Caitlín & Constance –Letters from the Pearse Hutchinson Archive

By Ciara Joyce, Special Collections & Archives

Image of Caitlín McElhinney c.1920 from the Pearse Hutchinson Archive

Opening the boxes of a literary collection, you have certain expectations as to what you may find.  Drafts of published and unpublished work, correspondence – official and personal, family photographs, cards, and the usual array of documents that people accrue during the course of their lives are the usual fare. The archive of renowned multi-lingual poet Pearse Hutchinson (1927-2012) is no exception. The vast majority of this collection consists of documents relating to Hutchinson’s career, but fortuitously it also contains a substantial number of items belonging to his parents and wider family. While every family’s archive contains treasures with insight into the family history, what makes Hutchinson’s family history of particular interest is that his parents were involved in the republican movement throughout their lives.

Hutchinson was an only child and lived in the family home in Rathgar until his death in 2012. As a result, Hutchinson became the custodian of the family archive with the house acting as a repository for the memory of his family, in particular his parents Henry Warren Hutchinson and Caitlín McElhinney. Hutchinson’s parents were both involved in Irish politics and Irish republicanism in the early years of the state. They counted many of Ireland’s leading political figures of the time as friends, including Éamon de Valera, Margaret Pearse and Constance Markievicz.

Caitlín McElhinney was born Kathleen Sarah McElhinney in 1888 in the Cowcaddens, Glasgow, Scotland. Her parents William McElhinney, a shopkeeper and Jeanie McElhinney (née Heron) emigrated from County Donegal as teenagers and met on the boat to Scotland. Her father attained a level of success in business and the family enjoyed a middle class lifestyle. Caitlín trained as a primary school teacher at the Glasgow Roman Catholic Training College and graduated in 1910. Her Catholic faith was always important to Caitlín, as was her Irish heritage, but it is unclear from this collection whether she had an interest in Irish politics before 1916. She married Henry Warren Hutchinson, an Irishman, who as a child moved with his parents to Glasgow. Both became very involved in supporting the Irish struggle for independence, joining Sinn Féin (Henry was treasurer of the Glasgow branch) and Cumman Poblacht na h-Eireann n-Albain.

Caitlín had the opportunity to meet many Irish political figures when they visited Scotland on fundraising trips, including Margaret Pearse and Arthur Griffith. It is likely that on one of these trips Caitlín met Countess Constance Markievicz. The two women struck up a friendship, of which Henry Hutchinson wrote in his draft autobiography, that his guests included ‘the Countess’ for long periods-she loved my wife and painted her portrait[1]’.  

Surviving in the archive are three letters that Constance wrote to Caitlín, an autographed postcard and the portrait that Constance painted to Caitlín in 1923.

Letter from Constance Markievicz to Caitlín McElhinney from the Pearse Hutchinson

The letters are undated, but from the content they appear to have been written in the late 1920s. They are a mixture of friendly conversation and political opinion, in particular the removal of the Oath of Allegiance, de Valera’s resignation from Sinn Féin, and the future of the Irish Republic. Constance is very frank in her opinions of a number of individuals associated with the party, particularly those she perceives to be a threat to de Valera. Of de Valera’s efforts to have  the oath removed she writes ‘Dev is trying all he can to prevent bitterness growing between those who differ…..Dev has always held that if the war failed we should take political action to get the oath of allegiance removed from the constitution, and if we succeeded in doing so take our seats in the Dail and fight for the Republic there. This does not mean that we would not fight if  we got a chance…..It simply means, to use the Parliament (north & South) as we used the Councils in times past to establish the Republic bit by bit’. Speculating on what the removal of the Oath might lead to, she writes ‘It should set a lead to Australia, S. Africa, Canada, to kick at the oath too. It even might result in a movement which might eventually break up the Empire’, but she accepts that ‘to quarrel over whether we or our childrens children should go into the Dail if the oath was removed, seems to be quarrelling over the ghost of a hypothesis’.

She also writes about what she sees as hypocrisy from a member of the Sinn Féin party, in particular Father Michael O’Flanagan of whom she writes ‘When the 16 leaders were hardly cold in the quicklime graves, and I was in a convicts dress shut up helpless in Mountjoy, a newspaper was smuggled in to me in which I read a letter from him approving of partition….He makes me ill’.

She writes regarding the end of the Republican Government ‘You cannot logically claim to be the government of a people who dont want you and wont support or obey you’.

Postcard autographed by Constance Markievicz from the Pearse Hutchinson Archive

The personal relationship between the two women is also clear from the letters. Constance shares news about her family and asks about Caitlín’s mother and husband. Of her time in Scotland she writes ‘I often think of that long, hot summer in Glasgow, I should never have stood it only for you, Your friendship was the only thing that made up for the being out of the country, away from the fighting and shut up in a town, so big and dusty’. She also mentions that her daughter has a job ‘as a gardiner in a garden village in England, she is very keen on motors and wireless and things of that sort’. She writes of the death of her own mother that ‘It was so soon after my sisters death too, and seemed such a break-up of everything that tied one to this world’. In a letter which must have been written in early 1927, she offers advice on Caitlín’s pregnancy and the imminent arrival of her baby writing that ‘I believe that God is sending you a little baby to comfort you in all your trouble’ stating that ‘There is very little danger nowa days with a strong, and wellmade woman like yourself, in the prime of life’.

