Saibhreas Gaeltachta: Cartlann Ráth Chairn

le Liam Mac Cóil, Cartlann Ráth Chairn

Áras Fiontraíochta agus Leabharlann Phoiblí Ráth Chairn áit a bhfuil an Chartlann

Tá Gaeltacht Ráth Chairn 5km soir ó dheas ó Bhaile Átha Buí i gContae na Mí agus 10km ó thuaidh ó Bhaile Átha Troim. Tá sé 38km ó Mhaigh Nuad. Bunaíodh an Ghaeltacht nua nuair a tháinig 27 teaghlach as Conamara chun cónaí i Ráth Chairn, ar dtús, in 1935 faoi scéim de chuid Coimisiún na Talún.Sa bhliain 1967 aithníodh Ráth Chairn ina Ghaeltacht oifigiúil. Sa bhliain 1972 rinneadh ionchorprú ar Chomharchumann Ráth Chairn.

Cóip de phóstaer Choimisiún na Talún ag fógairt scéim an aistrithe, 1935

 

Bhreathnaigh an Comharchumann i ndiaidh cúraimí agus riachtanais mhuintir na háiste. B’institiúid ann féin í, lárionad aitheanta a labhair thar ceann phobal na Gaeltachta agus a raibh caidreamh leanúnach aici le hiomad eagraíochtaí agus institiúidí eile, Ollscoil Mhá Nuad agus Comhairle Contae na Mí san áireamh.

Ghin an obair an Chomharchumainn go leor páipéarachais: comhfhreagras (cúrsaí airgid, dlí, soláthar seirbhísí, cúrsaí Gaeilge), páipéir pholasaí, pleananna, cuntais airgid, miontuairiscí cruinnithe, dialanna coinní, billí, admhálacha, foirmeacha, bróisiúir, póstaeir, teastais, cártaí ballraíochta, ticéid crannchuir –  doiciméid de gach saghas agus de gach cineál. Chomh maith leis sin bhí roinnt téipeanna fuaime ann agus dlúthdhioscaí chomh maith le grianghraif.  

Teastas a ghnóthaigh Ráth Chairn in 1975 i Scéim de chuid Gaeltarra Éireann
Póstaer faoi thógáil éanlaithe clóis, 1945

Tá an t-ádh linn gur shocraigh an chéad Bhainisteoir, Pádraic Mac Donncha, formhór mór na ndoiciméad sin a choinneáil. Nuair a bhíodh comhadchaibinéad lán thugtaí amach as an oifig é agus chuirtí ar stóras é. Doiciméid nach raibh aon ghá leo in obair reatha an Chomharchumainn, chuirtí in ionad stórais iad. Saibhreas mór Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta atá iontu sin anois.

Cuireadh leis an gCartlann, go háirithe ón mbliain 2015: doiciméid a bhain le Bunscoil Ráth Chairn ó tógadh í i 1936; ábhar idir dhoiciméid agus fhíseáin a bhain leis an gcomhlacht teilifíse Scun Scan; lámhscríbhinn a bhain le haistriúchán an Bhíobla; cuid de pháipéir an Athar Fiachra (Donnchadh Ó Corcara OFM), ina measc clóscríbhinn an leabhair fealsúnachta, ‘An Bheatha Phoiblí,’ a bhí le teacht i ndiaidh An Bheatha Phléísiúrtha (1955) ach nár foilsíodh riamh.

Leathanaigh tosaigh ‘An Bheatha Phoiblí’ leis an Athair Fiachra

Go dtí 2015 is i seomra san áiléar os cionn an stáitse sa halla mór a bhí na caibinéid agus na boscaí á gcoinneáil. Tosaíodh ag cur cuid den ábhar isteach i mboscaí gan aigéad. Tamall ina dhiaidh sin tugadh an stóras ar fad go dtí seomra beag in aice le Leabharlann Phoiblí Ráth Chairn agus cuireadh na doiciméid ar fad i mboscaí gan aigéad. Bhí an chéad dá chéim in obair na cartlannaíocht tógtha: bhí an t-abhar curtha ar thaobh sábhála. Tá beagnach dhá chéad bosca stóráilte ar sheilfeanna miotail i seomra na Cartlainne anois.

Le cúnamh ó Éire Ildánach agus Chomhairle Contae na Mí agus le comhairle ó Leabharlann Ollscoile Mhá Nuad agus daoine eile tosaíodh ar an dara mórchéim i bpróiseas na Cartlannaíochta: an obair ghlantacháin. Faraor ghearr Covid-19 trasna ar an obair sin; agus de bharr na srianta níorbh fhéidir teacht ar an gCartlann. Tá súil againn nuair a bheidh an ghéarchéim thart agus an t-airgead ar fáil go mbeimid in ann tosú ar an obair sin arís.

