‘Observations on Nature’ Heritage Week in the Russell Library

Post by Saoirse Reynolds, Special Collections & Archives

The Secretary of States’ House at Palmerston
 Published by J. Fisher 1792


me and os
Ordnance Survey Map of Kildare

On August 21, 23 & 24 the Russell Library took part in Heritage Week with an exhibition exploring nature through the historical print collections of the Russell Library. Books on gardening, botany, agriculture, husbandry and medicinal plants were on display some of which referred to the local area.

A 6inch Ordnance Survey map of Kildare was on display as well as items from our Special Collections in the John Paul II Library.

One of the most visually interesting and beautiful books which was on display was William Hanbury’s, A complete body of planting and gardening published in London in 1770-71. Hanbury was a Church of England clergyman and horticulturist, was born at Bedworth, Warwickshire in 1725.  He matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford in 1745 and graduated in 1748. The degree of MA was subsequently conferred on him by St Andrews University on 11 November 1769 in recognition of his achievements in planting.

cortusa hanbury
Image of Spotted Cistus, Purple Cortusa and Double Blossomed Cherry
 In ‘A complete body of planting and gardening’ by William Hanbury


A Rare Book from the Russell Library which was on display was Scenery of Ireland: illustrated in a series of prints, of select views, castles, and abbeys, in this kingdom by Jonathan Fisher. The book was printed in Dublin in 1792 and has beautiful illustrations of castles and abbeys of Ireland. Fisher was an Irish painter and was born in Dublin in 1740. He is first recorded in 1763 when he was awarded a premium by the Dublin Society for a landscape. He is best known for his fine engravings and aquatints of Irish scenery. He travelled all over Ireland and published views of Killarney in 1770 and 1789. He lived at Great Ship Street, Dublin, from about 1778 until 1805, when he moved to Bishop Street, Dublin, where he died in 1809.

scenery fisher
‘Scenery of Ireland’ by Jonathan Fisher


Another beautiful book we had on display from our Special Collections was Ireland’s wild orchids /orchid portraits by Susan Sex with accompanying text by Brendan Sayers. It was printed by Nicholson & Bass in Belfast in 2004 and is a limited edition of 700 signed and numbered copies.

Two volumes of Charles Henry Dessalines d’Orbigny’s Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle were on display also. D’Orbigny was a French botanist and geologist

Images of colourful butterflies and a rose
in d’Orbigny’s ‘Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle’

specializing in the Tertiary of France. He was the younger brother of French naturalist and South American explorer, Alcide d’Orbigny. At the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, d’Orbigny identified many of the flowering plant species returned to France from his brother’s natural history collecting journeys through South America.

For more information on any of these items please contact us:

Special Collections John Paul II Library

Phone: 01-4747423, e-mail: library.specialcollections@mu.ie

Russell Library

Phone: 01-7083890, e-mail:  library.russell@mu.ie


The Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa Exhibition

Arnold Bernhard Library, Quinnipiac University

October 4, 2016 – May 5, 2017

by Robert A. Young, Public Services Librarian


Cathal McCauley University Librarian Maynooth University, John L. Lahey, President Quinnipiac University and Robert Joven, University Librarian, Quinnipiac University.

I: Collaboration and Installation

Ken Saro-Wiwa exhibition

During the fall 2016 and spring 2017 academic semesters, the Arnold Bernhard Library  in partnership with Maynooth University Library, Ireland, hosted a traveling exhibition highlighting the last writings of renowned Nigerian writer, social activist, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ken Saro-Wiwa. This cooperative project between the two libraries was the result of the five year exchange between Maynooth University and Quinnipiac University  that is promoting cross-institutional collaboration between students, faculty, and staff. The exhibition featured facsimiles of selected letters, poems, and additional artifacts from the Ken Saro-Wiwa archive which has a permanent home  in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room at Maynooth University Library. The materials in the Saro-Wiwa archive date from 1993 – 1995, the period in which he awaited execution at Nigeria’s Port Harcourt Detention Centre and other locations. The archive was donated to Maynooth by Sister Majella McCarron (OLA)  who was the original recipient of the letters and a collection of poems written by Ken Saro-Wiwa.  McCarron is an Irish missionary nun who supported Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni people in the struggle to protect their homeland.

Silence Would be Treason Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa

The site of the exhibition was the Arnold Bernhard Library Rotunda, located under the building’s central dome on the first floor. Facsimile documents were exhibited in three cases, each having a display area of 36 x 24 inches. Items displayed included letters, poems, and photographs. Four pull-up narrative banners were placed between the cases, and copies of a Mosop  (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People)  flag and T-shirt were attached to the fronts of two of the cases. Books by and about Saro-Wiwa were displayed on a bookcase located on the opposite side of the rotunda from the main exhibition. One of the volumes on display, Silence Would Be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa (CODESRIA, 2013), was coedited by Maynooth Deputy Librarian, Helen Fallon.

Sandy O’Hare, Access Services Librarian at the Arnold Bernhard Library, created a Library Guide for the exhibition, which included links to Maynooth and Quinnipiac resources. A laptop for public access to the resources was setup with the book display.  More recently Maynooth University Library has produced a comprehensive guide to the collection.

