About The Earl Bishop

Frederick Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol, was an English aristocrat who achieved the almost impossible feat (for an English aristocrat) of being generally adored in Ireland during his lifetime and fondly remembered ever since. At a time when many of his class who ruled or owned property here were at best indifferent towards the Irish themselves, Frederick won hearts and minds through a rare combination of religious tolerance, generosity and a highly-developed sense of humour.

What other Bishop would force his clergymen to run races along the beach, sprinkle flour along his palace corridors at night to reveal who was sleeping with who, or drink a bottle of rum and ‘swear like a gentleman?’ Whatever about our conflicts over politics and religion, above all things we Irish enjoy ‘a character,’ which is why stories about ‘The Earl Bishop’ are still told here two centuries after his death.

Frederick was born near Bury St Edmunds, in the south-east of England, in 1730. Through sheer good luck, in his thirties he was made the Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry, then in his forties, inherited his grandfather`s title and estates (hence, The Earl Bishop). This was like winning the lottery twice; both positions brought huge incomes, which Frederick spent on fine art and even finer mansions, but also on his flock, irrespective of religion. In an age where religious discrimination was enshrined in Ireland`s legal framework, this was a highly unusual approach for an establishment bishop to take. Nowadays we would approve, and call it ecumenism, but during his lifetime, Frederick was pilloried by his peers for championing the cause of equality (no less a figure than King George III himself called Frederick ‘that wicked prelate’).

The Earl Bishop Trail has been set up in memory of this highly-colourful character. At each stop along the way, you can enjoy majestic ruins, amazing views and beautiful landscapes, but you will also hear many more stories about Frederick himself.