Paterson, John Thomas Farquhar (1938–2005), Church of Ireland clergyman and scholar, was born 21 December 1938 in Portadown, Co. Armagh, the only child of Henry Paterson and his wife Greta (Margreta) (née Bell). His uncle was the local historian and folklorist Thomas George Farquhar Paterson (see below). John Paterson attended Portadown College, and then Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied Hebrew and oriental languages. He graduated BA in 1961, and then trained to become a Church of Ireland clergyman; he was ordained deacon in 1963 and priest the following year. His first curacy was in his home diocese; for two years he was curate in Drumglass, Armagh. In 1966 he moved to Dublin as curate in St Bartholomew's, Clyde Road, a parish long associated with the anglo-catholic tradition in the Church of Ireland, where Paterson was able to develop his interest in liturgy, historical ritual and church music. Two years in the inner-city parish of St Mark's, on Pearse Street, where congregational numbers had been declining, ended on 31 May 1970, when the church was closed for the last time.
Paterson returned to TCD to study for the BD degree: he was awarded the Elrington Prize in 1970 and graduated for the second time in 1971. On 27 January 1972 he became vicar of St Bartholomew's, then united with Christ Church, Leeson Park. This union was a pioneering venture in which the Church of Ireland and a methodist congregation successfully shared the original Church of Ireland building in Leeson Park and indicated Paterson's personal commitment to practical ecumenism, as did his development of a Christian study centre in the parish in 1974. In 1978, he was made dean of St Brigid's cathedral, Kildare; he published Meath and Kildare: an historical guide (1981), and The cathedral church of Saint Brigid: notes on the history (1982). He also served as Church of Ireland chaplain to the Curragh military camp in Co. Kildare. In 1985 he became a lecturer in pastoral liturgy in the Church of Ireland theological college and was elected one of the general secretaries of the general synod.
He was installed as dean of Christ Church cathedral in Dublin on 24 February 1989. Already well known within the Church of Ireland for his preaching and ministry, as well as for his scholarly interests in theology and liturgy, he soon became more widely recognised nationally as a result of frequent broadcast services from Christ Church, and for his occasional outspoken public comments. Over the years, he made a considerable contribution to Christ Church: he established a very successful permanent historical exhibition in the crypt, started a female choir and initiated a fund-raising programme to repair the building. He was noted for his interest in liturgical development, and worked on a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer, using his knowledge of biblical linguistics and theology. He also developed the cathedral's ministry in the disadvantaged areas of Dublin's inner city; at his last sermon before retirement in January 2004, he criticised the government's tax policy as unfair to poorer people.
In the late 1980s, when the Church of Ireland was considering whether or not to ordain women as priests, Paterson was one of the leaders of 'concerned clergy', an informal grouping of clergymen unhappy about the possibility. Before the meeting of the general synod in May 1989, which was to decide on the issue, Paterson and the others lobbied passionately on the subject. His strong opposition was based partly on his fear that an anglican decision to ordain women would threaten ecumenical dialogue with Roman catholicism, and make it impossible ever to achieve union with the Roman catholic church. When the synod voted in favour, Paterson was dismayed, but stated that he was not threatening to leave the church; rather, he said, he was threatening to stay. Schism was avoided, but Paterson and others continued the campaign. In May 1990 synod ratified the decision, and the Church of Ireland became the first anglican province in Britain and Ireland to ordain women. Discussions continued, as Paterson and his supporters sought recognition of the validity of their objection, and reassurance that their principled stand would not prejudice their ministry or their careers. A conciliatory motion on the subject at the following year's synod (May 1991) was presented jointly in his name. However, the motion was amended in discussion, and was then treated as 'received' rather than 'affirmed'. Paterson voted against it. He immediately resigned as secretary of synod, to general regret, though he stayed on in his other posts. On 21 October 1990, he found himself unable to attend the first ordination of a woman in Christ Church cathedral because of a prior appointment in the west of Ireland, but he eventually was able to accept the new situation in the church and welcomed women as colleagues in the ministry.
