Glass Plate Negatives in the Hutchinson Archive

Ciara Joyce, Archivist

Working my way through the many boxes of the Pearse Hutchinson Archive here at Maynooth University Library, I was surprised to see what looked like a muslin cloth among the boxes of family papers.

On closer inspection the cloth concealed a number of glass plate negatives, which had been carefully wrapped in sections of the cloth to protect them from breakage. This archive includes a large collection of photographs but these appear to be the earliest in the collection.

Glass Plate Negatives from the Pearse Hutchinson Archive

While the negatives had been thoroughly wrapped they had not always been shown this level of care as all are quite dirty, one is chipped at the corner and one negative is broken in three pieces.

What are glass plate negatives?

The earliest photographic processes were developed in the 1820s and 1830s. The first glass plate negative was invented in 1851 by British inventor Fredrick Scott Archer. Early photographs were made of three parts; a base or support, made of glass, an emulsion used to bind the image to the support and the image made of silver or colour dyes. Glass plates were generally used between 1851 and the 1890s. Their popularity began to decline with the invention of cellulose nitrate film in 1903 and they were replaced by gelatin silver paper negatives by the 1920s.

Being made of glass, the negatives are naturally fragile and require careful handling and storage. The quality of the glass used depended on the materials and skills available in their production and varied significantly from place to place. The emulsions used are also susceptible to degradation over time, especially those made by more experimental photographers, and emulsions can suffer from chipping or flaking. Plates were often recycled and put to other uses, so their survival was precarious at best.  

Digitisation and producing a positive image:

In order to identify the images on the glass plates, they were scanned on a flat bed scanner, using a setting designed for black and white negatives. The glass plates were scanned at a high resolution to also create a preservation copy.

So who is in the photographs?

Holding the negatives up to the light gives a clear outline of the image captured on the glass but it is only when the plate is scanned that you see the image in all its detail. They appear to be family portraits, of groups, pairs and individuals. They are likely members of the extended McElhinney family of Cowcaddens and Uddingston in Glasgow.

Members of the extended McElhinney Family

The McElhinneys were originally from County Donegal. William McElhinney from Findrum and Jeanie Heron from Saint Johnstown, met as teenagers on the boat to Scotland. They were married on the 11th of September 1884, in Saint Johnstown, County Donegal. William became a successful merchant and the family prospered. Their daughter Caitlín (Kathleen) McElhinney is pictured as a young woman in a number of the plates, as is her husband Henry Warren Hutchinson. Cailtín and Henry were Pearse Hutchinson’s parents

Conservation of the glass plates

The glass plate negatives have been temporarily rehoused in a purpose made conservation standard box. They will be moved to our conservation department for cleaning to ensure their long- term preservation.

Enclosure for storage of glass plate negatives

For more information about the Pearse Hutchinson Archive please contact Special Collections and Archives.

All Hallows College Literary Society Minute Book

Aaron John King, Student in MA in Historical Archives

Founded in 1881, the ‘Literary Society of All Hallows College’ open their minute book with the quote ‘Unity unto perfection’. This minute book, as with any similar society, is central to understanding their aims and motivations. Lightly worn on the outside, the navy cover has visible damage where many hands touched it to open the book. Inside we can see that this was no standard blank minute book but was specially printed for the society by Joseph Dollard, a printer on Dame Street. Where other societies would get a blank minute book and write the name of their association and the names of their committee members on the first page, the Literary Society of All Hallows’ College decided to get some of their meeting book professionally printed.  There are two ‘title pages’ so to speak. The first with the aforementioned ‘Unity Unto Perfection’ quote with the name of the society and their president underneath. The second title page contains much more detail. This title page gives another, longer, name for the society. ‘The All Hallows’ Society of Lectures, Extempore Speaking and Elocution’ is printed in red ink in a gothic type. This page also details the structure of the society with the president, vice president and two levels of the committee.

