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When delving into the past Nelson McCausland, you should always make sure to look at the whole picture


I always find it intriguing when people expose the complexities of our past ("Nelson McCausland: Nationalist venerated by GAA clubs was a supporter of the slave trade", Online, August 24).

While this expose is intriguing, it also reminded me of what I was taught as a child: "Half the truth is worse than a lie."

Nelson, rightly, exposes the fact that the "racist John Mitchel", as a supporter of slavery, was, indeed, an Irish republican, who, like many modern republicans, did not support "respect" and "equality" in his day.

He has, however, overlooked some important facts.

Newry hosts a statue of John Mitchel in the centre of the city, because his father, also John, was a Presbyterian minister there from 1823-1840.

The most important fact, however, overlooked by Nelson, is that John Mitchel married the daughter of a prominent Orangeman, Jane (Jenny) Verner, also an Irish republican, in Drumcree Parish Church on February 3, 1837.

Jane Verner was one of eight daughters of Sir William Verner, of Churchill, Co Armagh - the family seat is now better-known as "Peatlands".

William Verner, who fought with Wellington at Waterloo, was the Grand Master of County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge from 1821 to 1836. Evidently, Jane eloped with John Mitchel while her father was Grand Master of Co Armagh.

As well as being a "racist", as Nelson suggests, and evidently pro-slavery, perhaps he was also an early example of political ecumenism?

Rev Brian Kennaway

Author: The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed

Belfast Telegraph

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