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

Book of Kells Conference

Kells banner image June 2015 croppedThe Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections (AMARC) is delighted to open the booking for the forthcoming conference to be held at Trinity College Dublin on 10-11 September 2015.


This conference will focus on the Book of Kells, the world’s most famous medieval manuscript, with presentations on recent research trends and techniques, and on the challenges faced in displaying great manuscript treasures.

Rachel Moss, ‘Celtic Tiger Tales: Recent Developments in Insular Art Research’
Bernard Meehan, ‘Researching the Book of Kells’
Denis Casey, ‘Cows, cumala and Kells: the medieval Irish economy and the production of a masterpiece’
Heather Pulliam, ‘Material Matters: The Role of Colour in the Book of Kells’
Susie Bioletti, ‘Pinning down the pigments and techniques on the Book of Kells’
Christina Duffy, ‘How to improve medieval manuscripts using colour space analysis and other techniques’
Michael Brennan, ‘Taking apart a page in the Book of Kells: the eight-circle cross’
John Gillis, ‘The Faddan More Psalter: conservation, research and display’
Sally McInnes, ‘New access to Welsh national treasures’
Claire Breay, ‘Celebrating an 800-year-old document: the case of Magna Carta’
Edward J. Cowan, ‘The Declaration of Arbroath and its display’
Peter Yeoman, ‘Prowling lions and slippery serpents: re-presenting Columba’s Iona to the world’

In addition to these speakers, announced previously, Tomm Moore has agreed to talk on the subject of ‘Bringing the Book of Kells to Hollywood’. Tomm is co-founder and creative director of Cartoon Saloon, Kilkenny. His feature film The Secret of Kells (Best Animated Feature Nominee: Academy Awards ®, 2010) has been followed by The Song of the Sea, again an Oscar nominee in 2014.

Sessions will run from 10:30-17:00 on Thursday 10th September and from 09:30-16:00 on Friday 11th September. On Thursday evening there will be a special after-hours visit to the National Museum of Ireland and a reception at TCD Library including a private visit to the Book of Kells. On Friday afternoon there will be a private visit to the Worth Library. The detailed programme will be published shortly.

The cost of the conference is £50 (€60) for members and students and £60 (€75) for non-members which includes Thursday lunch, teas and coffees, and the reception.

This is sure to be a popular conference and places are limited. To book, please complete the online form on the AMARC website.

Limited bursaries are available from AMARC for students who are – or would like to become – members, covering travel by the most reasonable means of transport. Bursary application forms are available from the treasurer via email (

If you have any questions about the conference, please contact: Dr Suzanne Paul (

Bernard Meehan

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, 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

A portrait of his love

It isn’t everyday that one finds oneself – as an archivist in an academic library – handling a piece of artwork by an internationally renowned painter. But that is what your humble author was doing recently.

Among our collections are the papers of Canon James Owen Hannay (1865-1950), Church of Ireland clergyman and, under the pseudonym George A. Birmingham, also a novelist. Hannay tried in his work to reflect with honesty the complex social circumstances he experienced in Ireland. However as a Protestant clergyman criticising any aspect of Catholic life, his early works attracted criticism. He was the target of a boycott, and he felt he had to withdraw from the Gaelic League in the wake of protests about the tour of his successful play General John Regan. Later Hannay found his métier when he deployed his comic voice; he was a gifted farceur whose philosophy was that ‘if we didn’t extract food for laughter out of failure we should go under’. Recently his reputation as a shrewd observer of the Irish society of his day has revived (Dict.Ir.Biog).

Photograph by Bassano, 23 March 1927. (The National Portrait Gallery).

Photograph by Bassano, 23 March 1927. (The National Portrait Gallery).

In 1889 he married his third cousin Adelaide Susan ‘Ada’ Wynne (d. 1933), with whom he claimed literally to have fallen ‘in love at first sight’. They had a happy marriage and four children. Adelaide shared her husband’s scholarly pursuits; his devotion to patristic study led to his appointment as Donnellan lecturer for 1901 at Trinity. These lectures, instituted in 1794 by the bequest of musician and woman-about-town Anne Donnellan, were initially held under the auspices of the School of Hebrew, Biblical and Theological Studies. Hannay’s lectures  were subsequently published as The spirit and origin of Christian monasticism (1903).