From this minute book we can see what the content of the society’s events was like. On the 27 February for example a lecture on Chaucer was held in which the speaker, a Rev. Madden, spoke about the impact that Chaucer had on the English language. The person writing in the minute book writes ‘’Mankind has always paid particular honour to the men who benefited their country in any way, whether in the manner of a Columbus, a Watt or a Napoleon. Now one of the greatest benefits which could be conferred on a country was a good language’. In another meeting on the 30 October the subject of the lecture was Hugh O’Neill, the ‘chieftain of the North’ as the minute keeper describes him. The argument put forward in this meeting was that O’Neill was a ‘unswerving defender of Ireland’s civil and religious liberty.’

Lectures such as this show that the discussion topics of the lectures went beyond what we might expect a literary society might cover. These two meetings in particular also reveal an interesting contrast as in the meeting discussing Chaucer the point was made that Chaucer had polished the English Language ‘until it became fit to be the language of a civilised land’ while the lecture on Hugh O’Neill is dripping in Irish nationalism with the minute keeper writing ‘The Battle of the Yellow Ford forms one of the brightest pictures of Irish valour.’

From the minutes kept of these two lectures we can see that the Literary Society of All Hallows College held lectures on a wide range of topics extending beyond the typical appreciation and examination of literature, moving beyond this into history and politics.

Ken Saro-Wiwa School Poetry Prize Winner

By Helen Fallon, Deputy Librarian, Maynooth University Library

The Maynooth University Library Ken Saro-Wiwa School Poetry Prize 2019 was won by Herajean Vergara, a transition year student at Maynooth Education Campus, for her poem “Humans’ Greatest Sin.”

Jessica Traynor and Herajean Vergara

Humans’ Greatest Sin

Mother! Father! My little child said,

As she rushed into my bedroom and leaped onto my bed

With a look of excitement and wonder

“What are these creatures?” she pondered

Images of creatures, which existed long ago

Rushed into extinction from the damage humans did so

We invaded their homes, and took their resources

If they fought back our way we would force in

We’ve famished our Earth, our greatest sin

“But Mother, Father surely we humans have done great!

“Humans are Perfect” said in Christian Faith

A lie it is, it’s far from the truth

Does the destruction we’ve done make us absolute?

Not a single patch of nature seen in our cities

Our plan of action is only feeling pity

Our Buildings and factories standing in nature’s way

Nowhere to expand, left to decline and fade away

The air we respirate, is corrupted and twisted

There was once a time it wasn’t as misted

Now with every breath, feels like you’re choking

Without a cigarette, you’re basically smoking

Disappear if we would, life would thrive

Stay if we would, life would die

With the look of excitement no longer on her face

She bitterly said “What is wrong with the Human Race?”

Commenting on the poem Jessica Traynor, poet and competition judge said:

This is an ambitious piece that manages to encompass a large and complex narrative. A child addresses its legacy by interrogating its parents about what humans have done to the planet – a topical dialogue which reflects the anger and anxiety felt by many young people around what the future might hold for our environment. The imagery of the extinct animals is moving, evoking a universal sense of loss. The rhyme scheme creates movement and momentum throughout.

For more information on the Ken Saro-Wiwa Collection at Maynooth University

Classics in the Russell Library

Ruth O’Hara, Collections and Content

Ruth pic 1

Study of the classical world has been a staple of this University for centuries. The Russell Library’s classic’s collection, which was amassed largely by the early professors of St. Patrick’s College, is eclectic covering all areas of the ancient world and indeed it transcends disciplines. So, besides Homer and Virgil, for example, sit the poems of Catullus, the theological tracts of Ambrose of Milan, and the philosophical musings of Aristotle. One blog can’t hope to capture the extent and range of such a collection so, instead, I just want to look at some of the ways that we in the Russell Library continue to foster interest in this diverse subject area by integrating it into the research, teaching and life of the University.

