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James Godkin (1806 - 1879):

James Godkin was a prolific writer on many aspects of life in Ireland, especially agrarian and ecclesial questions.

He was born in Gorey, County Wexford, and after flirting with the Catholic and Anglican Churches was ordained in the Congregational Church, in Armagh in September 1834. He moved following missionary work in Connacht to Belfast, where he founded in April 1838 the Christian Patriot, a  weekly newspaper of what would today be called ecumenical leanings, but it folded in 1840 and Godkin became editor of the Derry Standard. Meantime, he was developing a clear political leaning to the cause of Repeal (of the Union between Ireland and Great Britain, arguing for a separate Irish parliament; for this he was sidelined by the Irish Evangelical Society who had previously backed him. He formally left the ministry in 1848. and became a leader writer for various provincial journals in Ireland and Scotland, and a contributor to a number of reviews and magazines, notably the British Quarterly Review and the North British Review. Other titles with which he was associated included the Standard of Freedom, the Belfast Independent, and the Freeman's Journal. On returning to Ireland after two years he moved to Dublin, where he held for several years the chief editorial post on the Daily Express. During this time he also acted as Dublin correspondent for the London Times.

Unsuccessful in his attempt to secure a position at the new College at Maynooth in 1847 he moved to London briefly but from 1849 was based largely in Ireland; contributing to a number of newspapers and journals as well as the London Times; amongst his particular interests were agrarian and church reform. He published a number of books, including Apostolic Christianity (1842), Education in Ireland (1862), Ireland and her Churches (1867), The Land War in Ireland (1870), and A Religious History of Ireland, Primitive, Papal, and Protestant (1872).

On Gladstone’s recommendation Queen Victoria conferred a pension on Godkin in 1873 for his literary services. He died at Upper Norwood, Surrey.

Of his children by Sarah Lawrence of Moyne, one was the journalist and editor Edwin Lawrence Godkin, famed for his weekly political publication in the United States, The Nation (founded 1865).






Born: 1806
Died: 2 May 1879
Kate Newmann

Revised and updated, Richard Froggatt, 10/2014; Dictionary of Irish Biography (Royal Irish Academy / Cambridge University Press, 2009, vol 4, 116;; Dictionary of National Biography (