Bole (Bull), John (a.1425–1471), OSA, abbot of Navan, archbishop of Armagh, was the only archbishop of Armagh in the fifteenth century not to attend university. Little is known of his life before his provision to Armagh beyond the fact that he served as abbot of Navan for several years. He may have been related to the Bole (Bull) family of merchants in London, but this is uncertain. He travelled to Rome after the death of Archbishop John Mey (qv) in 1456, possibly to gain recognition of his election as bishop of Kildare. Instead, he was provided first to the vacant see of Derry and then (2 May 1457) to Armagh, and was consecrated archbishop shortly after. Bole was appointed the collector for Ireland of a tithe decreed for the relief of Constantinople. Like the other archbishops of his time his preferred residence was at Termonfeckin in Co. Louth, but Bole was determined to assert his supremacy over the whole province. He held provincial synods (1460, 1462, 1463, 1469) and penalised bishops who failed to attend. Bole also continued the practice of metropolitan visitations, both by delegate and in person. Though he maintained better relations with the Gaelic dean and chapter in Armagh than his predecessors, he had some difficulty asserting his authority over them, despite several visitiations to Armagh. He also maintained good relations with the O'Neills for most of his period as archbishop, but shortly before his death he fell out with Enrí Ó Néill, lord of Tyrone, over issues of church liberties. Despite his determination to restore the authority of the primate over the whole province, Bole's most important legacy to his successors was the huge debt accrued during his time as archbishop. Whether he was simply a careless administrator or a spendthrift, his inability to deal with monetary matters was a feature of his life. In 1466 he had to be protected by a parliamentary statute from a suit brought against him for non-payment of debts owed from when he was abbot of Navan. Whatever the reasons, his legacy of debt continued to affect his successors for more than two decades after his death on 18 February 1471.
Stat. Ire. 1–12 Ed. IV; C. pap. reg.; Cotton, Fasti; Brady, Episcopal succession; Gwynn, Med. province Armagh; K. Simms, ‘The archbishops of Armagh and the O'Neills, 1347–1471’, IHS, xix (1974–5), 38–55; Anthony Lynch, ‘The province and diocese of Armagh, 1417–71’ (MA thesis, NUI (UCD), 1979)