Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Gregg, Robert Samuel

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

GREGG, ROBERT SAMUEL (1834–1896), archbishop of Armagh, second son of John Gregg [q. v.], was born at the rectory, Kilsallaghan, co. Dublin, of which parish his father was then rector, on 3 May 1834. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A. with honours in 1857, and proceeded M.A. in 1860. In the same year Gregg was ordained for the curacy of Rathcooney, co. Cork, and three years later was appointed incumbent of Christ Church, Belfast, an important cure which brought him in touch with the working-class population of the north of Ireland. In 1862 he returned to the diocese of Cork as rector of Frankfield and chaplain to his father, then bishop, and in 1865 became rector of Carrigrohane and precentor of St. Finn Barre's Cathedral, Cork. Here he quickly acquired a high reputation for administrative ability, as well as for the qualities of sound judgment, moderation, and good sense by which he was subsequently distinguished in the episcopal office. In the controversies which followed the disestablishment of the Irish church, particularly in regard to the revision of the prayer-book, Gregg took the conservative side, but his influence was uniformly exerted in a conciliatory spirit. Gregg's principal service to his church at this time lay in devising for his own diocese of Cork the singularly successful financial plan which became the foundation of the financial system of the disendowed church of Ireland, and on this and other occasions he showed a remarkable talent for finance. In 1873 he was presented by the university of Dublin with the degrees of B.D. and D.D., in recognition of his services to the church of Ireland.

In 1874 Gregg was appointed dean of Cork, and in the following year was selected by the Irish bishops to succeed Bishop O'Brien in the diocese of Ossory, Ferns, and Leughlin. Gregg, at forty-one years of age, thus became a member of the episcopal bench while his father was still bishop of Cork. On his father's death on 26 May 1878, the synods of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross at once selected Gregg to succeed him. As bishop of Cork, Gregg's most noticeable work lay in the completion of the beautiful cathedral of St. Finn Barre, which had been rebuilt during his father's episcopate at a cost of over 100,000l.; but he also won a deserved reputation not only for administrative efficiency, but for a statesmanlike grasp of church problems which opened the way to the highest office in the Irish church. On the death in 1893 of Primate Robert Bent Knox [q.v. Suppl.], Gregg was selected to succeed him as archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland. He died at the Palace, Armagh, on 10 Jan. 1896, after scarcely two years' enjoyment of the primacy.

Gregg was not especially remarkable either for theological learning or for pulpit eloquence, and in the latter respect, as also in the staid deliberation of his demeanour, presented a marked contrast to the ardent temperament and impetuous eloquence of his father. But he possessed, in addition to marked administrative capacity and practical sagacity in affairs, that sort of silent and reserved power which enables some men to exercise all the authority of a leader without appearing to lead. His influence in the general synod of the church of Ireland was at all times remarkable. Gregg was married in 1863 to Elinor, daughter of John Hugh Bainbridge of Frankfield House, Cork, by whom he had two children, both of whom survived him—John William Gregg, Causestown House, Athbry, co. Meath, and Amy Elinor, wife of Canon R. Walsh, D.D., rector of Donnybrook. She died in 1893. A portrait of Gregg by Staples is in the Palace, Armagh, and another, posthumously painted, in the Palace, Cork. A memorial window was placed in Armagh Cathedral.

[Private information.]

C. L. F.