Irish funeral traditions

‘The Irish funeral cry is at all times a wild and melancholy sound … and as it mingled fitfully with the wind that moaned without, it occasionally assumed an unearthly cadence, that might seem to a fanciful mind, the wail of some wandering spirit’. So wrote Thomas Crofton Croker in his Legends of the Lakes; or, sayings and doings at Killarney (1829).

'Irish funeral procession trailing over the mountains' (MS 4571 folio 8)

‘Irish funeral procession trailing over the mountains’ (MS 4571 folio 8)

Croker (1798-1854) was a man whose biography proves that, when it came to talent, a little went a long way in the nineteenth century when one was ‘well connected and respectable’.

To give him the principal credit to which he is entitled, Croker was among the earliest of the Anglo-Irish gentry to display an interest in the culture of their impoverished countrymen and women. His earliest publication was on the subject of the caoine (keen, literally ‘crying’ – the Irish version of the ritualised lamenting with which some cultures still express grief in public). He was barely in his teens when he published this.

Croker went on to publish Fairy legends and traditions of the south of Ireland (1825) ‘the first book purporting to contain material collected from oral tradition in the British Isles’, which was translated into German and published by no less a luminary of the world of folklore than William Grimm.

'Och! then 'tis myself is glad to see you' (MS 4571 folio 5)

‘Och! then ’tis myself is glad to see you’ (MS 4571 folio 5)

There were two key criticisms made of Croker. The first was that he was not always entirely frank about who had done most of the work for his publications; in the case of Fairy legends, he had managed to lose the manuscript just before publication and several friends contributed material to save the day. A much more serious criticism was that not alone had he little knowledge of Irish history, and none of the Irish language, he found the ‘superstitions’ about which he wrote deeply unattractive. This does not a good folklorist make. Later critics allege that Croker’s work ‘contributed to the development of the stereotypical view of the Irish as fey, impractical, wistful, and jocular’.

'An Irishman loves fighting well, whiskey better, and dancing best of all' (MS 4571 folio 4)

‘An Irishman loves fighting well, whiskey better, and dancing best of all’ (MS 4571 folio 4)

Trinity College has a few of Croker’s scattered papers including a little notebook which contains some of the illustrations used in his Legends of Killarney. This book was based on the work of a friend of Croker’s, Adolphus Lynch, whose name appeared on the first edition of Legends but not the second.

The text of Legends is of the snide and condescending ‘Tim Ryan, my jewel, and is that you, your ownself, that I see with my own two eyes’ variety. It is matched for the most part by the attitude expressed in some of the imagery. However it seems clear that there was more than one hand at work in the illustration of the book because the funeral procession, shown here, is observed objectively, not un-sympathetically and with more skill.

Renowned artist and fellow Corkman, Daniel Maclise (1806-70) is said to have illustrated this publication but he cannot be supposed to have been the author of all of the pictures, given the poor quality of some of them.

The drawings in the manuscript notebook are on separate pieces of paper, which have been pasted onto the pages. The quotations which accompany them make it clear that the note book was constructed after the publication of the published book. It is possible that the images were traced from the published book; the paper is thin enough to allow this. It is also possible that they are originals and if so it would be very desirable to identify the author of the best one.

Quotations are from the Dictionary of Irish Biography

Jane Maxwell

Film of Trinity War Memorial

On 26 September this year a ceremony was held during which a memorial stone was unveiled outside the Hall of Honour, in Front Square. A short film about the project was commissioned by the Hall of Honour Memorial Stone Committee and has just been posted on the College YouTube channel. The support of the TCD Association and Trust for the making of this film is gratefully acknowledged.

The Hall of Honour stood alone in Front Square for nine years before the remainder of the Library reading room was completed

The Hall of Honour stood alone in Front Square for nine years before the remainder of the Library reading room was completed

The Hall of Honour is well-known to those who use the 1937 Postgraduate Reading Room; it is the portico through which they enter the building. It has quite a complicated architectural history. The Library had been trying to add to its reading spaces since the late nineteenth century but was having difficulty financing any building work. After the First World War it  was decided that a much-needed new reading room would be built as a war memorial; finance still being a problem, the building work had to proceed in two phases. The entrance hall was to be built first, funded entirely by subscription, to house the Roll of Honour, as there was felt to be an urgency about raising a memorial to the thousands of Trinity people who had served, and the hundreds who had died in the War.

