Religion of Catherine Hayes and Lola Montez

Many writers appear to have been under the impression that one or both of these two Irish women were Catholics. Let me tell you here and now, the religion of Catherine Hayes and Lola Montez  was Church of Ireland into which they were born and bred but at times they pretended otherwise. In parts of the world, Catholics were in the majority and it was best to appear to be of that faith.

Catherine Hayes helped Father Matthew, the temperance advocate, when she was in New York and gave a concert to raise money for the roof of a Catholic church in New Orleans. Lola Montez had to pretend to be a Spanish Catholic to become a Countess of Bavaria. Imagine an Irish protestant from a lower class background being able to achieve that status in a country which was then violently anti-protestant. She must have been a very good actress to fool everyone including the Jesuits. Neither Catherine nor Lola cared much about any faith.

In the 19c, the official religion in Ireland was the Protestant Church of Ireland and the ruling class belonged to it. There was bitter animosity between Catholics and Protestants which continues to the present day in some areas. A mature student at a local Adult Education Centre wrote some essays which have been published in a booklet. This is what she says about going to school in the 1950’s at the age of four.

“My oldest sister carried me to the school on the carrier on the back of the bicycle. I will always remember my sister ( name removed) leaving me at a neighbour’s gate. I would go through the neighbour’s yard. I never stopped to play with the children there. There were nine children in that family and they went to a different school. We were Church of Ireland and went to the Church of Ireland school.”

That’s an example of the deep divisions in Irish society which prevented even the children from mixing and perpetuated the hatred and suspicion which fueled the Northern Ireland troubles.

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