Explore Your Archive: Document of the Day

Military Postcards in the Maynooth University Library Collection

by Alexandra Caccamo, Assistant Librarian with Responsibility for Special Collections and Archives, MU Library

For Explore Your Archives week, I am going to focus on a small collection of military themed postcards. The images on the postcards are of a long-gone era and range from military regiments and army barracks to World War I postcards. Of the thirty-two postcards in the collection only a handful have written messages, the rest may have been collected as keepsakes.

With the outbreak of World War I, commercial companies quickly began to print wartime themed postcards. One such company was Bamforth & Company Limited based in Yorkshire, who are probably better known for their bawdy seaside postcards. However, during the War they produced a more restrained product, the postcard set. These sets or series of postcards depicted popular songs or hymns. Almost all of them are quite poignant and show soldiers deployed overseas or their concerned loved ones, like the examples pictured here.

There is also a series of postcards showing the British army in ceremonial dress. Some of these were painted by the military artist and illustrator, Ernest Ibbetson (1877-1959). The postcards in our collection are of Irish regiments in the British army, such as 5th Royal Irish Lancers. They are numbered on the back and were probably part of series. There are also two postcards printed by Raphael Tuck & Sons. These so-called “oilettes” were printed to resemble miniature oil paintings.

As mentioned, the collection of postcards at Maynooth are mostly blank, but there are four which include messages. One with an image of the Curragh Camp, was sent from someone who seems to be missing their loved one. It says:

‘Dear A, Arrived safely on Sat. about noon of course it was raining over here. Am not in the best of spirits. Hoping you are all quite well. Best Love, A.’

Another postcard contains a very prosaic message, telling the recipient what to order from the butcher! This reflects the use of postcards as a quick and cheap means of communication.

‘Please tell Stratton that we shall not have anyone to the house next week. So I only want her to order 4lbs topside of Beef….from the butchers. Best love xxx from Mummy.’

Explore Your Archive: Document of the Day

The Knight of Glin Archive at OMARC, Castletown House

by Marie G. Cullen, Assistant Librarian, MU Library

In December 2014 the Office of Public Works (OPW)-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre at Castletown House received a donation of the archive of  Desmond FitzGerald the 29th and last Knight of Glin. The archive contains personal papers, correspondence and photographs that reflect FitzGerald’s life’s work—fighting for the preservation of Ireland’s Great Houses.

It is appropriate that the archive is housed in the surroundings of Castletown House, a historic house which was saved by Desmond and Mariga Guinness as the focus of the archive relates to furniture of Irish and other origins in Irish historic houses. Guinness was the founder, patron and president of the Irish Georgian Society (IGS), and Fitzgerald served as President of the IGS from 1991 to 2011. 

In his article Early Irish Trade-Cards and Other Eighteenth-Century Ephemera Fitzgerald describes the importance of what in most cases are ephemeral items. 

PP/GLIN Del Vecchio, print sellers, trade label

The archive contains much that would be considered ephemera. Fitzgerald carefully and systematically collated and annotated details and examples of furniture of Irish and other origins.  Photographs, auction catalogue and sales listings, articles from magazines, journals and other publications often accompanied by notes handwritten or typed. 

Fitzgerald documented and noted trade labels, carvings such as coat of arms, lions’ feet and acanthus leaves. Through the information provided in catalogues, other often ephemeral sources, his own knowledge and connections, he provided more details regarding origin, provenance, and ownership of items.

The archive demonstrates the Knight’s knowledge, enthusiasm and the variety of connections and associations he could draw on for insights and knowledge, including members of the Irish Georgian Society

While the information gathered in the archive on furniture and decorative arts is invaluable, the ephemeral nature of some of the sources, receipts etc. gives an insight into people’s spending habits in relations to food, fashion and furnishing their homes. The combination of one person’s lifelong interest and work, beautiful furniture, decorative arts and social history makes this an invaluable, fascinating and intriguing archive. 