KSW exhib -books (web)
Book display and laptop to complement the exhibition

Robert Young, Public Services Librarian at the Arnold Bernhard Library, wrote a post about the exhibition for the Arnold Bernhard Library Special Collections blog . Young also wrote a press release that was distributed by the university’s Office of Public Affairs to local media, and he was featured in a 30 second Public Affairs video about the exhibition that was posted to the Quinnipiac University Facebook page.

Matthew Flaherty, Outreach and Instruction Librarian at the Arnold Bernhard Library, wrote an article about the exhibition that was the featured story in the December 2016 issue of the Arnold Bernhard Library Newsletter.

The installation of the exhibition coincided with the October 2016 visit to Quinnipiac University of four librarians from the John Paul II Library, Maynooth University:

Cathal McCauley, University Librarian

Hellen Fallon, Deputy University Librarian

Hugh Murphy, Senior Librarian, Collection Management Services

Lorna Dodd, Senior Librarian, Learning Research and Information Services

The exhibition was installed in ABL Rotunda on October 4, 2016, and was followed by an opening reception.

Setting up HM (web)
Hugh Murphy, Maynooth University Library and Robert Young, Arnold Bernhard Library, Quinnipiac University setting up the Ken Saro-Wiwa exhibition

II: The Exhibition and the Quinnipiac University Community

The Last Writing of Ken Saro-Wiwa exhibition was originally scheduled to be on display from October 2016 through February 2017. However, it was eventually decided to display the exhibition for the entire 2017 spring semester.  This allowed more people to view it during the periods of the spring semester when the library had the most visitors. Quinnipiac University schedules many tours for high school students and their families during winter/spring breaks, and students who will be freshmen in the fall spend the first weekend of April on campus during Admitted Students Days. It was noted by library staff that visitors stopped to peruse the exhibit, especially during times that saw the most visitors on campus.

In addition to allowing the exhibition to be seen by the maximum number of visitors by extending the exhibition period, the library took advantage of the additional time by integrating the exhibition into library instruction sessions for two undergraduate courses. The exhibition was also presented to a group of docents-in-training from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, who visited the library to learn about the various Irish collections. Robert Young facilitated the class sessions and docent presentation.

KSW exhin in QUINN (web)
Items on display as part of the Ken Saro-Wiwa exhibition at Quinnipiac University

In February, Young provided students in Professor Christine Kinealy’s Introduction to Irish Studies course with a library session that included touring the library to view primary and secondary materials. Young showed the students items in The Great Hunger Collection, and also pointed out and described the significance of the Saro-Wiwa exhibition.

In March, Robert was asked by the chair of the history department, Professor Jill Fehleison, to provide students in her Historiography and Historical Methods course with a session on primary materials in the library’s several special collection. He showed students items from the Irish collections, university archives, the Albert Schweitzer Collection, as well as the Saro-Wiwa exhibition.

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University inaugurated a volunteer docent program in early 2017, and by March a core group of ten people had been selected to provide guided tours at the museum. The volunteers attended training sessions, including an April session at the library. The library session provided the docents with information about the library’s various Irish collections, and Young discussed the collaborative relationship between Quinnipiac and Maynooth when the docents were shown the Saro-Wiwa exhibition.

A final note of interest relates to a visitor who viewed the exhibition on Saturday, October 21, 2016. Public Services Librarian Ronda Kolbin was staffing the reference desk that day and she was approached by an undergraduate Quinnipiac student who told her that he appreciated that the library was hosting the exhibition. He mentioned that the exhibition was of particular interest to him because he was related to Ken Saro-Wiwa.

III: Conclusion

 The Arnold Bernhard Library’s hosting of the Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa Exhibition, courtesy of Maynooth University Lbrary, proved to fulfill several of the collaborative objectives that were emphasized in the five year exchange agreement between the two institutions. The library staffs of both Quinnipiac and Maynooth coordinated successfully to mount a travelling exhibition that highlighted not only the last years of Ken Saro-Wiwa, but also the significance of his relationship to Sister Majella McCarron and the unique and important collection of letters, poems, and artifacts that she donated to the Maynooth University Library.

Students and faculty benefitted from the exhibition by it being included in library course sessions that highlighted materials that had significance as examples of Irish history, Nigerian history, and the history of social justice movements. The superb facsimiles of the original documents provided illustrative examples of how archives of primary materials are important to the preservation of the historical record.

The exhibition also met the Arnold Bernhard Library’s commitment to Quinnipiac University’s multicultural strategic plan, IMaGinE (Inclusiveness, Multiculturalism and Globalism in Education).   The emphasis of this plan is to expose the Quinnipiac student body to a greater sense of diversity that will contribute to them graduating as open-minded, global citizens.

This was also the first time that a traveling exhibition from another library had been displayed at Quinnipiac University. The success of this endeavor has contributed, in part, to initiating plans for hosting other traveling displays. For example, in the fall of 2017, the Arnold Bernhard Library will be partnering with Quinnipiac’s Netter Health Sciences Library in hosting an exhibition on loan from the National Library of Medicine in Washington, DC.

And, finally, the library staff at the Arnold Bernhard Library would like to sincerely thank the staff of the Maynooth University Library for allowing the Last Writing of Saro-Wiwa exhibition to be displayed at Quinnipiac. It is hoped that this is just the beginning of fruitful collaborative partnerships between the libraries of Maynooth University and Quinnipiac University.