Cóipleabhar Dalta i mBunscoil Uí Ghramhnaigh, Ráth Chairn

Indiana Campbell and the Ancient Seal of St. Augustine

By Yvette Campbell, Assistant Librarian, Special Collections & Archives

As Assistant Librarian working on the Russell Library Cataloguing Project, I am often in the fortunate position of becoming intimately familiar with the historical collections of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Whilst carefully describing each book, pamphlet, or manuscript, I have found that it is often the little things that can surprise and delight.

From time-to-time, I have unearthed pieces of ephemera hidden within the pages of an early printed book; a hand-pressed flower, personal photographs, handwritten letters, poetry, mysterious inscriptions, squashed insects, and even a four-leaf clover preserved within the pages from long ago!

Cataloguing the personal collection of Father Corkery, former librarian of St. Patrick’s College, was no different in this regard. It was such a joy to re-discover a personal handwritten letter in the pages of a booklet marking the centenary of John’s Lane Church in Dublin.

An appeal for the Seal – Irish Independent 21 November 1962

The letter in question was written by a friend of Fr. Corkery in 1962 enquiring about the lost Seal of St. Augustine by the Liffey that was used for marking documents in Dublin almost 650 years ago. It had apparently survived in Dublin until circa 1902 after which there doesn’t appear to be any further mention of its existence. It moved to the Protestant Church of St. Nicholas Within and after the closure of this church in the late eighteenth century, all the possessions including this seal passed to St. Audeon’s Church in Dublin.

The author wishes to know if Fr. Corkery had ever come across it in his extensive travels. After enquiring about his recent trip to America, the author writes as follows:

“Did you ever in your travels around museums, churches, libraries etc. & in meeting with collections of antiquities come across th[is] ancient seal…”

He asks Corkery further if it ever reached Maynooth, as it may have been found in libraries or museums. This letter was re-discovered in a booklet which helpfully includes an image of the seal itself, accompanied by a brief article regarding its history at the time of publication (1962).

Church of St. Augustine and St. John the Baptist : centenary 1862-1962, Dublin (1962)

The seal was a plaque of brass measuring almost two inches across. It has an engraving of four Augustinian figures, two on each side facing inward, and gazing reverently with uplifted hands at a crescent moon, above which hangs a star. 

The style of lettering and punctuation indicate that it was made circa 1300, possibly in the early or middle period of the reign of Edward III. It was most likely made by the King’s coiner and brought by the Augustinians from England to Dublin. The outer inscription much abbreviated reads: 

Sigillum capital provincialis heremitarum ordinis sancti Augustini in Anglia

which means: 

‘Seal of the Provincial Chapter of the Hermits of the Order of St. Augustine in England’

The four figures represent the four Definitors of long ago. The crescent moon represents Our Lady, while the star represents St. John the Baptist. The article concludes with sadness that the seal survived in Dublin 119 years ago and cannot now be found.

Further appeal – Irish Press, 22 November 1962

This interesting letter naturally provoked my curiosity and I immediately went about investigating. I searched through our copies of ‘St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Museum of Ecclesiology’ and the Tóstal catalogue from 1955 but unfortunately found nothing.

Perusing through our various newspaper databases that we subscribe to at Maynooth University, I found a reference to the seal through the Irish Newspapers Archive from the same year that the letter is dated, which includes an appeal on the missing seal, thought to be in private hands.

We would love to know how Father Corkery replied to this intriguing request, and if he indeed came across this seal whilst on his travels. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the seal ever made its way to Maynooth. Despite it all, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to scroll through our fantastic newspaper database. It was even more fun to play a detective/archaeologist while it lasted!

References

  • Augustinian Order. (1962). Church of St. Augustine and St. John the Baptist : centenary 1862-1962, Dublin. Dublin: Augustinian Community, John’s Lane, Dublin.
  • Breen, P. J. (1995) St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Museum of Ecclesiology. Maynooth University
  • Frazer, W. (1879). ‘Description of the Brass Matrix of an Ancient Seal Belonging to the Augustinian Hermits, with an Account of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, near Dublin, and Observations on the Symbolism of the Crescent Moon and Star’ Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Polite Literature and Antiquities, 2, 465-471. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20651546
  • ‘Missing for 60 Years’, The Irish Independent, 22 November 1962. Retrieved: 12 February 2021, from Irish Newspapers Archive.
  • St. Patricks College Maynooth (1955). St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth museum. An Tostal display 1955. Maynooth University.
  • ‘Search for a Seal’, The Irish press, 21 November 1962. Retrieved: 12 February, 2021, from Irish Newspapers Archive.

