By Hugh Murphy, Head of Collections and Content, Maynooth University Library
Cataloguing and preparing our archival collections is a time intensive endeavour. One of the consequences of this is a delay from the time at which we acquire a collection to when it becomes available for consultation. This is a challenge, not least for the staff who are desperate for such wonderful items to be available, but are equally conscious that to do so before they are ready puts them at risk. The upshot of this is that we have, at any time, a number of ‘undiscovered gems’ waiting to step into the sunlight of the researcher’s benevolent gaze!
One such collection is that of the Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquess of Sligo. Browne was the only son of the first Marquess of Sligo, who had received this ennoblement after he voted for the Act of Union in 1800. While in many ways his life gives the impression of the classic ‘Regency Buck’ his energy and enthusiasm for travel and adventure led him to live a remarkable life, roaming over Europe. His later life is, in many ways defined by one significant act; his attempt, while governor of Jamaica to free the slaves of that island.
By Nicola Kelly, Archivist, Maynooth University Library
The Wardell Archive comprises the personal papers of the Wardell family; William Henry Wardell senior (1799-1881) a Major in several regiments, including the Royal Canadian Rifles; his wife Eliza Wardell (b.1800); William Henry Wardell junior (1838-1903) Major-general, and an instructor at Woolwich Academy. The majority of the collections contents are the letters, photographs and sketches by George Vaughan Wardell (1840-1879) Captain of the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot.
Captain George Vaughan Wardell’s correspondence reflects his family life and military career which began when he enrolled as an ensign in the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot in May 1858. He writes between 1864 and 1871, mainly to his parents but also to his brothers and sister, a series of letters detailing among other matters his experiences in faraway postings such as Mauritius, Rangoon, Madras, Malta and Burma.
By Róisín Berry, Archivist, Maynooth University Library
The Irish media has recently been covering a story about an extraordinary act of kindness, the donation of €30m to five charities in Ireland including the Irish Cancer Society, Irish Kidney Association, Irish Heart Foundation, Irish Society for Autism and Royal National Lifeboat Institution. This generous bequest came from Elizabeth O’Kelly, a deeply private woman who spent her final years living in Stradbally, County Laois before her death in December 2016. The recent donation of Elizabeth’s family archive to Maynooth University Library has provided us with the opportunity to learn more about the fascinating life of this enigmatic woman.
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.
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  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).
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.
By Emma Doran, Special Collections & Archives Library Assistant.
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.
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.
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).
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. 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.
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.
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.