Apparitions at Fatima: May-October 1917

Post by Olive Morrin, Special Collections & Archives

From Samhailteacha Fatima

The 13th May  2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima.  On that day Lucia dos Santos aged ten and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto aged 9 and 7 were tending Lucia’s family herd of sheep on the hills outside Fatima when the first of six apparitions of Our Lady appeared to the children.  The apparitions occurred on the 13th of each month except in August when the children were not allowed to go to Cova da Iria where the apparitions occurred.  She appeared instead on the 19th August when they returned. 


Lucia recalls what happened that first day. “a beautiful lady clothed in white, more brilliant than the sun, surrounded by a light more intense and clearer than a tumbler of crystal-clear water through which the sun is shining”. The lady spoke to the children and said she would not harm them and that on the thirteenth day of each month she would return for six months in succession.

Word began to spread about the apparitions and by the fifth apparition about 30,000 people accompanied the children to the site.  On the sixth and last apparition on the 13th October a crowd of about 70,000 people accompanied the children in torrential rain.  Lucia had asked for a miracle and during the apparition Lucia asked people to look at the sun.  According to eye witnesses the sun began to turn in different directions and project bands of light in different colours.  It then went back to its original position but then seemed as if it was falling from the sky and the people were terrified. 

Portugal had entered World War I on the Allies side in 1917 and Lucia brother had been called up.  The 1918 flu pandemic or “Spanish flu” ravaged Europe after the war.  Lucia’s father died and five members of the Marto family.  Francisco in 1918 and Jacinta in 1920 from the effects of a combination of flu and tuberculosis.  

Much controversy and speculation has surrounded the Three Secrets of Fatima.  Lucia claimed on July 13th 1917 the Virgin Mary entrusted the children with three secrets.  According to Catholic interpretation the secrets cover Hell, World War 1, World War II and the Pope John Paul II assassination attempt.  Two of the secrets were revealed by Lucia in 1941 at the request of her bishop.  In 1943 she was instructed by her bishop to reveal the third secret which she was reluctant to do until she received an order to put it in writing.  She did so with the proviso that it not be revealed until 1960.  The text of the third secret was eventually publically revealed in 2000 by John Paul II. Cardinal Ratzinger who later became Pope Benedict XVI wrote a commentary at the time “A careful reading of the text of the so-called third ‘secret’ of Fatima……will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred.  No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled”.

Lucia became a nun and died at the Carmelite convent of Santa Teresa in Coimbra, Portugal on 13th February 2005 aged 97.

The Library holds a number of books relating to the apparitions of Fatima and Special Collections holds four pamphlets and one book relating to what happened at Fatima.  Three of the pamphlets are published by the Catholic Truth Society and the fourth by the Holy Ghost Fathers. The Library has also recently received as part of the Pearse Hutchinson Collection a copy of the Fatima story in Irish called Samhailteacha Fatima by Matias Ó Eidhin. 


The apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima: the story of the apparitions by H.s. Caires. Published by the Catholic Truth Society 1946

Mary warns the world: Fatima by J. Mullins. Published by the Holy Ghost Fathers 1943

Our Lady of Fatima by Francis De Zulueta. Published by the Catholic Truth Society 1935

What happened at Fatima by J.J. Gannon. Published by the Catholic Truth Society 1969

Samhailteacha Fatima by Maitias Ó hEidhin. Published by Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais, 1948


Le français, une langue de dictionnaires: An exhibition

Post by Barbara McCormack & Saoirse Reynolds, Special Collections and Archives

Le français, une langue de dictionnaires exhibition is taking place in the Russell Library from 1st – 30th of March 2017 the exhibition was curated by Dr Kathleen Shields & Dr Éamon Ó Ciosáin, Maynooth University French Studies and Barbara McCormack, Maynooth University Library. The exhibition supports were designed by Louise Walsworth-Bell, Maynooth University Library.

The exhibition is divided into three themes:

  • Translating and Encoding from French into another language
  • Translating and decoding into French
  • Encyclopedic Dictionaries


Francisco Sobrino (fl. 1703-1734)

Dicionario nuevo de las lenguas española y francesa [New dictionary of the Spanish and French languages]

Brussels, 1721.

woodcut a
Figure 1. Woodcut initial letter ‘A’ 

Sobrino’s dictionary was produced by the printer and bookseller Francisco Foppens of Brussels in 1721. The page displayed features an ornamental woodcut headpiece and a woodcut initial letter ‘A’. This copy was once owned by Dr. Bartholemew Crotty, who was Rector of the Irish College at Lisbon from 1799-1811 and President of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth from 1813 until 1832. Crotty’s library was bequeathed to the College following his death in 1846.


Giovanni Veneroni (1642-1708)

Dictionaire italien et françois [Italian and French Dictionary]

Amsterdam, 1729.

Figure 2. Title page of Veroni’s Dictionaire

The title page of Giovanni Veneroni’s Italian and French Dictionary features the printer’s device of the Huguenot publisher Jaques Desbordes with the biblical quotation ‘Sol in aspectu annuntians in exitu’ [which translates as ‘the sun at its rising shines the fullest’ or ‘plain to our view is the sun’s passage as it shines’].  Veneroni’s dictionary was first published in 1681, this reprinted edition is dated 1729. The title page features the annotations of potential previous owners ‘Captain Giffard’ and ‘Harriette Phelan’.