Surprisingly there are only three letters in this series but Constance likely had an extremely large volume of correspondence to deal with on a daily basis. Constance Markievicz died in July 1927, only weeks after she had been re-elected to her Dáil seat. Caitlín moved to Ireland in 1932, where she lived for the remainder of her life. She continued to take an interest in Irish politics and corresponded with a number of political prisoners in the Curragh over the years. She died in 1968.

These two women, from very different backgrounds, appear to have been united by strong republican beliefs. Cailtín, like Constance was staunchly anti-treaty and uncompromising and this is likely to have bonded the woman even further. Each of the letters from Constance are signed ‘do ċara i gcúis Poblaċt na h’Eireann’.

This collection can be accessed by contacting Special Collections and Archives

[1] MU/PP10 Pearse Hutchinson Archive

Gazing Skyward: A Contemplation of the Zodiac

By Emma Doran, Special Collections & Archives

As many of you may be aware the month of May is often synonymous with space and in particular, the cultural phenomenon that is – Star Wars. I am sure earlier this month many of you will have seen the phrase “May the 4th be with you” doing the rounds on social media pages paying homage to this cultural giant. So, in my own effort to pay my respects to the franchise, I had a look in our special collections library to discover some lovely celestial themed objects for you.

John Flamsteed (1646–1719)
by Thomas Gibson, 1712
© Royal Society

In my search, I managed to locate some beautiful works related to the zodiac including: a beautiful replica edition of John Flamsteed’s (1646 – 1719), Atlas Coelestis re-engraved on a much smaller scale by M.J Fortin, an artisan and globe maker for the French royal family in his book Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed Approuvé Par L’Académie Royale Des Sciences. This beautiful work was printed in Paris in 1776 and portrays beautiful illustrations of many of the principal stars and constellations including the zodiac constellations.

Another strikingly beautiful find is that of a Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins published in London in 1861. Which aims to teach readers some of the first principles of Astronomy and enable them to traverse the sky and accurately identify constellations. Using these two books as my guide I thought it might be an interesting endeavor to discover some of the history of the zodiac and learn how to locate these constellations in the night sky. 

name of the zodiac is given to the zone of the stars which the sun traverses during the year and comes from the Greek zodiakos (kyklos)“zodiac (circle),” literally “circle of little animals.” An apt etymology as figures of animals predominate in the identification of these constellations. To form the zodiac the entire circumference of the sky has been divided into twelve distinct regions, each visited by the sun as it travels around the earth before returning to the beginning of its path and repeating the cycle again.  

Aries, the Ram, 21st of March

Image of the Constellation Aries from Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins
Image of the Constellation Aries from Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed  by M.J Fortin

There are only two bright stars in Aries. A small constellation, Musca the Fly, Andromeda and Perseus to the north, and a part of Cetus the Whale to the south are the only signs on nearly the same meridian as Aries. Aries appears on the meridian (the imaginary line of longitude drawn along the surface of the earth from the North Pole to the South Pole) during the latter part of October.

Taurus, the Bull, 19th of April 

Image of the Constellation Taurus from Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins
Image of the Constellation Taurus from Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed  by M.J Fortin

The stars included in Taurus and those next to it are perhaps the most brilliant in the northern hemisphere. Taurus comprises the Pleiades, Hyades, and two bright stars in the horns of the Bull. Immediately above Taurus are Perseus and Auriga and below are Eridanus and Orion.  Taurus appears on the meridian at midnight during the latter part of November. 

Gemini, the Twins, 20th of May

Image of the Constellation Gemini from Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins
Image of the Constellation Gemini from Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed  by M.J Fortin

Castor and Pollux are the chief stars in Gemini. Above it is a group of insignificant stars known as the Lynx; below it is Canis Minor, which includes Procyon, a brilliant star and below Canis Minor is a dim constellation called Monoceros. Gemini appears on the meridian at midnight during the latter part of December.  

Cancer, the Crab, 21st of June 

Image of the Constellation Cancer from Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins
Image of the Constellation Cancer from Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed  by M.J Fortin

Cancer only has one bright star. On this meridian half of Lynx can be seen. To the north of Cancer are the tail and head of the Great Bear: to the south the head of the Serpent. Cancer appears on the meridian at midnight during the latter part of January. 

Leo, the Lion, 22nd of July 

Image of the Constellation Leo from Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins
Image of the Constellation Leo from Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed  by M.J Fortin

All of the stars on this meridian present a very brilliant aspect. Above Leo are Leo Minor and Ursa Major and bellow it the folds of Serpentarius can be found. Leo appears on the meridian at midnight during the latter part of February.

Virgo, the Virgin, 22nd of August 

Image of the Constellation Virgo from Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins
Image of the Constellation Virgo from Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed  by M.J Fortin

Above Virgo the tails of Ursa Major can be seen along with Bootes, Coma, Berenices and Canes Venatici and below Virgo, Corvus can be found. Virgo appears on the meridian at midnight during the latter part of March

Libra, the Balance, 23rd of September 

Image of the Constellation Libra from Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins
Image of the Constellation Libra from Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed  by M.J Fortin

Above Libra one can see part of Bootes and Corona Borealis. Beneath Libra is part of Scorpio. Libra appears on the meridian at midnight during the latter part of April. 

Scorpio, the Scorpion, 23rd of October 

Image of the Constellation Scorpio from Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins
Image of the Constellation Scorpio from Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed  by M.J Fortin

Scorpio is a very brilliant constellation. Above it to the left are Serpens Ophincus and Hercules and a little to the right of Scorpio is Corona Borealis.  Scorpio appears on the meridian at midnight during the latter part of May. 