He wrote many articles on theology, some appearing in the catholic journal The Furrow, as well as in edited volumes; he also published Parish education handbook (1987), Mary in the church (1990) and History of the laity in the Church of Ireland (2002). He served as diocesan radio officer and was co-chairman of the Church of Ireland Historical Society. Colleagues thought in 1996 that he might succeed Donald Caird as archbishop of Dublin, but Paterson was increasingly suffering from heart trouble, and on 12 December 1997 he underwent a heart transplant operation. His convalescence was greatly helped by a friend, Patricia Bray (née Daniel), a widow with two grown-up sons, and the couple were married by Archbishop Walton Empey on 3 February 2001.
Paterson's health failed again, and after a long illness, he died on 9 September 2005 in the heart and lung transplant unit of the Mater Hospital, Dublin. His widow presented a portrait to the cathedral in early 2007.
Dean Paterson's uncle, Thomas George Farquhar Paterson ('T. G. F.'; 'Tommy') (1888–1971), local historian, folklore collector and museum curator, was the eldest child in a family of seven sons and one daughter. He was born 29 February 1888, in or near Toronto, in Ontario, Canada. His parents, John and Rachel (née Farquhar) Paterson had emigrated from Co. Armagh; their first three children were born in Canada, but the family returned to Ireland in the early 1890s, to the family farm in Cornascreeb, five miles south of Portadown, Co. Armagh. Tommy (also known as George) attended Aghory national school, and left at age 14 to be apprenticed to a grocer in Portadown. In 1911, he took a position in Couser's, the leading grocery and wine merchant's business in Armagh city; in time becoming the manager, he was acquainted with the local gentry and clergy.
However, the grocery trade was never his main interest; from an early age he was fascinated by the history and folklore of his native place. He became an expert on the genealogy of the gentry as well as of the farming families around Armagh, and also collected material on many aspects of Armagh life; his notebooks eventually contained well over a million words of notes on history, archaeology, dialect, folkways and natural history, as well as drawings and plans of traditional houses, fireside accoutrements and farm implements. His knowledge of history, archaeology and natural history was widely recognised, and in 1931 Armagh County Council asked him to become honorary curator of the small museum established by the Armagh Natural History and Philosophical Society. Four years later, Paterson left Couser's and became full-time curator of the museum, re-named the Armagh County Museum. He greatly augmented and improved the collections, and in the late 1950s oversaw the enlargement of the building. His life's work culminated in the opening of the new building in 1962, and he retired a year later, aged 75.
His work won the respect of scholars, including E. Estyn Evans (qv), a lifelong friend, and material that Paterson recorded has been cited in a wide variety of books and journal articles; over one hundred citations were listed in a posthumous bibliography in 1972, and since then hundreds of scholarly works have drawn on Paterson's published and unpublished material; his manuscripts are in Armagh museum, where they form an important resource. Paterson himself published a book, Country cracks: old tales from the county of Armagh (1939), and a very large number of articles in newspapers and journals, especially in Seanchas Ardmhacha, Ulster Journal of Archaeology and Ulster Folklife. He sometimes used the pseudonym 'Cornascreeb'. He greatly assisted researchers interested in the Armagh background of Alexander Campbell (qv) and his father Thomas Campbell (qv), and was made an honorary member of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, based in Nashville, Tennessee. He was a founder member of the committee that re-established the Ulster Journal of Archaeology. He was active in local history societies, and for many years was a member of the Ancient Monuments Advisory Council; he recorded many local sites for the register of ancient monuments. He was a member of the Northern Ireland committee of the National Trust, and sought to preserve Armagh's architectural heritage and local industrial archaeology; he donated much important archive material to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. He described and collected folk artefacts, at least thirty years before most academic historians were interested in such objects, and he was a foundation trustee of the Ulster Folk Museum in Cultra, Co. Down. He was also a member of the first board of the Institute of Irish Studies in Queen's University, Belfast, from 1965.
Membership of the Royal Irish Academy was an honour not often accorded to someone who had not had a university education, still less to someone who left school at 14, but Paterson was elected MRIA in 1941; he was conferred with an honorary MA by QUB in 1944. His service on many public bodies was acknowledged by the award of an OBE.
He was unmarried, and died 6 April 1971. Hundreds of people contributed to a memorial fund. Some of the money subscribed was used to purchase nineteenth-century drawings for the county museum, and in 1975 the memorial committee also published Harvest home: the last sheaf: a selection from the writings of T. G. F. Paterson relating to County Armagh, edited by Estyn Evans. The book had two introductions, one based in part on an unpublished autobiographical memoir, and written by his only nephew (see above).