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

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

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

Images from the Collen Archive

MS11482-4-2-36_01As the Collen Archive Project enters its final stages a small exhibition highlighting Collen’s contribution to Ireland’s built environment has gone on display in the Long Room and online. This coincides with National Heritage Week, 22-30 August 2015, during which, Ireland’s industrial and design heritage will be celebrated at events across the country.

MS11482-4-1-1_10r croppedThe photographic exhibition outlines Collen’s evolution, from its origins in 1810 at Tandragee, County Armagh, to the opening of a Dublin branch in 1872, and its separation into two branches in 1949. It explores how the brothers Standish and Lyal Collen, both graduates of the School of Engineering at Trinity College Dublin, combined experience and innovation to develop and expand the new company, Collen Brothers (Dublin) Limited, during the late 20th century.MS11482-4-1-12_9

Photography, by professionals and amateurs, both during and after the completion of construction projects, was a regular feature of Collen’s activities; it provided a visual record as well as a resource to support marketing activities. For researchers and the general community, the thousands of photographs in the Collen Archive provide a connection between the past and the present; they record details about aspects of Ireland’s development and the built environment which complement information captured by the official written records.

Claire Allen

Changed Utterly Update

TCD MS 5870 2v Henry Street from Nelson's Pillar May 1916 by TJ Westropp

TCD MS 5870 2v Henry Street from Nelson’s Pillar May 1916 by TJ Westropp

It is only three months since the Library launched its 1916 blog Changed Utterly – Ireland and the Easter Rising. In that time we have been delighted and surprised by the extent of the support for the project and the increase in the use of the Library’s 1916 collections.

In addition to the 600+ Twitter followers of @TCDLIB1916, the blog has also recently attracted the attention of the media with articles in TheJournal.ie, the Irish Independent and the Irish Post.

One of the unexpected outcomes of the project is that it has raised the profile of the Library as a repository that actively collects such archival material. This has resulted in the donation of new material to M&ARL including the original account of 1916 by Lillian Stokes, (donated by her grand-nephew); and the deposit of an autograph album from the Frongoch internment camp. Posts on these new accessions will appear on the blog shortly. Research Collections staff have also met with many different people and agencies working on their own 1916 projects, which include prospective theatre performances, visitor centres and other digital projects.

Most of our weekly posts are written by Library staff, with some contributions from Trinity academics and other experts, including a forthcoming post written by the relative of a 1916 internee.

TCD MS 5870 5r Chimneys of the Hotel Metropole May 1916 by TJ Westropp

TCD MS 5870 5r Chimneys of the Hotel Metropole May 1916 by TJ Westropp

This week’s post focusses on an album of 44 photographs of Dublin taken in the days immediately following the rising. Subscribers to the blog have already learned of the experience of Thomas Bodkin as a St John Ambulance stretcher bearer working out of Dublin Castle and the story of Eileen Corrigan, one of four female students to brave sniper bullets on her way into Trinity to sit exams.

Estelle Gittins

Eight decades of testimony- the Hall of Honour in TCD

In 1928 the Hall of Honour, which acts as the entrance to the 1937 Reading Room, was officially inaugurated. It was built to house the Roll of Honour, the names of Trinity staff, students and alumni who lost their lives in the First World War. On 26 September this year a specially-commissioned memorial stone will be unveiled on the plinth in front of the building to commemorate those whose names are inscribed within.

The order of service for the opening of the Hall of Honour in Front Square in 1928. (Gall.S.13.40)

The order of service for the opening of the Hall of Honour in Front Square in 1928. (Gall.S.13.40)

The Library began planning a new reading room before the War. In 1918 it was decided to build the portico first to serve as an immediate memorial to those who had died. The whole building was designed by architect Sir Thomas Manly Deane (1851-1932); it was one of the few architectural works he undertook after the death, at Gallipoli in 1915, of his son Thomas. The building work was overseen by John Good and the carving of the names was the work of a Mr. Harrison. The Reading Room itself was finished in 1937.

