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Noel O'Connell & Irish Literary Society: Displaying Collections: History
This exhibition has been created by Natasha Dukelow. Natasha completed her undergraduate degree in History and Archaeology before completing her master’s degree in medieval history in UCC. Her prime interest area is the Franciscan order, particularly preaching culture and the friars’ impact on a wider social context.
The items from the Noel O’Connell and Irish Literary Society collections that are highlighted as part of the display focusing on the historical works have been arranged under the following categories:
Margaret Cusack (1829-1899) was born into a wealthy Protestant family in Dublin. Her father was a doctor and upon the separation of her parents in her adolescence she moved with her mother to England where she attended boarding school. Margaret had in an interest in social reform and joined an Anglican sisterhood to pursue this aim. However, she found this unsatisfying and took an unusual move in 1858 by converting to Catholicism. In 1859 she joined the Poor Clares and adopted the name 'Sister Mary Francis Clare.' On her return to Ireland she initially lived at the convent of the Poor Clares in Newry, Co. Down, before moving to a convent in Kenmare, Co. Kerry where she lived from 1861-1881. Cusack became involved in church politics, the Land League and fund raising for relief efforts. Cusack came into conflict with the political establishment and the Catholic Church in Ireland, Britain and America as a result of her actions and strong personality. Disillusioned by this friction between herself and the Catholic hierarchy she returned to Protestantism in 1889. Her final years were spent in England, where she wrote scathing criticisms of the Catholic Church before her death in 1899.
Cusack was the first Irish woman to write a complete history of Ireland in An Illustrated History of Ireland (1868) and she was the first to do so from a nationalistic perspective. A History of the Irish Nation: Social, Ecclesiastical, Biographical, Industrial and Antiquarian(1878) is another example of her nationalistic histories which contributed to her standing out among female Irish historians of the time as the only one writing a nationalist theory giving preferential treatment to Catholics. Among the Irish women historians she was the only nun.
Martin Haverty (1809-1887) was born in Mayo and was the younger half-brother of the artist Joseph Patrick Haverty (1794-1864). Martin Haverty initially wished to join the priesthood and pursued his education at the Irish College in Paris, however he then chose to become a writer and went to Dublin in 1836. Haverty was an historian and a journalist and worked for the Freeman’s Journal from 1836 to 1850, where he primarily served as their foreign correspondent. He was also associated with the London Morning Chronicle and later became sub-librarian at Kings Inn. Haverty died in Dublin in January 1887 and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.
Sir William Betham (1779-1853), born in Suffolk, England was an antiquarian who came to Ireland in 1805. He had served as the Deputy of Ulster from 1807-1820 and received a knighthood in 1812. From 1820 until his death in 1853 Betham held the office of Ulster King of Arms. In this role he compiled summaries of official documents including wills and marriage licenses. He was also a diligent collector of early Irish manuscripts and owned the Book of Dimma. Betham was admitted to the RIA as a member and became esteemed for his early research activities, including his Antiquarian Research in 1826 and 1827. However, he became discredit in the opinions of serious scholars as time went on for his increasingly conjectural and notional writings. The Gael and Cymbri is considered as one of these speculative works.
John O’Donovan (1806-1861) was born in Co. Kilkenny and was an Irish language scholar. He published his translation of the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland/Annals of the Four Masters in seven volumes between 1848 and 1851, with extensive notes written to give the reader background knowledge of the text. The full version was printed in 1856. O’Donovan’s translation was funded by a government grant of £1,000 pounds obtained by the president of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865), a notable mathematician.
John Lynch (c.1599-c.1677) was born in Galway and educated by the Jesuits. He became a secular priest in 1622 and was appointed Archdeacon of Tuam. Lynch was known as an historian. He left for France in 1652 where some of his works were published at St. Malo. Lynch wrote the the Cambrensis Eversus and in 1662 it was published under the name 'Gratianus Lucius.' The text, written in Latin, is a polemic against Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales, 1146-1223) accusing him of dishonesty and bias. The Cambrensis Everus issues a harmful criticism of Gerald’s Topography (c. 1188) and demonstrates that the title of the 'Conquest of Ireland' (c.1189) was inaccurate. Lynch goes on to discredit Gerald’s status as an historian and counters his imputations against the Irish people with an eloquent defence.
