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Ann Jane Carlile (1775 - 1864):
Temperance campaigner

Ann Jane Carlile was probably best known as one of the leading figures in what was known as the Temperance movement, which was active throughout the British Isles in the mid-nineteenth century.

Ann (or Anne) Jane Hammil was born at Ruskey (Rooskey), County Monaghan, youngest child of David Hammil, a linen merchant of Huguenot descent, and Martha Armstrong. There is some evidence that in her teens she and a local man her age (whose granddaughter would be Isabella Tod, the women’s rights campaigner) wanted to get married and may actually have been engaged, but older members of each family, though amicably, felt that the teenagers were too young and impetuous to be a suitable couple). She married instead the (Seceding) Minister of Bailieborough and Corraneary, County Cavan, Rev Francis Carlile. (There is evidence that later in life she preferred the spelling “Carlyle”, in a letter quoted by her biographer Sherlock; a rare facsimile autograph seems to support this.) Her husband's income was slender for a manse which would eventually have six daughters and a son, but Ann, industrious and businesslike, opened a shop in the town which prospered.

In 1811 Rev Carlile died aged just 39. Ann herself provided the text on his headstone. She moved with the family to Derry, where she was able to live financially independently thanks to rental property bequeathed by her husband. In June 1812 and again in April 1814 she lost a daughter; shortly after the family moved to Dublin in 1826 her son was killed in an accident. Carlile very quickly involved herself in public service, first of all prison visiting as a member of the “Female Gaol Committee”. In a letter of 1861 addressed to one of the co-founders of the Temperance movement in Ireland, Alexander Mayne from Belfast, she related how nearly every inmate – she visited nearly every prison in Dublin - had been incarcerated because of drunkenness, one individual prisoner she names as being “one of the most notorious drunkards in the world”. This claim may not be as hyperbolic as it sounds as many of these drunken prisoners were sailors, whose travels may have enabled international comparisons: in fact, Carlile in 1830 established a “Mariners’ Total Abstinence Society” in Poolbeg Street. In 1834 she was staying with her sister at Cootehill, County Cavan, and recalled how she formed a total-abstention society there. In the same letter, though she does not date this interesting detail, she admits that even when forming such societies, she was not herself a total abstainer, only becoming such when, confronted in Newgate prison, Dublin, with “forty-two” women in an apparently lamentable condition through whiskey, was informed that they drank whiskey because better-off people (like Carlile) could afford wine. This, Carlile admitted, prompted her into attempting to preach temperance by example and not by precept.

She began to tour more and more widely. She described how during her first visit to Scotland in (c.) 1840, although she was thre for a holiday, nevertheless visited an Edinburgh prison where she founf some inmates who had been sentenced to transportation. Her success in persuading some of them to pledge Temperance reached the ears of a Glasgow clergyman who broke his own rule against women in the pulpit by inviting her into it. It was at this period that she came into contact (apparently at her instigation) with Father Theobald Mathew, the celebrated Irish Temperance campaigner. She travelled to London to speak in support of his 1843-1845 campaigns. 

In July 1847 there was held perhaps the single most significant Temperance meeting of all, at South Parade Chapel, Leeds, those attending being children drawn from local Sunday Schools. It was at this meeting that Carlile was said to have expressed her optimism about convincing the children to abstain for life by describing them as a “Band of Hope”; this nomenclature caught on, and a number or groups were founded under it. There was for time a dispute as to who in fact coined the phrase, either Carlile (who claimed it for herself) or Rev Jabez Tunnicliff, one of the organisers of the Leeds meeting, (who vehemently asserted his own claim). The evidence presented by Sherlock at least, points to Tunnicliff as the villain of the piece. 

However, perhaps most noteworthy is that the meeting itself points up one of Carlile’s central strategies, which was use her rhetorical gifts to persuade children, preferably in the company of their mothers, to take the Pledge, and her reference to using example rather than precept included negative examples of individuals whom she found in highly distressed situations but whom she rescued (albeit not always successfully). 

Far more a speaker than a writer, she did produce three four-page pamphlets or tracts based on real-life situations: The Reformed Family of Ballymena and John Miller, the Reformed Sailor, were widely used by Temperance activists. Little Mary, or, A Daughter's Love provides an account of a child of an alcoholic mother, who was brought up for some time by Carlile and her daughters.

Carlile continued to travel widely, and was frequently in Ulster during these years (she continued to be based in Dublin). In summer 1841, during her first visit to Belfast, she founded the Victoria Temperance Society, an organisation for women whose honorary secretary was a man, Alexander Mayne, as no suitably qualified woman could be found. The meetings were generally held in members’ houses, though there were public soirées. Carlile kept up her interest in this society; visited often to speak, and when they founded a Teetotal Friendly Society she joined as a life member (subscription fee £1.0.0.). In 1860 she decided to visit her birthplace in County Monaghan where she set up another Temperance Society.

She died 14 March 1864 in Dublin and was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

Born: 8 April 1775
Died: 14 March 1864
Richard Froggatt