We have found our classics collection to be a really useful resource for postgraduate students, for example, who engage with primary source material from a research perspective. One source we have used in this context is a copy of the Notitia Dignitatum, an administrative list which delineates the leading imperial offices, both civil and military, in the eastern and western empire of the later fourth and fifth centuries CE. The Russell Library holds three copies of this text dating from 1623, 1665 and 1729. It is a unique source, with nothing like it surviving from this period and, therefore, study of it raises many questions which permit few sure answers. For that reason, we emphasise that, like most texts here in the Russell Library, the Notitia Dignitatum needs to be considered as whole and studied alongside other sources which offer a view of the late Roman bureaucracy. Thanks to the breadth of our classics collection, the Russell Library offers researchers a unique opportunity to attain a varied and more rounded view of what was a complex period of history.

ruth pic 2
Notitia dignitatum, vtriusque imperii orientis scilicet et occidentis vltra arcadij honoriíque tempora. Genevae: Excudebat Stephanus Gamonetus, M. DC. XXIII (1623). (ANT 1 13/2 (RUSSELL).

Exploring the provenance of our classics collection, who may have owned the books and why and when they were brought to Maynooth, is another interesting way to better understand our collection. I have included here a 1533 edition of Nicolai Perotti’s interpretation of Horace’s Odes. Horace was a Latin lyric poet who wrote during the time of the Emperor Augustus (63 BCE-14 CE). I like this text for its marginalia and the stamp and bookplate noting that it came to the Russell Library as part of the bequest of Cardinal J. F. D’Alton. John Francis D’Alton taught Ancient Classics and Ancient Greek in St Patrick’s College and served as its President from 1936. He was later made Primate of All Ireland. By continuing to provide such information in our catalogue records we aim to help researches in their interrogation and understanding of our classics material.

Ruth pic 3a
Horace Q. Horatii Flacci Odarvm sive Carminvm libri qvatvor; Epodon liber vnus: cum annotati[un]culis [quarum] antea auctioribus in margine adiectis, quae breuis co[m]me[n]tarii vice esse possint. Nicolai Perotti libellus non infrugifer de metris Odarum Horatianarum. Parisiis : Apud Simonem Colinaeum, 1533. (CL L 3 117 (RUSSELL).

The fact that works from the classical past still inspire researchers and visitors alike is testament dynamism of the subject and the nature of our collection. We look forward to continuing to help our users shed light on our ancient texts and what they can tell us about our past as well as our present.

Palaeography in Practice

Miriam van der Molen, Archivist

In April 2019, Special Collections & Archives acquired three medieval German legal manuscripts. I have chosen these three manuscripts to show the challenges to the archivist, and what skills are needed, in working with deciphering palaeography, on these types of documents. The documents are from 1344, 1370 and 1371. All of the documents are written in a cursive script, with those from 1344 and 1371 being as good as identical in the letter forms used.

B 003 Cropped
Legal Document from 22 May 1344

The oldest document, from 22 May 1344, follows a formula common for German legal documents of the time, opening with ‘Kundich by allen Luden dey dyssen breyf seyt ofte horet lesen dat ich Hinrich van Haidenberghe bekenne […]’, which can be loosely translated as ‘I inform all people that see or hear this document read out, that I, Hinrich van Haidenberghe attest […]’. He later mentions a churchyard at ‘Welynkhouen’ and people ‘Johan van Bachem’ and ‘Wenember van Bachem’.

B 005 Cropped
Legal Document from 19 February 1371

The document from 19 February 1371 also follows the same opening formula: ‘Kundich by allen Luden dey dyssen breyf seyt ofte horet lesen dat ich Ludcke van den Hoynhus […]’. Interestingly, this document also mentions Wenemer van Bachem, this time without a ‘b’ in the first name, which is typical of the lack of consistency in spelling at this time. Another typical inconsistency is in the use of upper and lower case letters, such as in that first line: in the 1344 document, ‘horet’ is spelt with a lower case ‘h’, whereas it is written with an upper case ‘H’ in the 1371 document.

There appears to be a mix of secretary and legal hand usage in the documents as well, and here there is also no consistency: the 1371 document uses a two-compartment ‘a’ in the third word ‘allen’, which is typical of a legal hand, but a single-compartment ‘a’ later on in that line for ‘dat’, but reverts to the earlier ‘a’ again in ‘van’ near the end of the first line.