PP/Glin Gregory Kane, trade label


With sincere thanks to Nicola Kelly, Archivist, OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre for providing research sources and photographs. 

Explore Your Archive: Document of the Day

Moving Hearts: A Sample from Hutchinson’s Record Collection

By Darren Sturdy, Library Assistant, MU Library

The archive of distinguished multilingual poet Pearse Hutchinson (1927-2012), was deposited in Maynooth University in 2014. This large and eclectic archive contains many fascinating unique documents, but also an extensive library and music collection on both vinyl and audio cassette. Among the collection is an album on vinyl, familiar to most of a certain age, the self-titled debut from Moving Hearts.

Pearse Hutchinson

Christy Moore and Dónal Lunny formed Moving Hearts in 1981 out of the Baggot Inn in Dublin and released their debut album the same year on the WEA (Warner-Elektra-Atlantic) label. It is a mixture of traditional music and the contemporary sound of a rhythm section.

The band on this album consists of Christy Moore, Dónal Lunny, Declan Sinnott, Eoghan O’Neill, Brian Calnan, Davy Spillane and Keith Donald.

The year is 1981 and there is a lot going on in Ireland and around the world. The songs on this album are a commentary of how the musicians on this record felt about things at the time.

The album opens with ‘Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette’ written by Jim Page which is about the nuclear threat at the time and the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union. Heavy opener indeed. The track also seems to play with the musicians themselves by introducing the line up with instrumental breaks between the verses.

The second track is ‘Irish Ways and Irish Laws’ is written by John Gibbs. While the opening song belts along, this following track is brought right down to a slower pace. The way Ireland was, what happened to her over time and wondering about the future.

Third track ‘McBrides’ is an instrumental written by Lunny/Sinnott. On this piece Spillane really shines on uileann pipes with backing from the rest of the band. This kicks in nicely after the more sombre tone of the previous song.

The penultimate track on side one in the old vinyl days is ‘Before the Deluge’ written by Jackson Browne. Bringing it back down again, this is a tale of idealism overtaken the realities of industry. Keith Donald has a great sax solo for the outro.

Side one closes with ‘Landlord’ written by Jim Page. An upbeat groove to a song about the evils of the landlord class and the treatment of tenants. Short and sweet at under three minutes.

Side Two kicks off with ‘Category’, an instrumental written by Lunny/Sinnott. Plays like a jam between the band and the second half of the album kicks into gear. No hanging about here.

Side Two, Track 2 and for me the best song on the album, ‘Faithful Departed’ by Philip Chevron. Chevron had no problem doing this as he did it twice with The Pogues (sorry Shane…). This has a nice guitar intro by Declan Sinnott. There seems to be so much talent on show for this album and finding a place to accommodate everyone.

Penultimate track on the album is the third and final instrumental ‘Lake of Shadows’ by Lunny/Sinnott/O’Neill. A downbeat tempo showcasing the band again. It really is lovely this one like a waltz.

The album closer and longest song on the record is ‘No Time for Love’ by Jack Warshaw. Injustices in the world.  

The album was produced by Dónal Lunny and with all the talent on show the star for me is bassist Eoghan O’Neill. His podcast is worth a listen. 

Explore Your Archive: Document of the Day

Some New Additions to Maynooth University Library’s Troubles Collection Northern Ireland 

by Dr Ruth O’Hara, Assistant Librarian, MU Library 

Since 2018, Maynooth University Library (MUL) has been actively growing a unique archive of material dedicated to the period commonly referred to as the Northern Ireland Troubles. Our ‘troubles’ collection contains a diverse mix of literature, political ephemera, journalism, and secondary source material dating from the 1970s up to and beyond the Good Friday Agreement. It is a remarkably comprehensive archive that represents and documents the various ‘sides’ of Northern Irish society, including marginal groups and those on the fringes within the various strands of unionism, republicanism and beyond, as well as the main political groups. 

