The Rev Bryan O'Malley (MA)


The Rev Bryan O'Malley (MA) took lodgings in King's Lynn and later in March, Cambridgeshire. He died on 12 January 1909.





The Judicial Separation

In 1881 his wife was granted custody of their young children when she was granted a Judicial Separation amid charges of neglect. (The article below is from the National Library of New Zealand). Judicial Separation meant Frances could not be compelled to live with her husband but as they were still technically married, neither party could remarry. Divorce was very rare at this time and custody of children did not automatically go to the mother. The case attracted national attention and was covered by the national press, including the Daily Telegraph.     



From the Bury Free Press April 2nd 1892

In the Court of Arches on Friday before Lord Pensuance, The case of the Rev Bryan O'Malley vicar of Fitcham, Norfolk v the Bishop of Norfolk. The case was heard in the Chambers last week and it came to this judgement, his Lordship said that the appellant O'Malley had been convicted of drunkenness by the Bishop who was sitting with the Assessors and sentenced him to suspension for two years, from that suspension he appealed to the Court. Lord Pensuance fixed the penalty at 4 months.

At the 1881 Census, Frances, aged 42 was living with her children under the name "Malley" in lodgings at Fulham, and rightly listed as married. All the children had been born at Flitcham:

At the time of the judicial separation in 1881, they are referred to as:

Bryan Francis Keppel O'Malley, b. 2 Feb. 1873

Lewis Sydney Steward O'Malley, b. 23 Sept. 1874

Grace Elizabeth Amelia Henrietta O'Malley, b 1876

Albermarle Barrett Lennard O'Malley, b. 29 Sept. 1877.

A letter from Grace states: “…it reminds me so much of his schooldays, when my three brothers carried off a great many of the Grammar School Prizes, all they could have. A friend of ours Captain Fielder said to a Grammar School boy at that time “Are you going to win a prize this term?" The boy answered “No, we shan’t win any prizes as long as the O’Malleys are in the school”

Lewis went on to be head boy of Norwich Grammar School and was awarded a scholarship to Hertford College, Oxford


The Rev Bryan O'Malley was a graduate of Dublin University and became vicar of Flitcham in 1873. At this time, Flitcham was a poor and neglected parish where local farmers grazed sheep in the churchyard and which supported an annual living of just £80 per annum. The Rev O'Malley's financial situation was not helped by the fact that his wife, Frances Keppel, was used to being comfortably well off - her father was the Rev. Hon. Thomas Robert Keppel, the rector at North Creake. Her uncle was the Earl of Albermarle who looked after her affairs on the death of her father. She and husband Bryan had married on the 5 March 1872 and his fathering of four children by 1878 stretched their finances further


Frances Keppel claimed that her husband had thrown various objects at her, including the Bible, during fits of temper and that he had even hit her during their honeymoon in Ireland. She did admit to throwing some of his missiles back at him and may have been of similar temperament for she stated that their marriage had originally been a match of love.

After one separation, she returned only after her brother had secured a signed statement from her husband declaring that "I will no longer beat my wife"! Matters were brought to a head when she and the children were turned out of the house in November and forced to walk in the snow to nearby Hillington to find accommodation at the vicarage there.

Sources: Mrs Cindi Bragg Pearman, a direct descendant (a great, great grand daughter); "The Plundered Church" by Rev Bryan O'Malley; Crockford's Clerical Dictionary; The National Library of New Zealand; "Blame it on the Norfolk Vicar" by Tom Hughes (Halsgrove 2009); The Foxearth & District Local History Society. Any other rights or copyright willingly acknowledged - please contact the webmaster


It seems that despite gaining the support of his parishioners, the Rev. O'Malley fought with an unsympathetic Bishop of Norwich for improved conditions:

The story (and subsequent scandal) is related by Tom Hughes in his compendium of stories "Blame it on The Norfolk Vicar" (pub. Halsgrove 2009): by literally trudging miles around the county, O'Malley was successful in begging and badgering local gentry for donations to increase the endowment by £2000, increasing the Reverend's income to £200 pa.

In the article (left) the Rev Bryan O'Malley pleads for charity from public subscription in the sum of £1,000 to endow the Flitcham living in order to supplement his living. The article's introduction is sympathetic if not entirely logical: "The simple manner in which the story is told is evidence of its year ...there was no burial at all" and just why he had to walk 4 miles to obtain a jug of milk is not clear. (This newspaper cutting is unattributed but probably originates locally from Norwich Mercury publications c1875-1880)

As part of his campaign for better conditions, The Rev O'Malley wrote a book: "The Plundered Church; or The Woes of Poor Clergymen" published in 1880. Inside the cover are the words “Printed for the Author”. There is a handwritten note inside written by O’Malley dated May 12 1908 to the Librarian at Oxford University to whom he is sending it and noting that he has previously sent it to the University of Dublin.The following extract is from Page 129:

Hoe Handles the Morals of a Disendowed Parish

"By allowing time to pass without making spiritual provision for the souls in parishes where vicars are starving, such a state of things as the following exists in them. I extract this account, which reads an Irish Donybrook Fair business, from the Lynn Advertiser newspaper, dated Sept. 4th, 1875: - "Bates's father, who was present and saw his son knocked down, went to pick him up, and, finding him insensible, conveyed him in a wheelbarrow to his home. At this time there seems to have been a general row; hoe handles were used pretty freely, so much so that they flew in all directions like match wood. The disturbance was kept up till PC Chapman put in an appearance and interfered, and two or three of the ringleaders will be summoned. Mr. B--, surgeon , of Grimston, is attending young man Edward Bates, who is lying in a very precarious state at Flitcham, suffering from a fracture of the base of the skull."