Charles Bourke was born in the 1760s in Carrowcubick, near what is now Ballycastle, Co. Mayo. He was educated in The Irish College, Salamanca, Spain, ordained for the diocese of Killala in 1792 and, in response to an appeal from King Philip II of Spain, he volunteered for service in Spainish Louisiana, becoming the first parish priest of Baton Rouge in the same year.
After an investigation into his conduct by the bishop of New Orleans he returned home to Killala in 1800. In 1811, without the permission of his bishop, Dominick Bellew, he joined Lord Thomas Selkirk's expedition as chaplain to a proposed colony of Irish Catholics and Scottish Presbyterians in Red River, an unexplored territory in what is now Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota. He never made it to Red River and was sent home the following year, where he became involved in an effort to block the appointment of a Tuam priest, Peter Waldron, in succession in Dominick Bellew as bishop of Killala.
After Waldron was appointed, Bourke continued to oppose him and, in 1817, published a scathing attack on Waldron and his fellow Killala clergy in a pamphlet, Popish Episcopal Tyranny Exposed. Bourke was suspended, according to himself, excommunicated, and appealed to Pope Pius VII for redress.
'A Melancholy Truth' tells the story of the extraordinary life of Fr. Charles Bourke.
A Melancholy Truth - The Travels and Travails of Fr. Charles Bourke c1765 - 1820
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