Alexandre Boniface (1785-1841)

Dictionnaire français-anglais et anglais-français [French-English and English-French Dictionary]

Paris, 1828.

Figure 3. Title page of Boniface’s Dictionnaire

This is a sophisticated bilingual dictionary based on the works of prominent French lexicographers such as Gattel, Boiste, Wailly and Laveaux; as well as prominent English lexicographers such as Boyer, Johnson, Walker and Lévisac. The Dictionary contains word definitions and meanings, different proverbial expressions, as well as the main terms of the sciences and the arts. The page on display features the French pronoun ‘celui’ which is translated as: ‘He, him; she, her, they, them; that, those [This pronoun not being a mere personal, cannot stand for a proper name…]’






Ambrogio Calepino (1435-1511)

Ambrosii Calepini dictionarium [Ambrose Calepini’s dictionary]

le grand cropped
Figure 4. Printer’s device from Calepino’s Dictionarium

Leiden, 1634.

The Italian lexicographer Ambrogio Calepino first published his Latin dictionary in 1502. Later editions (including the one displayed) include translations of Latin words into various other languages such as Hebrew, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and English.



Joseph Nicolas Guyot (1728-1816)

Le grand vocabulaire François [French vocabulary large edition]

Paris, [1767-74].

Figure 5. Title page of Guyot’s Le Grand Vocabulaire Francois

Guyot’s Vocabulary contains explanations of each word along with various grammatical meanings and synonyms; it also features the general principles of grammar and the rules of spelling, along with reasoned and philosophical details on the economy, trade, the navy, and politics etc. An entry on ‘Absinthe’ [Absinth] describes the physical characteristics of the plant ‘ses fleurs sont rassemblées dans un calice à cȏté l’une de l’autre, & donnent une semence très-menue’ [its flowers are grouped in a calyx next to each other, and give very small seeds]. It also outlines the medical properties associated with Absinth which is described as ‘une plante médicinale, dont la racine est ligneuse’ [a medicinal plant with a woody root].


Jacques-Christophe Valmont de Bomare (1731-1807)

Dictionnaire raisonné universel d’histoire naturelle [Universal natural history dictionary]

Paris, 1768.

Figure 6. Frontispiece from Dictionaire raisonne universel d’histore naturelle 

This revised edition of French botanist Jacques-Christophe Valmont de Bomare’s bestselling dictionary on natural history was published in 1768. The page displayed features a lively description of the babouin [baboon]:

‘On appele ainsi de gros singes qui ont des queues plus ou moins longues, & qui sont différents des cynocéphales. Voyez ce mot & l’article SINGE.’

[So called big apes, which have tails of varying length, and which are different from the cynocéphales. See this word & the article MONKEY.]

Denis Diderot (1713-1784)

Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers [Encyclopaedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts]

Figure 7. Image from Diderot’s Encyclopedie

Livourne, 1772.

The page displayed is PI XI. XII ‘Anatomie’.

R 123

This blog provides a snapshot into what is on display in the Russell Library at the moment. The blog doesn’t cover everything so please come and visit during our opening hours to discover more fascinating French Dictionaries first hand in the beautiful surroundings of the Russell Library.

The Nun of Kenmare: Margaret Anna Cusack (1829-1899)

Post by Olive Morrin, Special Collections & Archives

Margaret Anna Cusack (1829-1899)

Margaret Anna Cusack was born into a wealthy protestant family in 1829.  She became known as the “Nun of Kenmare” during her years as a Poor Clare sister in the enclosed convent at Kenmare.  She founded Kenmare Publications and used the money from her publications in the running of the convent, charitable works and other church related projects.

She lived with her family in Coolock during her childhood, but after the separation of her parents in her teenage years she went to live with a grand-aunt in England. After the death of her fiancé in her twenties she became an Anglican nun but frustrated at not been allowed help in the Crimean War she left and converted to Catholicism and joined the Poor Clare order in Newry.

In 1861 as Sr. Mary Francis Clare she was sent with seven other nuns to found a new convent in Kenmare, Co. Kerry. She was an energetic, determined and strong willed woman with a business acumen probably not suited to convent life especially in the enclosed order of the Poor Clares.  Because of her outspoken views on Irish nationalism she often came into conflict with local landlords in Kerry, the Catholic church hierarchy and her religious superiors. She became a prolific writer during the twenty years she spent in Kenmare and wrote in all 35 books on Irish history and biography including many pious and religious texts.

She was helped by two full-time secretaries as her research and writing necessitated much correspondence. She wrote letters highlighting Irish distress and injustice in the Irish, US and Canadian press. She wrote a biography of Daniel O’Connell with the title The Liberator: his life and times, political, social and religious.

In Special Collections we hold several of her publications including An illustrated history of Ireland from the earliest period, A history of the city and county of Cork and Life inside the Church of Rome. She also wrote woman’s work in modern society in 1874 which outlined the role of women in the home and advocated the necessity of limited education for women. She approved of class distinction “I confess I do not see any advantage to society, either in women taking degrees in colleges, or in preparing to enter professions which have hitherto been exclusively masculine…..Let education be made suitable to the wants of the educated, and to their position in life, and then we shall have good education and our young people grow up to be useful members of society, because they will grow up to enter their proper place in society”.

