Tag Archives: Ireland

Donkeys, Chintzes and a Mysterious Fragment: eighteenth-century trade and politics in Special Collections

In this week’s blog Dr Jonathan Conlin discusses a group visit by undergraduate History students to the Special Collections.

From the slightly soapy feel of vellum to the sweet smell of laid paper, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century archives are a feast for all the senses, not just sight. This week eight third-year history undergraduates joined me at Special Collections for a hands-on session looking at the economic life of eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland. The visit formed part of a year-long Special Subject addressing the great economic thinker Adam Smith (1723-90). In first semester we engage in a lot of close reading of Smith, in search of tools to help us answer the big questions: what is wealth? what is happiness? how can a process of development Smith called “the progress of opulence” make us better as well as richer human beings? Smith’s world can be an alien place, however. Special Collections allows us to touch, smell and even read vestiges of the trading activities which we discuss in the seminar room, week-in, week-out.

MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR4/1/1

MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR4/1/1

Starting with grand adventures in pursuit of profit, a 1695 contract [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR4/1/1] records Henry Temple’s £100 stake in a £6,000 entreprise: a round-trip voyage to India. Worth around £14,000 today, this was a significant investment in the cargo of two ships, the Scarborough and Rebecca, who would probably have returned with spices and printed cottons. Over the following century the Industrial Revolution would see such chintzes being woven at home in Britain, on machines, rather than handlooms – a process which in turn helped bring about the “Great Divergence” in the economic fortunes of Europe and Asia. These are all big questions we return to again and again in the course. Holding the paper in your hand, however, more urgent questions spring to mind: did the ships complete their perilous journey?

MS 155 AJ144/5A/1

MS 155 AJ144/5A/1

Fifteen years on and the War of Austrian Succession has broken out, with Britain and her allies fighting France in Spain and elsewhere. For government contractors like Joseph Cortissos there was no business like war business: large fortunes were to be made supplying armies in the field with donkeys, wine, horses, bread and other goods. Given the healthy margins, competition was tough, and Cortissos (a former diplomat) would have had to pull every string in his reach to get this prize. Written in Portuguese and English, his accounts of goods provided to allied English and Portuguese armies [MS 155  AJ144/5A] are clearly working documents, as the columns of scribbled sums on the back attest. Contracting was a risky business, however, and just as controversial as it is today in warzones like Iraq (heard of Halliburton, anyone?). Cortissos’ bills were never fully paid.

Detaiil from MS 64/3/1

Detail from MS 64/3/1

A collection of papers [MS 64/3] from Portlaoise (Ireland) dating from the late 1770s shows the grubbier side of Georgian “democracy” in all its glory. The Irish parliamentary seat had been controlled by the Earls of Drogheda, but in 1776 control partly passed to the Parnell family, whose papers are at Southampton. “Management” of elections required keeping close tabs on voters. Voters had first to be created: any Freeman of the Corporation could vote, so borough patrons simply created hundreds of (hopefully!) loyal voters, men (women did not get a look in) who could be trusted to place their vote (in public – no secret ballot then) for the right candidate. Once created, voters had to be watched, as long lists of votes with worried crosses next to the names of voters considered “doubtful” demonstrate. This machine ran on patronage, outright bribery and lots and lots of beer, consumed by the barrel over the week-long poll. Political life was lively and everyone had their part to play: but was it democracy?

And so to the vellum. Tucked at the back of the file is a long thin strip of vellum with what appears to be a list of names partly discernable on it. This clearly is (or rather was) a roll; you can see the join where the sheets of vellum were stitched together. But where is the rest? Is this the electoral roll of the borough? If so, why is it here in Southampton? Someone seems to have snatched it and then attempted to shred it. Why? And, having lost most of it, why did they keep one long, narrow, twisted piece? As a relic? A prize? The most exciting finds are those which defy description.

Dr Jonathan Conlin teaches modern history at the University of Southampton. His books include a biography of Adam Smith, for Reaktion’s Critical Lives series.

 

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Farewell to Killarney

After a busy month of travelling, it’s time to say adieu to Ireland. The following verse, by Henry Temple, second Viscount Palmerston, provides an appropriate goodbye. Palmerston visited Ireland several times: his family owned estates in County Sligo but he was also a keen traveller.

