John Henry Newman’s letter to Dr Russell of Maynooth announcing an important event in his life


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Portrait miniature of John Henry Newman, by William Charles Ross, 1904

On 8 October 1845, John Henry Newman, a leading theologian who was later to be first rector of the Catholic University of Ireland, sat at his desk in the small retreat house he had established in the village of Littlemore near Oxford, writing a letter to Charles William Russell, Professor of Ecclesiastical History at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. It was a moment of calm inevitability, and a turning point in Newman’s life. He was about to leave the haven of the Anglican Church ‘I am expecting this evening Father Dominic the Passionist whom I shall ask to admit me to the bosom of the Catholic Church.’

In anticipation of this act he had given up his position as vicar of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, together with the church and school he had built in Littlemore; more immediately he has resigned his fellowship at Oriel College and all without knowing exactly what lay ahead for the step he was about to take would dramatically change the circles in which he moved. He was forty-four year of age. The letter to Russell is preserved in the archives of Maynooth College.

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Newman’s desk in the Birmingham Oratory, 1985


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Newman’s letter to Dr Russell, 8 October 1845

Newman knew that his action would cause strong reverberations. He had been an energetic force in a renewal movement within the Church of England, re-examining the common roots of the Anglican and Catholic Churches with the Edward Pusey, Regius Professor of Hebrew, John Keble. Fellow of Oriel College and author of the Christian Year, and others, in a series of tracts which culminated in his own Tract Ninety, written in 1841. It was at this point that Russell first wrote to him, thereby beginning a life-long friendship between them. When Newman published the history of his religious opinions in his Apologia pro Vita Sua in 1864, he wrote that Dr Russell ‘had, perhaps, more to do with my conversion than anyone else.’

Newman wrote to other close friends that fateful day. Father Dominic Barberi, the Passionist, whom he described as a ‘simply holy man – but far from a fool’ was on his way from Staffordshire to Belgium and had been asked to call at Littlemore. Newman was cautious in his letter to Russell ‘I shall not send this to you until it is all over.’

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Newman in May 1890 (image taken from an album entitled ‘Oratory Photographs’ by A. H. Pollen)

He was received into the Catholic Church on 9 October 1845. He was beatified on 19 September 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI and so is now commemorated both in the Church of England liturgical calendar (11 August) and in the Catholic calendar (9 October).

On 1 July 2019, Newman’s canonisation was authorised and the date for the canonisation ceremony was set for 13 October 2019. The Russell Library will host a small exhibition curated by Audrey Kinch and Adam Staunton, to celebrate Newman’s canonisation during the month of October. The exhibition will include the original letter from Newman to Russell as well as other material from the collections of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.








On Campus, the Calendaria: Maynooth College Calendar 1919

By Audrey Kinch, Library Assistant, Maynooth University Library

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New House, St. Joseph’s Square, south campus

As the academic year gets underway and as new and returning students of St. Patrick’s College and Maynooth University walk in the cloister of St. Patrick’s House to and from lectures and dine in the wonderful Pugin Hall, lining the cloister walls are photograph displays also known as the class-pieces of former students of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

In 2020, St. Patrick’s College will celebrate 225 years since the College foundation on 5 June in 1795 as the National Seminary for the education of students for the priesthood.

Permission was requested from Rome in 1895 to confer canonical degrees in Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law, and was acquired in 1896 with the grant of a Charter as Pontifical University.  Courses in Philosophy and Theology were necessary for candidates of the priesthood.  Its curriculum included courses in the Humanities (Classics, English, Irish and Modern Languages) and Natural Philosophy (including Mathematics and Experimental Science).

Maynooth was both a Pontifical University for ecclesiastical studies and a Recognised College of the National University of Ireland in Arts, Philosophy, Celtic Studies and Science.  The student body remained clerical until 1966 when lay students were admitted to NUI courses of the college.  The Pontifical University and National Seminary are jointly referred to as Maynooth College.  The College specialises in the study of Theology and Philosophy and other subject areas and programmes are offered at undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education levels.


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Catholic University Calendar, 1863

Beginning the Calendaria 1863

The College Calendaria or Maynooth College Calendar, was first published in 1863 and is issued on an annual basis.  The calendar was printed by John F. Fowler of Crow Street, Dublin. Its contents include a calendar for the academic year, prayers, lists of college officials, staff, students, academic classes and subjects and further administrative information related to the college.