The re-emergence of famine in Kerry during 1871 generated fear of a repeat of the tragedy of the Great Famine.  She setup the Famine Relief Fund and distributed £15,000 towards relieving distress and poverty throughout Ireland. In her letters she attacked local landlords particularly Lord Lansdowne and his agent Townsend Trench which generated hostility towards her from the establishment both secular and religious.

Opposition to her continued especially with a new parish priest. Isolated and alone without friends she left the Kenmare Poor Clares in 1881.  Her transfer orders were for her to return to her mother house in Newry but on the way she stopped off at Knock where the apparition had appeared two years previously.  She stayed and Archbishop McEvilly of Tuam wanted her to found a Poor Clare convent whereas she wanted to setup a new convent of her own called the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. She started fund-raising and with her reputation and name she soon had had enough money to draw up plans and start the building.  It was to be a substantial house close to the church and appropriate to the incipient shrine of Knock.   Work started on the building but in the event of her not receiving permission opposition grew against her particularly from the parish priest of Knock who left no stone unturned to remove her.  Dr. MacEvilly, Bishop of Tuam writing to Cardinal McCabe about her starts off his letter with “This nun of Knock will surely be my death”. He goes on to say “She has fought with everyone”.  She eventually leaves Knock with a half finished convent and refused to finish the convent for someone else to take over.  It became a ball-alley for local youths for many years until it was eventually demolished.  Canon Bourke writing to Mgr. Kirby says of her “I regarded her rather like someone having a special mission who was not bound by the ordinary rules that guide others. ….the great thing is were her motives good? I thought so, and think so still”.

She was persuaded to go to Nottingham and establish a convent there. In 1884 she went to Rome and secured a personal interview with Pope Leo XIII.  She obtained permission to leave the Poor Clares and found a new order called The Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace which was intended as a home for friendless girls where domestic service and good moral habits would be taught. She opened her first house in Nottingham and then went to America in order to raise money and promote her work.  While there she was invited to establish a community in Englewood in the Diocese of Newark.  It was the only convent she established in America although her vision was to establish many houses.

Entrenched and sustained opposition to her blocked every effort she made. She travelled to many places along the east coast and even as far west as Seattle but the results were always the same.  Despite promising invitations all efforts in the end came to nothing.  Shortly after her arrival in America she was attacked in the press by a Fr. Shanley.  He wrote “Will anyone at this late day, number among claimants for charity that religious Poo-Bah-political-economist-hagiographer-Young Girl’s adviser-pamphleteer, mistress of Novices, historian, beggar and nun, who for twenty years and more, both in Ireland and America, has been an irrepressible begging nuisance? Will anyone in his right mind give her more money to squander, after the monument of folly she has left at Knock?”

Apart from the perceived ignoring of regulations and vows part of the opposition to her may have been her extraordinary success in raising money. She did not hesitate to use any advantage she might have – be it contacts, using her appointed title “The Nun of Kenmare” writing to newspapers even far afield. This was also a time when the Catholic clergy were raising money to build churches and she had attacked the clergy in America for the ‘tax’ they levelled on poor servant girls.

By her later years in Kenmare she had become a controversial and polarised figure who continued to make powerful enemies. She had created a name for herself as a writer and was responsible for many good works.  But she could have achived much more had opposition to her not been so entrenched.  But possibly her outspoken criticisms of injustices and short circuiting established ecclesiastical routes in pursuit of her ambitions contributed to the opposition.

The earnings from her writings supported her convents and after she left the Catholic church she also gave lectures to air her grievances and supplement her income. Over the years her order spread to Ireland, Canada, Haiti and other parts of the US.  In 1888 after a dispute with her bishop and disillusioned  with the Catholic Church she returned to England and the Anglican faith. She died in 1889 age 70.


The Nun of Kenmare by Irene ffrench Eager, published by Mercier Press, 1970

Margaret Anna Cusack: one woman’s campaign for women’s rights by Irene ffrench Eagar published by Arlen House, 1979

Margaret Anna Cusack by Catherine Ferguson, Gaelbooks, 2008

The Nun of Kenmare: the true facts by Philomena McCarthy, St. Clare’s Convent, 1989

Google Images


Utopia by Thomas More (1478-1535)

Post by Olive Morrin, Special Collections and Archives

Thomas More

Thomas More’s seminal work Utopia was first published five hundred years ago in 1516 in Leuven, Belgium.  Utopia depicts a fictional island where all the inhabitants share a common culture and live a simple shared lifestyle.

Canon Thomas Finan, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth donated his collection of books to the library in 2010 which included many books relating to Thomas More.  Included in his collection is Thomas More’s Utopia which is held in Special Collections.  It was reprinted in 1899 from the 2nd and revised edition of 1556.

Although written in Latin the word “utopia” comes from a Greek expression meaning “no place”. In present day parlance it has come to mean according to the Oxford Dictionary as “an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect”.

