Shakespeare’s Fourth Folio, printed in 1685, will be on display outside the Special Collections Reading Room in the John Paul II Library during May 2018.
The fourth edition of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, more commonly known as the Fourth Folio, was printed for Herringman, Brewster and Bentley ‘at the Anchor in the New Exchange, the Crane in St. Paul’s Church-Yard, and in Russell-Street Covent-Garden’ in the year 1685. The Fourth Folio was printed just twenty-two years after the printing of the Third Folio, many copies of which were destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666. The text features the engraved portrait of Shakespeare by Martin Droedshout which appears opposite the title page. It also includes the original dedication to William Earl of Pembroke and his brother Philip E. of Montgomery by compilers of the First Folio, John Heminge and Henry Condell.
Jean Marsden suggests that the playwright and poet Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718), based his 1709 edition of Shakespeare’s works on the 1685 Fourth Folio. According to Valerie Hotchkiss and Fred C. Robinson the Fourth Folio contains standardised typography and improved punctuation along with consistently italicised stage directions. Fredson Bowers argues that there are three distinct sections in the Fourth Folio and that each section was produced by a different printing house. Bowers notes inconsistencies in the use of woodcut ornamental initial letters and plain display capitals between the three sections. The first section of the text features floral woodcut initials, while the second section features just one initial letter, and the third does not feature any woodcut initial letters at all. Bowers also identifies Robert Roberts as a printer of this folio.
The Library’s copy of the Fourth Folio was once owned by Edward Maurice, Bishop of Ossory from 1755-56 (the handwritten signature on the title page reads ‘Ed. Maurice’). The Folio is part of the Otway-Maurice collection which was recently transferred from the St. Canice’s Cathedral Library, Kilkenny to Maynooth University Library on a long-term loan basis. The collection includes over 3,000 titles printed before the year 1850, including four examples of incunabula (pre-1500 printing).
Our copy of the Fourth Folio features seven handwritten titles listed under ‘A catalogue of all the Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies contained in this Book’, which include: The London Prodigall,The Puritan Widow, and A Yorkshire Tragedy. The play Pericles is also listed, although as Eric Rasmussen and the Rev. Will Sharpe indicate, this play was not included in the First Folio, despite having appeared in the 1609 quarto. The text of the Fourth Folio contains several errors but perhaps the most significant appears in the title of Hamlet which reads ‘RPINCE’ as opposed to ‘PRINCE’ of Denmark.
Image reproduced by permission of the Librarian, Maynooth University, from the St. Canice’s Cathedral Library, Kilkenny; on long-term loan from The Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.
 Hotchkiss, V., & Robinson, F. C. (2008). English in Print from Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton: From Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton. Baltimore, US: University of Illinois Press. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com.
By Yvette Campbell, Russell Library Cataloguing Project
Monsignor Seán Swayne, an internationally renowned liturgist, was the first director of the Irish Institute of Pastoral Liturgy at St Patrick’s College, Carlow, and was chairman of the Irish Episcopal Commission for the liturgy and parish priest of Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny. Following studies in Paris, he was appointed to the faculty at St Patrick’s College, from where he helped to found the IIPL. The institute has attracted students from all over the world to take part in its one year programme.
In 1989 Father Swayne was appointed monsignor in recognition of his lifelong promotion of the arts, liturgy and architecture. He died in May 1996. His bequest to the Russell Library, Maynooth included 100 books printed before 1850.
The collection is primarily devotional and liturgical, with many of the books showing evidence of usage and regular handling. A number of the books belonged previously to Mgr Swayne’s uncle, Peadar MacSuibhne of Kildare. What follows is a cross-section of examples illustrating the significance of this collection to international scholars and researchers. The presence of fine bindings, bookplates, original ties and decorated paper were noted. One item printed in Paris in 1789 possesses an armorial bookplate: ‘Certavi Et Vice’ [I’ve Fought and Won].
The collection also features a beautiful copy of Missale Romanum, ex decreto sacro-sancti Concilii Tridentini restitutum printed in Lyon by Bernuset in 1782 (SW 105). This is one of the most aesthetically beautiful objects in the Swayne bequest and features an elaborate frontispiece of Christ on the Cross, musical notations and delicate original silk ties with tassels.