 

Mitchelstown, Mexico and Maynooth: a story of exploration, discovery and triumph

By Susan Durack, Special Collections and Archives

Image: Antiquities of Mexico (Detail) – Russell Library

Bequests, donations and key purchases make up the rich print collections of the Russell Library at Maynooth College.  The collection dates from 16th to the mid-19th century.  A delightful and surprising discovery in the historic collection is a substantial nine volume work titled the Antiquities of Mexico by Lord Kingsborough. The longer title gives us more insight as to its contents:

“The Antiquities of Mexico comprising fac-similes of ancient Mexican paintings and hieroglyphics, preserved in the royal libraries of Paris, Berlin and Dresden, in the Imperial Library of Vienna, in the Vatican Library, in the Borgian Museum at Rome, in the Library of the Institute at Bologna, and in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, together with The Monuments of New Spain by M. Dupaix, with their respective scales of measurement and accompanying descriptions.”

Title-page: Antiquities of Mexico – Russell Library

Edward King, Viscount Kingsorough, was the author of this monumental work comprising 9 volumes produced between 1831 and 1848. Volumes 1-7 were published in 1831 with two supplementary volumes appearing in 1848 after Kingsborough’s death. The first 4 volumes contain facsimiles of paintings and hieroglyphics, the remaining volumes contain the explanatory texts that accompany the images.  Texts are in English, Spanish, French and Italian. They were published in London by Robert Havell (Oxford Street) and Colnaghi, Son, and Company, Pall Mall East and printed by James Moyes.

Edward King (Viscount Kingsborough) (1795-1837), antiquarian, was born in Cork on 16 November 1795 at Kingston House, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork. He was the eldest son of George, 3rd earl of Kingston (1771–1839), and his wife Lady Helena Moore (1773–1847), only daughter of Stephen, 1st earl of Mountcashell. Edward King was educated at Eton; he entered Exeter College, Oxford in 1814, gaining a second in classical studies in 1818, but did not proceed to a degree. In 1818 he entered parliament as MP for County Cork and was re-elected in 1820. He resigned his parliamentary seat in 1826 in favour of his brother Robert, later 4th earl of Kingston (1796–1867).

Elephant Folio: Vol.2 of 9: Antiquities of Mexico, held in the Russell Library

Having consulted manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, King became interested in the antiquities of Mexico and travelled extensively to examine the collections of the libraries mentioned above. He sought to prove that the indigenous peoples of the Americas were a Lost Tribe of Israel. His principal contribution was in making available, illustrations of Mexican field antiquities and facsimiles of ancient documents and some of the earliest explorers’ reports on pre-Columbian ruins and Maya civilization. His work remained a key text until the early twentieth century and inspired further exploration and research by John Lloyd Stephens (1805-1852) and Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg (1814-1874) in the early 19th century.

Image: Antiquities of Mexico – Russell Library

With the support of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), many of whose manuscripts are described in the Antiquities, King employed the Italian painter Agustine Aglio (1777-1857) to visit Europe’s greatest libraries and private collections for Mexican manuscripts, which Aglio sketched and later lithographed for publication. The work includes Dupaix’s Monuments of New Spain, taken from Castañeda’s original drawings, and descriptions of sculptures and artifacts from several private collections. It was the largest print making project that Agostino had undertaken. The content of the volumes include – Codex Telleriano-Remensis, Codex Fejérváry-Mayer, Codex Vaticanus, Manuscripts Nahuatl, Boturini Benaducci, Lorenzo, 1702-1751 — Art collections, Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, Bibliothèque nationale (France), Bodleian Library, Königliche Bibliothek zu Berlin, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Ethnology of Mexico, and Nahuatl language and literature.

Image: Antiquities of Mexico (Detail) – Russell Library

Four copies of Antiquities of Mexico were printed on vellum at a cost of over £3,000 which King gifted to the Bodleian Library, the British Museum, the Louvre and the Royal Library of Berlin. The publication of the Antiquities had cost over £30,000 in total and King found himself with massive debts, compounded by those of his father.  In February 1837 he was arrested for debt for non-payment of a small debt to a printer and was lodged in the Sheriff’s debtors’ prison in Dublin.  He died 27 February 1837, as a result of typhus contracted while in jail. He was buried in the family vault in the chapel of Kingston College, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork. He never married.

 In July 1842 his collection of antiquities and the contents of his library were auctioned, including Mexican and Chinese manuscripts. A catalogue of his library contents is held in the Royal Irish Academy.

Image: Antiquities of Mexico – Russell Library
Image: Antiquities of Mexico – Russell Library

“Catalogue of the rare and valuable library of the late Rt. Hon. Edward Lord Viscount Kingsborough, comprising his collection of printed books and manuscripts in various languages … Chinese books, which formerly belonged to the Jesuits’ College at Pekin: which will be sold by auction, (by order of the administrator,) by Charles Sharpe, at his Literary Sale Room, Anglesea Street, on Tuesday, 12th July, 1842, and following days, …”

Image: Antiquities of Mexico –
Russell Library

The provenance of the Maynooth volumes require further investigation. When Covid 19 restrictions are lifted we can access our archival collections which may yield further information on their acquisition.