As part of the Library’s continuing engagement with the College’s Decade of Commemoration activities, the Hannay papers were prioritised for conservation treatment; Hannay served as an army chaplain from 1915 to 1918 and his experiences are described in A padre in France (1918). While the papers were being prepared for transfer to the Department of Preservation and Conservation an illustrated letter was noticed, in a strangely familiar hand; familiar in the sense of being almost illegible and yet recognisably the hand of Jack B.Yeats. The item had been correctly described by the cataloguer in the ’60s, but hadn’t been indexed under the artist’s name. So a would-be researcher would only find it if, like the Isla de Muerta in the Pirates of the Caribbean*, she already knew where it was.

Letter from J.B.Yeats to Ada Hannay.  (MS 3457/28)

Letter from J.B.Yeats to Ada Hannay.
(MS 3457/28)

This is a letter to Ada Hannay in which Yeats thanks her for her criticism – not of his art surely? – and hopes that her husband will soon visit to give Yeats ‘a good opportunity’ presumably to sketch him. The postscript reads: ‘I send you here with suggestions for hanging those sketches’. When the letter is turned upside down we can see Yeats’ sketch of the Hannay family struggling to examine poorly hung paintings. While most of the figures are hurriedly drawn, the picture includes an attractive portrait sketch of Mrs Hannay, observing her young daughters.

'A certain kind of portrait should be hung either very high up or very low down'.

‘A certain kind of portrait should be hung either very high up or very low down’.

Irish writers, possibly particularly Anglo-Irish writers, have long been the subject of enthusiastic research by Japanese scholars. James Hannay is no different. One such scholar is Masahito Yahaka , Director of the Department of Community Studies, Beppu University Junior College, who has visited Trinity on several occasions and whom we hope to welcome again next year as a Long Room HUB Fellow. He says he was attracted to Hannay ‘because he wrote about the conflict between Nationalists and Unionists with humour. He teaches how important humour is to solve human conflicts and to lead a meaningful life’. Masahito Yahaka maintains a website dedicated to Birmingham.

* Popular cultural reference (!).

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.

The Great Charter

IMG_0821 cropped and correctedThere are very few documents that have such global fame and influence as the Magna Carta. It was first drawn up by King John and the English barons on 15 June 1215 and therefore celebrates its 800th birthday today.

Magna Carta is feted as an international symbol of freedom and rights. Most of its 63 clauses are no longer valid in UK law, but its greatest legacy is that it established the principle of the rule of law. This principle established that the ruling government, or monarch, must obey the law like every other citizen, later a fundamental tenet of democracy. While it did not enshrine civil liberties, arguably it was a first step on the long and yet-to-be-completed journey.

At the time, however, it was never intended as a constitutional document. It was drawn up to address the grievances of the day – a peace treaty cobbled together between a king and his barons who were at risk of nudging each other into civil war. Few of its signatories could have imagined its later international legacy.

The Magna Carta was also not a static document, but was re-issued a number of times in the following years, by two different kings (and one regent) and for a variety of reasons, the last time being in 1300. A special version, the Magna Carta Hibernae, was even created for Ireland in 1216 with ‘Dublin’ substituted for ‘London’ in the text – unfortunately the original was a victim of the 1922 fire at the Four Courts.

IMG_0826M&ARL holds a copy of the 1300 edition of the ‘Magna Carta Inspeximus of Edward I’ within TCD MS 2352 (folios 5-14), which also contains further contemporary statutes of England. The volume itself is tiny, smaller than most mobile phones, which raises the questions ‘who would have owned such a thing’ and ‘how would it have been used?’ One theory held by M&ARL staff is that it could have been made for a lawyer, its diminutive format making it a useful portable reference work. A similar copy of the Statutes of England, beginning with the Magna Carta, is at Holkham Hall, Norfolk, and is known to have been used by law students.

IMG_0820 croppedThe Trinity copy has an interesting provenance. It was donated to the Library in the early twentieth century, but had previously been owned by at least two famous collectors; the 4th Earl of Ashburnham in the nineteenth century, Tom Martin of Palgrave in the eighteenth century and possibly Peter le Neve in the late seventeenth century.

A half-day symposium entitled ‘Magna Carta and the Making of a Metropolis’ will take place at the Wood Quay Venue, Dublin City Council on 2 July 2015.

Estelle Gittins