Another item from this collection features a provenance inscription from the ‘Ragged School of Silver Street, Reading’. ‘Ragged’ schools were charitable organisations that aimed to provide free education to poor and destitute children in 19th-century Britain, often providing free food, clothing, lodging and other home missionary services for those too poor to pay.
Often they were established in poor working class districts with high population density, and established either by an individual philanthropist or by a religious mission. They would even teach poor mothers how to clothe and bring up their offspring, to teach fathers their duties to their families and children their duty to their parents, to teach above all things that true wisdom is true religion and true religion supreme love to God. The hardship faced by these children, and the religious and economic illiteracy the Ragged Schools attempted to stem, would in turn inspire the child-like figures of Want and Ignorance that clung to the Ghost of Christmas Future in Dickens’s 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. The scenes of squalor that Dicken’s came face to face with also inspired Oliver Twist (1838).
This copy of the Book of Common Prayer, New Testament and Psalter (SW 14) is lacking a title-page but was printed between 1671 and 1674 and would have belonged to the Ragged School, Silver Street in Reading in the 1800s. Its poor condition is a testament to the dedicated study of the children in these ‘Ragged’ Schools.
One of the most impressive books in the collection is Missale Romanum, ex decreto sacro-sancti Concilii Tridentini restitutum printed in Lyon in 1747 (SW 97). According to the inscription on the title-page, the former owner was Abraham Lockett Ford (b Newry, 3 April 1853- d Ardee 16 April 1945) who was an Irish Anglican clergyman.
Ford was educated at the Royal Institution School, Liverpool and Trinity College, Oxford. He was ordained deacon in 1876 and priest in 1878. He was an Assistant Master at his old school then Curate at Dundalk. He was Rector of Camlough from 1878 to 1893; and then of Ardee. He was Rural Dean of Athirdee from 1900 until 1925, and then of Drogheda until 1934. Ford became Archdeacon of Armagh in 1934; and held the post until his death. He was additionally Chaplain to the last four Lords Lieutenant of Ireland.
This item is in near perfect condition bound in blind-tooled calf leather with a stamped spine and gilt border, 5 raised bands and original ties and marbled endboards.
Souvenirs, impressions, pensées et paysages, pendant un voyage en Orient (SW 71) by Alphonse de Lamartine printed in London in 1838 is a particularly interesting book on descriptions and travels of the Middle East in the nineteenth century. It features a frontispiece map of Syria in black and white prepared by prominent French cartographer and engraver, Jean Baptiste Pierre Tardieu in 1835.
Other particular highlights of the collection include a copy of the first two books of The Pentateuch of Books of Moses in the Irish character copied from the original manuscripts with care by Thaddeus Connellan printed in London, 1822 (SW 39). This particular copy has handwritten glosses on the endpapers detailing the reasons for publication by an admirer of the author.
Part of this reads:
‘Reader you are to know that Thad[d]eus Connellan is the author of this work and that it was he who founded and adjusted the type in order to instruct his fellow countrymen and enable them to read and understand their native toung[u]e…’.
Finally, a tome of some rarity is The Lives of the most eminent saints of the oriental deserts printed in Dublin in 1834 (SW 5). What makes this book particularly interesting is the marginalia on the endpapers detailing the social history of its former owner:
‘It strikes me that the whole of us ought to go to first Mass at Chapel and come home as quick as we could together. What think you?’
‘It is better for me not to see the old man and come home after first Mass. I believe he will not be in town, should he be, we will let you know’
‘What has he to do with me in that case? It is you. I only want to know if the retreat will continue…’
‘If the retreat will not be over, will not speak to any one only in [confession?]. Act on that as your Director will order or recommend’.
Access to the Swayne donation is available online via the LibrarySearch discovery tool.
SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS
By Emma Doran, Special Collections & Archives, JPII Library.
“Who can bring back the magic of that story, the singing seraphim, the kneeling Kings, the starry path by which the Child of Glory ‘mid breathless watches and through myriad wings came.”
The Descent of the Child – by Susan L. Mitchell (1866-1926)
Keeping in toe with the festive spirit this month our Special Collections blog will bring to light a beautiful Irish produced pamphlet, filled with various poems and imagery composed around the idea of Christmas. The pamphlet, called The Irish Christmas was published originally in 1917 by the Three Candle Press in Dublin. The copy located here is a first edition printed in 1917 and inscribed by the original owner ‘ for ” Ginette” from her loving little cousin Simon Donnlevy Campbell. Christmas 1917’.