Mac Fibris translated and transcribed various texts throughout his career including the Leabhar na nGenealach, a book of Irish genealogies concerning the main Gaelic and Anglo Norman families. Mac Fibris was reputed for his knowledge of language and history and was employed in 1655 by Sir James Ware (1594-1666) to collect and translate materials for Ware’s work on theAntiquities and History of Ireland.
Daniel Laurence Kelleher (1883-1958) was born in Cork and educated at University College Cork. He was a playwright and man of letters who was associated with the ‘Cork Realists’, a group of dramatists, in his early Career.
Stephen Lucius Gwynn (1864-1950) was an Irish journalist, author, biographer and a Protestant Nationalist Politician. He was the elected representative for Galway Borough from 1906 to 1918 as a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party and at the request of John Redmond, Gwynn wrote The Case for Home Rule (1911). During World War I he served as a British Army officer in France and in 1919 he founded the Irish Centrist Party.
Alexander Williams (1846-1930) was a landscape painter, ornithologist and taxidermist. He was a founding member and secretary of the Dublin Sketching Club and was elected as associated member of the Royal Hibernia Academy (RHA) in 1884.
Richard Barry O’Brien (1847-1918) was a lawyer, journalist and historian and prolific writer. O’Brien edited and provided an introduction for The Autobiography of Wolfe Tone in 1893.
The History of the Irish Nation is one of several historical works by M.F Cusack. The book has gilt decoration, with metalwork around the edges of the covers and metal clasps. The work gives an overview of Irish history beginning with an ethnology of the Irish race and covering a range of topics such as the pre-Christian colonisation of the island, the Brehon laws, the death of Brian Boru, the Anglo-Norma invasions and the Elizabethean plantations.
The History of Irelandgives an account of Irish history from the first inhabitants of the island to the Fenian Brotherhood and stresses its use of primary sources in its pursuit of an encompassing narrative. Haverty largely succeeds in remaining relatively unbiased in the book though he is clearly sympathetic to Irish nationality.
The Gael and Cymbri is an ethnology of Great Britain and Ireland which attempts to prove that the early inhabitants of these isles were descended from the Phoenicians. Betham examines the language, laws, religion and customs of the inhabitants of Gaul whom Caesar declared identified as 'Celta.' Based on his findings that the Irish, Britons and Gauls of Caesar’s time shared all of the above he concludes that they were different branches of the same people. Betham goes on to assert that a strong affinity between the Celts and the Phoenicians is evident.
The Annals of Clonmacnoise were originally translated into Elizabethan English in 1627 by Conell Mageoghagan. The original manuscript of Mageoghagan has since been lost, but several copies survive and are held in the British Museum and Trinity College Dublin (TCD). The translation of the text was first published in 1896 and used the copy held in TCD which was made in 1684.
The Annals detail events from Irish pre-history to 1408 AD. They are thought to have been based on materials collected at the monastery of Clonmacnoise, though there has been debate over the provenance of the original manuscript. Denis Murphy (1833-1896) notes this in the preface to the 1896 edition, writing that there is nothing in the book itself to show why it should be called 'the Annals of Clonmacnoise' except that it does give a special prominence to the history of the areas on both sides of the Shannon bordering Clonmacnoise and to the families who lived there. The Annals of the Four Masters seem to have made use of a text by the name of the Annals of Clonmacnoise which went as far as the year 1227 in its account. This detail is noted in the testimonium prefixed to the Annals of the Four Masters. Conell Mageoghagan’s volume of Annals extends to 1408 and several entries which the Four Masters quoted from the Annals of Clonmacnoise are not found in Mageoghagan’s translation even though some of those entries are important enough that he surely would not have excluded them had he found them in his original. Historians have argued that these facts mean Mageoghan’s translation is not that of the Annals of Clonmacnoise and these criticisms have resulted in them also being called Mageoghan’s Book after its translator.