Sagittarius, the Archer, 22nd of November

Image of the Constellation Sagittarius from Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins
Image of the Constellation Sagittarius from Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed  by M.J Fortin

Sagittarius is the most southern of the Zodiacal signs. The principal constellations on the same meridian are Antinous, Aquila the Eagle and Lyra. Sagittarius appears on the meridian at midnight during the latter part of June. 

Capricornus, the Goat, 21st of December 

Image of the Constellation Capricornus from Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins
Image of the Constellation Capricornus from Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed  by M.J Fortin

There are only two bright stars in Capricornus. The principal constellations to the north are Delphinus and Cygnus. Capricornus appears on the meridian at midnight during the latter part of July.

Aquarius, the Water Bearer, 20th of January

Image of the Constellation Aquarius from Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins
Image of the Constellation Aquarius from Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed  by M.J Fortin

Above this sign one can see Pegasus and below it is the Southern Fish, which includes Fomalhaut – a brilliant star. Aquarius appears on the meridian at midnight during the latter part of August.

Pisces, the Fish, 19th of February  

Image of the Constellation Pisces from Guide to Star-Gazing by Mary Jenkins
Image of the Constellation Pisces from Atlas Céleste De Flamsteed  by M.J Fortin

There are no bright stars to be seen in Pisces. Above it, a little to the left, is Andromeda and below it, in the same direction is Cetus the Whale. Pisces appears on the meridian at midnight during the latter part of September. 

History of the Indian Tribes of North America by Thomas Loraine McKenney

Susan Durack, Special Collections and Archives, Maynooth University Library

Thomas Loraine McKenney

Who would think that a book on the topic of the Indian tribes of North American could be found in the historic collections of the Russell Library of Maynooth College, Co. Kildare, Ireland? The bookplate on the inside of the front cover gives us a clue. It is that of Rev. John Canon O’Hanlon, whose collection of books now reside in Maynooth University Library.  Born in Stradbally, Co. Laois, O’Hanlon served as a missionary priest in St. Louis, Missouri from 1847 to 1853 when he returned to Ireland.

The O’Hanlon books held among the collections at Maynooth illustrate the former owner’s wide ranging interests in people, place and history. Maynooth’s edition of the History of the Indian Tribes of North America was published in two volumes in Philadelphia in 1872.   It contains eighty large coloured portraits and includes historical and descriptive texts. There is also ‘An essay on the history of North American Indians’ by James Hall in volume two.  Thirty-five sets of the publication were published.

This valued publication represents the forward thinking of individuals such as McKenney and Hall as it is the surviving legacy of a previous project. Thomas McKenney was the US Superintendent of Indian Trade within the War Department.  He commissioned portraits of American Indians from the artist Charles Bird King (1785-1962).

An image of Petalesharro, a Pawnee Brave

American Indians had travelled to Washington to negotiate treaties with the Federal Government. King undertook the portraits of American Indians up to 1837.  While the majority of prints were based on the work of Charles Bird King.  Other artists involved in the project were James Otto Lewis (1799-1858), Peter Rindisbacher (1806-1834) and Henry Inman (1801-1846).

McKenney’s motivation for the project was based on his belief that the Indian people were in danger of destruction due to the expansion of European-American society. He hoped to preserve “the likenesses of some of the most distinguished among this most extraordinary race of people” because he believed “that this race was about to become extinct, and that a faithful resemblance of the most remarkable among them would be full of interest.” Women such as Pocahontas, interpreters such as Paddy Carr and educationalists such as Sequoyah (Sikwayi) are represented in the collection of portraits.

The collection was housed at first in the United States Department of War that was responsible for Indian Affairs and then moved to The Castle, the Smithsonian Institution’s first building.

McKenney undertook to commission lithographs of the paintings, with each portrait supported by a biography of the subject. McKenney commissioned James Hall (1793-1868), judge, writer and Treasurer of the State of Illinois. Hall spent eight years working on and completing the project undertaking much of the research himself. The publication was to pay for itself through subscription at a cost of $120 per person.  The financial crisis of 1837 proved to be a hindrance as subscribers could not afford the luxury of paying the subscriptions.  McKenney withdrew from the publication project at this point. Hall persevered and brought the project to fruition in 1844.

A fire in 1865 in the Smithsonian Institute saw 295 original portraits destroyed. Only 5 were rescued. This record of the portraits would have been irretrievably lost had McKenney, Hall and other colleagues not had the foresight to undertake and complete the lithography and publication project. The volumes remain a record of prominent Native American leaders of the first half of the 19th century. These images form the only record of the individuals portrayed and represent the works of 19th Century American artists.

One interesting Irish connection in the biographies is that of Paddy Carr, a Creek translator who was the son of an Irishman who married a Creek woman. Paddy Carr was born near Fort Mitchell in Alabama and taken in by the family of Colonel Crowell, an Indian agent. He was raised in white society, but served as a translator for his people on a number of important occasions. He accumulated land and wealth and had a keen interest in horses and racing.

The famed Pocahontas also appears in the publication. There are testimonials as to the veracity of her likeness at the end of volume two.