The poems published in this pamphlet are penned by a number of poets who sympathized with or had links to the Irish cause at the time. The pamphlet also provides ties closer to home here at Maynooth University as Fr. Tomás Ó Ceallaigh, the author of the first poem listed studied at Maynooth. Altogether there are six works listed in total written in both the English and Irish language. While the illustration work included is that of the artist and cultural activist Sadhbh Trinseach (Ceasca Trench).
Born in 1891, she developed nationalist sympathies from the early age of fifteen. She joined the London branch of the Gaelic League in 1908. Through her attendance at Irish-language she became acquainted with many prominent Gaelic Leaguers, including Pádraig Pearse. In 1913-1918 she began designing publicity posters and postcards for the Gaelic League. She was an executive member of Cumann na mBan and an active member of Craobh na gCúig gCúigí. For those wishing to learn more about Ceasca, some sketchbooks and her papers are now available in the National Library of Ireland.
The first professor of Education in NUIG was born in 1879. In 1897, he attended Maynooth College as a clerical student and was ordained a priest in 1903. Fr. Ó Ceallaigh’s love of all things Irish further flourished in Maynooth College under the tutelage of Fr. Eoghan Ó Gramhnaigh, who had been appointed the professor of Irish in the College in 1891. Fr. Ó Ceallaigh was one of the founders of Irishleabhar Mhuighe Nuadhad and Cuallacht Chuilm Cille. He also edited Irisleabhar na Cuallachta. Having chosen a very interesting example of our archive collection to investigate in this month’s blog it is wonderful to discover that one of the works included was written by an alumnus of the college. The piece had previously been published in the Christmas edition of An Claideam Soluis in 1907 under the editorial eye of Pádraig Pearse. While continuing to work in education and further his studies Fr. Ó Ceallaigh was still an avid composer and writer as seen by the text of twenty-two poems, six plays and five ceol-dramaí published in his biography An tAthair Tomás Ó Ceallaighagus a Shaothar, by An tAthair Tomás S. Ó Laimhin (Gaillimh 1943).
Born in 1879, is best known as a poet and republican. Circa 1900 he joined the Gaelic League and became a fluent Irish speaker. Campbell is known to have frequently submitted poems to Arthur Griffith’s United Irishmen publications and as a great admirer of W.B Yeats’ poetry. He is also known for producing lyrics for many Ulster traditional airs leading to Campbell’s’ reputation as a lyrical poet. Campbell was known to be a friend of Pádraig Pearse, and taught Irish History in St. Enda’s.
Born in 1867, is best known as a poet and critic. Johnson was an acquaintance of Oscar Wilde and a well-known friend of W.B Yeats. He was a founding member of the Irish Literary Society in London 1892 and composed many propagandist poems set in Ireland focusing on the theme of martyrdom and persecution. In April 1894, Johnson came to Dublin to lecture on the topic of ‘poetry and patriotism’ supporting the ideals of Yeats. It was also Johnson who arranged the first meeting between Olivia Shakespear and W.B Yeats.
Born 1866, Mitchell is most recognized as an essayist, poet and supporter of Home Rule. A close friend of the Yeats family and in particular W.B Yeats. When recovering from illness, Mitchell stayed with the Yeats family in London in 1899 and had her portrait painted by John Butler Yeats. She was a lifelong friend of George Russell, who encouraged Mitchell to publish a number of poetry anthologies such as A Celtic Christmas, The Living Chalice, Aids to Immortality of Certain Persons in Ireland and Frankincense and Myrrh. She was a founding member of the United Irish Countrywomen’s Association, known today as the Irish Countrywomen’s Association. After the 1916 rising she took care of the personal affairs of Countess Markievicz. Her portrait painted by John Butler Yeats is available to view in the National Gallery of Ireland.
Document of the Day: By Audrey Kinch, Maynooth University Library.
