The Carols of Luke Waddinge

In 1684, Luke Waddinge*, in the first year of his office as Roman Catholic Bishop of Ferns published in Ghent a little book that had a far-reaching influence on the spiritual lives of the people of his diocese, which included the entire county of Wexford in the south-east corner of Ireland.The book bore the title A SMALE/GARLAND,/OF PIOUS AND/GODLY SONGS/Composed by a devout Man, For the Solace of his Friends and /neighbours in their afflictions./The Sweet and the Sower/The nettle and the flower/The Thorne and the Rose/This Garland Compose.

It contained some religious 'posies', some poems written for the disinherited gentry of County Wexford, and some verses relating to the Popish Plot. It also contained what was to become the foundation of a tradition of carol singing in the county, eleven Christmas songs, two of which are sung to this day in the village of Kilmore.

Waddinge Background

Bishop Waddinge, a member of one of the principal Anglo-Norman families of County Wexford, was born in Ballycogley Castle, the family's principal seat. The Wexford Waddinges were the parent family of the Waddings of Waterford who numbered among them the famous Franciscan Luke Wadding, the Jesuit theologian Michael Wadding, better known as Miguel Godinez, and Peter Wadding, Chancellor of the University of Prague.

The Wexford Waddinges lost their lands in the Cromwellian confiscation and were banished to the west of Ireland. Luke Waddinge may have been exiled at this time; he speaks in his verses of being banished twice. All we know for certain is that he was educated at Paris, and tradition has it that he obtained a doctorate at the Sorbonne.

* Waddinge spelt his name with an "e". Where possible we acknowledge Waddinge's own spelling of his name, however some sources cited in the text do not adhere to this spelling.

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