Statement as to the veracity of Pocahontas’ portrait likeness


Sequoyah (Sikwayi)

Sequoyah (Sikwayi), ca. 1760-1843 (Cherokee (Aniyunwiya)), also known as George Guess, was born in Tennessee, the son of Nathaniel Gist and a mixed-blood Cherokee woman.  He is best remembered for his development of the Cherokee Alphabet.  His name was given to some of the oldest and largest trees in the world – the Sequoia.

Tshusick (Ojibwa) is perhaps unfairly described as a con-artist.  She appeared in Washington, D.C. in the winter of 1826-1827.  Described as attractive and possessing remarkable conversational skills in both English and French, she was received warmly in Washington, entertained in the highest social circles and received many gifts.  She was baptized Lucy Cornelia Barbour.  Her so called deception was discovered after her departure from Washington, when it was found out that she was the wife of a scullion and that she regularly went on adventures such as her trip to Washington.  King painted her portrait in Washington, D.C. in 1827. 

This is a remarkable book not only because it is the surviving record of the portraits project including the artists involved. The inclusion of biographies opens up the subject matter to wider audiences at the time. One has to be mindful of the mind- set of the authors, compilers and society of the time as we read the biographies. The sitters are proudly posed in traditional attire and a large proportion are wearing medals.  According to McKenney American Indians attached great importance to medals, as he summarised in 1829 “without medals, any plan of operations among Indians, be it what it may, is essentially enfeebled”.  

Apart from its historical content, it is the visual impact of the beautiful, colourful and inspirational images in the publication that first draws the reader’s attention.                 

Asseola: A Seminole Leader


M102: Lámhscríbhinn Chorcaíoch ón 18ú hAois

Dr Tomás L. Ó Murchú, Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge, Ollscoil Mhá Nuad

Is i gcnuasach an Easpaig Seán Ó Murchú (1772-1847) i Leabharlann an Ruiséalaigh atá M 102 nó Murphy 102 á choimeád. Tugtar Cnuasach Uí Mhurchú ar an mbailiúchán seo ach is dóichíde ná raibh an lámhscríbhinn atá á plé againn anseo i seilbh an Easpaig riamh. Bhí sí mar chuid de bhailiúchán príobháideach iarUachtarán an Choláiste, an Dr Labhrás Ó Reineacháin (1797-1857). Thit an bailiúchán seo go hindíreach leis an gColáiste tar éis don Uachtarán bás a fháil. Thug an tUachtarán rogha d’iontaobhaithe a uachta £100 d’airgead tirim nó a bhailiúchán LSS a dhíol leis an gColáiste ar chostas ná sáródh £200.

Scríobhadh M 102 i gContae Chorcaí idir na blianta 1750 agus 1756. Is iad Uilliog a Búrc (níl dátaí beatha againn dó) agus Mícheál mac Peadair Ó Longáin (c 1693-1770) na scríobhaithe. Dhá lámhscríbhinn dhifriúla ab ea í seo tráth; mar sin níor chás dúinn dhá chuid a dhéanamh di agus sinn ag trácht uirthi anseo.   Faightear cóip de Foras Feasa ar Éirinn Shéathrúin Céitinn i gCuid 1 (3-431). Is é Uilliog a Búrc a bhreac lgh 3-114m. Ar chríochnú an ‘Díonbhrollaigh’ dó do shínigh Uilliog a ainm ar lch 54 ar an 28 Iúil 1750 agus é ‘anunach’; tuigtear gurb é seo Eanach atá i bParóiste Bhaile an Teampaill i dtuaisceart Chorcaí. D’fhág sé 54-5 bán agus ar lch 56 thosaigh sé ar an ‘Liber Primus’, an chéad leabhar den Fhoras Feasa. Buaileann peannaireacht Mhíchíl mac Peadair Ó Longáin linn ar lch 114m síos go 433. Thosaigh Mícheál ar ‘An Dara Leabhar’ den Fhoras Feasa ar lch 270a.m. Tugann nóta ina dheireadh (431i) le fios gur chríochnaigh Mícheál an chóipeáil ar 2 Meitheamh 1756, sé bliana tar éis d’Uilliog an Díonbhrollach a chríochnú.  

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Peadar Dubh Ó Dálaigh

Fintan Keegan, Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge, Ollscoil Mhá Nuad

Bhain Peadar Dubh Ó Dálaigh (fl.1806-1844), scoláire Gaeilge a chaith seal ina mháistir scoile sa Bhóthar Mín, Co. na Mí, leis an ngrúpa beag scoláirí Gaeilge a bhí ag saothrú sa chontae sin sa chéad leath den 19ú hAois, agus é de chuspóir acu litríocht shaolta agus chráifeach a chóipeáil. Cóipeanna de shaothair scríbhneoirí eile is mó atá sna lámhscríbhinní a thiomsaigh siad, mar is gnách, ach tugtar iontu ó am go chéile iarrachtaí a cheap na scríobhaithe féin, agus fíorbheagán aistriúcháin Nua-Ghaeilge ar théacsanna Béarla agus ar théacsanna clasaiceacha a cuireadh le chéile san 18ú hAois agus sa 19ú hAois. Tá Peadar Dubh le háireamh i measc na scríobhaithe is cumasaí a bhí bisiúil i Leath Chuinn sa 19ú hAois: ba dhóigh le Seán Ó Donnabháin gurbh é ‘by far the best (in fact the only) Irish scholar in Meath’. Tacaíonn lámhscríbhinn amháin dá chuid atá ar coimeád i Leabharlann an Ruiséalaigh, M105 (a), go maith leis an tuairim sin. Is eol dúinn fosta, mar shampla, gur thiontaigh Peadar Dubh é féin cuid den Iliad go Gaeilge; níl againn den saothar ach tagairt a rinne cara le Peadar Dubh, Peadar Ó Gealacáin (c.1792-1860), dó i gcatalóg lámhscríbhinne a cuireadh le chéile c.1851.