In this book More sets out what he considers to be an ideal society.  Firstly there would be no private property and goods would be stored in warehouses where the inhabitants would request what they needed.  The Utopian state would be a welfare state with free hospitals, euthanasia is permitted, priests are allowed to marry, divorce is permitted, premarital sex is forbidden as is adultery.   Slavery is allowed – each household is allowed two slaves. Slaves either come from other countries or citizens may become slaves as a means of punishment.     There would be no locks on doors.  Agriculture would be the most important job with men and women doing the same work but also a person must learn a trade and all able-bodied people must work.  People should wear the same type of simple clothes.  Other elements of the Utopian state were communal dining halls with the job of feeding the inhabitants rotated among the households.  Most religions are tolerated, only atheism is despised but allowed, as atheists do not believe in an afterlife and they may be tempted to break the law.  Gambling, hunting, makeup and astrology are all discouraged in Utopia and Utopians do not like to engage in war.  Privacy is not a freedom in Utopia and private gatherings are not allowed as men should be in full view of each other so they do not behave badly.

Utopia poses for some, contradictions between the ideals expounded in Utopia and Thomas More’s own public life.  In Utopia issues such as divorce, euthanasia, married and female priests are accepted. These issues would have been alien to More as he was a devout Catholic and opposed Henry VIII plans to divorce Catherine of Aragon and the Reformation which in the end lead to his execution.  In 1935 he was canonized as a martyr for his defence of the Catholic Church.  In Utopia he advocated religious toleration but as Lord Chancellor of England it is alleged from many sources that he engaged in the persecution of protestants.

More’s vision of equality and communalism in Utopia could be considered a precursor to socialism and communism which emerged centuries later most notably through Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto. It does appear from More’s Utopia that individualism should succumb to the overall interests of the community.

It probably should be remembered that Utopia was a fantasy and a work of fiction and probably did not reflect More’s own viewpoints as he dealt with the realpolitiks of his day. The title of Fred Zimmerman’s film about Thomas More “A man for all seasons” maybe encapsulates the ambiguities of Utopia and the mindset of Thomas More in his private and public life.



Thomas More: a short biography by James McConica

Sir Thomas More: biography, facts and information: https://englishhistory.net/tudor/citizens/sir-thomas-more/

Document of the Day: Military postcards

By Saoirse Reynolds, Maynooth University Library


A collection of 32 military postcards were acquired by Maynooth University Library in 2015. The postcards date from 1905-1915, and were printed by the English publishers Gale and Polden Ltd. and Raphael Tuck and Sons. This interesting collection of postcards feature images of the Curragh Camp, Co. Kildare, the Athlone Barracks, the Palace Military Barracks, Holywood, Co. Down, a 1906 Royal Irish Military Tournament, the 5th Royal Irish Lancers, the Connaught Rangers, the Dragoon Guards and a variety of World War One images.

‘God be with you till we meet again’

They are a momento of the Great War and were a method of communication at the time which was inexpensive and very popular. The pictures give a window into the lives of those who lived during this time and it is very evident that they were produced for propagandist purposes.

5th Royal Irish Lancers firing over two trained horses

For this blog post I have chosen my favourite ones out of the bunch. The first is the postcard with a picture of two of the 5th Royal Irish Lancers firing over two trained horses. It is a really visually interesting picture and is in black and white. There is also writing on the back but it is too faded to read.


The next I chose is of the Barracks in Athlone. It gives you a good view of how barracks and town would have looked at the time and as I am from close to Athlone I find this especially interesting. It also has writing on the back which is an acknowledgement of a letter received and “best wishes to you and hoping you enjoyed yourself”.

The Barracks Athlone


Another very visually beautiful postcard is the one with a 5th Royal Irish Lancer who is “jumping an obstacle” on a horse. He looks very dignified and the colours are beautiful. On the back of this is a note from a mother her son/daughter. It is saying that she doesn’t need as much meat from the butchers as she doesn’t expect company this weekend and tells them to get “4lbs topside of beef” and signs off “best love xxxx from Mummy”.

5th Royal Irish Lancer jumping an obstacle

The last postcard I have chosen represents a lot of the postcards which really pulled on the heartstrings of the people. This one shows women and children and the priest sitting around the fire with a poem urging them to “keep the home fires burning” until “the boys come home”.

‘Till the boys come home’

Document of the Day -Peadar Ó Laoghaire: Discovering Script and Spelling Development of the Irish Language

by Miriam van der Molen, Project Archivist


Gaelic Script

As somebody who learned Irish in school in the nineties and noughties, I never came across the old Gaelic script used for writing

SP PA 816

Irish, except on the odd sign on a pub or a telephone box. I began working on a collection of mainly manuscript material, created by Peadar Ó Laoghaire from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century. An interesting thing about this collection is the fact that Ó Laoghaire writes everything in Irish in the Gaelic script. The script looks very decorative and is almost like a form of calligraphy.

Irish translation of Psalm 57 PP3/2/1/22

There is surprisingly little information about the history of the Gaelic script online. While both the Gaelic and Roman scripts were used for Irish after the use of the Ogham alphabet ceased, it appears to have been mainly the Gaelic one used until the general era of 1950s–1960s, when the government decided to use the Roman script exclusively in school textbooks. As a result, few people today use the Gaelic script.

Peadar Ó Laoghaire always wrote Irish in the Gaelic script. The collection at Maynooth University Library also material by Ó Laoghaire that was printed in newspapers. Here, again, is the Gaelic typeface used, as distinct from the Roman one. Both the typeface and the handwritten script have a more rounded look than the Roman script used for Irish, and many other languages, today.