Ulster Says No! Vote Paisley; Democratic Unionist – Ulster says No. Ulster Democratic Unionist Party: ephemera

Some recent additions to the collection provide further valuable insight into Northern Ireland’s complex journey to becoming a post-conflict society. Ephemera, like an election leaflet for Ian Paisley in the 1986 North Antrim by-election, or evocative advertisements in the Ulster Defence Association produced periodical Ulster are redolent reminders of the debates from the 1980s and 1990s that still have echoes in more recent political campaigns.

Ulster, July/August 1986
Sinn Féin (1995). Towards a lasting peace in Ireland. [Dublin]: Sinn Féin

A shift in the narrative in the 1990s is, however, evident in many of the pieces in this part of the archive. For example, there is a 1995 reprint of Sinn Féin’s Towards a Lasting Peace in Ireland, a document that has been described as a “watershed in the history” of the Republican movement.

We have also continued to add to the voices of those outside Northern Ireland which often provide an alternative view to events in the region. This pamphlet, edited by the Committee for Withdrawal from Ireland, and published in London, includes interviews with a British Labour MP, a Russian politician, as well as trade unionists from across the UK and Ireland.

Committee for Withdrawal from Ireland (1980). Ireland: Voices for Withdrawal.
London: Committee for Withdrawal from Ireland

However, it is the ephemera of everyday life contained in this archive that makes it such an important resource for researchers interested in understanding the impact of the ‘troubles’ on all aspects of Northern Irish society. Amongst many items, a door sign from the community-based project Cúnamh is a physical reminder of the ongoing toll political conflict can have. Cúnamh was established in 1997 and was funded by the Peace and Reconciliation Programme. Following the Saville Inquiry into the events surrounding Bloody Sunday, a counselling and support centre was established by Cúnamh at the request of the relatives of those killed and wounded in Derry in 1972.

Cúnamh. Bloody Sunday Counselling & Support Service: ephemera

These items provide a brief snapshot of MUL’s comprehensive and growing archive dedicated to the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland. For more information or to access this collection please contact library.specialcollections@mu.ie


McInnes, C and Kennedy-Pipe, C. (2001) “The British Army and the Peace Process in Ireland”. Journal of Conflict Studies, 21 (1). Available at: https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/JCS/article/view/4291 (Accessed: 16 November 2022).

Cúnamh, Information Leaflet, [Derry]: Cúnamh: a lifeline for change.

Explore Your Archive: Document of the Day

‘Party Tunes’ in the Littlehales Archive

by Hugh Murphy, Head of Collections & Content, MU Library

The archives of Sir Edward Baker Littlehales, held in Maynooth University Library contain a wealth of interesting information on the Irish administration after the Act of Union.  While much of it is fascinating, it lacks the ribald and risqué stories which can be found in some of the other archives under our stewardship (looking at you Marquis of Sligo!).  Almost every mention of ‘party’ by Littlehales refers to that of a political type, and despite being a significant player at various prominent social events in Dublin for nearly twenty years, he scarcely deigns to mention them in correspondence.  Indeed, with the exception of ‘political’ parties, the main concern he had regarding moments of jollity came when militia and yeomanry decided to strike up an air. 

Portrait of Edward Baker Littlehales, taken from The diary of Mrs Simcoe

What really concerned Littlehales was when these sizeable amateur military forces decided to use festivals and parties for the airing of political ideology.  And to be fair to the beleaguered undersecretary, this was a genuine challenge, with the militia being primarily Catholic and the yeomanry being primarily Protestant

A letter from the Chief Secretary in April 1814 noted that there had been accusations of bias on behalf of Dublin Castle, given that

‘regular militia regiments have been forbidden to play party tunes on certain days but they are still played by the yeomanry here’

(MU/PP12 Peel to Littlehales, 29 April 1814)
MU/PP12 Peel to Littlehales, 3 May 1814

