Very Rev George Townshend (5C04)

Date of Birth: 14 Jun 1876
Date of Death: 25 Mar 1957
Generation: 7th
Residence: Clonfert & Dublin
Father: Charles Uniacke Townshend [5C00]
Mother: Roberts, Anna Maria
  1. Maxwell, Anna Sarah
  1. Brian Uniacke [5C23]
  2. Una Mary Uniacke [5C24]
See Also: Table VC ; Scrapbook ; Lineage ; Ancestors' Tree ; Descendents' Tree

Notes for Very Reverend George Townsend. See also.

George was born in Dublin.

Married 22 April 1918. Anna Sarah Maxwell (1) was the third daughter of Samuel Dennison Maxwell.

George was an Exhibitioner at Hertford College, Oxford where he read classics and English. Following graduation with honours he returned to Ireland where he qualified in law and became a talented leader writer for The Irish Times from 1900 to 1904. Emigrating to the United States that same year, George was ordained an Episcopalian minister in 1906 in Salt Lake City after which he went to Sewanee, Tennessee, where he became Associate Professor of English at the University of the South.

In 1916 George returned to Ireland and was appointed incumbent of Ahascragh, Ballinasloe, County Galway. In 1918 he started correspondence with Abdul-Baha who was head of the Bahá'í Faith (2). Two years later he wrote to Abdul-Baha accepting the Faith and aimed thereafter to work within the Church of Ireland to attract other clergy to the Faith. Abdul-Baha died in 1921 and was succeeded by Shoghi Effendi with whom George must have had a close understanding for from 1926 onwards he acted as literary adviser to him, reading through and editing all Shoghi Effendi's major publications. In 1927 George himself achieved literary recognition with his booklet "The Alter on the Hearth" and this was followed more widely in 1930 with "The Genius of Ireland".

George was appointed Canon St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, in 1932 and Archdeacon of Clonfert in 1933. However, it would appear that increasingly he found it difficult to reconcile his Christianity with Bahá'í teaching. He attended the World Congress of Faiths in London in 1936 and presented a paper on behalf of Shoghi Effendi. This increased activity in the Faith, including his two books, “The Heart of the Gospel” and “The Promise of All Ages”, created ever increasing tensions between George and other clergy.

In 1947 at the age of 70 he renounced his ordination in the Church of Ireland and wrote a pamphlet entitled 'The Old Churches and the New World Faith' in which he set out his reasons for leaving the church. This was sent to 10,000 so-called “responsible people” throughout the UK. Meanwhile George moved to a small house on the outskirts of Dublin and devoted himself completely to the Faith. He was one of the founding members of the Dublin Local Spiritual Assembly and in 1951 was designated by Shoghi Effendi as a Hand in the Cause of God (3).

Assisted by his children, George completed another book, 'Christ and Bahá'u'lláh', which Shoghi Effendi called "his crowning achievement", shortly before dying of Parkinson's disease in 1957, at the age of 81. He is buried in St.Patrick’s, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow with his wife and son, Brian - plot 382. Very highly regarded internationally, George is remembered by Bahá'ís as a truly wonderful and capable person.

The Baha’i community in Ireland have recently (2019) produced a video to commemorate the life of George, who they hold in exceptionally high regard. It can be seen here on YouTube.

The April 1901 Irish Census records George as a graduate living with his parents, eight siblings and five domestic staff in house 798 in Burlington Road, Pembroke West, Dublin.

George’s entry in Wikipedia shows his wife as ‘Nancy’. A biography of George was published in 1983 - "George Townshend" by David Hofman.

(1) Anna was born on 11 October 1889 and died on 6 February 1961 (5 February 1974?)

(2) The Bahá'í Faith is the religion founded by Baha’u’llah in 19th century Persia and there are around six million Bahá'ís throughout the world. The core principles of Bahá'í teachings are often referred to simply as follows: the ‘Unity of God’, the ‘Unity of Religion’ and the ‘Unity of Mankind’.

(3) The Hands of the Cause of God are a select group of Bahá'ís , appointed for life, whose main function is to propagate and protect the Bahá'ís Faith on the international level.