleman seems to entertain. A case in point occurred in connection with the Royal School of Dungannon. The Privy Council, under the dictation of the Archbishop of Armagh, altered the scheme in connection with the Dungannon School, and deprived us of our position as the controlling authority on the Board of Governors. I gave notice that I would dispute their action when the scheme came before the House for confirmation. What was the result? Why, when the Privy Council knew that I should have 85 Irish Members to support me in the action I had intended to take, they quietly altered their decision and reverted to the original scheme. Therefore, unlike the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, I do not regard the decisions, of the Privy Council as resembling the laws of the Medes and Persians. I say that in this case also we are entitled to the control of the school. We wish the school to be a mixed school. We are anxious to see both Presbyterians and Episcopalians fairly represented on the Board of Government, and, therefore, we do not want the Archbishop of Armagh to have the controlling power over the decisions of the Board. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) has lightly described what is going on as simply grabbing at the Presbyterian endowments; at least three-fourths of the endowments originally left to Presbyterians have been grabbed in the same way by the Episcopalians, and had we Presbyterians received fair play our position in connection with the schools in the Province of Ulster would have been very different from what it is. I trust that hon. Members on both sides of the House will fairly consider this matter, and join the hon. Member for South Tyrone and myself in endeavouring to do an act of justice to the Presbyterians of Ulster by giving them the control of their own property.

(12.14.) COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)

I rise for the purpose of supporting the Motion of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, and in doing so I cannot but express a certain amount of regret at the vehemence with which this Motion has been not only supported, but has been met by the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland. I think that in a matter of this kind it is very undesirable to import vehemence of tone or language, or in any way to give to the question at issue a personal character. There are two grounds upon which I desire to support this Motion. I have two grounds for supporting the Motion—sentimental and practical. As an Irishman, I have a right to take the sentimental one first. I am a lineal descendant of Hugh Rainey, and were he here—and he would probably ably be more effective in the flesh than in the spirit—he would support the proposition now before the House. On the practical ground of the unity of Protestantism, I support the proposition. In the year 1708 unfortunate differences—now, happily, dead and gone—divided us; and I hope, now that unity has been restored, these small causes of friction will not be allowed to nterfere with it. The hon. Member who moves this Resolution does not belong to the section of the Church interested in the matter any more than I do. I support the Motion simply because I hope that the Presbyterians would support me if I made a claim to an endowment that was clearly Episcopalian. I hope the House will allow the matter to be referred back to the Commission for re-consideration.

(12.18.) MR. W. P. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)

Sir, how is it the Archbishop of Armagh is imported into the consideration of this endowment at all? The fact of the matter is, it is due to the Penal Laws of the 18th century, under which Presbyterians could not hold property; therefore, they were obliged to put their property in trust, and who better than the head of the Episcopalian Church? No doubt that was the feeling at the time of which I speak, and I am sorry that feeling has not continued. I think if we revert to the position which existed at the time when the Archbishop was asked to take the property in trust we shall be doing the right thing. Knowing as I do the feeling of not only Presbyterians, but members of other denominations and Episcopalians, I trust the House will decide in favour of the Motion of my hon. Friend, and reverse the decision of the Irish Court.

(12.20.) MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)

The argument of the Attorney General for Ireland rests chiefly on the decision of the Privy Council. I wish to give two or three reasons why Parliament should interfere. This may be considered a trivial and trumpery matter, so far as concerns the money involved, but it is a question in which half a million of the Presbyterians of Ireland take the deepest interest. The decision of this House will not be a trumpery matter. The Rector of the parish, the very man who is at the bottom of this whole matter, appeared before the Commissioners, and he was asked this question— Do you think that a substitution of the reference of the Synod to Ulster by placing the management in the hands of the Archbishop was right? The Rector did not dare to answer that it was right. He said— That was done by Parliament 100 yeara ago, and I think it would be very indecorous of me to express an opinion in the face of that. What did Parliament do 100 years ago? It appointed by a Private Act the Archbishop of Armagh as receiver of the money, and decreed, further, that he should carry out the trusts of the will. In spirit the Archbishop has absolutely ignored the trusts of the will from that day to this, the trust being that the teachers should be sought from the Presbyterians of Ulster. Again, I think the House should interfere, because the school has been a complete failure. The Attorney General said that the Salters' Company found the school in ruins. It is absolutely at the present moment, not physically, but mentally in ruins. Out of 320 pupils that have been in the school since intermediate education began in Ireland, only 29 have passed. Again, the House should interfere in behalf of the Presbyterians, because the Episcopalians, who claim to have a majority in the management of this school, are the minority of the inhabitants of the parish. The Rector, in reply to the Commissioners, said the Episcopalians were a third of the population of the parish, but these are the figures: Presbyterians, 2,098; Roman Catholics, 1,730; Episcopalians, 1,462. The Presbyterians are as seven to five, and with that proportion of representation will we be content? A strong argument against us is that of user. But that argument cannot apply, because it is founded on a breach of the trusts of the will. If the user can apply under these circumstances, it will be a new doctrine to me. Besides, the Privy Council have completely destroyed the argument of user in favour of complete control by the Episcopalians by giving representation to the Presbyterians. The Attorney General said that great weight should be given to the views of the Salters' Company, because they had come to the aid of the school. But here is an extract from the letter of their Secretary, Mr. Cartwright, of the 14th December,1886— The Presbyterian body under the influence of a local Presbyterian minister made a claim to the endowment under Rainey's will, against which I considered that the Church had certainly a perferential claim. The wise liberality of your Grace's predecessor enabled me many years ago to throw open the advantages of the education afforded by the school to children of all religious denominations. I do not wish to make this a matter personal to the Presbyterians, nor do I wish to say anything against the Episcopalians. I simply state the facts, leaving the House to decide on which side justice lies.

(12.25.) MR. MADDEN

I understand that the result of the Motion being agreed to would be simply to refer the matter back to the Commissioners. I have submitted to the House the grounds on which the Privy Council came to a decision and the reasons why I consider that decision to be a fair one; but as it appears there is a general wish that the decision should be reviewed, I do not think I can any longer oppose the Motion.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

Sir, I only wish to take note of this fact,

Return "of Particulars respecting Holdings in Ireland put up for sale by the Land Commission in consequence of failure in payment of instalments of purchase money, in the following form:—
Name of defaulting purchaser.
County and parish in which holding is situate.
Date of purchase.
Area of holding.
Purchase money.
Amount of Instalments paid.
Amount of instalments in default.
Date of sale for default.
—(Mr. John Ellis.)