In reality, the government had striven for years to present as neutral a front as possible on such matters and when called to account for the confusion by the Chief Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, Littlehales was quick to defend noting that both militia and regular forces had been expressly forbidden, but also regarding the Yeomanry. He observes

‘it has been the policy of Government invariably not to countenance their playing any party tunes on certain days, in any manner which might give Offence to their Fellow subjects many of whom are probably of different persuasions, from themselves, particularly in the North of Ireland’

(MU/PP12 Littlehales to Peel, 3 May 1814)

Oddly enough Littlehales had brought this to Peel’s attention the previous year noting in particular that due to the link with the burgeoning Orange Order, no military band was to play any tune on certain days of commemoration

‘and especially on the 12th of July’

(MU/PP12 Littlehales to Peel, 26 June 1813)

lest it offend.

As always, Littlehales proved himself to be far from the Georgian libertine, but in this instance at least his party instincts (or lack thereof) could be said to be for the greater good. 

MU/PP12 Peel to Littlehales, 3 May 1814

Explore Your Archive: Document of the Day

What is Yet to Come: The Quaker Archives in Progress

by Catherine Ahearne, Senior Library Assistant, MU Library

As the newest member of the Special Collections & Archives team, Explore Your Archive week gives me the opportunity to get to know our collections better. Our archive collections include the papers of academics, writers, and other professionals, as well as documents of local interest. Only collections that are fully catalogued are available for research. So as member of team I wanted to show what the archivists are working on and will be available to researchers once fully processed.

One collection that is currently being worked on is the Quaker Letters, a series of letters between members of the Grubb family of Clonmel, County Tipperary, and their relations, the Shackleton and Leadbeater families of Ballitore, County Kildare. The letters were acquired by Maynooth University Library in 2019.

Mary Leadbeater, Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

I looked at one bound volume of letters from Margaret Grubb (née  Shackleton), Clogheen and Clonmel, to her sister Mary Leadbeater (née Shackleton), Ballitore. This volume contains ninety-six letters which concern a number of subjects including the births, deaths, and marriages of their extended family, domestic issues including the running of their households, visitors and guests, and the health and wellbeing of their children and wider family.

The letter that I examined is dated 4 June 1795 and is from Margaret Grubb to Mary Leadbeater. It is a letter written in the aftermath of the loss of a child. The letter begins very practically accepting offers of sympathy and referring to the loss as the ‘affliction that has befallen me.’

MU/PP35, Vol 1, 4 June 1795

From these letters we gain an insight into how detailing the loss of a child, causes and the actual moment of death, was part of everyday life for the women of this time.

‘I hoped that as the other children got over the disease so lightly that it ought be her case, & I thought the place where the infection was laid appeared so little inflamed that it might have been so too, but she was not a fit subject, being too irritable in her habit, & disposed to convulsions…she expired very quietly they told me, her poor Nurse has manifested deep affliction…she said she wanted to give up her eldest little girl to my care, as she was near death herself, having neither eaten nor slept for many days & nights’

(MU/PP35 Vol. 1, 4 June 1795)

Community in times of loss is evident, ‘visited by so many…I was kept up by them.’ The women of the community rallied around the grieving mother, to distract her from ‘falling into despair’ but also to offer practical support

Betty stayed both day and night and attended to the house and other children, for my Anne was overwhelmed with sorrow & like myself not of fit mind to mind them.’

While the tone of the document was pragmatic and sensible at the beginning as we read further into the letter, we begin to see the grief manifest itself.

I am tolerable in the day but at night I waken out of my just sleep with an unexpected pang.’

MU/PP35, Vol 1, 4 June 1795

These letters will be a wonderful asset to the research community reflecting how society functioned at this time in Ireland and as a primary source. But it also gives a voice to the history of women, of the roles they played in society and in the family.

Explore Your Archive: Document of the Day

Lord Benjamin Bloomfield’s Loughton and Moneygall Estates in King’s County, 1836.

by Ruairí Nolan, Library Assistant, MU Library

Lord Benjamin Bloomfield is a fascinating character whose story is deeply engrained in the history of Ireland. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in 1781 and saw combat in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 serving as an artillery commander at the Battle of Vinegar Hill, the final major engagement of the rebellion which virtually shattered the rebel forces.