Unlike the later calendars, it is entitled ‘The Catholic University Calendar’.  An assembly had agreed to establish the Catholic University in 1851. It was officially opened in 1854.  John Henry Newman was appointed Rector.   The first calendar contains details of Moveable Feasts, Holidays of Obligation, Fasting Days on One Meal and Days of Abstinence.  The calendar lists semester schedules, staff names, class prizes awarded.

Looking back, one hundred years, 1919

It interesting to take a moment to look at college life in Maynooth in 1919.  The structure and schedule of the academic year is informative in terms of reading the names of former staff and students, which subjects students studied and how many students came to Maynooth from a particular diocese amongst others.

The calendar contains details and information pertaining to the autumn and spring semester schedule.  The University Programme in Faculties of arts, philosophy, Celtic studies and science gives details for the regulations for courses of study and examinations.  The programme lists the dates of terms.  There were 14 courses in Arts, which included Latin, Modern Irish, Hebrew, English, Mathematics, Music and Welsh among others.  Students were required to sit for examination in five of the subjects.

The calendar also lists the syllabus of courses and it is interesting to read the pattern of lectures.  Professor Rev. D’Alton and Professor Rev. Fahy lectured in the subject of Latin with three lectures each week and along with the prescribed texts, students studied Latin prose, outlines of Roman history to 146 B.C and Latin literature of the Republican period.

Professor Rev. Gerald O’Nolan lectured three times a week in the subject of Irish and part of the course contained translation from English into Irish, grammar, translation from Irish into English and conversation.  In English under Professor Rev. C. Mulcahy, students attended three lectures per week and the books for the academic year included Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution.  It also lists the names of students and distinctions obtained in the relative subjects in the summer examinations of 1919.

The calendar lists the ordination index with the date of Ordination 30 June 1919; the celebrants name Rev. Edward Mulhern, the names of students and the diocese they came from.

Matriculation examinations took place on 30 September 1919.  The matriculation list provides the names of all the participating students and their diocese also.   The regulations for entrance examinations required each candidate to present his Baptismal certificate and a letter of nomination from his Bishop.  The examinations included tested on Religious Knowledge, Music, Reading and Latin and English composition including others.

An Obituary contains a list of names and the origin diocese of those who passed during the previous academic year and asks the reader to pray for the souls of those who passed.

A list of the Trustees of the Governing Body including visiting Prelates at the College of St. Patrick, Maynooth is provided. There is also a list of college officials including the College President Right. Rev. Mgr. James MacCaffrey, Vice-President, Deans, Spiritual Fathers, Librarian, Bursars, Prefects, Professors, Physician, Surgeon, Resident Medical Attendant, Solicitor and John Potter, the Dentist.


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Calendarium, Collegii Sti Patritii, 1919 

Attending students are listed including subject, year and how many students in each class is contained within the calendar and states for example, there were 63 Theology students in their fourth year.  There is also a list of students per diocese and the lists are so well structure one can easily identify there were 25 students from the diocese of Derry and 21 students from Kildare.

There is a table of the private foundations of Burses and also conditions attached to certain burses such as The Molloy Prize in Physical Science which states ‘…£270 was accepted from His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, being the residue of the estate of the late Monsignor Molloy, to establish an annual Prize in the Physical Science class in memory of Monsignor Molloy.’  

The appendices include lists of former Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Deans, Professors and additional staff of the college and dissertations written with the title and student name.  The final section is the timetables of classes in the Theological classes and the B.A. Degree course with a note attached to say class times are slightly changed on Fasting Days.

Location in the library

The College Kalendaria are held in the John Paul II Library and in the Russell Library which is located in St. Patrick’s House.  While not available for loan, copies of the calendar can be  consulted in the historic Pugin designed reading room.

Located a short walk nearby, the John Paul II Library holds copies of the calendar for reference both in the Special Collections reading room and on the open shelves in the Theology subject area at location REF.207.415 MAY.  The Special Collections reading room and the Theology section are both located on level 2 in the John Paul II library.

Viewing previous editions of the Calendar of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth is taking a unique opportunity to look back at previous college life through a wonderful primary resource.  The calendars are rich in detail pertaining to each year and are of interest to staff, students, external readers, independent researchers and those conducting genealogy searches regarding former students.

At the end of the year, upon cessation of studies in June, the line Absolvitur, Favente Deo, Annus Academicus is below the semester calendar in the 1919 edition and translates as ‘is completed, God willing, the academic year.  Best wishes to all for a rewarding and successful academic year 2019-20.

