Not so commonplace

Robert Staples Longworth-Dames pictured in 1868

Robert Staples Longworth-Dames pictured in 1868

Here in M&ARL we are always extremely grateful to receive a donation of archival material and often build up ongoing relationships with donors and their families. Patrick Vaughan is one such donor and here describes his latest gift. He writes:

‘I have recently donated the Commonplace Book which my great-grandfather, Robert Staples Longworth-Dames (1841-1922), kept between 1863 and 1912. Robert was a TCD Scholar, and a Classics gold medalist. He trained as a barrister at King’s Inns, Dublin, and at Middle Temple, London. Most of his life he worked in the Irish Land Commission, retiring in 1907 as Chief Examiner of Title. For half a century he lived at 21 Herbert Street, a very large house, which he furnished richly. He married Alice Jameson (1843-1917), daughter of James Jameson the whiskey distiller.

Much of the contents of his Commonplace Book refer to the legal establishment. He was a personal friend of Judge John Edge, and Sir Thomas Moffatt, and he appears to have enjoyed hearing (and no doubt repeating) anecdotes about contemporary judges and lawyers, and amusing situations which occurred in court.

Especially during the 1860s, he recorded his reflections on current political issues such as the Disestablishment of the Church (he was against it), or the establishment of a Catholic University (he was for it). He had no trust in either Gladstone or Lloyd George, and collected witty derogatory poems about them. He would paste in newspaper cuttings, and comment on them; for instance regarding the election of John Stuart Mill as MP for Westminster in 1865, or the campaign for election of an MP for Dublin University in 1895 (he voted for Lecky).

A regular worshipper at St Bartholomew’s, Clyde Road, he became a member of its Select Vestry at the age of 29, and was elected churchwarden seven times. The high-churchman, the Rev. William Maturin D.D, was a hero of Robert’s, and he pasted in extensive cuttings about the notorious occasion when the police had to be called to quell a Protestant disturbance in Grangegorman church in 1866.

Robert used his Commonplace Book to record family history as it happened: marriage, death and funeral notices were cut out and pasted in, sometimes with additional comment. Alongside the Longworth-Dames of Greenhill (Kings County [Co. Offaly]), notices concerning his relatives the Smyths of Gaybrook (Co. Westmeath), the Palmers of Rahan (Co. Kildare), and the Rynds of Ryndville (Co. Meath), all appear. The old church at Ballyburley (his birthplace) also features, with a photograph of the 17th –century inscription over its doorway.

I have also deposited surviving financial documents concerning large loans (mortgages) which Robert offered to some relatives (including a record of £100 he gave to a remote Dames in South Australia to help him complete a land purchase there), together with his Masonic certificates (Leinster Lodge No: 141).

This deposit complements my earlier deposit of the Commonplace Books of Robert’s father, Francis Longworth-Dames of Greenhill (1789-1863).’

Patrick Vaughan