James Warren Doyle OSA

(JKL – Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin), Leader in the fight for Catholic Emancipation — From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Bishop James Doyle (1786-1834) was a Roman Catholic Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin in Ireland, best known from his signature ‘JKL’, an acronym from ‘James Kildare and Leighlin’. A campaigner for Catholic Emancipation up to 1829, he was also an educator, church organiser and the builder of Carlow cathedral.

Early life

James Warren Doyle was born close to New Ross, Co. Wexford in 1786. He joined the Augustinian order in 1805 at Grantstown, Co. Wexford and then studied for his doctorate at Coimbra in Portugal (1806-08). His studies were disturbed by the French army’s invasion of Iberia, during which he did sentry work in Coimbra and accompanied the English forces to Lisbon as an interpreter.[1] Following his return to Ireland he was ordained to the priesthood on 1 October, 1809 at Enniscorthy. In 1810-13 he joined the Augustinian community at Ross and from July 1813 Dr. Doyle was appointed to a professorship at Carlow College, holding firstly the Chair of Rhetoric and from 1814 the Professorship of Theology.

 Bishop 1819-1834

Dr. Michael Corcoran, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin died on 22 February, 1819, and James Doyle, by now a Professor for five years, was the clear choice of the clergy of the diocese, and also of the other bishops of the archdiocese of Dublin. He was formally named as the next Bishop in August 1819 and was consecrated in Carlow Parish Church on 14 November. During his fifteen years as Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Dr. Doyle earned great respect nationwide for his writings in defence of the Catholic position in Irish and British society, supporting the work of the Catholic Association. His books on pastoral, political, educational and inter-denominational matters are still well thought of today, providing much material for social and religious historians (see below). He was a natural ally of Daniel O’Connell in the political campaign for Catholic Emancipation which was finally effected in 1829. He was invited to give evidence on the state of Ireland to parliamentary enquiries in London in 1825, 1830 and 1832.

Given his prior experience in education, his major contribution was arguably in helping the establishment of National Schools across Ireland from 1831, which were started with a government grant of £30,000. The proposed system was ahead of state provision for education in Britain at that time, and was in some respects experimental; a sign of London’s trust in his practicality. He told his priests:

…all the teachers henceforth to be employed be provided from some Model School, with a certificate of their competency, that will aid us in a work of great difficulty, to wit, that of suppressing hedge schools, and placing youths under the direction of competent teachers, and of those only.

The construction of Carlow Cathedral of the Assumption crowned his career and was started in 1828 and finished at the end of November 1833. Bishop Doyle fell ill for a number of months before dying on 15 June 1834. He was buried in his cathedral in front of the altar.[citation needed] According to another source he was interred in its walls. A sculpture, by John Hogan, in memorial to bishop James Doyle was finished in 1839.[2]

Several biographies were written on him before 1900 and his influence on the later Irish Catholic bishops in the period 1834-1900 was considerable. He had proved that negotiations with government could be beneficial to his congregation.


  • A Vindication of the religious and civil principles of the Irish Catholics (1823)
  • Letter on the state of Ireland (1825)
  • An essay on the Catholics claims (1826)

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