Upper Lake of Killarney

Killarney (Irish: Cill Airne, meaning “church of sloes”) is a town in County Kerry, southwestern Ireland.

Old Weir Bridge

The version of the poem held in the Archives is an undated copy in the hand of his son, Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, nineteenth-century Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister.

Glenaa, a mountain in Killarney

Adieu Killarney loved retreat

Where every grace and beauty meet

From thee I part perhaps no more

To view thy wild romantic shore

To float upon the silvery plain

Or thread thy trifled isles again

Along whose haunted margins green

A fairer band of nymphs are seen

Than decked Cythera’s myrtle grove

To beauty sacred and to love

But though a wanderer hence I fly

To realms beneath a distant sky

Yet fancy oft in colours bright

Shall paint the moments of delight

That saw me midst thy social train

A pleased and willing guest remain

Shall oft recall the blushing grace

Of each engaging artless face

That smiled along thine opening glades

Or danced beneath thy checkered shades

And from the crowded scenes of life

The haunts of dullness noise and strife

My wandering thoughts shall oft remove

With fond delight again to rove

Where every grace and beauty meet

In sweet Killarney’s loved retreat

[MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR23AA/2/2]

Map of Killarney showing its hills and lakes

All images taken from John Carr, The Stranger in Ireland, 1806 [Rare Books DA 975]

Ireland in Print

Special Collections at the University of Southampton holds rich resources for the study of the political, social and cultural history of Ireland. There are substantial collections of manuscript papers relating to the Irish estates of the Temple and Parnell families, particularly in Sligo and Dublin (MS 62 Broadlands Archives and MS 64 Congleton Manuscripts); and much political material in the papers of the first Duke of Wellington (MS 61). The papers of the Earls of Mornington (MS 226, MS 299), and the papers of the family of Richard Wellesley, first Marquis Wellesley (MS 63 Carver Manuscripts) also contain complementary material on estate management.

Mullagmore, Co. Sligo. Copy of a plan by Mr Nimmo, January 1825 BR139/8

Mullagmore, County Sligo. Copy of a plan by Mr Nimmo, January 1825 (MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR139/8)

There are also many printed resources relating to Ireland in Special Collections which may be less well-known. The following examples demonstrate the range of material available:

The History and Antiquities of Ireland... Walter Harris,, (Dublin, 1764 ) Rare books DA 920

The History and Antiquities of Ireland by Walter Harris Dublin (1764) Rare Books DA 920

The Rare Books sequence in Special Collections extends to approximately 4,000 items, ranging in date from the late 15th century to the 20th century. A number of these books were published in Ireland, or provide an insight into Irish history. The title page, above, is from The History and Antiquities of Ireland, Illustrated with Cuts of Ancient Medals, Urns, &c..: With the History of the Writers of Ireland… Written in Latin by Sir James Ware; Newly Translated into English, Revised and Improved… And Continued Down to the Beginning of the Present Century, by Walter Harris, Dublin (1764) Rare Books DA 920.

Irish matters were strongly reflected in the political, social, and economic questions facing Great Britain in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Wellington Pamphlets, which were presented to the first Duke of Wellington by authors and interested individuals, are a valuable source for contemporary views. They date from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century and number more than 3,000 items. Hundreds of these pamphlets relate to Ireland: and they cover a wealth of topics, from agriculture, drainage, and land improvements; to the condition of the Catholic and Protestant churches; Catholic Emancipation; harbours, trade, and industry; schools and education; distress, emigration, dissent and rebellion; reform; elections; government and law; poor law, poor rates and relief; medical relief and reform; and public health – to name a few.