Russell Library contact details:

Tel:                  01-7083890


Special Collections contact details:

Tel:                  01-4747423




Patrick J. Hamell, Maynooth Students and Ordinations 1895-1984 (1984)





The Niamh Bhreathnach Archive: Shining a Light on Women in Irish Politics

By Róisín Berry, Archivist, Maynooth University Library


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Niamh Bhreathnach in her Garden on Convent Road, Blackrock,
 Co. Dublin, c. 1947


Precious treasure cradled in tiny hands, a beautiful little girl stands in her garden on Convent Road in Blackrock, County Dublin, bathed in warm sunlight. This charming image is just one of a collection of fifty-nine photographs that were recently digitised by Maynooth University (MU) Library, capturing both the private and public life of former Labour Minister for Education, Niamh Bhreathnach. Having already received a donation of Bhreathnach’s papers some years ago, containing political speeches and press cuttings, the images provide a wonderful addition to this important collection held in MU Library.



Born in Dublin in 1945, Niamh Bhreathnach was the daughter of Breandán Breathnach (civil servant, Irish music collector and Uilleann piper) and Lena Donnellan (civil servant). Bhreathnach had four sisters, Sighle, Eibhlín, Fionnuala and Éadaoin. Growing up in Blackrock, County Dublin, she was educated locally at Carysfort National School.

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The Bhreathnach Family with Friends in Connemara, Co. Galway, 1950


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Tom Ferris and Niamh Bhreathnach on their Wedding Day, 13 December 1969

Bhreathnach went on to qualify as a teacher from Froebel College at Sion Hill before entering political life. She married Tom Ferris in 1969, and has two children, Cliodhna and Macdara. In 1990, Bhreathnach was elected chairperson of the Labour Party, and remained in this role for three years. She worked as a Labour Party TD for Dún Laoghaire from November 1992 until June 1997, when she was defeated in the general election. Bhreathnach became Minister for Education in 1993 as part of the Fianna Fáil-Labour Party coalition government, and remained in this role for four years. During this period her most innovative projects included: the abolition of third-level tuition fees; changes to both junior and senior cycles; the Breaking the Cycle Disadvantaged Schemes; and the passing of the 1997 Universities Act.



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Niamh Bhreathnach on a School Visit, mid-1990s

After the loss of her Dáil seat, Bhreathnach became a member of the twentieth Seanad. She stood again for the Dáil in 2002 but was unable to win back her seat, and subsequently did not run for the 2007 general election. Bhreathnach served as a member of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council for the Blackrock local electoral area from 2004 to 2014, and was appointed Cathaoirleach of the Council in 2004.


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Extract from a Speech by Niamh Bhreathnach, 11 February 1993

The Archive

The Niamh Bhreathnach Archive contains two parts. The first consists of a collection of political speeches, press statements and newspaper cuttings relating to her role as Minister for Education in the 1990s. The second comprises the photographic collection capturing aspects of both her private and public life. Of particular interest are the speeches. These address a broad range of themes, including: educational reform; gender equity; the abolition of undergraduate fees; the breakdown of the Government partnership; and the IRA ceasefire.

On the subject of her vision of education, Bhreathnach refers to the central role of the child. She observes in one of her speeches that education is ‘the most pervasive and sustained interaction between the child, the family and the state’ (8 February 1995). She adds in another speech that her objective is ‘to ensure the provision of a comprehensive, cost-effective and accessible education system of the highest quality which will enable individuals to develop to their full potential as persons and to participate fully as citizens in society’ (18 April 1995).

Bhreathnach has been credited with bringing in the first comprehensive education legislation in the State’s history. Throughout the collection, she reflects on the need for twenty-first century legislative infrastructure for Ireland’s twenty-first century schools. Working tirelessly on developing the Government’s White Paper on Education Charting Our Education Future, she described it at the time as a great national journey of consultation and dialogue, and stated the following in a speech:



‘The White paper sets out an agenda for change and development that will take us well into the next century…The ultimate objective is to shape an educational system which will respond to the varying needs of individuals at every stage in a lifetime of learning’ (18 April 1995).


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Archival Storage in MU Library

In her speeches, Bhreathnach recognises the promotion of greater equality in education as the single most important principle underpinning her work as Minister for Education. In one document, she states ‘Within our educational system women are poorly represented in management positions in schools, higher education institutions and educational administration’ (29 October 1993). She also observes in another speech ‘Gender equity is a recognition of the uniqueness, the needs, the interests, the potential, the value of people, based on their individualism rather than on their sex’ (4 November 1993).


Amongst Bhreathnach’s most memorable achievements was the abolition of undergraduate fees. In one document she observes ‘Today’s decision on abolishing undergraduate fees, aims at providing universal access to third level education and will impact in a very real way on the life chances of students and their families. The psychological impact of today’s decision will encourage and allow people to consider pursuing a third level education as a very realisable option in their life choice’ (8 February 1995).