Agostino’s dedication to Viscount Kingsborough in volume five speaks to the scale of the endeavour and completion of this monumental project: “Five years have now elapsed since your Lordship has directed me to commence this work.  Interesting as the progress of such an inquiry, I little anticipated the ample range of its boundaries, or the magnitude of its result; and I terminate it with the full conviction that no one but Your Lordship, whose mind had been accustomed to trace and explore the Monument of Mexican Grandeur and Greatness could have estimated the extent to which it would be reached.”

Image: Antiquities of Mexico – Russell Library

A 550-year-old book comes to Maynooth!

By Dr Elizabeth Boyle, Department of Early Irish; Hugh Murphy, Head of Collections Maynooth University

A page from the 1471 printing of Orosius, bought by Maynooth University

Maynooth University has acquired a 550-year-old book, which contains one of the earliest discussions of Ireland in print. The book is the so-called editio princeps or first printed edition of an influential Latin work of Christian history, the Seven Books of History Against the Pagans by Paulus Orosius, who wrote it shortly after the year 400. Orosius’s text circulated in vellum manuscripts and was widely-read and highly influential, so it is not surprising that it was amongst the first works to be published during the first decades of print production in Europe.

Orosius describes Ireland – in Latin called Hibernia – as “an island situated between Britain and Spain”. He gives the name of a river – Scena – thought to be the Shannon, and two population groups, the Velabri and the Luceni, who lived in what is now Co. Kerry. Orosius notes that, although Ireland is smaller than Britain, Ireland is richer “on account of the favourable character of its climate and soil”.

Thus, Orosius was one of the first Christian writers to mention Ireland. Dr Boyle’s research has shown that his work had certainly been read in Ireland by the seventh century at the latest, and it became fundamental to how people in medieval Ireland understood the past. Orosius believed that nations rose to, and fell from, power according to God’s favour. He saw political power as moving through history from one dominant empire to another: the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks and, at the time he was writing, the Romans. This framework of history became standard in medieval Ireland, where Orosius was highly regarded as a historical authority.

With the advent of moveable type printing methods, seminal works such as those of Orosius began to be published in printed form. Sixteen years after the production of the Gutenberg Bible, a German printer named Johannes Schüssler, based in the city of Augsburg, produced the first printed copies of Orosius’s history. Nearly a hundred copies are known to survive, mostly preserved in national and university libraries around the world. With the support of our academic colleagues in both Maynooth University and St. Patrick’s College, the Library was able to acquire this copy, which, while incomplete (with 5 of the 7 ‘books’ complete) preserves the critical discussion of Ireland, which is found near the beginning of the work.

Page showing the print block which is of carbon ink, with annotations which are iron gall. The red capital letters would have been hand painted after the printing was completed.

As has been noted by our colleague and rare books specialist Penny Woods, Maynooth’s library collections are “rich in printed works that mention the island of Ireland or its saints and its people”. Indeed this has been a key collections strategy for decades. While there is a 1483 copy of Orosius in the library of Trinity College, for Maynooth, our earliest copy was until now an edition published in Paris in 1510. Those editions are both interesting in their own right, particularly in terms of the early history of print, but the acquisition by Maynooth of the 1471 printing means that there is now a first edition held in an Irish library, available for consultation by historians and researchers.

Professor Salvador Ryan, professor of Ecclesiastical History at St Patrick’s College Maynooth says that “Orosius is a hugely important figure in the study of Christian historiography and what was traditionally termed Historia Sacra [‘Sacred History’]. This is an area on which many Maynooth scholars have published over the years. It is particularly fitting, and a cause for celebration, then, that this early printed edition of Orosius’s work has been acquired for our Library’s Special Collections”.

This book will join our 59 other incunabula (the technical term used for books printed before 1500) and will be available for consultation as a priority. We are fortunate that Dr Boyle is a key member of the International Orosian Network (a group of scholars devoted to studying the transmission and reception of Orosius’s work in the medieval and early modern periods), and we look forward to providing them and others with the opportunity to engage with this remarkable work.

Turning Down the Volume: Writing a Paper on the Teresa Deevy Archive during Lockdown

By Róisín Berry, Archivist, Maynooth University Library

Active Speech Seminar Call for Papers

Over the last few weeks I have been working on a paper for an upcoming seminar on Waterford playwright, Teresa Deevy (1894-1963), entitled Active Speech: Sharing Scholarship on Teresa Deevy. The seminar will take place on 12 and 19 February 2021, and will be a virtual event. Its aim is to focus on Deevy’s work and provide a forum to bring together ongoing scholarship examining her work. The conference is being hosted by Waterford Institute of Technology, with the support of Maynooth University Library. It is the first conference of its kind and will take place twenty-five years after the silver jubilee issue of the Irish University Review  ‘Teresa Deevy and Irish Women Playwrights’, and on foot of a great revival of interest in her work. The event was supposed to take place in June 2020 but like many other cultural events, it had to be postponed due to Covid restrictions.

