The Tilson Case: Church and State in 1950’s Ireland


The Tilson Case: Church and State in 1950’s Ireland | 9781782055600 | David Jameson

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Published:31/03/2023 by Cork University Press


David Jameson’s The Tilson Case: Church and State in 1950s’ Ireland tells the story of one the most extraordinary causes celebre of twentieth-century Ireland, which followed the marriage of Ernest Tilson, a Protestant, to Mary Barnes, a Catholic, in Dublin in 1941. Since this was a mixed marriage and the couple wished to be married in a Catholic church, both were obliged to sign a pledge agreeing to raise any children of the marriage as Catholics. Nine years later, Ernest reneged on that promise when he removed three of his four sons to the Protestant-run Birds’ Nest orphanage in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin, intending to educate them as Protestants. To recover her sons, Mary took a case to the High Court and won; her husband appealed this ruling in the Supreme Court and lost. Widely reported in newspapers in Ireland, Britain and the United States, this bitterly contested dispute pitted the Catholic and Protestant churches against each other and polarised Ireland along confessional lines.

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