Miriam Moffitt's richly documented and absorbing book is the first comprehensive study of the mission of the Irish Church Missions to the poor in west Connemara, launched at the height of the Famine in 1848. At its apogee the mission encompassed 12 churches, four orphanages and 64 mission schools, widely dispersed across Connemara. It peaked (in terms of numbers of converts) in the mid-1850s, continued to attract a small number of new converts and to maintain a network of institutions into the twentieth century, but eventually withered, as new converts dried up and successive waves of "reversions" occurred, not least through an aggressive Catholic reversion crusade during 1874-1884.
The book outlines the operations of the missions, detailing the establishment of 64 bible schools, four orphanages and the establishment of 14 Protestant churches throughout Connemara. The book recounts the Catholic Church's aggressive campaign against the missionaries, and the divisions conversion caused in small communities against a backdrop of bad harvests and social unrest. In reality, the poor of Connemara found themselves pawns in a power struggle between the Protestant and Catholic churches. The book also provides an intimate account of the life of the poor in 19th century rural Ireland and describes the experiences of the convert community giving genealogical details of many convert families. The author, Miriam Moffitt ,is a native of Charlestown, Co.Mayo, she has received a doctorate of history from NUI Maynooth where she is currently a post-doctorate research fellow.