Rev. Henry Ashe (1759-1824)

Henry Ashe was born and baptised in 1759 in Drogheda, Ireland, and was the son of Nicholas Ashe (born 1713 in Drogheda, Ireland) and Mary Smith (born about 1725). He married Sophia McClure (1775-1827) and they had 3 sons and 5 daughters. He was ordained and became Vicar of Acton, Poyntzpass, County Meath in 1799, and died there in 1824. His Will was proved in 1824.

As mentioned in A Catalogue of Graduates Who have Proceeded to Degrees in the University of Dublin (1869), Henry Ashe graduated with a B.A. in 1783.

From an advert in the B.N.L., dated 18 August 1789, it appears that the Rev. Henry Ashe and his brother, Rev. Isaac Ashe, both educated under Dr. Norris at Drogheda, opened a school at Tanderageee in 1789. This is also referred to in Issue 1 (1987) of “Before I Forget . . . . “, a magazine of the Poyntzpass and District Local History Society, in which there is an article on Tandragee: Some Historical Notes by K. Kilpatrick, in which it is written:

“In 1814, Rev. Henry Ashe, Rector of Acton, and his brother, Rev. Isaac Ashe, advertised a ‘Private Boarding School’, which taught among other subjects ‘Latin, Greek, and writing’!”

In the Historical Memoirs of the City of Armagh, by James Stewart (1819), we learn that the Rev. Henry Ashe was appointed Perpetual Curate at Acton, Armagh, in 1799.

Acton was named after Acton near Ealing which was the birth place of Sir Toby Poyntz (c. 1680). Lieut. Poyntz won a victory at Fenwick Pass, by finding a way through the bogs between Portadown and Newry, later known as Poyntzpass. He was made a Knight, and granted lands that belonged to the O’Hanlons. He built a house and cottages for English settlers, and called it Acton. It was originally in the Parish of Tandragee. A Church was built there in 1789, and a tower added between 1825 – 29, a side aisle in 1858, and the Chancel in 1890.

In Issue 8 (2000) of “Before I Forget . . . . “, a magazine of the Poyntzpass and District Local History Society, there is an article on Acton Parish Church by Barbara Best, in which it is written:

“Acton Parish Church, situated at the entrance to Poyntzpass Village from the Newry side, was built in 1789. This church was a replacement for the church built in 1684 by Sir Toby Poyntz, on the site now known as “Acton Old Graveyard”, just south of Acton village on the Poyntzpass road. The 1684 church may have been a replacement for a much earlier church on the same site.
The Parish Church of Acton, built by Alexander Thomas Stewart junior in 1789, was not consecrated until October 1822.
Acton Parish Church Perpetual Curates:
1789-1793: Rev. John Creery
1793-1797: Rev. Alxander Macauley
1797-1799: Rev. Ricahrd Dodds
1799-1824: Rev. Henry Ashe – who with his brother, the Reverend Isaac Ashe, opened a school in Tandragee in 1789. “He discharged faithfully the duties of the parish of Acton for 25 years”.

A Newsletter for The Parish of Acton & Drumbanagher has the following article:

“From some entries recorded it appears that the clergyman was often entrusted with the money for expending on the poor. The Rev. Henry Ashe, perpetual Curate from 1799 – 1824 was on one occasion accused by a member of the Vestry of not rendering a proper account of the monies placed in his charge. The sum involved was £4-2-6. Mr. Ashe stated that instead of owing this amount to the Parish, the Parish owed it to him. A Committee was appointed to examine all the accounts, and to declare whether the money was expended in accordance with the law. As a result of the deliberations of the Committee, it was decided that a sum of £4-2-6 was legally due to Mr. Ashe for money advanced by him for the use of the Parish, and a special resolution was passed in the following terms:-

‘That on a minute investigation of the books, it appears to this Committee that the Rev. Henry Ashe has been uniformly guided by the opinion of the Parish at their Vestries, and has most uprightly and honourably expended the public money for the relief of the poor, and is justly entitled to the thanks of the Parishioners.’

The sequel to this incident is interesting. On the south wall of the tower there is a Sun-dial. In the top corner, it is inscribed “Memento Mori”; along the top “Made by Thomas McCreesh”; along the bottom “The Reverend Henry Ash’s gift to the Parish”; in the centre “March 28 1819″.
In the Vestry Book there is an entry, ‘£4-2-6, money due to Mr. Ashe, and given by him for a Sun-dial for the said Church.’ ”

Sun Dial Acton

Sun Dial on the side of the tower of the Church of Ireland, Poyntzpass (photo from Michael J. Harley’s website “Sun Dials in Ireland”)

The Newry Memoirs website contains an interesting article titled Catholics and Protestants were United, where it is reported:

“But the situation was to change utterly, five years later, with the stationing in the Newry region of a Welsh Regiment, know locally as the `Ancient Britons`.
Rev. Henry Ashe, a Church of Ireland curate at Poyntzpass, referred to the `Ancient Britons` as “bloody scoundrels. They stabled their horses in the old church at Acton, causing great indignation; and rode to the chapel at Ballyargan, where Mass was being celebrated, attacking the congregation with their sabres.”

Page 82 of Armagh Clergy and Parishes by Rev. James B. Leslie (1911) contains information about the clergy at Acton, including the Rev. Henry Ashe:
Acton (Co. Armagh). Perpetual Curates.
1799 — Henry Ashe, Lic. Dec. 12 (D.R.). T.C.D. B.A. 1783. A letter from him to W. Shaw Mason (MSS. P.R.O.) says that he “is totally occupied in attending a Seminary here.” From an advt. in the B.N.L., 18 Aug., 1789, it appears that he and Rev. Isaac Ashe, both educated under Dr. Norris at Drogheda, opened a school at Tanderagee in that year. His P. Will was proved in 1824. His 4th daughter, Ellen Mary, married in 1841 Rev. Patrick Moore; see Portadown. His daughter, Jane E., died 17 Jan 1891, aged 84. He was buried in Acton, where his tomb bears the inscription:

“Sacred / to the memory of / the Rev. Henry Ashe, / who departed this life the 14th June, 1824, / aged 65 years. / He discharged faithfully the duties of / the parish of Acton for 25 years. Beloved / by his own family and esteemed / by all who knew him. / Also Sophia his wife, / who departed this life 27th of Feby., 1827, / aged 52 years. / Here also are interred the remains of / their eldest son, Robert Henry Ashe, who /died deeply lamented by his affectionate / widow and numerous friends, March 25th, 1840 / aged 36 years.”

His youngest daughter, Alicia, died unmarried, aged 90, on July 7, 1909.”

The third son of Rev. Henry Ashe (1759-1824) was the Rev. George Alexander Hamilton Ashe (1812-1897), whose son was the Rev. Robert Pickering Ashe (1857-1944), who was father to the Rev. Pat Ashe (1915-2009), whose son is The Venerable Francis John Ashe (1953- ), Archdeacon of Lynn. Henry Ashe thus began an unbroken dynasty of five generations of clergymen, who have served faithfully God’s people for some 230 years.