It was a pleasure to sit back and read a letter sent in 1977 by Irish writer, Seán Ó Faoláin, on behalf of himself and his wife Eileen in Ireland, to their friends Munira Hamud Mutran and her husband Marcello in Brazil. At the time, Ó Faoláin was seventy-seven and still active in his career. Mutran was a young academic in Brazil. She had completed her PhD thesis on Ó Faoláin’s short stories the previous year in 1976, and would go on to become Professor of Literatures in English in the University of São Paulo in 2000. They enjoyed a correspondence over fourteen years and an enduring friendship for many more. Mutran received an honorary doctorate from Maynooth University in 2008, and she donated the letters to the University Library.
Seán Ó Faoláin was born in Cork in 1900. He attended the Lancasterian School and the Presentation Brother’s College. In 1918, he began studying in University College Cork. He completed an MA in Irish in 1924 and an MA in English 1925. Ó Faoláin was a nationalist and a member of the Irish Volunteers. Throughout his life, he travelled widely within his career and also for leisure. He taught Anglo-Irish literature at Boston College in Massachusetts and English language and literature at St. Mary’s Training College in South West London. He was married to children’s writer Eileen Gould, they had two children, Julia and Stephen, and they lived in Killiney, County Dublin. Ó Faoláin published works in fiction and non-fiction. His first novel, A Nest of Simple Folk was published in 1934 and he continued writing throughout his life. He was granted the freedom of Cork city in 1988, and passed away at the age of 91 in 1991.
The letter that I have selected from the archive reads as follows:
“Dear Marcello, Munira,
Lovely to hear from you both and thanks for the elegant desk diary. We have often thought of you. My publisher insists on producing a selection of my best? stories in 1978 and so does his American counterpart. Our lives are as quiet as a mouse when the cat is around. It rains and blows but we reck not. One of the regrets of age is non-participation i.e. not being part of the busy world outside; but this is also one of the charms of retirement.
Pardon this ‘used’ envelope – Eileen is sending out her Christmas cards in my envelopes and it is too wild and wet to go out for replacements! We do live like hibernating squirrels once December comes. This, it has been said, is why Scandinavian longships were so finely carved – in the days of short light they carved by the firelight. I like this wintry enclosure. It is a good time for writing, tho’ at my age I ‘potter’ rather than compose. We send you all our warmest affections.
Seán Ó Faoláin”
The letter exudes the warmth of the friendship and displays an ease of exchange in communication. At the top of the letter is a loop drawing of both Marcello and Munira’s names entwined at the letter “M”. The letter is also signed off warmly and fondly “Sempre”.
Dr Munira Mutran is Associate Professor of Literatures in English at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. In 2015-16, she attended Trinity College Dublin at the Long Room Hub as a Visiting Research Fellow.
Letters to Brazil: The Sean O’Faolain Archive can be consulted by appointment in the Special Collections and Archives Department at Maynooth University Library. For further details: email@example.com
Cáipéis an Lae:An Dr Tracey Ní Mhaonaigh, Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge, Ollscoil Mhá Nuad
Tá an comhad áirithe seo ar coimeád i Leabharlann an Ruiséalaigh, Coláiste Phádraig, Má Nuad. 99 litir atá ann ó pheann an Athar Peadar Ó Laoghaire agus é i mbun comhfhreagrais le Séamus Ó Dubhghaill (Beirt Fhear). Clúdaíonn na litreacha tréimhse 8 mbliana déag, ó mhí Aibreáin 1899 go dtí mí an Mheithimh 1917—tréimhse an-tábhachtach i scéal na Gaeilge agus obair Chonradh na Gaeilge faoi lán seoil, An Claidheamh Soluis tagtha ar an saol agus ceisteanna teanga agus cultúir á gcur agus á bplé.
Donnchadh Ó Floinn, iar-Ollamh le Gaeilge sa Choláiste, a rinne an bailiúchán a chlárú sa bhliain 1947 agus bhronn sé ar Choláiste Phádraig é i mí na Márta 1949. Sula ndearna sé aon chuid den obair seo, dóbair gur cailleadh an bailiúchán ar fad, áfach. Murach gur tugadh faoi deara, trí thimpiste agus iad á ndó, gur litreacha Gaeilge a bhí iontu, bheidís ar fad scriosta. Ach, a bhuí le súil ghéar an Athar Tomás Ó Cléirigh C.M., sábháladh an tromlach agus tugadh do Dhonnchadh Ó Floinn iad. Ní amháin go ndearna Ó Floinn iad a chlárú agus a bhronnadh ar an gColáiste, ach rinne sé iad a athscríobh ar dtús, in dhá chóipleabhar faoi chlúdach crua, chun go mbeadh cóip ann dá dtarlódh aon cheo do na litreacha bunaidh.