Installation of the Memorial Stone

Installation of the Memorial Stone

The Hall was inaugurated in 1928 and it stood alone in Front Square until the octagonal reading room was added and opened in 1937. It is the use of this name, the 1937 Reading Room, as a description for what was conceived of as a war memorial library, which Professor John Horne draws attention to in this film. He suggests that the changes which Ireland underwent in the first half of the twentieth century profoundly changed the nation’s – and Trinity’s – recollection of its service during the War, causing it to be effaced in relation to other narratives. He describes the inauguration of this Memorial Stone as an ‘act of reparation’ to remind the College community of the original purpose of the building.

Unveiling ceremony 26 September 2015

Unveiling ceremony 26 September 2015

The unveiling event, which was  organised as part of the Decade of Commemorations programme, took place on a sunny Saturday morning at 11 o’clock. Ambassadors representing the nations who fought in the War came as guests of the Provost and the audience was comprised of families of the fallen, institutional colleagues, families who had presented War-related historical materials to the Library and the general public. Two students read out six biographical sketches symbolising the range of individuals, from professors to porters, whose names are inscribed in the Roll of Honour. The Provost invited the Pro-Chancellor Professor Dermot MacAleese to unveil the beautiful carved stone, and Reid Professor of Law Ivana Bacik then gave the address. Following her comments, which dealt with issues of commemoration generally and inclusivity specifically, a wreath was laid at the stone and a moment’s silence was observed, broken by a piper playing a centuries-old lament. The Provost then invited the audience to enter the Hall and view the list of names, and to enjoy refreshments in the Dining Hall.

A fuller description of the memorial stone project may be found on the Decade of Commemoration website.

Jane Maxwell

Look closely – it’s more than it seems

Those of us whose interest lies in the history of women in eighteenth-century Ireland begin most of our sentences with a lament at the paucity of the surviving sources. There are many reasons why this should be the case; delayed (very delayed) access to literacy has been effective in keeping women out of the historical record; family archiving practices tended to privilege financial and property-related records at the expense of women’s writings which were more likely to be destroyed. Records which reflect significant political events were also more likely to be selected for long-term preservation, either by family members or by archives institutions;  women tended to be less involved in such activities due to their legal disadvantages.

Miss Pearson's property (MS 10409)

Miss Pearson’s property (MS 10409)

One of the effects the poor survival rate of early-modern women’s records has had on historians has been to make them highly inventive in the manner in which they interrogate those documents which do survive to see if they reveal something previously overlooked. Diaries and letters which were once read for content only are re-read for rhetoric; personal account books are scoured for evidence of relationships between employers and servants; children’s scribbles are interpreted as evidence of the role their mothers played in their education.
An excellent example of how something which might appear mundane may be unique is to be found in a sadly tattered school exercise book with a name plate on the front proclaiming it to be ‘the Property of Miss Pearson 1773’. Immediately upon seeing this one asks oneself (does one not?) why the book’s owner needed to be identified in this manner if, as was usual at the time, Miss Pearson was to be educated at home. Continuing this line of thought, those of us who were brought up on Austen novels will call to mind that eighteenth-century social etiquette applied the courtesy title ‘Miss’ to the eldest unmarried daughter. The family biographical notes which have been added to this book in later years suggests that the Miss Pearson who owned it was Grace Pearson; Grace was not the eldest daughter of her father, that honour lay with her sister Sarah, but Sarah was still unmarried in 1773. The reasonable deduction from these two circumstances therefore is that Grace Pearson spent some time in an educational institution in 1773 and this is a book she used while there.

Arithmetic and penmanship (MS 10409 folio 4 r)

Arithmetic and penmanship (MS 10409 folio 4 r)

Admittedly this does not tell us anything previously unknown about women’s education – it is well known that the eighteenth century saw the beginning of the huge change in women’s history that came about as they increasingly were provided with formal, structured school-based education. Nevertheless this artefact may well be unique as a symbol of the start of this momentuous change, which was a real revolution worth commemorating.

