Friday, March 1, 2019

Maurice Hayes and the GAA

As well as being an outstanding public servant and commentator Maurice Hayes had an abiding interest in Irish culture, the Irish language and the GAA, particularly in relation to his native County Down. The archival collection now with the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway reflects those interests, in particular his abiding interest in County Down. 

As a player he was a hurler with Kilclif, and became the first player outside of the Ards to play on the Down county team. His interest in the GAA continued in Queens and later on his return to Downpatrick as a teacher. This interest in hurling may have been inspired by his father Michael, a native of Kildwan (near Bunmahon) County Waterford, while his mother’s links with her native Listowel probably inspired an interest in football. 



The GAA was the first organisation that Maurice became deeply involved in, and from an early age. He was a County Down delegate at the famous (or infamous) 1947 GAA Congress, which decided to hold the All-Ireland football final in New York that year. Although only a teenager at the time his abilities were noted, and he was Assistant Secretary of the Down County Board by 1950. In his report to the County AGM published in the “Irish Press” on 12 January 1951, he gave details of the new club football league introduced and played in 1950. “Ten teams were selected to take part and special by-laws were drawn up and approved”. He went on to report “there was a full programme of senior football in the county, catering for an average of 150 players each Sunday, either by way of league, championship or county matches”. This was followed by an inter-barony league, introducing players to a high standard of games, as well as better medical care for injured players and the introduction of track-suits to allow substitutes get on the field quickly. 


Becoming Vice-Chairman of the Ulster Council in 1955, Maurice continued with others to support the development of the county team, encouraging players and officials to think big. One of those players, Brian Morgan, was interviewed by Fabian Boyle in 1970 and recalled in impact of Maurice. Brian had come onto the County Team in 1957, along with household names like James McCartan, Paddy Doherty and Tony Hadden, who had been suspended for playing soccer. “The talent was there all right, but it could just as well have been squandered. The pieces did not just fall into place; it took three years of effort, experiment, persistence and organisation to slot the right man into the best position, and produce the magic formula.” 


“Maurice Hayes knew precisely where he was going, and predicted that, if we stayed together and co-operated with the team-management, we would win the Sam Maguire Cup. He had confidence in our ability, and there was mutual respect between him and the players.” 

“We could have got a U.S trip, after winning the All-Ireland title in 1960. But Maurice promised that, if we waited and went on to win in 1961, we would get a holiday that we would never forget. And, true to his word, the Down squad was treated to a six-weeks tour of the U.S.A., with everything laid on. The organisation was superb.”  

Speaking to Declan Bogue in 2017, Maurice gave his opinion on that team.  
"The one thing is that the 1960 team, every one of them was a good citizen afterwards. They made a contribution in one way or another to the society they were in." 

Chris Patten, Lord Patten of Barnes, will officially open the archive of Maurice Hayes at NUI Galway before giving a public lecture entitled, ‘A European identity: some reflections on the career of Maurice Hayes on the opening of his archive at NUI Galway’ on Tuesday, 12 March. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dr. Niall Walsh - A Tribute - by Prof. Frank Shovlin


Dr Niall Walsh (1930-2018)
Prof. Frank Shovlin

The death occurred on 5 November 2018 of Dr Niall Walsh in Galway hospice. Dr Walsh was a friend of John McGahern’s and one of the longest extant runs of letters from McGahern to anyone rests in the Archives at the Hardiman Library, NUI Galway.

Born in Tullamore, Co. Offaly on 28 September 1930, Walsh studied medicine at U.C.D. and qualified in 1956. He spent 4 months as a ship's doctor, did some general practitioner’s work and then trained as a pathologist in the laboratories of U.C.D. He was appointed as Consultant Pathologist in Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe in October 1964 where he remained for the rest of his career, retiring afterwards in the Ballinasloe area. He first met McGahern in about 1962 when the young writer called to his GP surgery with a chest complaint. They hit it off and began to meet regularly for a drink, O’Neill’s of Suffolk Street being a favourite watering hole.

After McGahern’s sabbatical year from his teaching post at Belgrove national school, Clontarf (1964-65) and subsequent sacking in the wake of the publication and banning of The Dark (1965), the two men drifted apart. On McGahern’s return to live in Cleggan, Co. Galway in late 1970, he contacted his old friend. The earliest letter in the collection is dated 18 May 1971 and in it John invites Niall and his wife, Phil, to visit Cleggan. Walsh replies four days later in typically good humour: “I was delighted to hear from you after all these years though I have kept track of your movements via the press since you left here. Shouldn’t you be lecturing to starry eyed co-eds in the States or drinking wine under olive trees in Spain instead of being in Cleggan?” Thus began a friendly, and sometimes revealing, correspondence that would endure until the final year of John’s life – the last letter held by NUIG is dated September 2005. McGahern died in March 2006.

