Today’s Irish Times article reported there has been ‘a four-fold increase in the number of people who said they had no religion, were atheists or agnostics, since 1991’ in Ireland.
While it was extremely rare, there were a small number of admitted ‘atheists’ and ‘agnostics’ in Dublin in 1911. As far as I can work out, a grand total of 32 (8 Atheists and 24 Agnostics). The population of Dublin was 480, 296.
While no one besides your family and the Census enumerator probably saw your form, it still must have been a massive step to put down either of these terms in 1911.
Approximately 7,004 people in Dublin are listed in the ‘other’ section when it came to religion. This means that either through misspelling or genuine belief they did not list any of the main eleven religions (Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Church of Scotland, Church of England, Presbyterian, Methodist, Independent, Baptist, Society of Friend/Quaker, Jew, Plymouth Brethren) and were not one of the 1,170 who refused to give any information on religion.
From spending a couple of hours trawling through this ‘other’ list of only 7,000 thousand people it seems quite a few, by accident, put down where they were born or their occupation in the space assigned for religion.
Others put down ‘IC’ meaning ‘Church of Ireland’ which wasn’t picked up while a huge large number misspelled Catholic and put down ‘R Cathrlick’, ‘Catorlick’, ‘R Catcholic’ ‘R Catolic’ or something similar. Quite a few were members of smaller Protestant churches like Episcopalian, Unitarian, Lutheran, Moravian, Wesleyan etc. who weren’t large enough to be included with the ‘big boys’.
However I was able to find a small handful of people who listed themselves ‘Atheist’ or ‘Agnostic’ in the 1911 census. I reckon this list is relatively comprehensive.
Here are some of their stories:
‘Atheist’ Martin Gertelesen (29) from Denmark, a Naval Engineer docked at Dun Laoghaire.
The ‘Agnostic’ Powell family from England living at 18 North Earl Street, Dublin 1. The head of the family, William (44), was a manager of a Boots pharmacy.
German Fanny Sophia Shields, (55) an ‘agnostic’, who lived with her Protestant Irish family at 12 Vernon Terrace, Clontarf, Dublin 3.
An English cooper and self-described ‘agnostic’ George Ford (24) boarding at 32.2, Montpelier Hill, Arbour Hill, Dublin 7 who lived with ten other people all of whom were Catholics or Protestants.
Robert Monteith (33) Commission Agent from Wicklow. An atheist, he lived with his Catholic family at 14.2, Monck Place, Phibsboro.
Agnostics John Forsyth (55) and son James (29), both Irish born bootmakers living at 1.1, Bride Street, Dublin 8. John’s other six (!) sons were all Catholic.
A General Labourer and ‘agnostic’ by the name of Peter Ennis (26) who lived with his Catholic brother and mother at 4.1, Crampton Quay, Dublin 2.
James Canty (61), a porter at (James) Gate Brewery who was an ‘agnostic’ living with his Church of Ireland family at 5, Sweeney’s Lane [demolished 1930s].
Two English Agnostic Civil Servants in their 20s boarding with a Baptist family at 3, Ovoca Road, Portobello, Dublin 8.
Dubliner Michael Kavanagh (71), a self described ‘secularist’ and boot maker, living with his Catholic wife and kids at 15.1 South Anne Street, Dublin 2.
Martin Joseph Burke (34), from Dublin, an architect with the ‘H M Office of Works Ireland’ and an ‘agnostic’. Living with his German Catholic wife and child at 8, Eglinton Terrace, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.
Dubliner Joseph Patrick Savage (41), a clerk at a bakery and ‘agnostic’, living with his Presbyterian wife and family at 3.2 , Beechwood Avenue Upper, Dublin 6
Hilary Martin O’Kelly (65), Dublin born retired ‘Superintendent of Telegraph in India’ and ‘agnostic’ living with his Protestant wife and Catholic servants at 19, Leeson Park, Dublin 6.
