The Weird of the Silken Thomas

by Katie Connolly, Transition Year work experience student at Maynooth University Library

Silken-bookDuring Transition Year, it is required that each student carry out “work experience”. I, a student in St. Marys College in Naas, was fortunate enough to be permitted to do my work experience in Maynooth University Library. One day a week for five weeks, I was working in Special Collections and Archives Department.

Special Collections contains books which are unique or valuable for all sorts of reasons. I have come into contact with books that are hundreds of years old, and that have come from many different places. Many of the books are the only copy left in the world, while others may be signed by the author, and therefore very rare. I have enjoyed my work experience immensely, and will be very sad to leave.

While browsing through Special Collections during my work experience, I found a book that caught my eye straight away. As someone who has a keen interest in Irish history, doing a blog post on a book about one of the Earls of Kildare seemed like a perfect project for me.

Silken Thomas was the nickname of Thomas FitzGerald, the 10th Earl of Kildare, who lived during the 16th century. He was appointed Deputy Governor of Ireland in his father’s absence at the age of 21, but was executed at the age of 24 after renouncing his allegiance to King Henry VIII, Lord of Ireland.

“The Weird of the ‘Silken Thomas’; an episode of Anglo-Irish history” was written by R. Manifold Craig, and published in 1900. The book is bound in green cloth, with red lettering on the front cover and spine. The front cover shows an image of the coat-of-arms of the Dukedom of Leinster, with the words “Crom A Boo!” beneath it. “Crom A Boo” was the war-cry of the FitzGerald family. “Crom” was the name of their castle in Limerick, and the war-cry can be translated to “Crom Forever!”

The use of the word “weird” in this title does not mean what we deem it to today. “Weird” is in fact a word of Scottish origin, and means “a person’s destiny”. Therefore, the title of the book actually means “The Destiny of the Silken Thomas.”

This in itself is correct, as the book relays the story of how Lord Thomas FitzGerald was “drawn into revolt by the betrayal of a private enemy”.

There are only twenty copies of this book worldwide, four of these being in Ireland and the remainder stretching to places from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland to the National Library of Israel.

blog-katie-letterOn the front inside cover of the book is an envelope, with a label which reads, in short: “The within document is a re-production of the ‘deceptfully-prepared letter’, which by its ‘devilish double meaning’ made ‘The Silken Thomas’ come out as ‘Henry’s Rebel’.”

The envelope does indeed hold a letter, which whether it be a re-production or not, is a wonderful piece of material to have. It is written in beautiful cursive script, and looks to have been sealed with a red wax stamp.

Blog Katie 047.JPGAlso inside the front of the book is another letter, this one hand-written. It is dated the 12th of March 1912, and addressed to Reverend Mannix, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Reverend Mannix later became the Archbishop of Melbourne, and was President of St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth for nearly nine years (1903 – 1912). The letter was written by a DelaHyde from Rutland Square in Dublin (now Parnell Square), the subject of which is the donation of the book to the College library. The book appears to have been out of print since 1912. Perhaps a relation, the name Delahyde can be traced back to Sir William Delahyde of Moyglare in County Meath, who took part in the rebellion of Silken Thomas in 1534.

The copy of the book which Maynooth University Library possess is very unique. Written in the book is the inscription “Presented to the Library of St. Patrick’s College Maynooth, by the author”. The page is then signed “Richard Manifold Craig” and dated March 1912.

Although the book is over one hundred years old, it remains in remarkable condition.

Blog Katie 050.JPG



Newberry Hall, Carbury, Co. Kildare – An Irish Country House and the People by James Robinson M. Phil


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