Photograph of playwright Teresa Deevy

I was fortunate enough to catalogue the Teresa Deevy Archive in 2012, and still remember my excitement as I trawled through the documents for the very first time. The archive was donated to Maynooth University Library by the playwright’s grand-niece, Jacqui Deevy in 2011, with the assistance of Deevy scholar Professor Christopher Morash. This important collection had been residing in a suitcase under a bed in Teresa Deevy’s family home in Waterford, for many years, before being transferred to its new home in Maynooth. Consisting of letters, scripts, short stories, essays, articles, theatre programmes and newspaper cuttings, it is a treasure trove for any literary scholar. Its move to Maynooth University Library’s Special Collections & Archives Department ensured the long-term preservation of this fascinating body of material for future generations to come.

Ordinarily, I would thoroughly enjoy the challenge of putting together a presentation, particularly when it addresses a collection that I have worked on. However, throw a Pandemic and its accompanying restrictions into the mix and you have a very different situation. In normal circumstances, I would pour over the original documents in the comfort of my office without a second thought. This is currently not an option as staff are being asked to work from home due to the ongoing restrictions. Without access to the collection, I have had to become a little more creative. Working with scanned images, a copy of the catalogue for the Deevy archive and an extensive collection of reference material, the fog is beginning to lift. It is not ideal, especially if you want to examine a selection of documents simultaneously, however, a great deal of information can still be gleaned.

Selection of Documents from the Teresa Deevy Archive at MU Library

One thing that I have noticed is that due to the current constraints, I am less concerned about what others have written about Deevy and more focussed on my own experience of the archive, how I approached cataloguing it, what documents stood out for me, and how the collection continues to resonate with me both personally and professionally nearly ten years later. This experience is something that I hope to capture in my presentation, the intimate journey that an archivist undertakes when working on a literary collection and how powerful than can be.

Sometimes it takes a Pandemic to make you turn down the volume and enjoy the stillness of your own thoughts and experiences, even in your professional life.

For further information on the Teresa Deevy Archive please contact: library.specialcollections@mu.ie

Details on the online Active Speech (free) seminar can be found on Facebook: Active Speech: Sharing Scholarship on Teresa Deevy 2021

Conserving a Caxton

By Gretchen Allen, Library Conservator, Special Collections & Archives

William Caxton printer’s mark

William Caxton was an English printer and translator active in the latter half of the 15th century. He is thought to be the first printer in the English language, and his work had an enormous impact on English literature and the wider book trade. Born in 1422, Caxton traveled to Belgium and then later to Germany where he learned how to operate the newly invented printing press. As all of Caxton’s editions were printed before the year 1500, they are classed as “incunabula”, the oldest and most highly prized class of early printed work. While there are many surviving Caxtons in the UK, there are vanishingly few in Ireland.

One of his later printed works was a 1483 edition of the poet John Gower’s “Confessio Amantis”. The poem tells of a lovesick poet “Amans”, who confesses his misadventures in love to Genius, the chaplain of Venus, in an effort to be cured of his infatuation. The work is dedicated to Gower’s friend and contemporary, Geoffrey Chaucer.

The recto and verso of the framed print, showing the letter taped to the back

When Maynooth University acquired the Otway-Maurice collection of early printed works on long term loan from St. Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny, there was a single framed page of Caxton’s “Confessio” found in the collection. However, the page was in poor condition: it was heavily discolored with evidence of past water damage, and the paper had tearing and losses along the bottom edge. The most pressing concern was that only one side of the page was visible–due to the method of framing it was impossible to tell if there was text on the other side. It was not even possible to dismantle the frame as the back was covered by a taped-on letter of authentication. It was clear a conservator’s intervention would be necessary.

The letter of authentication was removed from the frame, then the remaining sellotape was removed from the letter, which was then surface cleaned and flattened. The frame was carefully dismantled, revealing that the print was encapsulated between two panes of glass. This can be a risky form of encapsulation to remove due to the strong static cling between glass panes, but it was even trickier in this case since one of the panes was broken.

The dismantled frame and the print encapsulated in glass

The tape along the edges was removed and the glass was safely lifted away from the object. The label was also lifted away, and the print was free of its enclosure. It was also finally possible to view the text on the back! The print was photographed, then both sides were gently and carefully surface cleaned. The substrate and media were spot-tested to check for solubility, and the print was then washed using a capillary wetting method which allowed water to slowly travel through the paper, taking discoloration and dirt with it.

The treatment is still ongoing: a light consolidant will be applied to return some structural integrity to the page, then the torn edges will be repaired and reinforced using a very light Japanese tissue paper. The finished print will then be rehoused and stored in Special Collections where it can be safely accessed by readers.

