Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Synge, Edward
SYNGE, EDWARD (1659–1741), archbishop of Tuam, second and younger son of Edward Synge, bishop of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross, was born on 6 April 1659 at Inishannon in co. Cork, of which parish his father was at the time vicar.
The family belonged to Bridgnorth in Shropshire, where the name appears originally to have been Millington. According to tradition, they acquired the name of Sing or Synge from the sweetness of voice of one of the family.
George Synge (1594–1653), uncle of the younger Edward, born at Bridgnorth in 1594. was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, whence he matriculated on 16 Feb. 1610, graduated B.A. on 21 Oct. 1613, and M.A. on 12 June 1616. Subsequently he went to Ireland, where he found a warm patron in Christopher Hampton [q. v.], archbishop of Armagh, who constituted him vicar-general of his diocese and dean of Dromore; in which capacity his ‘so eloquent, so godly, so very leaud, railing, cursing censure’ of James Croxton’s attempts at auricular confession had, but for the generally disturbed state of the kingdom in 1638, drawn down upon him the vengeance of Archbishop Laud (see Prynne, Canterburies Doom, p. 195; Strafford, Letters, ii. 185, 212, 249). On 11 Nov. 1638 he was consecrated bishop of Cloyne at Drogheda; but on the breaking out of the rebellion in October 1641 he fled for safety to Dublin. In February 1644 he was sworn of the Irish privy council, and on the death of Dr. John Maxwell (1590?–1647) [q. v.] in February 1646–7 was nominated to the archbishopric of Tuam; but, failing to obtain possession on account of the war, he returned in the following year to Bridgnorth, where he died in 1653, and was buried on 31 Aug. in the church of St. Mary Magdalene. He was the author of a learned reply to the Jesuit Malone’s answer to Archbishop Ussher, entitled ‘A Rejoinder to the Reply, published by the Jesuits under the name of William Malone,’ Dublin, 1632.
It was at his suggestion that his younger brother, Edward Synge (d. 1678), then a mere boy, but destined for the church, likewise repaired to Ireland. Having received a sound education at the school at Drogheda and Trinity College, Dublin, he was, after taking orders, preferred to the rectory of Killary in the barony of Lower Slane, co. Meath. In 1647 he was appointed a minor canon of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, and shortly afterwards vicar of Inishannon in co. Cork, and dean of Elphin. During the rule of the Commonwealth he persisted in using the English liturgy in all the public offices of his ministry, being secured from prosecution by his interest with Dr. Gorge, the then auditor-general. He was consecrated bishop of Limerick on 27 Jan. 1661, and on 21 Dec. 1663 translated to the united sees of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross. He died on 22 Dec. 1678, having acquired a reputation as a singularly able preacher. Of his two sons, Samuel the elder, having graduated B.A. from Christ Church College, Oxford, on 26 Nov. 1674, proceeding M.A. on 3 July 1677, became dean of Kildare on 17 April 1679, and, dying on 30 Nov., was buried in the family vault in St. Patrick’s churchyard, near Archbishop Marsh’s library, on 2 Dec. 1708.