Cad a bhí á scríobh ag an Athair Peadar sna litreacha seo? Ní nach ionadh, tá cuid mhór iontu mar gheall ar leaganacha cainte agus brí focal, mar aon le plé ar mhúnlaí áirithe gramadaí. Ceisteanna a bhí i mbéal an phobail i bhfoilseacháin na linne is mó a spreag, de réir dealraimh, ábhar an chomhfhreagrais, agus an tAthair Peadar ag tacú le, nó ag seasamh an fhóid i gcoinne, tuairimí á léiriú iontu.
Ceann de na litreacha ón gcomhfhreagas idir an tAthair Peadar Ó Laoghaire agus Séamus Ó Dubhghaill atá ar coimeád i Leabharlann an Ruiséalaigh, Coláiste Phádraig, Maigh Nuad.
Chreid sé sa teanga agus i saothrú na teanga, ach ar bhealach a thaitin leis féin. Iad siúd a bhí ar aon tuairim leis, bhí sé an-mhór leo, ach sheas sé an fód go láidir ina gcoinne siúd nach raibh. Feicimid sna litreacha, dá bharr, daoine áirithe á moladh go hard na spéire aige—Séamus Ó Dubhghaill féin, Eoghan Ó Gramhnaigh agus Norma Borthwick, ina measc—agus daoine eile á gcáineadh aige—Micheál Ó hIceadha, Seosamh Laoide, Eoin Mac Néill, Eoghan Ó Neachtain, agus, an duine ba mhó a thuill a cháineadh, Pádraig Mac Piarais. Is é an meon a léirítear dúinn tríd an mbailiúchán seo an ghné is luachmhaire de.
Document of the Day: By Maureen Finn, Maynooth University Library
Recent events in Catalonia, as this small region makes a bid for independence, brought to mind thoughts of the renowned Irish writer and poet, Pearse Hutchinson, who so loved that part of Spain. One wonders what he would think of the political upheaval and unrest that has unfolded there in recent times.
Hutchinson spent a number of years in Catalonia in the 1950s while learning Spanish and expanding his writing, and he grew to love the Catalan people, their language, culture and customs. During this time, he collected many works of literature in the Catalan language, including several books of poetry, which form part of the substantial archive of his work, now permanently housed in the Special Collections & Archives Department at Maynooth University Library. A selection of material from the Pearse Hutchinson Archive was on display over the October Bank Holiday weekend in Sitges, as part of the Creative Connexions Festival. The festival is a celebration of Celtic and Catalan identity.
One item of note from the Pearse Hutchinson Archive is a poem dedicated to Emilio Prados. The poem is simply entitled ‘Málaga’ and was written in the mid-1950s. In its passages, Hutchinson describes a journey on an open-sided tram along a beach road with the scent of jasmine wafting in on the summer evening breeze. The poem evokes peaceful, tranquil images, describing sights and sounds that soothe the senses and instil calm. The following verse taken from the poem illustrates this point:
“I could have sworn for once I travelled through full peace and even love at last had perfect calm release only by breathing in the unseen jasmine scent that ruled us and the summer every hour we went.”
(Extract from the poem ‘Málaga’ by Pearse Hutchinson, PP/2/1/1/3).
Hutchinson appeared to find contentment when in Spain, and from the outset he seems to have developed a fondness for that country. A copy of this poem was also found among his mother’s possessions bearing the inscription “le mo ghrá – Pearse.”
The Pearse Hutchinson Archive contains a considerable body of work compiled by Hutchinson throughout his long and varied career. It includes poetry (in a number of languages), translations, contributions to radio and magazine, material from the literary journal Cyphers, which he founded in 1975. It went on to become Ireland’s longest running poetry magazine.
His publications span five decades and include such titles as Tongue without Hands (1963), Faoistín Bhacach, (1968), The Soul that Kissed the Body (1991) and Collected Poems (2002).
Also included in the Archive are family papers, letters, photographs and printed material from his parents, Henry Warren Hutchinson and Caitlin McElhinney, together with a notebook and drawings from Pearse’s childhood. His parents’ records reflect a turbulent period in Ireland’s history during the struggle for independence and the 1916 Easter Rising. They were strong supporters of Sinn Féin and had connections to many high profile nationalist figures of that time.
