An entry in J W de Courcy’s The Liffey in Dublin (Gill & Macmillan, Dublin 1996) alerted me to the existence of the Port of Dublin Society for the Religious Instruction of Seamen. It bought, he tells us, the hull of the appropriately named Danish vessel the Prince Christian, and used it as a floating chapel.
The National Library has an engraving of the vessel. I haven’t seen it, but de Courcy says it shows the chapel moored at the corner of Hanover Quay and Grand Canal Quay in the Grand Canal Dock, Ringsend.
In 1833 the Society moved ashore to the new Mariners’ Chapel in Forbes Street. That was sold to the Gas Company in 1889; the 25″ Ordnance Survey map shows tanks on the site.
In The Picture of Dublin or Stranger’s Guide to the Irish Metropolis. Containing an account of every object and institution worthy of notice, together with a brief description of the surrounding country and of its geology. New Edition. With a plan of the city and thirteen views (William Curry, Jun and Company, Dublin 1835) we read this:
MARINER’S CHURCH — In the year 1822, the Episcopal Floating Chapel, for the especial use of seamen, was fitted up and opened under the sanction of the late Archbishop of Dublin, and a Chaplain appointed, whose duty is not only to perform divine service, but to visit the vessels frequenting this port, and otherwise to attend to the spiritual wants of seafaring persons.
The Floating Chapel being old and decayed, and requiring frequent and expensive repairs, it was at length determined to substitute for it a Chapel on shore, to be built in the immediate neighbourhood. The first stone of the Mariner’s Church was accordingly laid by Vice-Admiral Oliver, July 18, 1832, in Forbes-street, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay.
This neat and commodious edifice, capable of containing 500 persons, cost, including school-rooms, &c, about £2000. It was opened for divine service, Sept 15, 1833. Hours of service on the Sunday, half-past ten AM, four PM; Lectures on the evenings of Wednesday and Friday, at seven o’clock. In winter there is a daily evening school for seamen, and a Sunday-school throughout the year.
The National Archives have the society’s regulations, from October 1822, amongst the Chief Secretary’s papers [Record 3435]; the National Library has a report of proceedings from 1824 and another for the years 1837 to 1842. I found various items, mostly ads seeking funds, in Dublin newspapers of the 1860s; I found none for earlier years, which may suggest that a different variant of the name was used — or that the society was in less need of assistance.
In Britain, the Boaters Christian Fellowship keeps the faith afloat on the inland waterways; some of the Canal Ministries boats are pictured here. I am not aware of any similar organisation or activity in Ireland.