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

Catalóg Lámhscríbhínní na hÉireann ar líne / Medieval Irish Manuscripts Online Cataloguing Project

Since 2013 work has been underway in M&ARL to make available online the full catalogue of Trinity College Library’s significant medieval to early modern Irish language manuscripts. The catalogue, previously only available in the 1921 published format (Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College Dublin TK Abbott & EJ Gwynn, Dublin: 1921), is expected to be complete in 2016 and will greatly enhance how scholars and students can search for, and access, catalogue information to these manuscripts.

TCD MS 1282, fol 55r, the Annals of Ulster. Describing the events of 1014, dominated by the Battle of Clontarf.

TCD MS 1282, fol 55r, the Annals of Ulster. Describing the events of 1014, dominated by the Battle of Clontarf.

Trinity College Library is a major repository of over 240 manuscripts in Irish, ranging from medieval to early modern volumes which include the Book of Leinster, (TCD MS 1339, 12th century), the Annals of Ulster (TCD MS 1282, late 15th/early 16th century),the Yellow Book of Lecan (TCD MS 1318, late 14th/early 15th century) and the Book of the de Burgos (TCD MS 1440, 16th century). The purpose of the project is to make available through MARLOC full catalogue descriptions for the entire medieval Irish collection. Currently, summary descriptions for all of the Irish manuscripts are already available, with full descriptions for many, and further descriptions being added weekly. There are also links in the descriptions to digitised images from the manuscripts on ISOS and on Digital Collections TCD When complete, the online resource will be fully searchable (users can search by manuscript number, name, placename, title, first lines, etc.) and will contain much addenda from the published catalogue.

Caoimhe Ní Ghormáin

TCD MS 1440, fol 21r, the Book of the de Burgos. Portrait of Tomás Mac Emoind

TCD MS 1440, fol 21r, the Book of the de Burgos. Portrait of Tomás Mac Emoind.


It’s that time again.

Ah, exam time – when the air becomes sweeter, the sun becomes warmer and every element in the created universe cries out to be enjoyed. But not by the harried student.

T’was ever thus.

Here, from the archives, we present the study timetable, from May 1826, of Hugh Edward Prior who entered Trinity College Dublin in the 1820s and who won ‘schol’ in 1825. His father was Thomas Prior, the professor of Greek and lecturer in divinity (and a man who referred to the provost, Thomas Elrington, in his diary, as a ‘tyrannical knave’).

Young Mr Prior was preparing for his final examinations; he was eventually to graduate BA 1827, MA 1831.


The subjects upon which Matthew was spending his days were astronomy, Greek and Joseph Butler’s philosophical work  Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed (1736).

It is clear that Matthew Prior had a healthy attitude to work-life balance, so necessary for the stressed student. Not only did he regularly – almost daily – dine with friends, he also scheduled time to go to Chapel; his first recorded period dedicated to his Greek studies saw him read 630 lines of text ‘notwithstanding dancing &c’. Even more importantly, like a good son, he recorded  time spent ‘walking about with Mother’.

This little record is part of the evidence for the influence of Methodism in Ireland generally and in Trinity specifically in the early decades of the nineteenth century. The systematic approach to doing the right thing, in the right way, to become a person likely to be of service to one’s community was a characteristic of this branch of evangelical Protestantism. A near contemporary of Prior’s in TCD, Matthew Maine Fox, kept a commonplace book between the years 1820-1825, which reveals the same religious influence and which includes ‘rules for the regulation of Mr Fox’s time to be adopted by him with the Divine Assistance’; this remains in private hands but a copy was presented to the Library in 2006.

Jane Maxwell




Emperors, operas and illumination: Brian Boru at Trinity College Dublin

Boru Image from Cartoon Saloon Feb 2014

Parnell was an ‘uncrowned king’ and O’Connell the ‘king of the beggars’, but Ireland had only one emperor: Brian Boru!


2014 marks the millennium anniversary of the pyrrhic victory and death of Ireland’s most celebrated king at the Battle of Clontarf. To commemorate the occasion the Library has curated an exhibition, on Brian’s life and legend, in the Long Room of the Old Library (between April and October), entitled Emperor of the Irish.


A highlight of the exhibition will be the ninth-century Book of Armagh, which is the only object known for certain to have been in Brian’s presence.The cream of the Library’s Irish manuscript collection will also be on display, including the twelfth-century Book of Leinster and the wonderfully illuminated sixteenth-century Book of the De Burgos. In addition, visitors will have the opportunity to view some curiosities that testify to Brian’s enduring legend, including a 1960s Mexican comic book and a nineteenth-century opera that both bear his name. 


An exciting feature of the exhibition will be a graphic interpretation of Brian’s life and legend by Cartoon Saloon (producers of the Academy Award nominated film The Secret of Kells). As you can see from this world-exclusive preview, the monks of Armagh probably had good reason to acclaim Brian as Imperator Scotorum — Emperor of the Irish!


Denis Casey

Mahaffy and Music


John Pentland Mahaffy is renowned as one of the more colourful characters in the history of Trinity College Dublin. A classicist who ended his career as Provost (1914-1919), his interest in music is less well known but had considerable beneficial impact on the development of the Library’s music collections.

Gall V 9 40

When Sir Robert Prescott Stewart died in 1894 it was Mahaffy who proposed to the Board that Ebenezer Prout should succeed him as Professor of Music, submitting several of Prout’s books on music theory as testimonials. Prout held the post until his death in December 1909, and in his will stipulated that Trinity College should be given the option of purchasing his extensive music library “at a reasonable price”. Prout had valued the collection at £1000, but Mahaffy on behalf of the College agreed to buy it for half that amount. He raised over £300 from friends for the purpose, and the Board supplied the remainder. The Bursar paid a further £60 out of College funds for a new bookcase to house the collection: this was placed down the centre of the Long Room where it remained until the 1960s, when the collection was transferred to the Berkeley Library basement and the bookcase was removed to the basement of Townley Hall.

Prout M 45

This was Mahaffy’s most important contribution to the Library’s music holdings, but it was not the first. In June 1903 he had paid 30 shillings for the manuscript of ‘Caractacus’ by the Earl of Mornington, written in 1764, the year of Mornington’s appointment as the first Professor of Music. The manuscript is currently on display in the ‘In Tune’ exhibition.

Mahaffy may also have had a hand in the deposit of James Goodman’s collection of folk tunes in 1897. When the Irish folk music scholar Donal O’Sullivan attempted to consult the Goodman collection in the 1940s he discovered that the terms of the deposit stipulated that the volumes could only be seen in the presence of Professor Mahaffy. As Mahaffy had died in 1919, it was found necessary to make contact with Goodman’s grandson, who formally presented the manuscripts to the College in September 1944.

In Tune, sponsored by KBC Bank, runs until April 2014.The exhibition is also available online.Full details of the accompanying lecture series are available here.

Roy Stanley

Music Librarian

You can listen to an interview with Roy Stanley about the In Tune exhibition on the Arena show on RTE Radio 1 14 January 2014. The interview begins at 23.30.