B 001 Cropped
Legal Document from 24 June 1370

The third document, from 1370, is a little different. The script is different, as is the way in which the document text is structured. One can note the slightly more rounded letter forms. In additional, while the 1344 and 1371 documents use two different types of ‘r’ (compare ‘breyf’ and ‘horet’), the 1370 seems to stick to one type, namely that to be seen in ‘breyf’ in the other two documents. The ‘r’ that looks like a ‘2’ would be that used in a legal hand, while the one the other one is more typical of secretary hand. An example of this in the 1370 document is in ‘openbare’, the twelfth word on the first line. As an unrelated item of interest, you can also see that somebody sewed together a large tear which occurred at the bottom of this document.

Deciphering palaeography is very interesting, but also difficult and takes a lot of time and getting used to the letter forms. It is especially hard if one does not speak the language of the text. As I speak modern German, this helped, but it is still hard, as it is when trying to read fourteenth century English, which can be quite different to modern English.

The documents will be on display in the glass cabinet outside the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room for the month of December.


Web archives as resources to find archived treasures


Sharon Healy, PhD Student and IRC Scholar in DH at Maynooth University

To celebrate #ExploreYourArchive week, I thought it would be useful to discuss the potential of using a web archive as a resource to find a wealth of archived web-born treasures. In doing so, I briefly look at the birth of the Web; the rationale for web archiving and provide an example of Irish LGBT history as a point in case for using a web archive for research.

There is no doubt that Irish LGBT history will be studied and researched in depth for many years to come. To this end, it was with great foresight that LGBT organisations and activists in Ireland were mindful in preserving materials which would later serve to document their histories. This foresight also resulted in the organisation of the Irish Queer Archive and the Cork LGBT Archive. However, there is very little literature which examines how Irish LGBT organisations and activists used the medium of the Web from the 1990s.

The concept of the World Wide Web (or simply the ‘Web’) was first introduced in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, while working at CERN, in a proposal based on the principles of sharing information between scientists. By late 1990, Berners-Lee developed the founding technologies which constitute the Web (HTML, HTTP and URI); and in 1993, Berners-Lee and CERN offered the invention of the Web to the public domain. Since then, much has been written on the use of the Web for research. Attention has also been given to the ephemeral nature of content on the web due to link rot, content change and content drift.

The common 404 message, indicating that information can no longer be found on a website

Due to concerns of the transience of web content, an array of heritage institutions initiated web archiving programmes with the first being the Internet Archive in 1996 (see for example: web archiving initiatives). According to the International Internet Preservation Consortium, ‘Web archiving is the process of collecting portions of the World Wide Web, preserving the collections in an archival format, and then serving the archives for access and use’ (IIPC). Many countries now have national web archiving programmes in terms of voluntary thematic collections, and some countries introduced digital legal deposit legislation to allow for the web archiving of their national domains.

In Ireland, the National Library of Ireland began a web archiving initiative in 2011 to coincide with the 2011 General Election. Since then, the NLI Web Archive has progressed to secure a voluntary thematic web archiving programme for the capture of Irish web-born social, cultural and political heritage. Of considerable importance in the NLI Web Archive is the collection of websites captured to coincide with the 2015 Marriage Equality Referendum.

Why is this Important?

The #MarriageRef was a momentous affair in the history of the Irish state, whereby Ireland became the: ‘first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in its written constitution’ (Murphy, 2016: 315). Indeed, it is also historic because it was the first time that we witnessed a serious investment in political web campaigning for a referendum, with both the Yes and No sides organising designated websites and social media accounts.

The Marriage Referendum, with campaigns on both sides having a significant online presence

And while the Yes and No sides may have disagreed about the right to same-sex marriage in May 2015 – in November 2019 many of them have one thing in common – their campaign websites can no longer be found or retrieved from the Live Web. This leaves a big hole for the future in Irish social, cultural, political and human rights history. Thankfully, the National Library of Ireland had the foresight to save a collection of #MarriageRef campaign websites in the NLI Web Archive.

But what about the earlier LGBT campaigns – what kind of presence was on the Web?