The recto and verso of the print pre-cleaning
Discoloration leaving the print during a capillary wash

Maynooth University Library School Poetry Podcast

by Bairbre Flood

‘Ken [Saro-Wiwa] is such an inspiring person. He believed in the people and he stood for the people til the very end, and he didn’t get swayed by any government or bribery or corruption.’- Christeen Udokamma Obasi. ‘He’s my inspiration because I’m a human rights activist as well.’

Obasi’s poems Anticipating and Know Where are published in a new collection: I Am A Man Of Peace: Writings inspired by the Maynooth University Ken Saro-Wiwa Collection (edited by Helen Fallon, and published by Daraja Press). They feature in a podcast series which speaks to ten of the young people shortlisted in the school category of the Maynooth University Library School Poetry Podcast.

‘Often times profit is more important to the government and big businesses than the impact they have on the people of the country,’ said Conor Walsh, winner of the 2020 school category with his poem, Bystander. ‘People think they are a bystander, but they can do more. And they should do more.’

Environmental issues are at the core of many of the poems in this collection – and all the students felt climate change and pollution to be among the most pressing challenges facing us.

Eva Paturyan’s The Sun Shines Down is concerned with ‘how much of what we’re doing now is destroying all the beautiful places’. And Maeve Byrne’s Melt is driven by the fact that ‘if we don’t take the initiative now, global warming will be irreversible within a few years.’

Zofia Terzyck with her Elements Of Life notes how the elements allow us to get a deeper intuition of how the universe works ‘so I found when it comes to environmental destruction (which is what I was going for in this poem) it was a good way to piece it together – because that’s how the universe works.’

For others, the links with what’s currently happening in Nigeria are concerning. Both Obasi and Elizabeth Akinwande Zion talked about the #EndSARS movement and the corruption endemic in the present day Nigerian government who opened fire on peaceful protestors in October 2020.

Zion (who’s currently studying Social Justice, Politics & International Relations in UCD) also spoke about her prose poem The Bight of Biafra:

‘It was a catastrophic event in history that people don’t hear too much about. And the story that I wrote is a person leaving the country in search of a better life.’

Like many of the students, Áine Dooley first heard about the competition from her teacher ‘and in turn that led to me diving into Ken Saro-Wiwa and his life’ she said. Her poem, Pollution, aimed to explore the idea of Ken Saro-Wiwa as an eco-hero:

‘But I think everyone has a chance to be an eco-hero in their own right. Any big or small contribution will go a long way in helping us fight climate change and global warming and hopefully changing the environment for the better.’

Jay Vergara, whose poem Humans Greatest Sin won the 2019 competition, believes that ‘we have the power to speak up about things and bring awareness.’ He goes on:

‘There was a climate change protest in Maynooth and most of them were young people and people from my school – and I wasn’t surprised. It’s our planet. And we should be taking care of it for our future generations.’

For some of the students, writing is something they take up now and again, while others like Zion are part of Fighting Words (‘I’m very grateful for their mentorship’), and Dooley is in the process of writing a screenplay. ‘I’m a big fan of Greta Gerwig’, she said.

Ceri Arnott, a member of Amnesty International, observed that ‘in writing, it’s important to think about how different people feel and the different circumstances people are in’.

‘Arts and writing is really one of the best ways to express if we’re unhappy with a situation,’ she said. ‘And to get our point across.’ Her poem, Baking Banana Bread, skillfully plays on the idea that while the younger generation are being called on to fix environmental problems, they’re also stuck with role models who created those problems in the first place.

Throughout the podcast, they talked about how creative writing helps with mental health, and how, as Marykate Donohue puts it, ‘articulating the injustices can help you see the solutions,’

Author of Amends, Donohue said, ‘It allows me to understand what’s going on in the world…I read a quote which said ‘poets write the words they wish to hear’ and I think that’s very true. You write not just for yourself, but to understand.’

Zion is also experimenting with writing in Yoruba (which she’s learning), and Terzyk (who was born in Poland) observed that her dual identity gave her a different way of looking at the world, and lends nuance to her writing.

‘It gives me different influences,’ she said. ‘My brain is kind of understanding of both areas and it helps my writing.’

Poet Jessica Traynor (latest collectionThe Quick) who judged the entries, and has led several writing workshops both in Maynooth University and online wrote the following:

‘On reading this year’s entries I was delighted to see such a broad spectrum of cultural experiences reflected, so many clever and often unexpected engagements with questions of environment, and such passion for human rights issues.’

With their poetry, these students assert a different world of creativity – and their concern for human rights and environmental protection are a hopeful indicator for us all.

‘I’ve always, always wanted to give back to Nigeria’, said Zion. ‘As a person of the diaspora – just to try and change things from where I am in Ireland.’