At the prompting of Richard Murphy, who died earlier this year, McGahern returned to Ireland from Paris to live in Cleggan from November 1970 to September 1971. While there, Niall and Phil visited with John and Madeline. The Walshes themselves had a small house on Achill Island which they made available to the McGaherns from March to October 1973 – it was a place where McGahern worked hard on completing what would become his third novel, The Leavetaking (1974) – McGahern dedicates the book to Niall. The Walshes went on in subsequent years to visit the McGaherns in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Paris. When the McGaherns moved to County Leitrim in 1974, the Walshes were regular visitors and for a time even considered moving to the area.

Letters from John McGahern to Niall and Phil Walsh

Letter from John McGahern to Niall Walsh, 1976
Over the years, the letters reveal, among other things, a shared interest in shooting, a candour about medical issues, and a willingness on John’s part to discuss his work in progress. John was especially frank with Niall during the course of his cancer treatment, Niall having survived his own brush with the condition in the early 1990s. Now, alas, cancer has claimed the lives of both men.

I met Niall Walsh around Easter 2016 in Galway’s Great Southern Hotel (or whatever it’s called these days) to discuss his memories of John. It was a marvellous meeting, with Niall full of life and sparkle. I found it almost impossible to believe that I was speaking to a man of 85: his recall was perfect and he had a charming mischief about him that endeared him greatly to me. When I heard of his death recently it was with a sense of real sorrow, but relief too that we had once had the chance to talk.

Frank Shovlin is Professor of Irish Literature at the University of Liverpool. A graduate of University College Galway and the University of Oxford, he is currently editing The Letters of John McGahern for a forthcoming Faber volume. In February 2018 he was appointed McGahern’s authorized biographer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Cartlann Chonradh na Gaeilge - An Chartlann a Mheas

Agus muid ag druidim le deireadh mhí na Samhna agus deireadh na bliana, tá roinnt imeachtaí suntasacha ag teacht chun críche chomh maith: tá deireadh ag teacht leis an bhfeachtas bliantúil dar teideal Cuardaigh do Chartlann / Explore YourArchive agus tá Bliain na Gaeilge nach mór caite chomh maith le comóradh 125 bliain Chonradh na Gaeilge. Is am feiliúnach é mar sin le heolas a thabhairt daoibh maidir leis an dul chun cinn atá déanta agam agus mé ag próiseáil chartlann Chonradh na Gaeilge in OÉG. Sa chéad bhlag den tsraith d’inis mé daoibh faoi na céimeanna éagsúla atá ríthábhachtach chun bailiúchán a phróiseáil sular féidir é a chur ar fáil don phobal: bíodh a fhios agat céard atá agat, déan sábháilte é, déan é a mheas, déan cinneadh faoin leagan amach, déan é a chatalógú, déan cinneadh faoi cad ba cheart a bheith ar fáil don phobal, déan é a dhigitiú nuair is féidir agus is cuí agus ansin cuir ar fáil é. Mar gheall ar chomh hollmhór is atá an bailiúchán seo, socraíodh an tionscadal iomlán a roinnt i dtrí chuid.

Céim 1 - Tús na hOibre: Is é seo an próiseas trína ndéantar ábhar gach bosca a thógáil amach, a scrúdú, a liostú agus a chur i mboscaí cartlainne speisialta a stóráiltear ansin i seomraí stórais sábháilte aerchóiriúcháin. Cuimsíonn sé na chéad trí chéim liostaithe thuas: bíodh a fhios agat céard atá agat, déan sábháilte é, déan é a mheas.

Céim 2 – Leagan amach: D’fhonn smacht intleachtúil a fháil ar bhailiúchán, struchtúr a thabhairt dó agus an bhunobair a dhéanamh chun go mbeidh míreanna ar fáil go héasca do thaighdeoirí amach anseo, caithfidh an cartlannaí teacht aníos le leagan amach soiléir loighciúil.

Céim 3 - An Chéim Dheiridh: Is éard atá i gceist leis an gcéim seo den chuid is mó an obair mhór a bhaineann leis an mbailiúchán a chatalogú, bosca ar bhosca, comhad ar chomhad, agus i gcásanna áirithe mír ar mhír. Agus an chéim seo idir lámha, déantar míreanna a mheas le digitiú, agus déantar cinneadh maidir le hinrochtaineacht a ghlacann nithe ar nós GDPR san áireamh. Beidh tuilleadh faoi seo sna blaganna amach anseo!