 Letiriú Shímplí

I already knew about the change in the spelling conventions of Irish before embarking on cataloguing the Peadar Ó Laoghaire collection. This happened in the 1940s, and to some extent before that, in order to shorten the length of Irish words which had many silent letters. What I did not know about was the experiment to simplify the spelling of the Irish language early in the twentieth century in another way, basing it on the phonetics of the language. This was known as ‘Letiriú shímplí’, and was instigated by Shán Ó Cuív with Osborn Bergin and Father Richard O’Daly. There was even a Cuman um Letiriú Shímplí (Society for the Simplification of [Irish] Spelling) set up. While Ó Laoghaire initially opposed a simplification of spelling, he appears to have changed his mind quite soon. While the Letiriú Shímplí was used by some newspapers, such as ‘Glór na Ly’ and ‘Sinn Féin’ and in some books and pamphlets, it did not survive for very long.

When I initially saw the simplified spelling Ó Laoghaire had used for some of his publications, I was very confused! It is a spelling which does not quite look like Irish when first glanced at, not least because of the many ‘v’s employed for which Irish normally uses ‘bh’ or ‘mh’, a sound which occurs a lot in the language. The spelling is based on modern phonetics of Irish, in Ó Laoghaire’s case specifically the West Cork dialect. The spelling makes most sense when saying the word in your head, or out loud, as otherwise it can initially be a little cryptic!


Peadar Ó Laoghaire produced ‘Letiriú Shímplí’ versions of his Irish translation of ‘Don Quixote’ and of his novel ‘Séadna’. The proofs of the ‘Letiriú Shímplí’ version of ‘Don Quixote’, called ‘Don Chíchóté’, are present in the Peadar Ó Laoghaire archive.


Letter concerning Séadna PP3/1/1/2













Gaelic Script

Gaelic Typefaces (Fonts): http://www.scriobh.ie/page.aspx?id=6&l=2 Accessed October 2016.

Irish (Gaeilge): http://www.omniglot.com/writing/irish.htm Accessed October 2016.

Letiriú Shímplí

Vaughan, W.E. A New History of Ireland: Ireland Under the Union, 1870-1921, Volume VI.
(Oxford: 2010) pp. 428-430.

Niall Murray, ‘Phonetic Irish language newspaper shone briefly’, ‘Irish Examiner’, 1 February 2016: http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/phonetic-irish-language-newspaper-shone-briefly-379198.html Accessed September 2016.

Document of the Day: A letter from Thomas O’Kane to Honoria Raymond (1832)

Susan Durack, Special Collections and Archives



Letter from Thomas O Kane to Honoria M. Raymond, 20th August 1832

A letter dated 1832 from Thomas O Kane, land agent, to Miss Honoria M. Raymond of 35 Lower Gloucester Street, Dublin.

The letter is an update of the land agent’s activities on behalf of the Raymond family to Honoria (1)  who is representing her mother’s interest as landlord. The letter has a Listowel postmark.

It is a personal letter. Its tone is one of respect for and duty to the family but also there appears to be a bond of trust and friendship.  The letter serves as an interim report to allay any anxieties that the Honoria’s mother might have felt in relation to land and income.

Thomas O Kane mentions his intent to meet the superior monk at Iveragh, County Kerry.

Thomas O’Kane outlines his intention to meet with the “superior monk” at Iveragh in County Kerry and gives a description of the “Barren Mountain” as “a place between three and four thousand acres in our tract of Barren mountain in Iveragh that has always been a commonage to the tenants for their young stock of sheep and goats without being charged any rent.    Some extra value had been put on their farms in consequence of the advantage of the commonage”.  He states that great part of the land of the mountain is not worth more than about three pounds per acre.  He advises that it would be desirable to offer the monks every encouragement to reclaim as much land as possible. However, he fears that the monks will not take it a lease of 99 years unless they get some of the arable land attached.

He notes that part of the problem is that all the farms are still “overshadowed with tenants” even though they have in the last few years “got rid of about 30 families”.   He outlines the improvement to the property that he and Honoria’s “poor bother” had carried out in the past. They made roads for the conveyancing of manure to reclaim parts of the mountain land. Her brother had improved things so that poor tenants of small holdings with no capital had a “good house and a coarse lot of ground and horses to draw manure, at a trifling rent”.  O’Kane is keen to reassure Honoria’s mother at every turn and says he has taken the opportunity to let her know that the mountain could be totally reclaimed in 20 or 30 years and the value calculated at about £100 per year added to the property.   He provides update one the Clonmahon and Dirrha farms and asks Honoria to reassure her mother that he has the farm at Dirrha almost sorted and asked that she let  M.Simpson know that “I will sort out the leases in a few days in order to prepare the ejectments”.

Thomas O’Kane makes reference to the Harrigan chalice, donated by Honoria to St. Saviour’s Church, Limerick, 1810


We get a picture of some of the responsibilities of land agents – collecting rents which were usually collected twice a year on appointed gale days in May and November and often. They kept accounts, drew up leases, supervised estate expenditure, oversaw improvement, carried out evictions and valued property as well as ensuring tenants agreements were adhered to.