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Listen to all three episodes, produced by Bairbre Flood, here

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Edited by Helen Fallon, I Am A Man Of Peace: Writings inspired by the Maynooth University Ken Saro-Wiwa Collection contains essays and poems by contributors from different parts of the globe. It includes essays by Dr Owens Wiwa, Noo Saro-Wiwa and Sister Majella McCarron (OLA) who donated the death-row letters she received from friend and fellow activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, to Maynooth University Library.

Learn more about the Maynooth University Ken Saro-Wiwa Collection here.

Clericus: A View of 225 Years of Students

By Sarah Larkin, Archivist, St Patrick’s College Maynooth

As the year of St Patrick’s College’s 225th Anniversary draws to a close, this blog post looks at a new resource which brings this long history to life. Clericus is an online database with vast potential for both academic and family historians alike to research the Irish clerical population.

The first phase of the Clericus project was financed by St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, as part of their 225th Anniversary celebrations. This phase involved the digitisation of 124 student classpieces, dating from 1861 to 2018. The classpieces include individual photographs of students/priests ordained from Maynooth. On Clericus, the photos are supplemented with biographical data from college student lists, including information for those who entered Maynooth but for whom no record of ordination exists. All of this data provides over 20,000 individual biographical entries.

Clericus makes identifying individuals from class pieces much easier. The image below shows the 1887-1888 class piece on the Clericus website. Many of the individual portraits are faded with age, and the names printed underneath quite small and difficult to read. It can be hard to distinguish individuals by looking at the class piece, but Clericus identifies each person depicted in the poster:

Holding the mouse over an individual portrait shows name and details, in this case Daniel Mannix. Under his name are two dioceses with which he is affiliated: he is from the Diocese of Cloyne and went on to be the Archbishop of Melbourne for 46 years. Clicking on Daniel Mannix will bring you to his person profile page, showing all associated details on Clericus:

On this page we can learn quite a bit of information about Dr Mannix, such as his name in Irish which he appeared under in one of the classpieces, the year he was ordained, and the classpieces he appeared on. Each of these pieces of information links Dr Mannix to the respective classpieces or events. At the bottom of this page, this information can be viewed as a ‘Network graph,’ presented as a visualisation of Dr Mannix’s data:

Dr Mannix is just one example of how the vast information available on Clericus can be used. As the project progresses, more data will be added to the database. It will no doubt prove to be an invaluable source for those academic, local, and family historians. Clericus can be viewed online here.

Document of the Day – Controversy and Coffee Culture from the Letters of Lady Louisa Conolly

By Nicola Kelly, Archivist, OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre

The habit of coffee drinking first became popular in Europe early in the 17th century and the first coffee house was opened in Oxford at The Angel in 1650. Over the next two hundred years coffee houses flourished in cities such as London, Paris, and Vienna, acting as informal meeting places where information was exchanged through conversation and print.

According to a pamphlet, the ‘Women’s petition against coffee’ of 1674, coffee made men ‘as unfruitful as the sandy deserts, from where that unhappy berry is said to be brought.’

Pamphlet entitled The Women’s Petition Against Coffee, 1674 (Source: Wikimedia commons)

Despite some of these objections, coffee houses blossomed, over 2,000 having been set up in London by 1700. Literary contemporaries described clergymen snug in coffee houses penning sermons; doctors used them for consultations. Dublin’s earliest coffee houses were opened in the late 17th century and remained popular throughout the 18th century. The fashion also spread to county towns and in 1698, coffee houses were to be found throughout Ireland’s larger cities. Some coffee houses transformed into the gentlemen’s clubs that appeared in London, Paris, and Dublin in the 17th century. These clubs originally met in coffee houses, then taverns, until later proprietary clubs became fashionable.

Coffee houses have long been linked with social and political change, in the era of Enlightenment were considered an alternative gathering place and took over the role that taverns had long played. By offering a choice of drinks, and often sweets, at a fixed price and in a more civilized setting than most taverns provided, coffee houses and cafes were part of the rise of the modern restaurant.

Depiction of a 17th century coffee house. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Merchants whose businesses revolved around the Custom House frequented two of Dublin’s busiest coffee houses: The Little Dublin and The Exchange in Crampton Court. When the Royal Exchange (now City Hall) opened in 1779, it included a coffee room on the first floor. It extended ‘from one stair-case to the other, almost the whole length of the north front, and its breadth is from the front to the dome: In point of magnificence, it is perhaps equal to any coffee-room in Great Britain: It receives its lights by the windows in the north front, and by oval lanterns in the flat of the ceiling, which is highly ornamented, and from which is suspended a grand lustre’.