The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland or The Annals of the Four Masters is a chronicle of Irish history from the Great Flood dated to 2242 BC and ends with the Death of Hugh O’Neill (1550-1616), Earl of Tyrone in 1616 AD. The Annals record genealogies, successions of kings as well as their deaths and that of prominent people. The Annals also contain accounts of battles, feuds and important political changes. These Annals were compiled in the Franciscan Friary of Bundowres, Co. Donegal. The text is written in Irish and comprised largely of earlier annals, many of which have not survived, and some original entries. The primary complier of the Annals was Mícheál Ó Cléirigh (1590-1643), a Franciscan friar, who was aided by lay writers Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh (fl. 1624-1664), Fearfeasa Ó Maoíl Chonaire (?) and Cú Choigcríche Ó Duibhgeannáin (fl. 1627-1636) among others.
O’Donovan, John. Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland / by the Four Masters, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1616. Dublin: Hodges, Smith and Co., 1856. [Irish Literary Society Collection]
The Chronicum Scotrorum, survives in a paper copy c. 1640 transcribed by the noted Irish scholar and Historian Duald Mac Firbis, also known as Dubhaltach Mac Fhir Bhisig (c.1585-c.1670), from an exemplar which has not survived. The Chronicum gives an account of Irish history from 1599 BC to 1150 AD beginning with a legendary account of the settlement of Ireland and of various Irish heroes. The later section of the work deals with the invasions of Ireland and the wars between the Irish themselves.
The text is written in Irish mixed with Latin phrases which according to the editor William Hennessy (1829-1888) ‘[…] are very numerous, and frequently mixed up with the Irish in a most curious fashion.’ Henessy’s translation was taken from a manuscript preserved in the library of TCD and collated with another copy held by the RIA. The TCD manuscript was written by Duald Mc Firbis, while the RIA copy was written by Rev. John Conry (1739-1773) in the middle of the seventeenth century and was apparently transcribed from Mac Fibris’ autograph. Henessy’s work presents the text of the Chronicum Scotorum with his translation on the opposing page.
Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh (The War of the Irish with the Foreigners), gives a poetic account of the Viking invasions of Ireland and of the bravery of Brian Boru (941-1014) against the Norse invaders. The text was written least at hundred years after Brian Boru's death at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 and equates Brian Boru to Alexander the Great and Augustus. Máire Ní Mhaonaigh has postulated based on internal evidence that the work was composed between 1103 and 1111.
The text survives in three manuscripts of which only one is extant. The twelfth-century Book of Leinster (fol. 217) and the fourteenth-century Dublin Manuscript contain parts of the tale. The seventeenth-century Brussels Manuscript is the only complete text and was copied from a now lost manuscript by the Irish Franciscan Mícheál Ó Cléirigh (1590-1643). James Henthorn Todd (1805-1869) has edited his work from these three surviving texts and gives a critical analysis of the merits and weaknesses of each of the manuscript copies.
The Glamour of Cork is one of various travel sketches written by Kelleher which include The Glamour of Dublin (1910), Paris, Its Glamour and Life (1914) and The Glamour of the West(1928). The Glamour of Cork provides an account of different events and historical figures which are all rooted in specific places, predominantly within Cork City and its immediate surrounds. Its entries regard The Famine, Charlotte Bronte’s honeymoon, St. Finbarr, Nano Nagle, the Courthouse, and Washington Street to name a few.
Hanora ‘Nano’ Nagle (1718-1784) was born in Blackwater Valley, Co. Cork to a relatively affluent Catholic family. Due to the repressive Penal Laws Catholic schools could not be opened and Irish Catholics were also prohibited from travelling overseas to be educated. Despite this, Nano Nagle was educated in France before going to Paris to live with relatives. She decided to devote her life to the poor and joined an Ursuline Convent in Paris but returned to Ireland to provide deprived Catholic children the opportunity to improve their lives through education and engagement with their religion.