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Bailiúchán Kruger i Leabharlann Eoin Pól II, Ollscoil Mhá Nuad

Dr Tracey Ni Mhaonaigh, Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge, Ollscoil Mhá Nuad

Tá páipéir Kruger Kavanagh, Muiris Caomhánach, a saolaíodh i mBaile na Rátha, Dún Chaoin ar an 28 Márta 1894, roinnte ina dhá leath agus iad ar coimeád in dhá leabharlann éagsúla—tá tuairim is dhá thrian díobh i Leabharlann Náisiúnta na hÉireann agus tá an trian eile anseo i Leabharlann Eoin Pól II in Ollscoil Mhá Nuad. Meascán ábhair atá sa dá bhailiúchán, agus sa cheann atá againne anseo tá grianghraif, sleachta nuachtáin, nithe indibhidiúla (ina measc, teastas breithe, ceadúnas tiomána, cárta ballraíochta ó Chumann Turasóireachta na hÉireann agus cárta iontrála le haghaidh Ardscoil Fordham—áit a ndeachaigh Kruger ar scoil oíche), ábhar liteartha, agus litreacha (idir litreacha pearsanta agus litreacha oifigiúla).

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Conserving two photographs from the Pearse Hutchinson Collection

Louise Walsworth-Bell, Conservator, Special Collections & Archives

The Pearse Hutchinson Collection is a rich and varied source of information, as broad culturally and artistically as it is politically.  One of the treats of the collection is that it is not pristine, and in its physical damage is evidence of both love and irreverence for the items themselves.  Above all the feeling pervades that the collection was used.  It was used as its own reference material and made up of things pertinent not merely for their value but also for their own private, personal merit.  Within this are glimpses into history that the Hutchinson family allow us.

Amongst the collection were two damaged photographs that the archivist asked Conservation to stabilise and repair and it is these two items that we will look at in this blog post.

Both images show Pearse Hutchinson’s father, Henry Warren Hutchinson when he travelled as the Glasgow Sinn Féin treasurer to the Irish Race Congress in Paris in 1922.

[although his wife, Caitlín’s notes on the back of both images guestimate the date at 1920 or 21].

Identifying the process

The wealth of photographic processes can seem endless and daunting, but for conservation purposes it is vital that treatment is not undertaken until some level of identification is reached. 

Process identification is often assisted by deterioration.  Physical damage can expose support layers and chemical deterioration can further clarify the processes and chemistry used, as each has its own unique pattern of deterioration.

Less is very more when it comes to treating photographs. Removal of potentially harmful dirt and stabilising physical damage are ideal, but if in doubt it is better to leave the item well alone, providing appropriate housing to reduce future risk to it.  Photographs are highly sensitive to sulphur present in some erasers and cleaning can leave chemical residue that could lead to further deterioration or even remove parts of the image such as silver mirroring, which may be disfiguring, but are key components of the photographic image.

The main areas of identification lie in:

Image structure:  under magnification is the image made up of smaller patterned regions [in which case the image may be a mechanical print rather than a photograph] or formed from a continuous tone?  The latter suggests a photographic image.

Physical structure:  is the image printed directly onto the support i.e. can paper fibres be seen within the image area [if so, this would suggest an early process such as photogenic drawings or cyanotypes], or is there a white baryta layer present beneath the image?

This image of a tear across the photograph was taken under 60x magnification

Note how fibrous the exposed paper is along the line of the tear and how smooth the surrounding emulsion / image area. 

This is only possible with the inclusion of a baryta layer. Baryta, or barium sulphate is a naturally occurring mineral similar to clay. 

In photographic uses it both smooths the surface of the paper and produces a whiter support for better image contrast. This baryta layer would be common in gelatine prints.

Colour: is the image black and white, monochrome or colour? Bearing in mind that images can be chemically toned during processing to produce sepia or other or even hand coloured to look like colour photography.  Colour photography was introduced by Henry Becquerel as early as 1848 but was neither stable nor sustainable.  Even 20th century processes are problematic regarding stability and the tonal shifts of their deterioration are often typical of a given process.

Is the process silver based? Other processes include cyanotypes [blue continuous tone images based on iron rather than silver chemistry] and platinum prints [which are characteristically stable to deterioration and used in high end art prints but do produce a negative offset image on adjacent paper].

Both images could be clearly identified as silver based processes by the presence of silver mirroring on the surface [see images above].

Silver mirroring usually occurs in the d-max, or darkest regions of a photograph.  Here, silver from the image layer has chemically migrated to the surface of the print and in reflected light the image itself is lost behind the mirror effect.  Note that the wallpaper in the background and the papers in the foreground (both of which are pale regions to begin with) are far less affected by the mirroring than the saturated, dark areas around them.  Likewise, even in reflected light, the image number remains clearly visible whereas the front figure with his hand on the papers is almost entirely lost.

Other useful details are period [identifiable by clothing &c. within the image], source [is it an amateur, home image or a professional print?] and producers’ marks [such as negative numbering, company icons or stamps on the work].