Royal Dublin Society, Report from The Committee of Agriculture and Planting, 1 March 1832 (Wellington Pamphlet 963/9 pp.4-5):

Royal Dublin Society, Report from the Committee of Agriculture and Planting, 1 March 1832 (Rare Books Wellington Pamphlet 963/9 pp.4-5)

This plan of a model cottage is taken from the Royal Dublin Society Report from the Committee of Agriculture and Planting, 1 March 1832 (Rare Books Wellington Pamphlet 963/9 pp.4-5). The report notes:

“It may assist such landed proprietors as are desirous of providing comfortable habitations for their tenants and cottagers, to refer them to the annexed plan of a cottage (which may be enlarged or reduced as circumstances may require)…the system of allotting small portions of land to the cottages of labourers is making considerable progress in England with a view of diminishing the burthen of the poor rates”

The Potatoe Plant, Its Uses and Properties: together with the cause of the present malady.. By Alfred Smee F.R.S., London 1846, Perkins SB 211.P8

The Potatoe Plant, Its Uses and Properties: Together with the Cause of the Present Malady.. by Alfred Smee F.R.S., London (1846) Rare Books Perkins SB 211.P8

Walter Frank Perkins (1865-1946) gifted the Perkins Agricultural Library of books on agriculture, botany and forestry to the University College of Southampton, and published the bibliography British and Irish Writers On Agriculture in 1929His collection of some 2,000 books and 40 periodicals, ranges in date from the 17th century to the late 19th century. It includes varied works on the condition of Ireland and Irish farming, for example, on the cultivation of crops such as potatoes, flax, and grasses; concerning Irish peat and turf bogs; Irish manufactures; population; and poor houses.  Above is the frontispiece to Alfred Smee’s The Potatoe Plant, Its Uses and Properties: Together with the Cause of the Present Malady.. London (1846) Rare Books Perkins SB 211.P8.

'Railway Map of Ireland and England’, W.H.Lizars, Edinburgh, March 1863, (MS64/557/1)

‘Railway Map of Ireland and England’, W.H.Lizars, Edinburgh, March 1863, (MS 64/557/1)

Other interesting printed material relating to Ireland can be found in our manuscript collections, such as this printed map of Ireland, dated 1863, part of the Congleton Manuscripts (MS 64/557/1).

Irish political periodicals feature in the papers of Evelyn Ashley, M.P. (1836-1907) as part of the Broadlands Archives (MS 62 BR61; BR148/12). Evelyn succeeded to Lord Palmerston’s estates at Broadlands and Romsey in Hampshire, and Classiebawn, County Sligo, in 1888.  A Liberal M.P., he was defeated in the election for the Isle of Wight in 1885, and joined the Liberal Unionists when Gladstone announced his adoption of the principle of Home Rule in 1886. He unsuccessfully fought seats in a number of later elections and retained a close interest in politics until his death in 1907.

Papers of Evelyn Ashley, (MS 62/BR 61) including Notes from Ireland...; The Liberal Unionist; and Home Rule Bill, c. 1893

Papers of Evelyn Ashley, (MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR 61) including Notes from Ireland…; The Liberal Unionist; and Home Rule Bill, c.1893

Evelyn’s personal copies of these periodicals are an interesting source for the political questions of the 1880s and 90s. Notes from Ireland “A Record of the Sayings and Doings of the Parnellite Party in the Furtherance of their “Separatist” Policy for Ireland; and of Facts Connected with the Country. For the Information of the Imperial Parliament, the Press, and Public Generally”, survives for the years 1886-1891 (MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR 61/3/4, BR148/12). The newssheet had been established in 1886 and was published by the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union. Evelyn’s copies of The Liberal Unionist survive for the years 1887-1892 (BR61/3/6). The other item pictured here is a printed version of the (second)Home Rule Bill, dating from c.1893.

For details of our related manuscript sources for Ireland see our online guide: Sources about Ireland: Information Sheet.

Literature of Ireland: Spotlight on William Butler Yeats

This month we are celebrating all things Irish, and this week we are focusing on Irish literature in the Special Collections with the spotlight on William Butler Yeats’ works in our Rare Books collection.

