Ordination Preparations and Schismatics: A Letter from the last Bishop of Kildare

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By Miriam van der Molen, Archivist, Maynooth University

For this year’s Explore Your Archive campaign, I have chosen a letter written on 15 January 1842 by the Church of Ireland Bishop, the Honorable Charles Dalrymple Lindsay (15 December 1760 – 8 August 1846). He was the third son of the 5th Earl of Balcarres, a Scotsman. Lindsay was Bishop of Killaloe and Kilfenora from 1803 to 1804. He was appointed a Privy Councillor, Bishop of Kildare and also Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in 1804. After his death, the Diocese of Kildare was amalgamated with the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough and today is part of the Diocese of Meath and Kildare.

The letter in Special Collections and Archives at Maynooth University is a stand-alone item, not part of a wider collection. The first and final paragraphs discuss the necessary actions that need to be taken by the addressee of the letter, a student, in Limavady, County Derry/Londonderry. The middle paragraph is about the Bishop of Kildare’s reflections about a group of Church of Ireland clergymen who took part in the Home Mission.


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Busts of a former dean, Bishop Charles Lindsay, and Sir Edward Carson on display in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016 from his blog post here)

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The College Bells

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By Anna Porter, Archivist, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth

Sometimes an enquiry to the archives of Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth (SPCM) leads to an investigation into some obscure aspect of the college’s history.

Tim Jackson’s request for information regarding the college bell was one such query. Tim’s research on behalf of Dove’s Guide for Church Bell Ringers [1] prompted him to enquire whether SPCM’s bell exceeded 40 Cwt (2 tons) in weight.

A search of the college archives revealed little about bells except for a letter dated 8 September, 1853, from John Murphy, bell founder of 15 Thomas Street in Dublin (SPCM/8/35/153).

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Letter from John Murphy, bell founder to Rev. Dr, Renehan. SPCM/8/35/153

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Finger-Ring Lore: Historical, Legendary, Anecdotal

Susan Durack, Special Collections and Archives

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Design on front cover of book

A book with the intriguing title Finger-Ring Lore: Historical, legendary, anecdotal written by William Jones has sat enticingly in our Special Collections for a number of years. Its dark blue buckram cover with decorative gold spine together with its specialised subject matter – rings their history and lore added to its sense of mystery. My curiosity was roused by the subject matter and its author who was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries. The book was published in 1877 by Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly.

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Look Out! They’re Lurking About: Books That Go Bump In The Library

By Emma Doran, Special Collections & Archives Library Assistant.

Image taken from the Book Irish Wonders by D. R. McAnally Jr. Published by Houghton Mifflin in 1888.


It’s that time of year again when the days wane toward the impending colder weather and the campus is alight with leaves of red, orange and gold and that can only mean one thing…Halloween is fast approaching. Having scoured our special collections treasures in anticipation of writing this blog, I have selected a few devilishly delightful rare books for you to sink your teeth into. My selections ranging from the 15th to the 20th century, hail from both the Special Collections Reading Room and the Russell Library and they explore all elements of the dark arts, judgement of witches and even exorcising demons and promise to send a chill down your spine. 

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The Collection of Thomas Furlong (1802-75), Bishop of Ferns

By Yvette Campbell, Assistant Librarian, Russell Library Cataloguing Project

The Furlong Collection contains approximately 1,349 antiquarian books, with items ranging in date from the 16th to the 19th century. This unique treasure was donated to the Russell Library following the closure of the House of Missions in 1993. It is a rich representation of Christian doctrinal and theological literature, containing works of ecclesiastical history, scripture, theology, philosophy, ethics and liturgy.

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La Geografia Di Clavdio Tolomeo Alessandrino (1564)

Thomas Furlong (1802-75)

Thomas Furlong was born in 1802 in Moyglass, Co Wexford to land-owning parents.  He spent five years in the seminary in Wexford before arriving in Maynooth in 1819 and was ordained as a priest in 1826. Bishop Furlong served in Maynooth for over 30 years, taking up posts as Dean, Professor of Humanity, Rhetoric, and Theology.  He was ordained Bishop of Ferns in 1857.

An improvement in the college grant in 1845 resulted in better pay for Maynooth staff and PhD students. Thomas Furlong was one of many who used these extra funds to create substantial personal libraries. His collection was so comprehensive that he reported to the 1853 Maynooth Commission that “having endeavoured to provide myself with nearly all the works which I require in my department, I rarely visit the Library with the view of consulting writers on divinity” (Neligan, 1995, p.14).