This book’s role as a symbol doesn’t stop there. Although women in the eighteenth century were increasingly protesting against the restrictions under which they lived, most women, however well educated, lived contented lives as a wives and housekeepers and as mothers.

Ship at full sail possibly by Grace's grandson John Cornwall Brady (MS 10409 folio 67r)

Ship at full sail possibly by Grace’s grandson John Cornwall Brady (MS 10409 folio 67r)

This life experience is to be seen playing out in the pages of Grace Pearson’s book; it was reused in later years as a farm account book, a domestic account book, a grandchild’s ‘headline copybook’ and sketchpad. All of Grace Pearson’s life is here. Not bad for a battered old maths book.

Jane Maxwell

Catalóg Lámhscríbhínní na hÉireann ar líne / Medieval Irish Manuscripts Online Cataloguing Project

Since 2013 work has been underway in M&ARL to make available online the full catalogue of Trinity College Library’s significant medieval to early modern Irish language manuscripts. The catalogue, previously only available in the 1921 published format (Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College Dublin TK Abbott & EJ Gwynn, Dublin: 1921), is expected to be complete in 2016 and will greatly enhance how scholars and students can search for, and access, catalogue information to these manuscripts.

TCD MS 1282, fol 55r, the Annals of Ulster. Describing the events of 1014, dominated by the Battle of Clontarf.

TCD MS 1282, fol 55r, the Annals of Ulster. Describing the events of 1014, dominated by the Battle of Clontarf.

Trinity College Library is a major repository of over 240 manuscripts in Irish, ranging from medieval to early modern volumes which include the Book of Leinster, (TCD MS 1339, 12th century), the Annals of Ulster (TCD MS 1282, late 15th/early 16th century),the Yellow Book of Lecan (TCD MS 1318, late 14th/early 15th century) and the Book of the de Burgos (TCD MS 1440, 16th century). The purpose of the project is to make available through MARLOC full catalogue descriptions for the entire medieval Irish collection. Currently, summary descriptions for all of the Irish manuscripts are already available, with full descriptions for many, and further descriptions being added weekly. There are also links in the descriptions to digitised images from the manuscripts on ISOS and on Digital Collections TCD When complete, the online resource will be fully searchable (users can search by manuscript number, name, placename, title, first lines, etc.) and will contain much addenda from the published catalogue.

Caoimhe Ní Ghormáin

TCD MS 1440, fol 21r, the Book of the de Burgos. Portrait of Tomás Mac Emoind

TCD MS 1440, fol 21r, the Book of the de Burgos. Portrait of Tomás Mac Emoind.


Reflecting on the Book of Kells

Kells banner image June 2015 croppedA meeting around the Book of Kells, the world’s most famous medieval manuscript, was held in Trinity College Dublin on September 10th and 11th.

Bernard Meehan, M&ARL

Bernard Meehan, AMARC Chair

Entitled ‘The Book of Kells: Rethinking and Researching a Great National Treasure’, it featured leading manuscript, conservation and imaging experts who presented papers on research trends and techniques, and on the challenges faced in displaying great manuscript treasures.DSC_1512

The meeting, organised by the Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections, was hosted by the Library of Trinity College Dublin. It proved again that the study of the Book of Kells is a huge draw; attendees came from all over Ireland, from England, Scotland and Wales, and some travelled from France, the Netherlands and Iceland. After a warm welcome by the Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton, talks focused on the background to research on the great manuscript, on its pigments, and on new approaches to the use of colour.

Tomm Moore, Cartoon Saloon

Tomm Moore, Cartoon Saloon

There were comparative talks on other great medieval documents, including Edward J. Cowan (University of Glasgow) on the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath in Scotland, which, in contrast to the Book of Kells, is seldom displayed; and Claire Breay (British Library) on the Magna Carta in the British Library, where a major exhibition to mark its 800th anniversary has just closed. A highlight was an entertaining talk by Tomm Moore, co-founder and creative director of Cartoon Saloon, Kilkenny, entitled ‘Bringing the Book of Kells to Hollywood’, in which he traced the process of getting the Oscar-nominated The Secret of Kells to the big screen.