The Pearse Hutchinson Archive is rich in diversity and provides a window on the life and times of one of Ireland’s great literary figures of the last century.
Document of the Day: By Miriam Van der Molen, Maynooth University Library
Thomas Graham (1838-1905) was a partner in the Belfast wine and spirit business, Keegan Graham and Company, from 1881. The Special Collections and Archives Department at Maynooth University holds various documents concerning Thomas Graham, both as an individual and as a partner in the business. The document that I have chosen to explore is an item from the personal, non-business, section of Thomas Graham’s archival material. It is a document made of vellum, which appointed him as Justice of the Peace for County Down. It was issued by “Nugent Liutaigne Clerk of the Crown and Hanaper and Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland”. It is dated 6 January “in the fifty-sixth year of our [Queen Victoria’s] Reign” (i.e. 1893) and measures 600mm x 695mm.
In the first paragraph, Queen Victoria addresses councillors and cousins who have positions of authority in Ireland, such as the Lieutenant General of Ireland, various dukes, earls, marquises, barons and viscounts and others with legal and administrative functions or who were apparently held in esteem for some other reason. The first portion of names is printed, while the second is handwritten. The final name in this list is “Thomas Graham, Esquire, Thornbrook, Bangor, County Down”.
The second paragraph states that those same people, named in the first paragraph, are appointed “Justices to keep our Peace in our County of Down”. The list of names is again partly printed and partly handwritten. This time, the handwritten names very soon begin to only have initials for the honorific titles and first names, presumably to cut down on the already onerous task of writing out the lengthy list of over two hundred names a second time.
The third paragraph states that the Justices of the Peace will uncover the truth, lawfully, about various offences. The offences specifically named are “Treasons, Murders, Manslaughters, Burnings, Unlawful Assemblies, Felonies, Robberies, Witchcrafts, Inchantments [sic], Sorceries, Magic Arts, Trespasses, Forestallings, Regratings, Engrossings and Extortions”, as well as disturbing the peace in different ways. A person could be punished for their offences by “Fines, Ransoms, Amerciaments, Forfeitures, or otherwise”. While the names of most of these offences are understandable today, I looked up the meanings of “forestalling”, “regrating” and “engrossing”, which were all seen as offences against public trade. “Forestalling the market” was the buying of goods on their way to market or stopping traders selling at the market or encouraging traders to raise their prices, all of which could cause a decrease in market competition. “Regrating” and “engrossing” appear to be synonymous with each other in being defined as “buying corn or other dead victuals (i.e. food)” with a view to reselling in the same market. The price would be raised as the person reselling would have to make a profit, and thereby make the food more expensive for the buyer..
A black wax seal is attached by another piece of vellum to the document designating Thomas Graham as Justice of the Peace. It shows the head and upper torso of Queen Victoria, with her head framed by the roof-like peak of the throne on which she is sitting. In her right hand, she is wielding a sceptre, symbolic of authority. The impression on this seal is actually only a detail of the full image of the Great Seal of Queen Victoria. The full seal shows a person to her left and right and also an orb which the Queen is holding in her left hand. This orb, like the sceptre, is part of the royal regalia and symbolises the globe and thereby the monarch power on earth. This authoritative power is conveyed in the wording of the document appointing Thomas Graham a Justice of the Peace.
 ‘Commentaries on the laws of England: Book the fourth’ by William Blackstone, Dublin 1770, page 158.
Document of the Day: By Ranju Upadhyay, Maynooth University Library
When I was young my grandmother used to read Mahabharata, one of the Hindu epics, to us. In this epic narrative that has hundreds of characters and touches almost all aspects of life and society, Krishna the Omnipresent fascinated me the most. He is probably one of the most versatile characters one would find. However he is a mythical character! There is a possibility that he could exist in our imaginations but not necessarily in reality.
When I came across the Rev. Desmond Forristal Archive in the Library at Maynooth University, I was amazed by this multi-talented figure. Forristal was a scholar, playwright, television producer, musician, an author and more.
The Archive includes a series of homilies written by Forristal between 1988 and 1994. Some of the lines from one document tell us that he was a profound thinker:
“Much of the conflict in the world today is caused by the oppression and ill-treatment of the minorities”. (1 January 1989).