Above; the photograph is dated on its verso

Above;  the presence of a [French] stamp identifies it as a press photograph

Because of the time-period [1920s] and the presence of industry stamps on the verso they were identified as the gelatine developing out process [d.o.p.], a continuous tone process in use from 1880s, which develops a cool green colour as it deteriorates.

Owing to the level of chemical discolouration present in the paper it was considered that while they were fairly stable, minimal intervention was preferable and surface cleaning and repair were decided upon as the sole treatment aims.

The works were gently cleaned with cotton wool swabs.  Care was taken not to intrude upon the silver mirroring which may appear disfiguring but is original material and its removal leads to a reduction in image density.  Simple surface cleaning improved the appearance of the image and was a key treatment.

Surface Cleaning of the upper edge and

Realignment of top left corner and tear to the right

Due to physical damage present, such as creases across the larger work and tears / losses on the smaller, it was decided that vulnerable areas would be unfolded and or supported locally on the verso with a light tissue so as not to alter the overall flexibility of the support.  Missing areas were infilled with silver safe, a paper produced specifically for the repair and interleaving of photographs and their supports.

After cleaning and realignment, very little repair was required, but this was undertaken using dry starch paste as excess moisture can exacerbate damage and following repair, the works were gently pressed between felts for a period of several weeks to flatten them.

No effort was made to reduce staining within the paper support as this is part of their history and provenance and each image was housed in an inert polyester sleeve to allow visual access to both sides while preventing direct handling of the items.

Below are before and after images showing the treatment outcome for these items.

photograph before treatment
photograph during treatment:
surface cleaned and damage partially realigned
photograph post treatment
Tissue repair on verso supports tears and creases,
missing areas have been infilled with silver safe
Photograph before treatment
Photograph post treatment
surface cleaning and repair of damage has been undertaken
Photograph post treatment: repair on verso is visible only as very faint pale white regions
Here, lens tissue has been applied as a support

Robert Bloomfield’s beloved memory of life on a farm

Post by Audrey Kinch, Special Collections and Archives

For though on hoary twigs no buds peep out,
And e’en the hardy brambles cease to sprout,
Beneath dread Winter’s level sheets of snow,
The sweet nutritious Turnip designs to grow.

These lines are an excerpt from the ‘winter’ section of the poem entitled The Farmer’s Boy by English poet Robert Bloomfield (1766-1823). The poem was first printed in March 1800 and a copy is held in the English collection in the Russell Library.

Title page The Farmer’s Boy

Robert Bloomfield was born in Honington in the English county of Suffolk and he was one of six children.  His father George was a tailor who died when Bloomfield was a year old.  His mother Elizabeth was a schoolmistress and he learned to read and write at an early age mostly under her guidance.  Elizabeth later re-married and the family continued to grow.  When he was approximately 12 years of age, Bloomfield was sent to live with his uncle William Austin at Sapiston.  William worked a farm for the Duke of Grafton and Bloomfield spent three years as a farmer’s boy where he was treated well.  He always held fond memories of this time in his life. 

In May 1796, Bloomfield began writing The Farmer’s Boy which was originally intended as a gift to his mother.  The poem is about a boy called Giles as he completes his chores on the farm, his observance of and interactions with nature.  It is a pastoral poem, a celebration of rural life and is c. 1,512 lines in length.  The poem is divided in four sections which correspond to the seasons. 

Due to a slight build, Bloomfield was deemed not wholly suited to the manual work on the farm so his uncle advised his mother to find another position more suited to his abilities.  Elizabeth arranged for him to move to London and his brother George would teach him to become a shoemaker.  In 1781, at the age of fifteen he arrived to London, stayed with George and four other cobblers in Coleman Street and learned the trade of shoemaking.  Bloomfield had apparently a great memory for poetry and could recite numerous lines.  By 1786 he was a qualified shoemaker and explored his interests in music by acquiring a violin and hand-crafting aeolian harps.  In 1790 he married Mary-Anne Church and their first child Hannah was born in 1791. 

Frontispiece The Farmer’s Boy

The poem opens with an invitation for spring to come with a positive and uplifting tone ‘Sweet inmate, hail! thou source of sterling joy’ with an observation of snow topped hills, the morning dew and open skies.  Though privately mourning for his father, Giles is depicted as happily pre-occupied in his work and his mind is off his worries.  His uncle is portrayed as a kind man, engaging with his young nephew and setting out his work for him to do. 

The summer section refers to the weather and the harvest, ploughing the land and all the labour involved in the harvest from toiling in the fields with the ‘sweeping scythe’ to working in the barn until it is filled.   Bloomfield notes after the day’s work ‘Sweet twilight, welcome!, Rest, how sweet art thou.’  Descriptions of the rain falling, ploughing in the fields, insects swarming, a sky-lark singing, clear blue skies and crops appearing as ‘the smiling produce of the land’ provide a clear image of rural life.

In the Autumn section the changing season is visible with fallen acorns, blowing winds and fallen leaves which lie on the ground.  Bloomfield depicts the wild ducks, pheasants and foxes in the woods and gives account of village life.  He comments on Gile’s and how he is tired, weary yet diligent in his work.  Nature is both recognised and praised ‘bless the Power that rules the changing year.’  The tone within the autumn section remains positive, ever-looking forward ‘That Spring will come, and Nature smile again.