W.B. Yeats, November 1896, The Celtic Twilights by W.B. Yeats [Rare Book X PR5704]

W.B. Yeats, November 1896

“Years afterwards, when I was ten or twelve years old and in London, I would remember Sligo with tears, and when I began to write, it was there I hoped to find my audience.” [Reveries over Childhood and Youth, by W.B. Yeats, 1916, Page 27, Rare Books PR 5904]

Son of John Butler Yeats and Susan Mary, née Pollexfen, William Butler Yeats was born in Sandymount, County Dublin, on 13 June 1865. The Yeats family consisted of clergymen and lawyers and married into links across Irish Protestants. While William’s mother came from a wealthy family involved in the milling and shipping industry, William’s father had studied law but abandoned it to study at Heatherley’s Art School in London.

Soon after his birth, William and his family moved to the Pollexfen home at Merville, Sligo to stay with extended family. William always thought of Merville as his childhood home and it was the subject of many poems.

Yeats was raised to support the Protestant Ascendancy, at a time when it was experiencing a power-shift. Major land reform was being demanded by the Land League, and Parliament passed laws that enabled most tenant farmers to purchase their lands and lowered the rents of others. This later led to the growth of the Home Rule movement with Charles Stewart Parnell (Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party), and the Catholics becoming more prominent. These events undoubtedly had a weighty effect on Yeats and his poetry, and his reflections on Irish character.

Poems by W.B. Yeats, 1865-1939 [Rare Book x PR 5902]

Poems by W.B. Yeats (1895) Rare Books PR 5902

Returning to London in 1887 with the rest of his family, Yeats helped to form societies like the Irish Literary Society of London, preaching to his circle the importance of writing poems on your familiar surroundings rather than on landscapes you dream of. Yeats’ poems also had a focus on mythology and occultism, an interest that grew from his time at Erasmus Smith High School in Dublin. This can be seen in The Celtic Twilight, originally published in 1902.

The Celtic Twilight

The poems in The Celtic Twilight explore the strange and elfin realm of fairies, ghosts, and spirits. Yeats starts the book by explaining how he has “desired, like every artist, to create a little world out of the beautiful, pleasant, and significant things of this marred and clumsy world, and to show in a vision something of the face of Ireland to any of my own people who would look where I bid them” (Page I, Rare Books PR 5904).

The title refers to the hours before dawn, when Druids, members of the high-ranking professional class in ancient Celtic cultures, conducted their rituals. Referring to the dreamy and mysterious atmosphere that is often associated with Irish identity and prose, the volume is based on a diary that Yeats kept while rambling through the west country of Ireland. Here is a quote from ‘A Visionary’, the fourth text in The Celtic Twilight.

“The faeries in whom he believes have given him many subjects, notably Thomas of Ercildoune sitting motionless in the twilight while a young and beautiful creature leans softly out of the shadow and whispers in his ear. He had delighted above all in the strong effects of colour: spirits who have upon their heads instead of hair the feathers of peacocks; a phantom reaching from a swirl of flame towards a star; a spirit passing with a globe of iridescent crystal – symbol of the soul – half shut within his hand.” [Page 19]

Reveries over Childhood and Youth

Yeats published Reveries over Childhood and Youth in 1916. In this work he writes about his memories of living in London and Ireland, and moments shared with family members.

“A poignant memory came upon me the other day while I was passing the drinking-fountain near Holland Park, for there I and my sister had spoken together of our longing for Sligo and our hatred of London. I know we were both very close to tears and remember with wonder, for I had never known anyone that cared for such mementoes, that I longed for a sod of earth from some field I knew, something of Sligo to hold in my hand.” [Page 53, Rare Books PR 5904]

Reveries over Childhood and Youth by W.B. Yeats (1916) Rare Books PR 5904

Reveries over Childhood and Youth by W.B. Yeats (1916) Rare Books PR 5904

On the Boiler

“When I was a child and wandering about the Sligo Quays I saw a printed, or was it a painted notice? On such and such a day ‘the great McCoy will speak on the old boiler’.” [On the Boiler, by W.B. Yeats [1939] Page 9, Rare Books PR 5904]

Published during a time when Ireland was fighting an economic war with Britain, and experiencing its first elected president as head of state; Yeats poured his disappointments with Irish society into his work On the Boiler, which includes chapter titles such as ‘Tomorrow’s Revolution’ and ‘Ireland after the Revolution’.