It had always intended to have some additional sculptural element on the central plinth in front of the Hall but this was never completed. The College Archives, which are kept in the Library, contain the drawings for the Hall, and the correspondence with the architect in which he discusses the addition of a sculptural element.

One of architect Thomas M Deane's drawings for the Hall of Honour and the Library reading room. (TCD MUN MC 42 p 11)

One of architect Thomas M Deane’s drawings for the Hall of Honour and the Library reading room. (TCD MUN MC 42 p 11)

The Hall of Honour was officially opened by the Vice-Chancellor Lord Glenavy in the presence of Provost E. J. Gwynn and invited guests. A two-minute silent black and white film of the event, by British Pathé, may be see on YouTube

In 2014 Provost Patrick Prendergast decided that one of the key Decade of Commemorations events would be the commissioning, installation and unveiling of a memorial stone, to be placed at the front of the Hall of Honour, drawing attention to nature of the building behind it. Sculptor Stephen Burke  accepted the commission and, in consultation with the Hall of Honour Memorial Stone committee, undertook to produce a Portland stone with the following text:

Tionscaíodh an Halla Onóra sa bhliain 1928 in onóir mball foirne, na mac léinn agus na gcéimithe de chuid Choláiste a fuair bás sa Chéad Chogadh Domhanda. Cuireadh críoch leis in 1937 le tógáil seomra léitheoireachta nua don leabharlann.

The Hall of Honour was inaugurated in 1928 in honour of the staff, students and alumni of the College who died in the First World War. It was completed in 1937 by the addition of a new reading room for the Library.

The formal handing over to the Provost of the key to the Hall of Honour was the first act in the inauguration of the Hall of Honour (TCD MS Object 27)

The formal handing over to the Provost of the key to the Hall of Honour was the first act in the inauguration of the Hall of Honour (TCD MS Object 27)

The unveiling of the Hall of Honour Memorial Stone will begin at 11.00 in Front Square and will be followed by a reception in the Dining Hall. All are welcome; please register your intention to attend here.

Jane Maxwell

The Book from the Tomb

St. Cuthbert Gospel.jpg HI

Last night saw the launch of The St Cuthbert Gospel: Studies on the Insular Manuscript of the Gospel of John edited by Dr Claire Breay, Lead Curator, Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts, the British Library, and Dr Bernard Meehan, Head of Research Collections and Keeper of Manuscripts, the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

Dr Claire Breay and Dr Bernard Meehan

Dr Claire Breay and Dr Bernard Meehan

The book was launched by Helen Shenton, Trinity College Librarian and College Archivist. Helen was one of the last students of Roger Powell who famously rebound the Book of Kells. Her training included constructing a perfect model of the St Cuthbert Gospel, which she brought along for the occasion.

The evening also included presentations from both of the editors including a film of a CT scan of the gospel unveiling the structure beneath the decoration on the original binding.

Helen Shenton, Trinity College Librarian and College Archivist

Helen Shenton, Trinity College Librarian and College Archivist

The St Cuthbert Gospel (formerly known as the Stonyhurst Gospel) is the earliest intact European book and is a landmark in the cultural history of western Europe. Now dated to the early 8th century, it contains a manuscript copy of John’s Gospel in Latin. It retains its original binding, strikingly decorated with a vine and chalice motif. It is intimately associated with Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, being found in the saint’s coffin when it was opened at Durham Cathedral in 1104. Having been on loan to the British Library since 1979, it was bought for the national collection following a major fundraising campaign in 2011–12. It is now BL Additional MS 89000.

Dr Claire Breay showing the CT scan of the St Cuthbert Gospel

Dr Claire Breay showing the CT scan of the St Cuthbert Gospel

This new collection of essays is the most substantial study of the manuscript since the 1960s. It includes commentary on Cuthbert in his historical context; the codicology, script, text and medieval history of the manuscript; the structure and decoration of the binding; the Irish pocket Gospels, with which it shares several characteristics; the other relics found in Cuthbert’s coffin; and the post-medieval movements of the manuscript.