Winter arrives in the final section, the ground is under frost, ice and snow.  The farmer thinks of respite when he returns home ‘the cold may pierce, and storms molest, Succeeding hours shall cheer with warm and rest.’  In the evenings, Giles visits the cows in the shed and the pigs in the sty, his voice is familiar to the animals and they eagerly feed from his hand.  The gentle, strong hardworking farm-horse Dobbin is happy to return at the end of the day ‘And joys to see the well-known stable door, as the starv’d mariner the friendly shore.’  Ewes and lambs die due to damp and cold however the farmer is uplifted to see the flock group together and the orphan lambs survive.  The remaining lines give thanks and praise for the experiences of the seasons which appears an insightful, deep appreciation of nature.  In a moment of mindfulness for anyone this could be considered a poem of positive wellbeing which is relaxing to read.

Initially three publishers rejected publication of The Farmer’s Boy and Bloomfield gave up and gave the poem to his brother George as a gift.  George showed the poem to editor and writer Capel Loftt who was also an influential figure in Suffolk society.  Loftt included an evaluation and The Farmer’s Boy was published in March 1800 by Vernon and Hood.  Robert Bloomfield published further volumes of poetry in his lifetime and he died in Shefford, Bedfordshire in August 1823. 

The edition of The Farmer’s Boy held in the Russell Library was published in Halifax by William Milner in 1837.  The Russell Library is open on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10.00am to 1.00pm and 2.00pm to 5.00pm.  Access to the Russell Library is arranged through appointment by telephone (01) 7083890 or e-mail

Snowdrops in winter

In beaded rows if drops now deck the spray,
While the sun grants a momentary ray,
Let but a cloud’s broad shadow intervene,
And stiffen’d into gems the drops are seen;

Bloomfield, Robert: A Farmer’s Boy, rural tales, ballads and songs (1837)
Kaloustian, David:  Bloomfield, Robert (1766-1823), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)

Domhnall Ua Buachalla and the First Dáil

Ciara Joyce, Archivist

May God send in every generation men who live only for the Ideal of Ireland A Nation’ James Mallon B. Co. III Batt. I.R.A. Hairdresser  “To the boy of Frongoch” with E. D’Valera Easter Week 22/12/16 Frongoch’.

                                                            MU/PP26/2/1/7 Autograph by James Mallon

Members of the first Dáil 1919

On the 21st of January 1919, the first meeting of Dáil Éireann took place in the Mansion House, Dublin. Elected in the 1918 General Election, the members of parliament refused to take up their seats in Westminster, and instead established the Dáil as a first step in achieving the Irish Republic.

Prominent elected members included Michael Collins, Constance Markievicz, Éamon de Valera, Cathal Brugha, W.T. Cosgrave, Eoin MacNeill and Arthur Griffith. A number of T.Ds, including de Valera and Markievicz, were serving sentences in British prisons at the time and were absent from the first meeting. De Valera would later become the Dáil’s Príomh-Aire or President, after a daring escape from Lincoln Jail.

Also present at the sitting of the first Dáil was Volunteer, Irish language advocate and Maynooth native Domhnall Ua Buachalla.

Domhnall Ua Buachalla  (1866-1963)

Domhnall Ua Buachalla was born on the 3rd of February 1866 in Maynooth, county Kildare. His father, Cornelius Buckley, a shopkeeper, was a native Irish speaker from county Cork. His mother, Sarah Jacob, was the daughter of Joshua Jacob, the founder of the ‘White Quakers’. Ua Buachalla took over the family business from his father and ran a successful shop on Main Street, Maynooth.

Ua Buachalla, himself a fluent speaker, became a well-known supporter of the Irish language and a member of the Gaelic League. He organised the Maynooth branch of the League and ran Irish language classes in the town.

In 1905, Ua Buachalla was prosecuted for having his name on the side of his delivery cart in Irish. He lost his case, and as he refused to pay the fine, the local sheriff had goods confiscated from Ua Buachalla’s shop. The goods were sold at public auction, after which the sole bidder returned the items to their owner.

Ua Buachalla was also a member of the Irish Volunteers and a friend of Patrick Pearse. On hearing that the Rising had begun in Dublin on the 24th of April 1916, he and 14 of the Maynooth Volunteers marched to Dublin to join in the fight. They first called to Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth to receive a blessing from its President, Monsignor John R.  Hogan.

Ua Buachalla’s Irish Volunteers membership form

After his subsequent arrest, Ua Buachalla was imprisoned in Knutsford jail before being transferred to Frongoch internment camp. He remained a prisoner until December 1916.

Ua Buachalla contested and  won the North Kildare seat in the 1918 general election. As a member of Sinn Féin, he attended the opening session of the first Dáil rather than go to Westminster.

He was elected unopposed in the 1921 election, again standing for Sinn Féin. He opposed the Treaty and fought with anti-treaty forces in the ensuing Civil War, resulting in his imprisonment in Dundalk in 1922. Undeterred after losing his parliamentary seat in the election of 1922 he successfully fought the 1927 election, standing as Fianna Fáil candidate in Kildare. He held this position until his defeat five years later.

Election Flyer

In 1932, Ua Buachalla was appointed chair of a commission to investigate conditions in the Gaeltacht. However, in November of the year de Valera asked him to take up the office of Governor General. This appointment was part of de Valera’s efforts to dismantle the Treaty and remove all reference to the King in the Irish Constitution. In his role as Governor General Ua Buachalla lived modestly and was rarely seen in public. His most notable acts while in office were the signing of the Constitutional Removal of Oath Act of 1933 and the Constitutional Amendment no. 27 bill of 1936, which abolished the office of Governor General.