“I was six years in the Irish Senate; I am not ignorant of politics elsewhere, and on other grounds I have some right to speak. I say to those that shall rule here: If ever Ireland again seems molten wax, reverse the process of revolution. Do not try to pour Ireland into any political system. Think first how many able men with public minds the country has, how many it can cope to have in the near future, and mould your system upon those men. It does not matter how you get them, but get them. Republics, Kingdoms, Soviets, Corporate States, Parliaments, are trash, as Hugo said of something else ‘not worth one blade of grass that God gives for the nest of the linnet.’ These men, whether six or six thousand, are the core of Ireland, are Ireland itself.” [Page 13]

Yeats was dissatisfied with the first printed edition, produced in 1938, and all but four copies were destroyed. Following Yeats’ death, in autumn 1939, a second edition was issued by the Cuala Press. The front cover was designed by Yeats’ brother, Jack B. Yeats.

On the Boiler, by W.B. Yeats, 1916 [Rare book X PR 5904]

On the Boiler, by W.B. Yeats [1939] Rare Books PR 5904

A passage to Ireland

This month we celebrate all things Irish and we’re kicking off by looking at some eighteenth and nineteenth century accounts of travel to the Emerald Isle.  Various passages, such as Fishguard-Rosslare or Liverpool-Belfast, are available but, for today at least, our travellers will be sailing from Holyhead to Dublin.

Dublin in John Carr, The Stranger in Ireland, 1806 [Rare Book DA 975]

Henry Temple, second Viscount Palmerston made the crossing several times – as well as being landowners in Broadlands in Romsey, his family owned estates in County Sligo.  He writes to his wife, Mary, from Dublin in 1788:

I just write a few lines to tell you that I arrived here this morning about eleven perfectly well after having been 36 hours on board the packet.  On first coming out on Monday night the sea off Holyhead was uncommonly rough and made me very sick […] Yesterday the weather was fine and we were coming on with a tolerable fair wind tho slowly and had hopes of being here in the afternoon when the wind died away and what little there was came directly against us so that tho we were very near Dublin at 4 o’clock yesterday we could not get up till 11 this morning.  There was only one passenger beside myself that I saw anything of and he not a conversable man so that I was very glad when the business was over. [MS 62/BR20/5/7]

Packet-boat (or mailboat) was the main mode of transport; these were medium-sized vessels used for mail as well as passengers and freight.  Being a sailboat, the journey was heavily dependent on good weather and this is a recurrent theme in the accounts.  Johann Kohl (1808-78), a German travel writer, historian, and geographer, considers the Irish Sea has a reputation for being “particularly rough and stormy” although nervous passengers should be reassured that “those who have been little at sea are always more anxious than they need to be in an uproar of the elements.” [Travels in Ireland by J.G. Kohl, 1844 Rare Book DA 975]

The rare books prove a good resource for this topic.  Sir John Carr (1772–1832), an English barrister and travel writer, gives an account of his passage in 1805.

The distance was only eighty miles to Ireland: the treacherous winds at starting promised to carry us over in nine hours, but violated its promise by, of all other causes of detention the most insipid, a dead calm, for two tedious days and nights, which was solely attributed by the sailors to our having a mitred prelate on board. [John Carr, The Stranger in Ireland, 1806]

Bay of Dublin, taken from Dalkey in John Carr, The Stranger in Ireland, 1806

Despite unpredictable and often unpleasantly rough weather, many writers feel duly compensated by the beautiful vistas on arrival.  The following account comes again from Kohl:

The Bay of Dublin […] presents a beautiful site to the stranger, especially if he contemplates it on a cheerful morning, from the deck of a steamer in which he has passed a story night.  The land, stretching out in two peninsulas, extends both its arms to meet him.  In the southern hand it bears the harbor and town of Kingstown, and in the northern the habour and town of Howth.            

Sir John Carr was similarly impressed:

As we entered the bay of Dublin, a brilliant sun, and almost cloudless sky, unfolded one of the finest land and sea prospects I ever beheld.

We hopes that the weather was kind to you during your passage and you’re not been left with any nauseous that would impede your exploration of Ireland over the next few weeks.  Don’t miss our post next week when we’ll be delving into the literature of Ireland.