Dul chun cinn go dtí seo:


Tá áthas orm a rá go bhfuil sa bhreis ar 80% de Chéim 1 tugtha chun críche, laistigh den fhráma ama réamh-mheasta. Próiseáladh 470 den 580 bosca, nó mar sin, agus táthar ag súil go mbeidh na boscaí eile déanta faoi dheireadh mhí Eanáir / go luath i mí Feabhra. Baineadh taifid as boscaí a bhí as a riocht, ag titim as a chéile agus ag cur thar maoil, agus cuireadh go cúramach iad i bhfillteáin laistigh de bhoscaí cartlainne agus cuireadh i gceann a chéile iad go néata ar sheilfeanna ar leith sa seomra stórais. Tagann eagar tar éis mí-eagair!

Sampla de bhosca lán go béal le comhaid

Bosca a bhfuil damáiste déanta dó ina bhfuil comhaid agus lipéid

Boscaí Cartlainne lán agus i gceann a chéile go néata ar sheilfeanna

Cad atá i gceist le Bailiúchán a Mheas?


Cuid ríthábhachtach den chéad chéim seo atá luaite cheana is ea an bailiúchán a mheas. Ní gá go gcoinneofar gach rud sa bhailiúchán - d’fhéadfadh sé nach bhfuil mír ar leith ábhartha ná uathúil don bhailiúchán sin, d’fhéadfadh sé gur cóip atá ann nó i gcásanna ar leith d’fhéadfadh sé nach bhféadfaí é a stóráil go cuí mar gheall ar a fhormáid, a mhéid nó ar chúiseanna praiticiúla eile.

I gcás go bhfuil dúbailt i gceist, ní mór cinneadh a dhéanamh maidir le céard ba cheart a dhéanamh leis na cóipeanna úd. Go hiondúil coinnítear idir 3 agus 6 chóip de mhír i gcartlanna. Má choinnítear níos mó ná sin tagann fadhb spáis chun cinn. Má choinnítear níos lú ná sin cuirtear teorainn ar na roghanna atá agat le cur ar taispeáint, le digitiú nó le tabhairt ar iasacht, ós rud é gur gá an chóip is fearr a choinneáil sábháilte i gcónaí. Nuair a thagann cartlann chuig institiúid déantar comhaontú ar a dtugtar Comhaontú Deontóra idir an deontóir (sa chás seo CnaG) agus an institiúid (OÉG) a chuimsíonn go leor rudaí lena n-áirítear cad atá le déanamh le míreanna nach bhfuil le coinneáil.

Cóipeanna de bhileoigíní

Cé nach gá míniú a thabhairt ar dhúbláil ná ar chúinsí praiticiúla, is gá uathúlacht a mhíniú ar bhealach níos fearr. Ar ndóigh, má tá rud éigin uathúil do do bhailiúchán agus nach bhfuil a leithéid le fáil in aon áit eile, is cinnte gur gá é a choinneáil. Ach uaireanta bíonn tábhacht agus uathúlacht ag baint le míreanna ar chúis eile seachas an chúis a bhí i gceist leo ar dtús. Labhróidh mé faoi mo chartlann phearsanta féin ar feadh nóiméid chun sampla maith a thabhairt díobh de seo. Mar cheoltóir gairmiúil a sheinn ar fud an domhain ar feadh na mblianta, tá míreanna spéisiúla i mo bhailiúchán féin, fillteán lán le málaí urlacain ina measc! Céard le haghaidh a mbeadh a leithéid agam? Bhuel mar gheall go mbínn sáinnithe go minic ar eitleáin ar feadh uaireanta an chloig, agus thiocfadh tiúin i mo chloigeann a bheinn ag iarraidh a bhreacadh síos, d’úsáidfinn an rud ba ghaire de mo lámh! Dá bhrí sin, tá go leor de mo chuid cumadóireachta scríofa ar mhálaí urlacain agus tá siad anois stóráilte i bhfillteán agam. Mar sin, samhlaigh mála urlacain gan dada air (ceann nár úsáideadh ar ndóigh!). Tuigeann gach duine a chuspóir bunaidh. Ach níl sé uathúil. Anois, samhlaigh mála urlacain le branda air. Anois tá an mála seo uathúil d’aerlíne ar leith, agus b’fhéidir do thréimhse ar leith i stair na haerlíne sin más rud é gur athraíodh an bhrandáil ó shin. Anois samhlaigh ceann de mo chuid málaí urlacain. Mar gheall ar an gcumadóireacht atá breactha agam orthu, tá luach tánaisteach ag baint leo anois nach mbaineann leis an gcuspóir tosaigh a bhí acu ach mar sin féin tá siad tábhachtach agus uathúil.  Nuair a bhíonn bailiúchán á mheas ag cartlannaí, is gá dó/di an uathúlacht seo agus an luach tánaisteach a d’fhéadfadh a bheith i gceist a mheas.