And deeply spiritual as well:
“Every exit is an entrance somewhere else… That is what death is. Our friends, our loved ones, leave the stage. We can see them going. We can’t see where they go. We can only sit there and wonder. ” (5 November 1989).
And may have held quite traditional views at times:
“Divorce does not just undermine marriage. It abolishes marriage. It rewrites the marriage vows until they are empty of all meaning.” (2 October 1994).
Recently, I have been reading a book by Shashi Tharoor, Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, and was amazed at the extent of injustice committed in what was considered a democratic and liberal empire. Forristal’s book The Bridge at Lo Wu: a life of Sister Eamonn O’Sullivan, a biography of an Irish missionary in China, reflects the sufferings of people under communist rule in China. The interesting observation for me was the similar nature of these injustices. Well of course I think these two political systems have the same basic principle i.e. “everyone is equal” and not the opposite. However, when we look at different stages of time, including the present, both these political systems seem to have managed to treat people most unequally and unjustly.
In one of her letters home, Sister Eamonn reflects on the tyranny of communist guerrillas:
“It would be an easy thing to be killed: there are worst things than death”.
Of course the several different religions that in essence have a simple idea of “faith” have created their own share of problems at different points in time and continue to do so. I myself am neither religious nor have strong political views. The only philosophy that has ever influenced me is “Life is all about balance”. But the point here is that every time I go through an archival collection it proves to be a beautifully rigorous, thought-provoking exercise. And I think that is the beauty of our archives, so well preserved is the past that every time I visit it becomes alive.
Rev. Desmond Forristal’s contribution is much more than the simple political or religious expressions that I have highlighted. His association with Irish television broadcasting through his films and TV series, with the Gate Theatre through his plays, and of course his association with the church through several parishes he served, shows his genuinely versatile personality.
The papers, writings and books of Rev. Desmond Forristal were donated to the Library at Maynooth University in 2001 by his brother, Ciarán.
Document of the Day: By Mark Dummett, Business and Human Rights Researcher, Amnesty International.
The Library at Maynooth University is fortunate to hold a unique and fascinating collection of letters written by Ken Saro-Wiwa, the acclaimed Nigerian author and activist, who led a peaceful grassroots protest movement highlighting the inequities of the oil industry in his home region, Ogoniland, during the first half of the 1990s.
The protest movement that he led – the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) – said that decades of pollution from oil spills and gas flares had destroyed their farmlands while others had grown rich on the proceeds.
MOSOP’s protests attracted headlines around the world after the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell withdrew from its Ogoni oil fields, which it operated in partnership with the Nigerian state, in January 1993. But the protests ended in tragedy.
Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other men from Ogoniland, in Africa’s most important oil-producing region, the Niger Delta, were executed on 10 November 1995, as Nigeria’s military government sought to silence MOSOP.
The men had been wrongly convicted of involvement in a murder, after a manifestly unfair trial, and months of harsh imprisonment. During his long incarceration (which began on 22 May 1994), Ken Saro-Wiwa, who had a heart condition, was denied medical care. Soldiers attacked his mother and family members of the other men as they brought food and visited them. Another of the accused, Baribor Bera, said that during his own brutal interrogation, soldiers knocked out his teeth and forced him to swallow them.
The situation inside Ogoniland itself was even worse. The military attacked defenceless villages, carrying out numerous, grave human rights violations, including unlawful killings, as well as torture and other ill-treatment, including rape, and the destruction of homes and livelihoods.
However, despite this grim scene, the collection of letters (sent to a Catholic Sister working in Nigeria, Sister Majella McCarron), reveals that throughout his time in detention, Ken Saro-Wiwa remained constantly upbeat. They show how he managed to keep his finger on the pulse of Ogoni and Nigerian politics from behind bars as he strived to find a solution to the crisis destroying his homeland.
The last of the 28 letters, dated 14 September 1995, is no exception. By this time, Ken Saro-Wiwa was certain he would be convicted. Not expecting to be executed, he wrote that he was gearing up to “remain in prison for as long as the authorities please.” Yet he was also discussing a “peace effort” with the commander of the military force deployed to subdue Ogoniland. He reported on persuading the commander to release three Ogoni youths from detention as a goodwill gesture, and that with the talk of reconciliation and peace deals, “Ogoni is buzzing with all sorts of noise, all sorts of expectation.”