The Wellington archive and Ireland

It was 35 years ago, on St Patrick’s Day 1983, that the archive of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, arrived at the University of Southampton.

Wellington Papers, 1828 [MS 61 WP1/950]

Group of Wellington Papers, 1828 [MS 61 WP1/950]

This collection of around 100,000 political, military, official and diplomatic papers for the first Duke was accepted for the nation in lieu of duty on the estate of the seventh Duke of Wellington and allocated to the University of Southampton by the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The official opening of the Wellington Suite, the archive accommodation created to house the archive took place in May 1983, and was attended by the Duke and Duchess of Wellington.

Official event to mark the arrival of the Wellington archive, 1983

Official opening for the Wellington archive: 1983: Bernard Naylor, University Librarian, Professor Smith (hidden), Chris Woolgar, Archivist, and the Duke of Wellington looking at display of papers

Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) was born in Ireland, the son of Garret Wesley, first Earl of Mornington, and Anne Hill, who was the daughter of the first Viscount Dungannon. The archive forms the principal collection of papers of Wellington and covers all aspects of his career from 1790 until his death in 1852. Papers relating to Ireland feature heavily within the collection, ranging from maps and plans to extensive series of papers on parliamentary and government business.

Coloured sketch plan of Dublin Castle and adjoining barracks, March 1844 [MS 61 WP15/26]

Coloured sketch plan of Dublin Castle and adjoining barracks, March 1844 [MS 61 WP15/26]

Wellington started his career as aide-de-camp to two successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Westmorland and Earl Fitzwilliam, 1787-93. Between 1790 and 1797 he sat in the Irish Parliament as Member for the family seat of Trim. Wellington was Chief Secretary for Ireland, 1807-9, managing the government interest in Parliament at Westminster and government business in Ireland. Within this material is much on security and maintaining the peace during a period of turbulence and threat of invasion by Napoleonic France.

In a letter from Wellington to Lord Hawkesbury, Secretary of State for Home Affairs, 23 April 1807, he sends details of the preparations made in Cork to deal with the threat of invasion:

“There are two regiments of cavalry and ten battalions of infantry at Cork and in the neighbourhood, which could be assembled at any point in the course of a few hours.

There is a depot of artillery at Cork, a heavy brigade at Fermoy, and a depot at Clonmell, about forty miles from Cork, so that there are means of defending that part of the kingdom if the fleet should turn out to be an enemy.”

[MS 61 WP1/167/18]

Between 1818 and his death in 1852, Wellington held a number of political offices and official posts, including serving twice as Prime Minister. Several thousand letters for the period 1819-32 relate to Ireland, including political, economic and social discussions and material on the introduction of the Catholic Relief  Bill. The descriptions of this material can be accessed through the Wellington Papers Database.

First page of draft Catholic emancipation act drafted by Wellington and Robert Peel [MS 61 WP1/993/80]

First page of draft by Wellington and Robert Peel of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, January 1829  [MS 61 WP1/993/80]

The main series of Wellington’s correspondence for the period 1833 onwards includes material relating to the Irish representative peerage, politics and elections in Ireland, parliamentary bills, church reform, education, the Irish church, tithes, law and order and military defence, the Young Ireland movement and the prospect of a rising in 1848, as well as the Wellington monument in Dublin.

Report of the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick (London, 1820) [Wellington Pamphlet 1104/5]

Report of the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick (London, 1820) [Wellington Pamphlet 1104/5]

The connection between Wellington and Ireland also can be found amongst papers for the numerous societies and organisations with which he was associated. One such was the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick set up to provide “relief for the poor and distressed Irish residing in and around London, and that of their children”. Wellington was a Vice President of the Society in 1820 and was voted as chairman for the following year. The list of subscribers for 1820 listed his donation as 121 guineas: a donation of 20 guineas made the donor a governor for life.