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Dirck de Bray – Dutch Parchment Bindings, Montefiascone 2018

By Sarah Graham, Conservator, Maynooth University Library

As you walk along the nineteenth century Russell Library and look into the open bays, the light parchment bindings are easy to spot on the shelves. These have been brought to the collection from across continental Europe and so I was excited to return to Italy to learn more about their structure and production. The Montefiascone project is a four week programme every year at the Seminaro Barbarigo where students and tutors come from all over the world to study historic book structures. The seminary has a beautiful collection of books in its library which was first inventoried in c.1692 although some of its contents date back to the 15th century.[1] Flood damage and unideal environmental conditions were the geneses of a preservation project, from which the summer school grew. Thanks to funding from Maynooth University Library, I was able to attend two of these weeks; A Study of Romanesque Sewing Techniques in Book Production taught by Jim Bloxam and Shaun Thompson and Dirck de Bray and Beyond by Anne Hillam and Maria Fredericks. This blog will look at Dirck de Bray and how this method of production relates to items in the Special Collections and Archives.

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The Country House and the Great War

Professor Terence Dooley, Director, Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, History Department, Maynooth University, and Nicola Kelly, Archivist, OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre, Castletown House.

Recruitment Fervour

In the summer of 1914 many Big House families in Ireland had been preparing, through the Unionist movement, to fight the implementation of Home Rule, in Ulster by force if necessary. However, just as Ireland seemed on the brink of civil war, attentions were turned to a European conflict of unimaginable magnitude. Elizabeth Bowen recalled a garden party at Mitchelstown Castle on 5 August 1914:

‘This was a time to gather…for miles round, each isolated big house had disgorged its talker, this first day of the war. The tension of months, of years – outlying tension of Europe, inner tensions of Ireland – broke in a spate of words.’

But those who had gathered scarcely realised the social, physical and emotional impact that total warfare would have on their families in the years ahead. Scores of relatives would go to war and many would never return; more would enthusiastically sacrifice their time, finances and energies to the war effort at home; and virtually all would be disgusted by the events of Easter Week 1916.


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    The Country House and the Great War Exhibition displayed in the                     Russell Library

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The aerial voyage: an account of Ireland’s first balloon flight

This post first appeared in the Russell Library blog

Imagine the impact of the first hot-air balloon rising into the sky in 1783. Suddenly, it was possible to fly! The first living flight was from Versailles in June 1783, with a sheep, a duck and a cock in the car. Four months later the maestro himself, Étienne Montgolfier, rose above the earth in a splendidly decorated balloon. Others across Europe quickly followed suit.

‘The balloon’ in Francis Olivari, The balloons of Citizen Campenas   (Dublin, 1798)

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Papal Visits and Silent Struggles: Revisiting the Archive of Rev. Desmond Forristal

By Róisín Berry, Archivist, Maynooth University Library

With the recent focus on the Pope Francis visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families 2018, I was reminded of a collection that I had catalogued not long after I started working in Maynooth University Library. The papers of scholar, author, playwright and TV producer Rev. Desmond Forristal (1930-2012) were donated to Maynooth University Library in 2001. The archive includes correspondence, essays, lectures, scripts, research notes, reviews and photographs. Whilst going through the documentation, I discovered that Forristal was involved in the preparations for the visit to Ireland of Pope John Paul II in 1979, and in particular the selection of music and the organisation of a choir for the event. As I became more engrossed in the archive, it soon became clear that Forristal’s musical interests were part of a much broader passion for the arts that prevailed throughout his life.

Portrait of the Forristal Family c. 1940s
Photograph of the Forristal Family, c. 1940s

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The teetotaler’s catechism

This post was originally featured on the Russell Library blog.

In the midst of dire poverty, the people of Ireland in the mid-1830s were drinking more than 12 million gallons a year of legal spirits alone. It was an appalling problem. Avoiding the usual chilling rhetoric, Theobald Mathew, the Capuchin friar who became known as the Apostle of Temperance, began exhorting people to give up intoxicating liquors, re-assert their dignity and use that money to better their condition. He preached to vast crowds and persuaded thousands at a time to take the pledge.

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Frontispiece of  ‘The Teetotaler’s Catechism’ with Theobold Matthew preaching, and the words of the pledge beneath.

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