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04 May

Orthodox Opinions, Primitive Manners: Philip Skelton

Early or pre-Christian statue, Boa Island, Loch Erne Wikimedia, Public Domain

Early or pre-Christian statue, Boa Island, Loch Erne, near Pettigo
Wikimedia, Public Domain

Philip Skelton is like a character from an 18th century novel. His biography is filled with anecdotes (some of which appear in Wikipedia). Born near Lisburn Co. Antrim, in February 1707, in his youth he was strong and handsome, adept at swords, cudgels and boxing and with a “warm” temper. He reportedly fought at Donnybrook Fair, beating all comers but returning the prize-money so the ladies’ entertainment could continue. At Trinity (where he graduated BA in 1728) the Provost became his enemy though a dispute and threatened duel between Skelton and a fellow student, a relative of the Provost. However Skelton also formed a lifelong friendship with his lecturer Patrick Delany (part of Swift’s circle). This was a repeating pattern in his life – he had warm friendships, but his forthright manner, inability to lie and habit of dissolving friendships when affronted meant he remained in a lowly position in the Church of Ireland hierarchy. Hence “as his opinions were orthodox, his manners were primitive”, a description of him included on his tombstone (Life, p. 245).
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