In the early 1750s Nano Nagle opened a girls’ school on Cove Street (now Douglas Street) but had to work in secret as she could face three months in prison for running a Catholic school under the Penal Laws. Within ten years she was operating seven schools across Cork City for both boys and girls and spent nights ministering to the poor of the city. In 1771 she built a convent for the Ursuline Order on Douglas Street, establishing the first Ursuline convent in Ireland, with money she inherited from an uncle. In 1755 Nano Nagle founded the Sisters of the Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1784, Nano died at the age of sixty-six in Cork. It wasn’t until after her death that her religious society received its official title of 'The Congregation of the Presentation of the Blessed Mary', known more commonly as 'the Presentation Sisters.'
Beautiful Irelandwas a series published in four individual parts, between 1911-1912 dealing with each province, and then printed as a whole volume. The work contains descriptions and illustrations of notable areas and landmarks throughout the country.
There is a cut-out pasted to the inside cover of Beautiful Ireland with a picture of Stephen Gwynn and a biographical sketch which reads: ‘Mr Gwynn, whose volumes of reminisces is reviewed on page 141, was a schoolmaster and a “crammer” before he staked all his fortunes on the literary life. He is the oldest of eight brothers; his father was a Provost of Dublin University, and a grandfather was a country gentlemen, Smith O’Brien, who led with Irish peasantry in a rising during the Great Famine. Mr. Gwynn sat with the Old Irish party as a member for Galway, and was an officer in the Dublin Fusiliers. He is a poet, historian, novelist and essayist.’
The Council Book of the Corporation of Youghal records various statutes, by-laws of the town and proclamations which effected the entire realm. These were issued by the Lord Deputy and Council, and concern issues such as ‘Erection of Forts,’ ‘Wearing Irish Mantles, Trouses, and Skeins,’ 'Punishing Sturdy Beggars,’ as well as items relating to the wages of artisans, that every trade was to have a guild, and raising funds for the repairing of the town walls. The book also accounts for certain events such as the festivities attending the proclamation of King Charles (1600-1649) and details the proposals sent by the English of Cork to Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658). The first entry is from 14th September 1610, and the last is the 29th June 1801.
Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-1798) was a prominent Irish revolutionary and one of the founding members of the United Irishmen. Wolfe Tone is regarded as the leader of the 1798 Rebellion and is remembered as the founding father of Irish nationalism.
Wolfe Tone’s autobiography was completed after his death by his son William Theobald Wolfe Tone (1791-1828) who had the biography published in 1826 in Washington. The work details Wolfe Tone’s adventurous life, including his education at Trinity College Dublin, his legal training and his crucial role in the formation of the United Irishmen. It contains Tone’s letters, diaries and political writings and gives an account of his flight to America in 1795 to escape arrest and subsequent travels to France. The biography describes the failed 1796 French Armada expedition and concludes with an account by his son of the last French expedition to Ireland.
Tone, Theobald Wolfe. The Autobiography of Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1763-1798, ed. Richard Barry O’Brien. London: Unwin, 1893. [Irish Literary Society Collection]
Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh (c1580-c.1630) was a poet and historian born in Donegal. Lughaidh’s best known work today is the Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Ui Domhnaill - a biography of Hugh O’Donnell. Hugh Roe O’Donnell (c.1572-1602), also known as Red Hugh was lord of Tyrconnell, now Co. Donegal. He led a rebellion against the English and was joined by Hugh O’Neill(1550-1616), Earl of Tyrone in 1596. They suffered a heavy defeat at the battle of Kinsale 1601-1602. O’Donnell left Ireland for Spain but died in September 1602.
The text was first translated and edit by Denis Murphy (1833-1896) in 1893. The Irish Literary Society Collection copy has the inscription: "Presented to the Irish Literary Society of London by Rev. Denis Murphy, July 2nd, 1893."
O’Donnell was kidnapped at the age of fifteen in 1587 by Sir John Perrot (1528-1592, the English Lord Deputy. Perrot was anxious of a formidable alliance against English rule between the O’Donnells and the O’Neills as O’Donnell was either married or betrothed to the daughter of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone. O’Donnell was imprisoned in Dublin Castle and successfully escaped in 1591.