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 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.
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.
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.