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine is another web archive which presents an opportunity to find early websites that reflect many of the challenges facing LGBT citizens in Ireland. It also offers an opportunity to study LGBT organisations over time. For example, the Gay & Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) was founded in 1988, to secure equality and inclusion for Ireland’s LGBT citizens through legislative changes and social policy. For many years, the GLEN website ( provided an access point to obtain information, and keep citizens updated on active campaigns for equal rights. Today the GLEN website can no longer be found on the Live Web, but by entering the URL in the Wayback Machine we can track their homepage from November 2004-September 2017.
The Wayback Machine archives websites periodically over time, preserving society’s evolvement


To conclude, websites of Irish LGBT organisations have undergone many transformations from the late 1990s not merely due to technology, but in terms of discourse and content, as a result of changes achieved in the social and legal landscape. Web archives provide us with archived sources for the study of such web histories, and provide a wealth of archived treasures for the future study of Irish history and beyond.

Upstairs, downstairs or in my Lady’s chamber?


Patricia Doran, MA / P. Grad. Dip. in Historical Archives

Plate Book Castletown
Plate Book Castletown. Image © OPW- Maynooth University Archive & Research Centre

Nowadays, if the cutlery is missing, the first place you’d look would be in the dishwasher, but that’s hardly a likely place to find an 18th century silver meat skewer[1] or any other piece of silver to be honest. In a house the size of Castletown House, there are many possible hiding places and hundreds of pieces of silver to account for. That’s where the plate book comes in. The plate book for Castletown House lists over 250 pieces of silverware, the majority of them presumed to be mid to late 18th century pieces.

When I visit a house like Castletown, I usually imagine that I’d be more comfortable in the servants’ quarters than above stairs, and the list of silver in the plate book gives you an idea why. Think about the formality of eating your dinner from silver plates, with silver bread baskets and silver rimmed glasses, and peering around a silver epergne to see the people on the other side of the table.  I’d rather eat in the kitchen.

But the book itself is fascinating. As well as being a very useful catalogue of the plate, it gives an insight into how people lived in a great estate house, and Castletown was one of the greatest of the great houses in Ireland. It was built originally by William Conolly (1662 to 1729) who, from humble beginnings as the son of a publican, became a politician and Speaker of the (pre-Union) Irish House of Commons in 1715.[2]

It was his great-nephew Tom Conolly, also a politician, and his wife Lady Louisa Conolly who bought many of the pieces listed in the book. Lady Louisa was one of the four Lennox sisters, whose sister Emily was married to James Fitzgerald, 20th Earl of Kildare and later 1st Duke of Leinster and whose Dublin town house was Leinster House, on Kildare Street. The two houses are laid out on a similar plan, not surprising as Lady Louisa was heavily influenced by her brother-in-law James Fitzgerald when renovating Castletown.

There’s no indication in the plate book of whether or not he influenced the selection of the silver plate, but whoever selected it made a contemporaneous record, because the book is dated 1865, during the lifetime of Thomas Conolly (1823 – 1876), and that’s an archivist’s dream. ‘Explore your archive’ looks back at history, and that’s why we keep an archive, but every archivist lives in hope that record creators will look forward and think of the archives of the future when they’re making their records in the present.

[1] Castletown Decorative Arts, p 238, Cat. No. FB278, Description: Meat skewer, English/Irish, c. 1780, A George III silver meat skewer, unmarked. Silver, 24 cm (9.5 in) long

[2] Anne Crookshank, the Knight of Glin and James Peill, ‘The finest Ireland ever saw – Castletown and its Contents’ in Castletown Decorative Arts (2011), p 17

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Henry Bedford’s notebook detailing a trip to Belgium


Rebecca O’Neill, Student, MA in Historical Archives

Henry Bedford, born in 1816, was an Englishman who travelled through Europe and lived in England and Ireland through the 19th century. Raised in London and educated at Cambridge, Bedford had obtained an MA in Arts and Science. He went on subsequently to train as a priest, training in Christchurch as a curate. One significant decision by Bedford came in 1851, when he converted to Catholicism and subsequently moved to Ireland where he began lecturing at All Hallows College in Dublin.

All Hallows College, founded in 1842, was an institution for the educating and training of priests. Bedford apparently lectured as a Professor of Natural Science. As well as lecturing and working within the college, Bedford – as can be depicted from his notebook – travelled for work too.


