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

Friends indeed! Unprecedented philanthropic response secures unique artefact for Ireland

TCD MS 11500One of the few remaining manuscripts from the medieval Cistercian abbey of St Mary ‘near Dublin’ has returned to Ireland after four centuries.

Lost to the world of scholarship since the 18th century, the fourteenth-century St Mary’s Abbey manuscript has not been in Ireland since the 16th century. It is the first Irish medieval manuscript to have been offered for sale in over a century.

Professor Seán Duffy, Jane Maxwell and Dr Bernard Meehan

Professor Seán Duffy, Jane Maxwell and Dr Bernard Meehan

The level of enthusiasm among scholars, across the university and among the wider historically-minded community in Ireland, for the return of this manuscript to Dublin, was given practical expression once the sale had been announced last Summer: the Library turned to its alumni and friends, seeking the necessary support for this acquisition, and the response was unprecedented. Apart from the generosity of  departments and groups within College, support was also received from the Friends of the National Collections of Ireland, the Cistercian Order in Ireland, Glenstal Abbey and the Sisters of Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary in Roscrea

IMG_9718 croppedIMG_9719 croppedA press launch announcing the acquisition, on 19 March, was followed by an event to thank the donors who were invited to a special viewing of the new arrival. They were then addressed by the Keeper of Manuscripts Bernard Meehan, the Professor of Medieval History at Trinity Seán Duffy and scholar Br Colmán Ó Clábaigh, OSB.

Jane Maxwell

Links to media coverage


UTV Ireland

The Independent

The Irish Examiner

The Herald

Trinity College Library announces major acquisition of Samuel Beckett papers

Trinity College Library Dublin Announces Major Acquisition of Sa

Dr Bernard Meehan, Keeper of Manuscripts and Head of Research Collections with Professor Stanley E. Gontarski

Trinity College Library has acquired the Samuel Beckett manuscripts and the working library of renowned Beckett scholar Stanley E. Gontarski.

The announcement yesterday generated a lot of media interest. Jane Maxwell of M&ARL appeared on RTE One’s Morning Edition (you can see the interview from 01:03:20 into the programme), and a report appeared on the RTE Six One News (from 30:15 into the programme).

Other pieces appeared in the Irish Times, 98FM and on the Trinity College website.

Professor Stanley E Gontarski is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University, and has twice been awarded Fulbright Professorships. He was among Samuel Beckett’s closest theatrical associates and is arguably the greatest living Beckett scholar.

Trinity College Library Dublin Announces Major Acquisition of SaThe highpoint of the new acquisition is that it includes several drafts of Beckett’s 1980 work Ohio Impromptu. This ‘playlet’ was written specifically at Professor Gontarski’s request for performance at an academic symposium in Columbus, Ohio, held in honour of Beckett’s 75th birthday. These early drafts, heavily annotated, are new to Beckett scholarship.

Also in this new acquisition is Gontarski’s  correspondence with Beckett from 1972; a copy of Three Plays (1984) revised by Beckett; and the proofs of Gontarski’s critical edition of Endgame, heavily revised and annotated by himself, Beckett and Beckett’s biographer James Knowlson


Trinity Library has long been among only a handful of world destinations for research into Samuel Beckett’s literary archives and correspondence. The acquisition of Professor Gontarski’s manuscripts, along his entire working library of books by and about Beckett -including signed first editions – strengthens further the position of College in the field of Beckett studies.

The Library was enabled to acquire this collection due to Gontarski’s strong affection for the College and its place in Beckett’s life and work

The purchase of the Library material has been funded from the bequests of two notable alumni and former members of staff of the College: the historian Professor R B McDowell and Mr William O’Sullivan, formerly Keeper of Manuscripts.

An exhibition of highlights from the collection is on display in the Long Room.

M&ARL’s Beckett collections can be explored through the online catalogue MARLOC

Jane Maxwell

Waiting for Murphy

Beckett rear view

We admit to an oh-so-brief, and unworthy, frisson of covetousness at the news that Reading University has been successful in acquiring at auction the manuscript draft of Samuel Beckett’s novel Murphy. At the same time we whole-heartedly rejoice, as must all who are interested in Beckett research, that this manuscript is at long last available for study. Congratulations to Reading!

The Library has a close relationship with Beckett International Foundation at Reading.  In the 1990s the Beckett Estate (the author’s nephew Edward Beckett and niece Caroline Murphy) – very generously – donated to each institution half of a body of notes and diaries of Beckett’s; the institutions then provided one another with copies of the part of the gift each had received.

Trinity College Library is one of the Beckett world’s great destinations.  The Beckett collection in Trinity, based on a gift by the author himself in the 1960s, has been built up over the years by purchase, bequest and donation until its international repute is of the highest order. A key distinguishing characteristic is the presence of so much personal correspondence – the letters from Beckett to the poet Thomas MacGreevy, and those to the theatre director and translator Barbara Bray, are central to any biographical study of the Nobel Laureate, and contain much that gives insight into Beckett’s creative process and literary work.  There are also literary papers – including the highly significant draft of Imagination dead imagine;  there are photographs; notes taken by Beckett’s students in Trinity in the 1920s; College exercises; a prompt copy for the first performance of Godot;  there is even a little programme for a boxing tournament in which 10-year-old Beckett took part.

In the Long Room at the moment is a small exhibition drawn from the Library’s Beckett materials. This was installed to coincide with, and with the support of, the third annual Beckett Summer School to be run by the Department of Drama Film and Music in Trinity in August. The Library will be further involved in this venture by facilitating a class to be led by Dirk van Hulle, Professor of English Literature at the University of Antwerp’s Centre for Manuscript Genetics, and  Mark Nixon,  Reader in Modern Literature at the University of Reading and  Director of the Beckett International Foundation; both are co-directors of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project (BDMP) with which the Library also collaborated.

Jane Maxwell