He married Sinéad Walsh in 1897 and they had seven children. He died on the 30th of October 1963 and received a State Funeral with full military honours.

The Ua Buachalla Archive

In 2015 Maynooth University Library received the papers of Domhnall Ua Buachalla on short-term loan for use in the University’s 1916 commemoration. Ua Buachalla’s family, who still live locally, were keen to share this treasured collection for the commemoration.

This collection consists of a series of documents relating to Ua Buachalla interests and political career from 1900 to 1968.

The earliest material includes receipts and letters relating to Ua Buachalla’s involvement with the Gaelic League and Irish language classes in Maynooth, including a series of letters from Mícheal Ó hÍceadha, Professor of Irish, Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth and Vice-President of the Gaelic League.

The collection also contains documents relating to Ua Buachalla’s role in the Irish Volunteers in Maynooth, his internment in Frongoch in 1916, his involvement in Sinn Féin, the Dáil and general elections and his role as Governor General.

Documents of note include enrolment forms for members of the Irish Volunteers in Maynooth (MU/PP26/2/1/1), notice of order of interment issued to Ua Buachalla in 1916 (MU/PP26/2/1/3) and a letter from Countess Markievicz, T.D. regarding farmers in Maynooth allowing land to go fallow (26 February 1920) (MU/PP26/2/3/4). Ua Buachalla also kept an autograph book during his time in Frongoch, which is filled with autographs, poems and sketches by his fellow detainees. It includes the signatures of Micheál Ó Murchadha, J.M Stanley, Cathal Mac Dubhghaill, Liam Ó Briain,  James Mallon, Joseph Lawless, Sean Gogan, Páid Ua Braonáin, Brian Ó hUigínn, James Fitzgerald, Gearóid O’Beoláin, Séamus Ó Fearghail, Joseph Begley, P.J. McNamara, Patrick Cole and others. The final entry in the book is by William Sears, 74 Leinster Road, Rathmines, who writes on the 22nd of December 1916 ‘Last night in Frongoch Camp. The Boys going home in as good a spirit as when they were out on Easter Monday‘ (MU/PP26/2/1/7).  The collection also contains ephemera such as invitations, tickets, posters and flyers.

The collection has now been digitised and is available for consultation. For more information on the Ua Buachalla collection, please contact Special Collections and Archives.

Threatened strike at Maynooth College in 1918

By Barbara McCormack, Special Collections Librarian

Ever wondered what it was like to work as an Irish agricultural labourer in 1918? Well, look no further than the archives of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. The minutes of the finance council (B3/11/3) provide an insight into working conditions at this time, which typically consisted of nine or ten-hour days for an average wage of thirty shillings per week. This work was certainly not for the fainthearted! In August 1918 representatives from the Irish Transport and General Worker’s Union met with members of the College to agree better working conditions for agricultural labourers.

The wider Irish labour movement made significant strides during the year 1918, including the successful coordination of a one-day general strike on the 23rd April in support of the anti-conscription campaign. The authorities at Maynooth College were increasingly aware of the threat of industrial action and in May 1918 they discussed the establishment of a college bakery ‘particularly in view of the dangers to the College from Strikes in the Dublin Bakeries’. Just three months later, in August 1918, strike action at Maynooth College was a very real possibility.

On the 16th August the council met to deliberate on a request by the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union for an improvement in working conditions, outlined as follows:

  1. The granting of a ‘half holiday’ on Saturdays.
  2. An agreed work pattern in line with guidelines from the Agricultural Labour Board which recommended ten hours of work during the summer and nine hours during the winter.
  3. An additional three shillings for Sunday work.
  4. A bonus of four pounds during the harvest season.
  5. The payment of wages totalling thirty-five shillings each week.

Faced with the prospect of strike action the College prepared to make some concessions. It was agreed that the request for additional holiday leave on Saturday could not be sanctioned by the College; that it would aim for agreed working hours (where possible); that an increase from two shillings sixpence to three shillings would be given for Sundays; and that wages of thirty-five shillings was too high. When it came to the harvest bonus the council noted that:

‘There was no difficulty in accepting the principle of a harvest bonus, but there was a difficulty about how to deal with the Bonus in case a workman was careless in coming punctually to work or in absenting himself for some days during the busy harvest season.’

Dr James MacCaffrey, Vice-President of Maynooth College in August 1918

The following day (17th August) the vice-president and bursar met with representatives of the Irish Transport Union, including future Irish Labour Party member, Thomas Farren, to agree a settlement. The terms were agreed as follows:

  1. No half-holiday was to be granted on Saturdays.
  2. Hours were fixed at ten hours during the summer and nine in the winter.
  3. An additional three shillings were to be awarded for Sunday work.
  4. Wages were fixed at thirty shillings per week for summer and winter.
  5. A three-pound bonus was to be paid at harvest-time. The finance council noted, however, that ‘[i]f any of these labourers deliberately remains out during a substantial portion of the harvest work he is not be to entitled to any harvest money; and a pro rata deduction is to be made in case of those who deliberately fail to keep time.’
  6. It was up to casual workers to agree their wages with the College.

In 1918 the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union successfully argued for better working conditions on behalf of agricultural labourers at Maynooth College. Although these changes may appear modest by today’s standards, they constituted a significant achievement for workers at the time.


Minutes of the Finance Council, Archives of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth B/3/11/3