The first entry into the notebook, dated Monday 21st August 1843, describes Bedford boarding the ‘Lord Melville steamboat to sleep’ heading towards Ostend. He appears to have company throughout the trip, noting both stewards and companions in his notebook. On the same page – describing the following day, 22nd August – Bedford went into large detail noting his passage across the sea. Conditions onboard appeared to be horrible for passengers, as the rough sea appeared to make individuals sick or ‘miserable’, as Bedford describes circumstances. Despite the conditions of the sea, Bedford appears to have enjoyed the company on the way to Belgium: ‘fell in with three pleasant companions and enjoyed myself immensely’.

Henry Bedford’s Notebook AHC/14/1. Image © All Hallows College Archives

The nature of Bedford’s journey is not fully clear in his notebook. However, one can assume that the nature of his journey is for work. We know that Bedford was training to become a priest, so perhaps his visit to the abbey is part of his work. The abbey appears to hold some level of importance to Bedford, as he visits the building immediately upon arriving in the town: ‘Arrived at a small public house near the abbey at half past 10; and immediately hastened to the interesting place’. The area in which the abbey appears to be located is ‘barren’ and ‘sandy’ in Bedford’s opinion, compared to the rest of his journey where areas are ‘fertile’ and ‘abundant in oak’.

Henry Bedford’s Notebook AHC/14/1. Image © All Hallows College Archives

The abbey is noted by Bedford as being bare, plain and surrounded by walls. One can assume that Bedford was called to visit the abbey for business, as the porter who opened the door appears to be overcome, or maybe even surprised, with the arrival of Bedford to the abbey: ‘A lay brother draped in black gown…opened the door and instantly fell on his knees, cupping his hands over his heart’.

Bedford’s expenses, documented at the back of his notebook, help us to track his journey through Belgium. Starting out towards Ostend, he travelled to Bruges, Ghent, Mechelen and Antwerp. Bedford could be described as a wealthy individual, capable of managing his money since analysing his notebook.

Henry Bedford’s Notebook AHC/14/1. Image © All Hallows College Archives


As a final note, it was interesting to find out that, despite Bedford training to become a priest, he was never ordained due to a natural born defect in his right hand. Following research on the Vatican archive website, Canon Law states that:

Can. 1025 §1. To confer the presbyteral or diaconal orders licitly, it is required that the candidate, having completed the period of probation according to the norm of law, is endowed in the judgment of his own bishop or of the competent major superior with the necessary qualities, is prevented by no irregularity and no impediment, and has fulfilled the prerequisites according to the norm of cann.

Despite not being ordained as a priest, Bedford continued to teach at All Hallows. He died in 1905, at the age of 89, and is buried in the cemetery of All Hallows College in Dublin.


An account of the 1798 Rebellion by Lady Louisa Conolly, Castletown House, 25 May 1798


Karel Kiely, Student, MA in Historical Archives

This vivid account of the 1798 rebellion was written by Lady Louisa Conolly at its outbreak on 24th May.  It is taken from a collection of her letters (1759-1821) which were transcribed in the mid-nineteenth century by Lady Albert Seymour, a great-niece of Louise Connolly, the daughter of Lady Sarah Napier.

Born in England in 1743, Louisa Lennox was the fifth of seven children of Charles, second Duke of Richmond and Lady Sarah Cadogan.  Lady Louisa and her sister Sarah came to live with their older sister, Emily, Duchess of Kildare, at Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, after the death of their parents in 1750 and 1751.   At the age of fifteen, Louisa married Thomas Conolly of Castletown, Celbridge, Co. Kildare, who had inherited this estate from his great uncle, Speaker Conolly. The story of Louisa and her sisters is a fascinating story of aristocratic women in the eighteenth century.

The majority of the Irish population in the late 1700s was excluded from political life. In a country where most people lived in abject poverty and the landlord class owned ninety per cent of the land, the ideals of the French and American Revolutions influenced the rebellion which broke out in May 1798.