Claire Breay, the British Library

Claire Breay, the British Library

Thanks go to everyone involved in the organisation of the day: Dr Suzanne Paul, of Cambridge University Library, Meetings Secretary of AMARC; staff in M&ARL, the Long Room Hub and Conservation, especially Clodagh Neligan. Thanks also go to Raghnall Ó Floinn, Director of the National Museum of Ireland and Elizabethann Boran, Librarian of the Worth Library, who provided private tours.

Bernard Meehan

‘Changed Utterly’ shortlisted for blog awards

A Series of Views of the Ruins of Dublin May 1916

Our sister blog Changed Utterly- Ireland and the Easter Rising has been shortlisted for the Blog Awards Ireland! We are shortlisted in two categories ‘Best Art and Culture’ and ‘Best Educational & Science’ Blog.

We are absolutely delighted but now need your help as the finalists are decided by public vote. If you like what we do with Changed Utterly, please consider voting for us.

To vote for us in the ‘Art and Culture’ category please click here, and tick Changed Utterly.

To vote for us in the ‘Educational and Science’ category please click here and tick Changed Utterly.Blog awards shortlist button

Voting opened on 7 September and remains open for the next two weeks. We are up against stiff competition from some fabulous blogs and would really appreciate your support.

With many thanks

Estelle, Shane and the Changed Utterly team

The Papers of Louis Lentin

Louis Lentin Portrait Photograph 2Louis Lentin (11 December 1933 – 22 July 2014)

Theatre, radio, film and television director.

Head of RTE Drama and a founder of Israeli television. His pioneering work made a major contribution to Irish cultural life for nearly half a century.

Louis Lentin’s archive was generously donated to the Library by his family in 2015. The Library of Trinity College Dublin is indebted to Ronit, Alana and Miki Lentin. The papers consist of Lentin’s scripts, production files, correspondence, research notes, reviews, and photographs of his theatre and TV work. The display, currently on view in the Long Room, examines his work for theatre, including Krapp’s last tape, and The Voice of Shem; and work for television, including Insurrection and Dear Daughter.

Born to a Jewish family in Limerick, Lentin attended Trinity College in the 1950s to study medicine, was drawn to the theatre through the dramatic society Trinity Players. During his leadership Players debuted at the Edinburgh and Wexford Festivals in 1954. He became a theatre director after graduation in 1957 and established Art Theatre Productions in 1959, which produced the Irish premieres of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and Krapp’s Last Tape. One of his most successful productions, The Voice of Shem, an adaptation of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, was produced for the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1961 and went on to represent Ireland at the Théatre Des Nations festival in Paris.

In 1961 Lentin was invited to join the fledgling Irish national broadcaster Radio Teilifís Éireann. He worked as a floor manager, news director and director, mostly on drama productions for television, most notably Insurrection (1966), a dramatic day-by-day reconstruction of the 1916 Easter Rising screened during the 50th anniversary of the events.

In 1967 he travelled to Israel and was instrumental in the establishment of Israel Television. He trained directors and producers and produced a number of programmes including Israel Television’s inaugural transmission and a series of Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian Masses from Bethlehem in Christmas 1968.

Louis Lentin Portrait PhotographHe returned to Ireland in the late 1960s and resumed work with RTÉ, becoming Head of Television Drama in 1978, and commissioned many new plays by Irish writers, including Maeve Binchy and Neil Jordan. In 1989 he left RTÉ to establish Crescendo Concepts, an independent production company responsible for ground-breaking work including the drama-documentary Dear Daughter (1996), which dealt with the harrowing experiences of Christine Buckley and others in the Goldenbridge Industrial School run by the Sisters of Mercy. Dear Daughter eventually led to the Taoiseach making a public apology to the survivors of industrial schools and to the setting up of commissions of enquiry and a redress board.

His last film for television was Grandpa, Speak to Me in Russian (2007), a documentary about his paternal grandfather Kalman Lentin who migrated to Ireland as a child of 14 from Lithuania, from where most of Ireland’s Jewish community originated.

Lentin won many national and international awards for his work including The Jacob’s and the Sunday Tribune Awards, the Prague D’Or and Banff nominations for both Dear Daughter and The Work of Angels (2000), a documentary on the Book of Kells produced in collaboration with the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

Estelle Gittins