O’Kane speaks of M. Harrigan whom he met on his way through Limerick and notes that Harrigan had received the €20 from Honoria’s mother.  He mentions a Dr. Egan “with whom I left the chalice”.

Two intriguing items in the letter reference  “ your poor bother” and “the chalice”.

The chalice referred to the one that dates from 1810  called the Harrigan chalice. This chalice was donated by Honoria M. Raymond to James Harrigan for her son John Bernard and her spiritual comfort,  to St. Saviour’s Church Limerick. Fr Joseph Harrigan, was prior of the Fish Lane Dominican community in 1814. The foundation stone was laid on 27 March 1815, and the church was opened in the following year.

The reference to “poor brother” refers to James Raymond (1786?-1851), postmaster-general, was reputedly a landowner and magistrate in County Limerick, Ireland, who became involved in disturbances there and was forced to abandon his property when his life was threatened. When his lands became dilapidated in his absence, Raymond decided to emigrate. Henry Goulburn organised free passage for the family to New South Wales.  With his wife Aphrasia and nine children he arrived at Sydney in April 1826. He took up the position as coroner at Parramatta. In April 1829 George Panton, the postmaster, died and Raymond was appointed to succeed him at a salary of £400; this was confirmed by Downing Street in September. In 1835 his title was changed to postmaster-general, and his salary had increased to £650 by the time of his death. He died at Darlinghurst on 29 May 1851 aged 65, and was buried at St Peter’s, Cook’s River. His wife Aphrasia predeceased him on 1 September 1848; they had seven daughters and four sons, of whom James and Robert Peel held positions in the post office and William was a landholder at Bathurst.

Thomas O Kane’s seal
  1. Honoria Raymond married Richard Philpot Hall in 1806 (Ireland Diocesan and Prerogative Marriage Licence Bonds indexes 1623-1866,  Diocese of Cork and Ross Record). There is a record of a will in her name in 1847 (Deputy Keeper of Ireland, Index to the Act or Grant Books, and to Original Wills, of the Diocese of Dublin 1272-1858 (26th, 30th and 31st Reports, 1894, 1899). Her alias is noted as Hall and her address is Lower Gloucester Place Dublin



Document of the Day: Children’s letters from the Belmont Mill Archive

by Mary Robinson, Special Collections & Archives

The Belmont Mill archive contains business and personal documents of the Perry family and Belmont Mill, Co Offaly from the 19th to the 20th century. In 1959 Henry Robert Perry bought the mill and passed it to Thomas and James Perry in the 1860s. The archive includes the personal letters of Thomas Perry, his wife Harriett, their children Ernest, Wilfrid, Mildred and Eleanor (Mary) and extended family. Within the archive are a number of letters and notes from the Perry children to their mother and later grandmother spanning the years 1881 to 1918.  The topics include Christmas greetings, birthday wishes and thank you notes.

Some of the most tragically entertaining letters are from Ernest Perry to his mother Harriett Perry. Ernest is in boarding school in Chesterfield but longs for visitors, especially his mother and father, ‘my dearest mother…if you want to prove your love to me you must

ernest-conseqcome to see me’. He tries to settle in and even writes ‘if I get on well you must leave me as long as possible’. He tries to enjoy school by ‘joining in the games grandly’ but notes he does ‘ever so much better’ in his lessons after his mother visits.



The three things he most looks forward to are seeing his mother on Saturday, the holidays and ‘…when I shall be done school and shall go home to help father’. He pines for Belmont and even suggests his mother must try and get him into a day school ‘I would not mind walking the six miles and when it was wet I dare say I could go in a tram’.


Ernest’s sister Mary (Eleanor) feels somewhat similar. She writes from her school and feels the loneliness of being away from home. Although she doesn’t know many of the girls, ‘one or two have been kind’ to her. In one letter she apologises to her mother for being ‘so silly’ when she came to visit. Mary was in a frightful mood but it was only because she ‘dislikes being away from home so much’. She later writes ‘my own mother, please do not think of me as being always miserable’, she realises school will get better and by the time she comes home next summer she will be ‘an accomplished young lady’.

The family appear extremely close and the children certainly miss home when away at school. This does not change for the next generation. Jens Edmond, a niece of Ernest, writes from Farlington House school in Haywards Heath, ‘oh I am so simply longing to see my dear old mummy – I never knew how much I loved home, till I left it’. She is busy having a great time preparing for the school play and loves ‘dashing around in Japanese dresses’ for the rehearsal.

The letters are very intimate beginning with ‘my own mother’, ‘my own precious mother’ ‘my dearest granny’. But many are playful and depict the closeness of the family, for instance Jens signs off a note to her granny saying ‘everybody sends their love to the old lady’ and in another she admonishes granny as a ‘naughty old lady’. We’re not told what granny got up to but according to Jens, she is ‘too old to do those sorts of things’.

Jens’ artistic touch appears on some of her letters with an ornate Christmas greeting on one and a depiction of their fun in the snow with a homemade sled in another. Little sister Honor shows her artistic side with small sketches for granny. Her notes, mainly in purple crayon with big letters, thank granny for sending birthday money, and give an explanation of what she’ll spend it on.

These letters give a touching glimpse into the daily life of the younger generation of an extended and busy family. It is a nice addition, giving a fuller picture of a family found in among business records, administration and accounting details.