THE DIARIES OF REV THOMAS GOFF (1772-1844)
There is no apparent connection between the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology and Thomas Goff, a 19th century Church of Ireland clergyman, land owner and army chaplain. However, the IADT now occupies the location of Carriglea house and demesne where Thomas Goff and his family lived; and the diaries which he kept for over 50 years are available in its library.
The story of how the diaries came back to the place where they were written is interesting in itself. When Thomas Goff’s descendants sold Carriglea in 1918 and relocated to Wiltshire, his diaries followed. His great-granddaughter, Moyra, died in 1970 and the diaries ended up in the local museum at Bradford-on-Avon. The librarian there, Ms Pamela Gooding, had the foresight to see beyond these interesting old books and recognised that they would be more appropriate and useful in an Irish library than in Britain. Contacts were made and the 9 volumes of Rev Thomas Goff’s diaries returned to the place they were mostly written, Carriglea House, now part of the IADT campus.
Rev Thomas Goff began keeping a diary in 1796 and continued to write entries until some months before his death in 1844. It was a private diary where he recorded his opinions about events of the day and gave an account of the books he was reading. And there were plenty of happenings to disturb this conservative clergyman. The nationalist aspirations of both the United Irishmen and his co-religionist Robert Emmett were roundly condemned; he was a Loyalist, in the sense that he was an ardent supporter of the monarchy and all that it stood for. The figures of Napoleon and Daniel O’Connell were his arch-enemies for different reasons. Napoleon’s pretensions to challenge the dominance of the British Empire were scoffed at and his defeat and eventual banishment to St Helena were a cause for celebration. Daniel O’Connell was much closer to home and his many efforts to raise the demands for the restoration of civil rights to the Catholic majority were met with scorn. Even greater scorn was heaped on O’Connell’s attempt to whip up support for the Repeal of the Act of Union. Though never stated explicitly, Thomas Goff believed that Ireland would be better off in every way by remaining within the United Kingdom even though he himself had not been very keen on the Act of Union when it was implemented in 1801.
As a Church of Ireland clergyman, he was an admirer of the Archbishop of Dublin, William Magee, and his advocacy of a more aggressive approach to the evangelisation of the native Catholic population. He seems to have approved of Magee’s characterisation of both Presbyterianism (a religion without a church) and Catholicism (a church without a religion) and his endorsement of the Church of Ireland as the ideal embodiment of both. Thomas Goff was a man of profound religious convictions and generous in gifts of money and land to enable Catholic communities to worship in dignified surroundings.
Thomas Goff was the son of Robert Goff and Sarah French and was born in Roscommon in 1772. His grandfather, Thomas Guff, was a merchant in Roscommon town and is mentioned in the 1749 Census of Elphin. His father seems to have changed the spelling of the original surname Guff to Goff for reasons we can only speculate. He attended Trinity College, Dublin and graduated in 1793 taking Holy Orders in 1799. He served in a number of dioceses. He married in the late 1820s and had a large family. As we can see from his Will, proved in Canterbury in 1846, he was a loving and generous father who provided handsomely for his children.
For more information see David Doyle’s 2015 book The Reverend Thomas Goff, 1772-1844 Property, propinquity and Protestantism (Four Courts Press, September 2015).