Anniversary festival of the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick [Wellington Pamphlet 1104/5]

Anniversary festival of the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick [Wellington Pamphlet 1104/5]

The Society held an annual festival, usually on St Patrick’s Day. The festival in 1820, held at the City of London Tavern with George Canning in the chair, was delayed until the 6 May due to the death of the King.  The Investigator or Quarterly magazine for 1820 reported that:

“The children were, after dinner, paraded through the room. Their appearance was exceedingly interesting; all of them being clean, healthy and robust.  Several fine young women, who were educated by the society, who are now earning a comfortable and reputable livelihood closed the procession… The Duke of Wellington was nominated chairman for the ensuing year, which office was handsomely accepted by His Grace.  The treasurer then read the list of subscriptions, the total of which, including a bequest of £500 by Captain Morritt, was £1,800.”

The Wellington archive is complemented by a number of other significant manuscript collections that relate to Ireland. These include the Congleton archive (MS 64) which contains personal, family, estate and political papers for the Parnell family, Barons Congleton, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century; the Broadlands archives (MS 62); the Carver manuscripts (MS 63), a collection of papers of the family of Wellington’s older brother Richard Wellesley, first Marquis Wellesley; and papers of the Earls of Mornington (MS 226 and MS 299).

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Centenary of the Easter Rising

This year marks the centenary of the Easter Rising.  This was an armed insurrection mounted by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic. It took place over the Easter weekend – back in 1916 this was 24-29 April – Easter is a movable feast and it fell later in the year.

sackville-street-crop

During the Easter Rising the rebel headquarters was the General Post Office (GPO) on Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street).

The Special Collections hold material relating to Ireland spanning five centuries.  This image comes from one of Hartley Library’s rare books Ireland: its scenery, character (vol. 2) by a husband and wife team, Anna Maria and Samuel Carter Hall published in London, in the early 1840s.

If we delve into the Broadlands archives we find, among the papers of the Tory politician Colonel Wilfrid Ashley, Baron Mount Temple, correspondence relating to those active in the uprising. General Sir John Grenfell Maxwell was sent to Dublin under orders from the British Government to quell the Rising and pacify Ireland. He writes to Ashley a private secretary in the War Office the following year about Constance Markievicz, the revolutionary nationalist, suffragette and socialist:

I have little doubt that she exercised a personal attraction and appealed to the emotional side of many young men who joined up with her, and took part in the rebellion who might otherwise not have done so […] She was tried and convicted, had her sex been different the sentence would have probably been confirmed. The kindest thing is to look on her as mad, but dangerous.  [MS 62 BR 77/11]

Markievicz had been sentenced to death but this was commuted to life imprisonment on account of her gender. She was released from prison in 1917 as part of a general amnesty; in 1919 she became the first Irish female Cabinet Minister as Minister for Labour. She died, of peritonitis, in 1927.

Mary Gilmartin from Creevykeel wrote to Wilfred Ashley in June 1916 thanking him for the character references Ashley gave to “the boys”, including her own arrested during the rebellion. Seven have been released and eight have been sent to Bala, Wales; she hopes Ashley will help to have them released:

They [have] done nothing and its terrible to think the Government are keeping them so long; the most of the boys are the support of their widow mothers.  [MS 62 BR150/12/14]

Ashley was a unionist and active in promoting opposition to the creation of an Irish free state; maybe he felt that young men from his family’s Co Sligo estates must have been arrested unjustly.

four-courts-crop

Rebel forces took up positions elsewhere, including at the Four Courts. The Four Courts building was later occupied by Republican forces during the Irish Civil War in 1922. The building suffered heavy damage during the subsequent bombardment with a massive explosion in the west wing of the building resulting in the destruction of the Irish Public Record Office.

More than 2,000 were killed or injured and the leaders were executed.  The Rising is often seen as a key catalyst in the foundation of the Republic of Ireland.

The Special Collections contains two substantial collections of papers relating to the Irish estates owned by the Temple and the Parnell families. As well as a rich source for the study of estate management, these two collections provide a wealth of material relating to the politics, social and cultural history of Ireland. Further Irish political material can be found in the semi-official papers of the first Duke of Wellington, who was Chief Secretary, 1807-9, and Prime Minister, 1828-30. Two other small collections, those of the Earls of Mornington and Richard Wellesley, first Marquis Wellesley, contain complementary material on estate management. For further information about all these collections, please see our research guide.