Edward, the younger son, after being educated at the grammar school at Cork, was admitted a commoner at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1674, and graduated B.A. in 1677, but on his father’s death returned to Ireland, finishing his studies at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was admitted ad eundem, and took the degree of M.A. Having been ordained priest and deacon, he was preferred to the two small parishes of Laracor and Augher in the diocese of Meath, being both together of about the yearly value of 100l. These he afterwards exchanged for the vicarage of Christ Church, Cork, of the same value, but one of the heaviest cures in Ireland. Here he remained for more than twenty years, his income having been in the meantime increased to about 400l. a year by the gift of certain small benefices tenable with his cure. In 1699 he was offered the deanery of Derry, but declined it out of regard for his mother, who was unwilling to leave Cork. He was chosen proctor for the chapter in the convocation summoned in 1703, and was shortly afterwards nominated by the lord-lieutenant, the Duke of Ormonde, to the deanery of St. Patrick’s, Dublin. But the right of election being claimed by the chapter, a compromise was effected through the mediation of Archbishop William King [q. v.]; John Sterne [q. v.] (afterwards bishop of Clogher) succeeding to the deanery and Synge to the chancellorship, with the parish of St. Werburgh annexed. He was installed on 2 April 1705, and during the next eight years that he resided in Dublin he established a reputation for himself as one of the most industrious clergymen and popular preachers in the city. At the same time he took his degree of D.D., and on Sterne’s promotion to the see of Dromore, having been appointed by Archbishop King his vicar-general, he was chosen to represent the chapter of St. Patrick’s in the convocation that met in 1713. On 7 Nov. 1714 he was consecrated bishop of Raphoe in the church of Dunboyne, co. Meath, by the archbishop of Cashel, and on 8 June 1716 was translated to the archbishopric of Tuam, including the ancient sees of Enaghdune and Kilfenora, together with the wardenship of Galway. He was enthroned at Kilfenora on 7 Nov., and one of his earliest actions, and that which gained him the goodwill of his clergy, was the resignation, in pursuance of an old scheme of the Earl of Strafford for improving the livings in his diocese, of the ‘quarta pars episcopalis’ or fourth part of the tithes, which his immediate predecessors had nevertheless enjoyed [see Vesey, John, archbishop of Tuam, and for a full discussion of the subject Ware’s Works, ed. Harris, i. 619]. To this end he procured an act of parliament in 1717 settling it permanently on such rectors, vicars, and curates as personally discharged their cures. In 1716 he was admitted a privy councillor, and in that and the two following years was one of the keepers of the great seal in the absence of the lord high chancellor. Like King himself, he fell into disfavour with the government owing to his opposition to the Toleration Bill in 1719, which he thought calculated to promote the growth of popery (Report of his speech, Addit. MS. 6117, ff. 107–21), and, in consequence of having in the following spring alluded to the act as a reason for greater zeal in preaching against popery, he was charged with stirring up disaffection against the state. But from this charge he ‘acquitted himself so well that it dropped of itself,’ and in 1721 he was again included in the commission for administering the great seal. He died at Tuam on 24 July 1741, and was buried in the churchyard of his cathedral at the east end of the church. He desired that no monument should be erected to his memory; but the capital of the ancient cross of Tuam placed over his grave testifies to the universal respect in which he was held.
Synge was a man of considerable learning, but his writings, consisting of short tracts and sermons, of which there is a full if not complete list in Nichols’s ‘Literary Anecdotes’ (i. 378), were chiefly devoted to the promotion of practical piety. A number of them (some thirty-four) were after his death collected and published in 4 vols. 12mo, London, 1744. Of these, several, having passed through many editions during his lifetime, have since been adopted, and frequently reprinted for general distribution, by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. It has been said of Synge that his life was as exemplary as his writings were instructive; that what he wrote he believed, and what he believed he practised. As the son of one bishop, the nephew of another, himself an archbishop, and the father of two other bishops, his position in ecclesiastical biography is probably unique.
Synge’s two sons, Edward and Nicholas, were both graduates of Trinity College, Dublin; the former proceeding M.A. in 1712 and D.D. in 1728; the latter M.A. in 1715 and D.D. in 1734. Edward, from being chancellor of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, was on 28 May 1730 elevated to the bishopric of Clonfert, being consecrated by his father in St. Werburgh’s Church, Dublin, on 7 June. Subsequently he was translated to Cloyne on 21 March 1731, to Ferns on 8 Feb. 1733, and to Elphin on 15 May 1740. He died at Dublin on 27 Jan. 1762, and was buried in St. Patrick’s churchyard on 1 Feb. Nicholas, having been collated to the archdeaconry of Dublin in 1743, was on 26 Jan. 1746 consecrated bishop of Killaloe. He died in December 1770, the fifth and last prelate of the family, and was buried in St. Patrick’s churchyard on 1 Jan. 1771.[Biographia Britannica based on a memoir contributed by the archbishop’s son Edward and practically reprinted in Chalmers’s Biographical Dictionary; Wood’s Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 347, iv. 812; Ware’s Works, ed. Harris, i. 283, 619–21, ii. 297; Cotton’s Fasti Eccles. Hib. passim; Mant’s Hist. of the Church in Ireland, ii. 282, 286, 311–12, 355, 381, 506, 550; Monck Mason’s Hist. and Antiquities of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, App. pp. lxii, lxxii; Foster’s Alumni Oxon.; Cat. of Graduates in Trinity College, Dublin; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. viii. 423, xi. 240, 3rd ser. x. 203, 317; Addit. MSS. 6116 f. 299, 6117 ff. 1–186, with letters to Abp. Wake, 1703–26.]