It is a tantalising glimpse of what might have been.
Saro-Wiwa and the other men were executed just two months after this letter was written, and the abusive military force stayed in Ogoniland for years longer. To this day, no-one has been held to account for the human rights abuses that occurred, and no government has yet investigated the role that Shell may have played. Victims, who accuse the company of complicity, have been forced to file claims against Shell in foreign countries, as they see no chance of justice in Nigeria itself. A much heralded effort to finally remediate Ogoniland’s polluted environment was flagged off by the government over a year ago, but nothing substantial has yet got underway.
The reconciliation that Ken Saro-Wiwa hoped, and fought for, has still not been achieved.
Document of the Day: By Róisín Berry, Maynooth University Library
Working as an archivist, I am extremely fortunate to have access to a wide range of archival collections. Cataloguing each collection is a unique experience with different challenges involved. In some cases the hand-writing may be difficult to read, in others, closure periods may have to be applied due to the sensitivity of the content. Every project teaches you something new and allows you to draw on that experience further down the line.
Recently, I have been working on a small collection acquired by the Library at auction in 2013. Little background information was provided at the time of purchase, so there are many gaps in this story. The collection contains fifteen handwritten letters, each neatly signed “MEC”, and written between 1827 and 1828 from a number of addresses in counties Wicklow and Wexford. The letters are addressed to a ‘Miss Mordaunt’ with addresses at 19 Cannon Street, 2 Bedford Square, and Regency Square in the Brighton area in England.
We know little about the author herself, although we can glean a certain amount of information from the documents. The lady in question appears to be of some means and with certain connections. She is a married English woman residing in Ireland with her husband Horace, albeit on a temporary basis. The couple seem to have fallen on difficult times, as the author writes about her husband’s poor health, financial challenges, and her struggle to take on the management of the family’s affairs during her husband’s illness. She is a woman under pressure as her place in the world becomes a little less secure due to her husband’s ill health. In one letter she states “I am obliged to learn to understand all sorts of things wh. are very difficult & sometimes called upon to decide about things wh. makes me anxious & uneasy” (18 May 1827). Each letter is addressed “dearest friend”, revealing a level of intimacy between the two women.
What fascinates me most about this archival collection are the observations recorded by “MEC” on Irish life, customs, people and society during the late 1820s. Each letter is filled with detailed accounts of everyday occurrences as observed by an English Protestant woman living on the fringes, and very much an outsider. On the subject of Catholicism, the author notes: “The Protestants thank God! are making many converts – as far as I see with Popery, goes Beggary & idleness & error & fanaticism – & these amongst the lower orders are serious & mischievous evils. I was never so anti-Catholic as since I came to Ireland” [6 March 1827].
Another letter, dated 10 April 1827, describes funeral customs in Ireland, stating:
“Great respect of a peculiar kind is paid to the dead especially by the R. Cath.cs – you know the old custom of wakes – & besides this they make a point of carrying the body as far as possible about – thinking it is the nearer to heaven!…unlike us they neither hire, nor put on mourning faces – nor think any solemnity necessary – they have less value for life & less fear of death – this makes them brave but dangerous”.
The couple move from Wicklow to Glebe Hill in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, at some point in April 1827, and the letters are filled with descriptions of the county and its residents, observing:
“the country is more promising as to industry cultivation & soil than Wicklow…the race of people quite different…Horace observed the countenance of the people on the high road, said he shd. not be surprised if a colony of Welch or English had settled here…they retain to this day a striking difference of countenance & character – they are more sober & industrious than the inhabitants but very ugly’, with the residents of County Waterford described as ‘still more ugly – speaking nothing but Irish & very savage” (28 April 1827).
Not all of the comments are negative, however, and the author goes on to state: “be assured there is as much good sense & real refinement in the recesses of Ireland…& much pleasanter society, for they naturally easy & cheerful & without the English reserve…& quite as much real delicacy”. (28 April 1827).
This is a wonderful collection full of interesting insights and reflections, shedding light on everyday life in Ireland during the late 1820s. The identity of the author “MEC” has yet to be established as work continues on the material but the challenge of piecing together the different strands of the story is one of the most rewarding aspects of working as an archivist.