The photographic component of the Niamh Bhreathnach Archive is a more recent addition. Produced as part of a digitisation project carried out by MU Library in June this year, the objective of the project was to select and scan a number of photographs from Bhreathnach’s own personal collection. Fifty-nine images were chosen and these fascinating items document: Bhreathnach’s early years growing up; education in Blackrock; social life as a young woman; marriage and family life; travels abroad; introduction to politics; and the journey to becoming Labour’s first Minister for Education. The photographs record important moments throughout her career, including meeting Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa. The Photographic Archive is a wonderful addition to the original collection and provides a great opportunity for researchers to learn more about Bhreathnach as both a political figure and a private individual.

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A Meeting with Mother Teresa in the Royal College of Surgeons, mid-1990s

In 2018, events took place commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the parliamentary vote for women in Ireland and celebrating the role of women in Irish political life. The Niamh Bhreathnach Archive allows us to shine a light on just one of these women, and the great value and richness of their contributions to all of our lives.




Conservation of maps by John Speed in the Russell Library.

The Russell Library used to have vibrant seventeenth century maps by John Speed on the end of the bays, remember? Possibly not. They had become part of the furniture with visitors regularly walking pasted without fully appreciating that these beautiful hand-tinted maps were originals. This one case highlighted a number of questions we routinely see in conservation. 

Most of the collections of St Patrick’s college are on open shelves in the Russell Library, so why were the maps a cause for concern? There are multiple ways that the environment in the Russell library is monitored. We have data-loggers strategically placed around the reading room to capture the temperature and relative humidity, blunder traps to catch pests and blinds to block out the UV rays. However, whilst ultra violet (UV) is the more dangerous end of the spectrum, all light causes fading. We try to quantify this by using blue wool ‘textile fading cards’. These fade at a standardised rate so we can see the cumulative damage of the light over a set period. As hand-tinted areas of the maps are particularly susceptible to fade, the risk of damage caused by their long-term display was high.  

Removing maps from the wall. From left: map of Ulster in situ at end of bay, removed maps on reading room table, edge of map wrapped around glass and damage to edge of map from nails and oxidation.


To get a more thorough look, the maps were removed from the ends of the bay and taken down to the conservation studio. The frames were comprised of two sheets of glass pinned into a wooden surround, making them very heavy. Some of the maps showed signs of oxidation where the by-products of deterioration could not escape the glazed microcosm, allowing the paper to yellow and become brittle.  

The edges also suffered because of this enclosure, especially were the maps were folded around the glass and left in direct contact with the wooden frame. Wood is a mixture of cellulose and lignin. Lignin is three-dimensional and binds the cellulose together, it ‘gives woody plants their physical strength’1 but is removed from reasonable quality papers. The main exception is newspaper (and this is why it yellows quickly if left in the sun). Produced cheaply, it removes the step of de-lignification and is therefore prone to oxidation. The unvarnished wood on the inside of the frame is probably what caused the edges of the speed map to discolour. 

All four maps before treatment. From left: Province of Connaugh, Leinster, Mounster and Ulster.


The condition of the maps were initially surveyed and photographed. It is important to record the original condition for documentation. Then the methodology and scale of intervention by conservators is fully explained in the treatment report. The recommended treatment was to wash, remove historic repairs and consolidate with lightweight Japanese paper and wheatstarch paste. 

Before any of this can start, tests are carried out to establish the solubility of the coloured washes and acidity of the paper. Each colour is tested and none indicated that they would move if submerged in water. The paper was slightly acidic and so washing would have the combined benefit of lowering the acidity and removing ingrained dirt and reactivating the adhesive from the historic repairs. I kept the maps in the bath for almost an hour in total but refreshing the de-ionised water twice. When the maps are wet, it crucial that the maps are properly supported as they are being moved and thoroughly dried to avoid mould growth or cockling. After this, the tears and losses could be repaired. 

Treatment of Leinster. From left: blotting paper to test solubility of colours, washing map, repair to top edge and map before rehousing in acid-free mount board.

Storage and Accessibility: 

The maps will stored in individual acid free mounts and a custom-made, boxboard enclosure. They will only be exposed to light for approved reader access. The Russell library will be decorated instead with high quality reproductions of the map.  

The need for interventive treatment is based on the condition of the material and future access or use. However, conservation as a whole also requires a comprehensive approach to preservation, display, environment, storage and rehousing which were incorporated in this project. 

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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