Letter from Lady Louisa Conolly to Lady Sarah Bunbury, 19 January 1766, PP/CON/2/1

Although the majority of coffee houses appeared in Europe’s larger cities, among our collections, is a letter from the Conolly archive in which Lady  Louisa Conolly refers to a Coffee Room at Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare. The letter is dated 19 January 1766, Lady Louisa in a letter to her sister Lady Sarah Lennox writes:

‘… every time she [Lady Powerscourt] sees me she says ‘Pray when did you hear from my Lady Sarah Bunbury. I hope she is well, and Mr Bunbury … the two together are so handsome. What fine children they’ll have … if you have no children I am afraid you will be out of favour, for she never likes anybody that has not … you may guess what favour our sister is with her. She has an aversion to a Coffee Room, and thinks it so wicked a thing that our having one here shocks her prodigiously and with the other circumstance of my not having children, she does not like me at all.’

This offers insights into the growth and popularity of the coffee trade in Ireland particularly among the landed gentry, however, it is unusual that one features in an estate like Castletown, commissioned by Lady Louisa, as conversation in coffee houses typically revolved around business and politics, serving as well springs of gossip, political intrigue and faction, and were thought improper places for women. The location of the coffee room was, fortunately, published in Arthur Young’s ‘Castletown House the Seat of the Right Honourable Thomas Conolly’ features an architectural drawing of Castletown House, dated 1780. It was formerly located on the first floor, from at least 1762-80, in a room which is presently known as the Brown Study.

Coffee Room, (top, left corner) Castletown House. Source: Arthur Young, Castletown House Seat of the Right Honourable Thomas Conolly, A Tour in Ireland, 1780. Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

Lady Louisa frequently discusses politics in letters to her sister Lady Sarah Bunbury, she writes ‘alas, the bill for the Augmentation of Troops, was thrown out by four voices; – he interested himself very much for it, and spoke, but all would not do, so poor Ireland, will, I am afraid, go to the next French war!’, and observing also ‘you must know that I am a great Politician with regard to Ireland’ (8 May 1768). It could be speculated that Lady Louisa discussed such topics among intimate circles of friends in her coffee room!

The Conolly archive is available for consultation at the OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre

For further details about this collection please contact the Centre:

Email: omarc@mu.ie      

Twitter: @OMARC_archive

Instagram: @omarc_archive

Further reading:

PP/CON/2/1 Letters of Lady Louisa Conolly, Conolly Archive, OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre, Castletown House.

Document of the Day – Ephemera in the Troubles Collection Northern Ireland

By Dr Ruth O’Hara, Library Assistant, Maynooth University Library

Religious ephemera from the Church and Nation Committee
– Tony Keane Troubles Collection Northern Ireland

A large proportion of the 600 items currently in our Troubles Collection are ephemera. These pieces, that include election flyers, newspaper clippings, Christmas cards and posters, were often produced for a specific purpose and were not meant to be kept. Cataloguing and conserving ephemera alongside more traditional sources necessarily has implications in terms of staff resources, expertise and appropriate storage space.

A collection that includes a substantial amount of ephemera does not always lend itself easily to the familiar conventions of classification, storage and cataloguing. The diversity and the fragility of these pieces means they require meticulous treatment. Working closely with colleagues in our conservation department, repair work was carried out where needed and bespoke housing solutions were created to ensure that each item of ephemera was protected from ageing and damage due to handling while remaining accessible to readers. So, for example, most items were placed in mylar conservation pockets and housed in specially made conservation box files or paper folders in a closed access storage area allowing for easy consultation and maximum protection.

Republican Christmas card: ephemera – Tony Keane Troubles Collection Northern Ireland

The creation of exact and unbiased metadata records is also essential when seeking to stay the endangerment of the cultural memory captured in this assortment of items. Our approach was to provide a high level of access, but as cataloguing time is limited, keep the amount of detail down to a sensible amount. When working with ephemera, cataloguers often face the problem of information absence. Many of our pieces had no obvious title, discernible publisher or provenance information. So, while the normal cataloguing rules were applied and used in the same way as with books, note fields in our records were very important in order to provide full descriptions about the physical nature and unique characteristics of the items, including, for example, the numerous instances of added annotations that occur on many of the pieces. In this way the collection was allowed speak for itself without the imposition of the cataloguers conscious or unconscious bias.

Finally, one of the most challenging aspects associated with working with this type of ephemera is of course the fact that some victims and perpetrators of these events, or their families, may still be alive. While this has ramification for issues such as copyright and data protection, it also means that we still have access to the unique stories behind many of the pieces in our collection. An important example of this is a piece of ephemera seeking information in relation to the murder of three members of the British security forces in 1973. Thanks to the foresight of our donor, we know the full background to the circumstances of this poster being erected and its retrieval for posterity.

Despite the challenges of working with such diverse pieces of ephemera their inclusion in our Troubles Collection allows unique access to multiple voices that could otherwise have faced endangerment because of environmental, political, infrastructural, and related risks.