Shortly after 1798, though unclear exactly when, Lord Bloomfield was sent to Brighton to work with the Prince Regent‘s regiment, the 10th Light Dragoons. It is from his introduction to the Prince Regent and his ability to shine as a commander and leader that a friendship began to form between the two that lasted 27 years. Later in 1817 he became private secretary to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom, for the regent and subsequent King George IV until 1822. Today’s document will be a collection of maps from surveyed estates belonging to Bloomfield.

The collection contains a book of maps of the estate of Lord Benjamin Bloomfield in the King’s County and County Tipperary, surveyed by Samson Carter, Civil Engineer in 1836 which contains an extensive list of estates. Alongside these, is a book of maps of the Redwood Estate of Lord Benjamin Bloomfield in County Tipperary, surveyed by Martin H. Carroll, Civil Engineer in 1840. The focus for today’s blog will of a single map of Bloomfield’s Loughton and Moneygall properties.

The maps in this collection are incredible to examine – the level of detail and the decorative way in which they are done add a level of depth often absent from maps. The first thing we are presented with is a beautifully drawn title page – a style which is continuous throughout the collection to indicate the location of each drawing.

The centrepiece of this survey is Loughton House, a country house around which the estate is predicated. The house was originally built for Major Thomas Pepper in 1777 and was passed on to his son Thomas Ryder Pepper who had married into the Bloomfield family with Anne Bloomfield in 1792. When Thomas Ryder passed away the property was inherited by his brother-in-law John Benjamin Bloomfield. It is this Bloomfield who would earn the title of First Baron Bloomfield and his son, John Arthur Douglas Bloomfield the 2nd Baron Bloomfield was the last to hold such title.

One of my favourite details on these maps are the decorative cardinal points. Each map has a different decorative cardinal point indicating the orientation of each drawing. Below are three examples, one being a bird, another an ornamental crown radiating light and the final one being a more subtle Fleur-de-Lis.

With this collection comes a series of indices for each map – explaining what each number on the map is from house and office buildings, to ‘plantations’, ‘lawns’, and ‘arable’ farming plots. What is also presented is an extensive record of tenants and the corresponding plots belonging to them. Where no name is listed, there is simply a shortening of ‘ditto’ to indicate they all belong to the first name.

Loughton House is built on the site of an older late-sixteenth century estate which is evidenced by the existence of a ruined tower house south of the main building complex and gardens. The tower is all that remains of the structure, and it has been recorded as a castle in the Down Survey map of 1655. To the north can be seen the remains of a ringfort also – an origin date for which is unknown.

To cap it all off, Moneygall may ring a few bells for some people. You might recognise it and not know why. I promised myself I would avoid bringing the 44th President of the United States up but alas, I cannot help myself. This is simply because Barrack Obama’s great-great-great-grandfather Falmouth Kearney, who hailed from Moneygall and emigrated to America – was likely a tenant of Benjamin Bloomfield and would have been a toddler when this survey was done in 1836. Kearney emigrated in 1850 at the age of 19. A very interesting and unexpected connection to the Bloomfield maps indeed.

A mother’s pride in her young son

Awards from the Pearse Hutchinson Archive

[Explore Your Archive 2021 (8 of 9): #Achievement]

By Ciara Joyce, Archivist

Detail from Hutchinson’s winning entry.

The Irish poet Pearse Hutchinson (1927-2012) is well known for his many achievements in the literary world, as well as his contributions to radio and print media over the years.

But it was not poetry that the young Pearse set his sights on at the tender age of seven. Like his father before him, Hutchinson dreamt of being an artist and showed considerable skill for the profession from an early age.