Armagh-born ‘Agnostic’ William Henry St. Amond (59), a Commercial Traveller of Millinery [Animal] Furs, living with his Scottish Presbyterian wife at 6.1, William’s Park, Rathmines, Dublin 6.
Dubliner William Meledy Jr. (31), ‘agnostic’ and ‘Coach Body Maker’, living with his Catholic dad and brother at 5.4, Chatham Row, Dublin 2.
Then there’s English born ‘atheist’ William Towney (26), lamplighter, who was living with his uncle and family at 31.1 Middle Gardiner Street, Dublin 1. His uncle James, a railway guard, and the rest of the family were Catholic.
Charles Perr (62), ‘atheist’ and photographer from England, who was boarding with a family at 13.1 Sarsfield Street, Dublin 7.
An English ‘commerical traveller’ who dealt in ‘ammunition’ by the name of Leonard Harcourt Labone (26) his wife Katie and their infant son who were all ‘atheist’ living at 9 Whitton Road, Terenure, Dublin 6.
‘Agnostic’ Arthur Corcoran (22), an ‘Abstractor Irish Land Commission Civil Servant’ from Dublin, living with his family at 11.3 Amiens Street, Dublin 1.
An English ‘coffin maker’ John Henry White (4) who listed himself, his wife and their small children as ‘agnostic’. They were living at 10.3 Camden Street, Dublin 2.
‘Agnostic’ Victor Lionel Manning (26), a Civil Servant from Dublin, living with his aunt at 26.2 Mountpleasant Square, Dublin 6.
A London bachelor by the name of John Burke (34) who was ‘Goods Porter at Railway Station’ and an ‘atheist’ living at 3.4 Bishop Street, Dublin 8.
Englishman Edward Berham Anderson (25), a ‘Distiltery Research Chemist’, living with his wife Beatrice who were both ‘agnostic’ at 18 Gilford Avenue, Sandymount, Dublin 4.
An ‘agnostic’ Scottish civil servant, Robert V Laurenson (22) boarding at 21.4 Claremount Road, Sandymount, Dublin 4 who worked as a ‘Second Division Civil Servant’.
Dublin born Philip McGrath (47) a ‘Coach Body Maker’, who listed himself as ‘atheist’ while his wife and four children opted for ‘Roman Catholic’. The McGrath family lived at 25.4 Blackhall Street, Dublin 7.
Cyril Dugdale (25) Civil Servant and ‘agnostic’ living at 32, St. Columba’s Road Lower, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 with his Norwegian Lutheran wife.
Single ‘atheist’ Sydney Andeson Dougherty (21), a Dubliner with no occupation, living with his mother at 17.3 Charlemont Place, Dublin 2.
Albert Edward Davis (25), Insurance Agent from Limerick and ‘agnostic’, living with his English Protestant wife at 5, Hollybank Avenue, Rathmines, Dublin 6.
‘Agnostic’ George William Parker (49), a Teacher and Author with a M.A. in Mathematics from Trinity College, who lived with his Church of Ireland wife and family at 19 Temple Gardens, Milltown, Dublin 6.
English John Lowe Featherstone (49) and a Civil Engineer, who lived with wife and two sons – all ‘agnostic’ at 73 Kenilworth Square, Rathmines, Dublin 6.
English born Percy Giènd (26) who put down ‘nothing at all’ under religion. The night the census was taken he was in the home of John Cairns, a poulter from Cavan, at 63 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin 1.
Then there’s young Desmond (6) and Mary (4) Kidd who have ‘not yet decided’ on their religion. Cute! Living with their Protestant parent at 38, St. Kevin’s Park, Rathmines, Dublin 6.
Finally, the English family Hodgkinson living at 22 Swords Street, Arbour Hill, Dublin 7 who all put down ‘Not Members of any Recognised Religious Body and Do Not Hold any Belief in Particular’. Atheist by another name!