By reading the letters it is obvious that Lady Louisa was well-informed of the progress of the rebellion in the surrounding towns and villages.  The residents of Castletown House were at the centre of an area of rebel activity which began on 24 May in Co. Kildare at Naas, Prosperous, Kilcullen Bridge and Clane.  Louisa’s blow by blow account of the action names the regiments, commanders and the fatalities on each side.  She witnessed the rebellion at first-hand on 26 May, when ‘a party of 200 broke thro’ Mr. Conolly’s gate at Celbridge, marched across the lawn, & formed their other parties, coming from different roads to the town of Leixlip which they attacked ….’  Referring to the recent atrocities at Prosperous,  she voices her concerns that the women and children of the company could share the same fate of ‘murder and fire’.   The letter contains a great amount of detail on the activities of the rebels, military and her neighbouring local gentry in Co. Kildare who were involved in trying to suppress the rebellion.  It would be interesting to know where she was getting her information; the source is not stated, but it may have been her husband, Thomas Conolly. For example, in reference to the battle at Naas, she writes, ‘At Naas, the insurgents proceeded with more skill; having secured the different entrys into the town under their Commander Lord Gosport after losing about 20 of their soldiers, & two pieces of cannon…’

Louisa had a tragic, personal connection to the rebellion through her nephew, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, a former British army officer and M.P. for Athy, Co. Kildare. He became involved with the United Irishmen and was shot and captured days before the outbreak of the Rebellion. He was not permitted any contact with his family during his incarceration in Newgate Prison, Dublin. However, Lady Louisa petitioned Lord Clare, Chancellor of Ireland, for permission to see him. She visited Edward hours before he died on 4 June, accompanied by Lord Clare and Lord Henry Fitzgerald, one of Edward’s brothers.

PP/CON/2/4 p.100. Image © OPW- Maynooth University Archive & Research Centre

PP/CON/2/4 p.101. Image © OPW- Maynooth University Archive & Research Centre

PP/CON/2/4 p.102. Image © OPW- Maynooth University Archive & Research Centre

Inscribed Wooden Board found in 1950s at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth


Patricia Duffe, Student, MA in Historical Archives

Exhibit title
Description of inscribed wooden board, College Museum. Image © St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth

Walking through the Museum of St. Patrick’s College Maynooth, in Co. Kildare, one might wander by an inconspicuous section of timber on display. The timber remained undisturbed, hidden until it was uncovered during rebuilding works to the Long Corridor of St. Patrick’s College in the 1950s.

The wood appears to be a section of partition resembling pine floorboard, one can still see the holes from the nails where the board would have been nailed down.  If you look closely, one can see the wood section is in excellent condition, showing no signs of decay or insect damage. The wood was placed there by tradesmen in the hope that one day it would be found, and when so, that prayers would be said for the workmen who did the works on the Long Hall.

On a summer’s day in July 1872, seven men thought to inscribe their names with a verse and a request for prayers. We might ask ourselves what these workmen were doing in the college in 1872; St. Patrick College was built in 1795, therefore it is highly likely they were carrying out repairs. The inscription is quite detailed, written in black lead pencil, one can read the rhyming verse and the men’s names very clearly.

Underneath the written verse one can see the initials J.W., the name James Whelan, the first name on the list of inscriptions. It is worth noting that the names of the tradesmen in the inscription are written in the same hand; perhaps James Whelan was the literate one amongst the group.

This section of wood tells a story of interconnectedness; a connection between themselves the tradesmen, and the building they worked on, perhaps they felt privileged to work there. These men wanted to be remembered for the work that they did on the magnificent building that is St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth; and when uncovered to be remembered.

Inscribed wooden board, College Museum. Image © St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth

1872    SPCM 153/20/A

“Here are our names let them lie in the shade

On the 19th of July 1872 they are laid

When peace full and plenty when again you are seen

Be found in our home our dear island of green

May all tradesmen prosper and wages increase

When our souls they are gone to the fair Lord of peace

When our bones they are rotten beneath the green sod

May our souls enjoy that great joy to see God

When all troubles are ore all cares at an end

To enjoy such great happiness your God don’t offend”