The Hutchinson family lived in the same house on Rathgar Road, Dublin from the 1930s until Pearse’s death in 2012. As a result, many items from his childhood survived to form part of the Pearse Hutchinson Archive, which is now housed at MU Library. Among the many treasures in this collection is a selection of Hutchinson’s childhood drawings including his winning entry in the RDS National Art Competition for the Encouragement of Art of 1934.

Extract from The Irish Times 14 July 1934

According to the Irish Times newspaper cutting, kept by Pearse’s mother Caitlín, the competition was judged  by R.E.J. Bush, the headmaster at the School of Art, Bristol, who commented that the entries from the younger competitors ‘appealed as being more numerous and much more imbued with life than was the case with many of the more advanced students’ and that ‘the designs and work generally of all classes up to 10 were most satisfactory’. Hutchinson won first prize in two of the under eight categories, for drawing in any medium of natural objects and for simple decorative designs or patterns.

Along with the winning pictures and newspaper cutting, Caitlín also kept a press photograph of Pearse, aged seven, viewing his winning artwork, onto which she has adhered another much later newspaper cutting relating to her son. The text on the cutting reads ‘Two C.B.S. Synge St. pupils, Pearse Hutchinson (left) who obtained first place in Senior Honour English, Leaving Certificate, 1944, with 93p.c., a record and Patrick McCann, who obtained second place in English’.

Pearse Hutchinson (aged 7) views his winning entry in the RDS National Art Competition, 1934.
Newspaper extract regarding Pearse’s achievement in the Leaving Certificate, 1944

It was this talent for language that Pearse developed in later years, although he still liked to draw. He began by publishing poems in newspapers and the Capuchin Annual, before publishing his first volume of poetry ‘Tongue without Hands’ in 1963, which of course, he dedicated to his mother Caitlín.

For more information on the Pearse Hutchinson Archive please contact library.specialcollections@mu.ie

Details from Hutchinson’s wining entry

Conservation Nightmare: Iron and Newsprint   

[Explore Your Archive 2021 (7 of 9): #ConservationNightmare]

By Gretchen Allen, Library Conservator, Special Collections & Archives

Image 1: Recruitment office clipping book showing opening with rusted pins before treatment

Iron is the culprit behind some of conservation’s trickiest problems. Despite its reputation for strength and durability, iron ages notoriously poorly if not cared for correctly. Rust is bad enough on a car or a bike, but what happens when something rusts inside the pages of a book? It turns out, you get a conservation nightmare!

Image 2: Close up of a pin deformed by rust and corroding the surrounding paper

Newsprint is another material that is known to age badly. This is due to the high acidity and lignin content of the wood pulp used to make newspapers, which make it far less stable than most papers. This is especially true of wood pulp papers and newsprint from the turn of the 19th century, when mass production of paper was a recent technology and not as much was known about the aging characteristics of the newly-developed wood pulp paper. As a result, paper from this period, and especially newsprint, tends to become brittle, dry, and discolored with age, which also makes it a conservation nightmare.

Now, combine rusted iron and turn-of-the-century newsprint and you’ve got a nightmare for the ages!

This is exactly what happened to one of Maynooth University Library’s recent acquisitions, a scrapbook from a Dublin military recruitment office dated to right before the Easter Rising.

The scrapbook contains dozens of newspaper clippings related to the different divisions recruited through the office, many of which have started to become very brittle and discolored with age. However, the nightmare comes in with several pages of clippings that were attached to the scrapbook using iron pins.

The clipping book had been severely water-damaged at some point in its life, which likely kick-started the rusting process inside the book. These pins rusted so severely that they burned holes in both the clippings, the support pages, and several of the surrounding pages on each side, leaving rust-colored marks throughout the center of the scrapbook.

The pins were carefully removed with tweezers, often in several pieces since the rust had degraded them to the point where they broke apart easily.

