Mervyn Archdall was a clergyman and antiquary. His works are still in use today by historians and students. Born in Dublin Archdall was educated at Trinity College. Archdall married Sarah Colles in 1747. His interest in the antiquaries of Ireland led to his acquaintance with Dr. Pococke, archdeacon of Dublin. Ordained a clergyman he served in a number of parishes in Dublin, then in Cloyne before becoming the domestic chaplain of Richard Pococke, Bishop of Ossory in 1756. She died in 1782 and he re-married. Bishop Pococke gave him two parishes in Ossory which he held until 1786 when he became rector of Slane. In the same year his definitive work, Monasticum Hibernicum; or an History of the Abbies, Priories, and other Religious Houses in Ireland, appeared. This book contained a abridged version of the pre-Reformation history that Archdall recorded on all the monasteries of Ireland. A result of forty years of research, the book was ground-breaking, nothing like it had been compiled before. He was an original member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1786. Archdall dedicated Monasticon to William Burton Conyngham of Slane. In 1789 he published a revised and updated edition of John Lodge’s peerage of Ireland. Lodge’s notes were in code and it was Archdall’s second wife who was able to solve their mystery. In his preface Archdall wrote ‘I have left that inaccurate which could not be exact, and that imperfect which cannot be completed’.
Vestry books from the time of Archdall survive for the parish of Slane. In March 1788 it was resolved that neither cattle or pigs were allowed to graze in the churchyard. John Holmes, former curate of the parish was condemned for absconding with more than £1 which had been collected for the poor. Any pigs found wandering in the streets of Slane was to be shot and a plot of land obtained from Mr. Conyngham for a pound. Mervyn Archdall as rector signed the minutes of the vestry. In 1790 there is records of the purchase of ‘a cushion for Mr. Archdall.’ Archdall was also chaplain to Francis Pierpoint, Lord Conyngham, Burton Conyngham’s brother. Archdall and William Burton Conyngham rescued an effigy of a bishop from the old cavalry barracks at Navan, which had been the site of St. Mary’s abbey. The effigy was placed in a wall at Slane Castle and the base was placed in St. Erc’s Hermitage. Mrs. Hickey wrote about the monuments in 1975.
Archdall’s Burial place, Slane.
Archdall died suddenly in 1791 and was buried near the east wall in Slane churchyard. His memorial consisted of a plain slab on four pillars.