Image 3: The rusted pins removed from the book and placed in a bowl

Remaining rust particles were removed using a dry brush to prevent further oxidation during treatment from rogue bits of iron. The clippings were all removed from the pages and cleaned and repaired separately. The burnt holes could not be repaired with a standard paste repair since it was very important not to introduce more water to the corroded areas; instead, a non-aqueous solvent was used to set tissue repairs over the holes. This was done both for the clippings and for the support pages in the clipping book.

Image 4: The same opening after cleaning, pin removal, and repair

Once the clippings and pages had been cleaned and repaired, they were reattached in their original positions in the book using solvent-set tissue hinges. Loose clippings from the front and back covers were removed, repaired, and stored individually in archival melinex pockets.

Image 5: Close up of repaired area from the same deformed pin as before

The combination of iron and newsprint was indeed a nightmare, but the nightmare has passed! The clipping book is now available for readers and researchers to view.

Image 6: Clipping book and encapsulated loose clippings

The English College Valladolid

[Explore Your Archive 2021 (6 of 9): #Collaboration]

By David Rinehart, Special Collections and Archives

In late 2019, I had an interview for the post I currently hold at the Maynooth University Library Special Collections and Archives Department. In preparation for the interview, naturally, I scoured the SC&A LibGuides, the Maynooth University website, the Library Treasures blog for all of the information I could jam into my brain. Anything and everything I could identify with or grow more knowledgeable about, I devoured. One specific collection stood out to me like a shark in a frog pond: the Salamanca collection.

This is a collection of materials from the Irish College in Salamanca, Spain where Irish Catholic priests went to study safely due to the English persecution of the Catholics. The college was established in 1592 and closed in 1952. The archive now belongs to St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and is housed in the Russell Library.

The Irish College in Salamanca, Spain. Picture credits: José Luis Filpo Cabana

Some of these documents detail letters written to and from the Royal English College of St. Alban in Valladolid, Spain. These documents are largely letters written between the rectors of the English College and Irish College.

This particular part of the collection called my name because every year I go to this very same city, Valladolid, at least once. It is my wife’s birthplace and somewhere we call home. It’s our escape from our everyday lives and a place we admittedly get quite a bit tanner.

This past summer, we were so fortunate as to be able to, unexpectedly, finally go back after that very rough year and a half we’ve all had. I got my vaccine far sooner than we anticipated because the Janssen vaccine was made available via pharmacies for my age group and I jumped at the chance to get it. The minute I had my appointment set; we booked our flight to Spain.

So, here is where things get very interesting. When in Spain, we went to a nearby playground that we would take our daughter to every so often. On one particular evening, at the beginning of our stay, I began to chat with the one other mom at the playground. Lo-and-behold, she was one of two librarians at the Royal English College of St. Alban in Valladolid! Yes, the very same as I mentioned above! In our excitement, and the great rush that comes with these “oh what a small world” moments, we scheduled a visit for me to come by for a tour of the college. I won’t go into too much detail as I think the following images speak for themselves, but I will say the college was stunning and the collections beautiful.

Inside the chapel of the St. Alban’s Royal English College, Valladolid:

Inside the collections:

The main collection and reading room
To add to the coincidences, they had a copy of the entire Dublin Review

The Special Collections Reading Room

Dr. Javier Burrieza, the other librarian at the English College and Associate Professor of Modern History at the University of Valladolid, sent me home with several books and I, in return, sent him dozens of documents that we have pertaining to the English College. He takes great pride in the very detailed documentation they have of the Royal English College of St. Alban and its history. He showed great interest and excitement about learning that some documents he had not seen were out there and now available to him, adding to their richly documented history.

Scan of letter titled “Colegio de Ingleses Valladolid” (English College Valladolid) dated December 5th, 1871

And just like that, through a chance encounter at the park, we now have a strong link and will continue to stay in touch, likely scheduling more visits to each other’s magnificent places of work. Perhaps I’ll write another blog in the future to tell of what more has come of this budding new professional relationship.  

It’s these little things, nuggets of happenstance and serendipity that bring me the greatest joys and make the best stories.