Nithe atá aimsithe go dtí seo:


Agus 80% de na boscaí scrúdaithe agam anois is féidir liom a rá go cinnte gur bailiúchán thar a bheith luachmhar é seo agus go bhfuil rudaí nua agus iontacha ag teacht chun cinn ag chuile choirnéal. Ós rud é gur thug Conradh na Gaeilge ábhar ón gcartlann do Leabharlann Náisiúnta na hÉireann sna 1940idí, ceapadh nach mbeadh mórán ábhar sa chartlann seo ón tréimhse roimhe sin ach tá áthas orm a thuairisciú go bhfuil ábhar sa chartlann seo ón uair a bunaíodh an Conradh sna 1890idí go dtí tús na mílaoise seo.

Clár an Oireachtais ó 1897
Cuireadh chuig Oireachtas na Gaeilge 1902

Póstaer “Labhair Gaeilge Liom”



I measc na n-ábhar tá tógáil páistí trí Ghaeilge, Apartheid san Afraic Theas, eagrú Féile, stocaireacht ar son Cearta Sibhialta, obair na dTimirí ar fud na tíre agus mioneolas faoi chúrsaí airgeadais na heagraíochta. Chomh maith le míreanna páipéir cosúil le litreacha, tuarascálacha, cláir, póstaeir, seicleabhair, cuirí agus bileoigíní, tá boinn, bróistí, suaitheantais, trófaithe, pictiúir, balúin, greamáin, uaireadóirí, pinn agus fiú nóta £50 le fráma air. Tá samplaí de phacáistiú dátheangach lena n-áirítear mála Tayto Breatnaise, cartán bainne as Muineachán agus clúdach litreach ó Oifig Phoist i gCeanada. I measc na dteangacha a chuimsítear tá Breatnais, Briotáinis, Manainnis, Gaeilge na hAlban, Fraincis, Gearmáinis, Sualainnis, Fionlainnis, Pléimeannais, Bascais, Gréigis, Beangáilis, Urdúis, Hiondúch, agus Mandairínis. Is bailiúchán thar a bheith spéisiúil é seo agus tá súil agam go mbeidh sibh uilig in ann sásamh a bhaint as go luath...nuair atá mo chuid oibre déanta agam!

Criospaí Breatnacha ó na 1980idí
Pacáiste dátheangach do chriospaí Breatnacha
Rogha de shuaitheantais a bhí sa bhailiúchán

An féachaint chun cinn:


Idir seo agus deireadh an chéad ráithe de 2019 táthar ag súil go mbeidh Céim 2 tugtha chun críche chomh maith le Céim 1. Faoin am sin beidh an t-ábhar ar fad sa bhailiúchán sábháilte agus slán, agus ansin úsáidfear liosta iomlán de na boscaí sa bhailiúchán chun leagan amach a shocrú don bhailiúchán. Labhróidh mé i mblaganna eile faoin dara céim seo agus faoin obair lena mbaineann. Idir an dá linn, tá súil agam gur bhain sibh sult as spléachadh a fháil ar an obair atá ar siúl agam agus as na seoda a bhí mé in ann a roinnt libh. Tá fáilte romhaibh an chéad bhlag anseo thíos a léamh.


Go dtí an chéad uair eile,

Beirigí bua,
Niamh





Blaganna roimhe seo:





Conradh na Gaeilge Archive - Appraising the Archive


As we approach the end of November and we head towards the final stages of 2018 we pass some significant events in the process: the annual Explore Your Archive campaign draws to a close as does the year marking Bliain na Gaeilge and Conradh na Gaeilge’s 125th anniversary. It is a fitting time therefore to bring you all an update on the progress so far as I continue to process the Conradh na Gaeilge archive in NUIG. In the first blog of the series I noted the various stages vital to processing a collection before it can be made available: know what you have, make it safe, appraise it, decide on an arrangement, catalogue it, consider what should be made accessible, digitise where possible and suitable and then release it. Due to the sheer vastness of this collection it was decided to divide the overall project into three sections.

Phase 1 - The First Pass: this is the process whereby the contents of every box are removed, examined, listed and re-housed in special archive boxes which are then stored in secure climate-conditioned storerooms. It encompasses the first three stages listed above: know what you have, make it safe, appraise it.

Phase 2 – Arrangement: In order to get intellectual control over a collection, give it structure, and lay the ground work for making items easily discoverable to researchers down the road, a clear logical arrangement must be decided on by the archivist.

Phase 3 – The Final Countdown: this phase predominantly involves the painstaking work of cataloguing the collection, box by box, file by file, and in some cases item by item. During this phase items are also considered for digitising, and decisions made on accessibility which take issues such as GDPR into account. More on this in future blogs!

Progress so far:


Happily I can report that Phase 1 is over 80% complete, well within the projected time-frame. 470 of approximately 580 boxes have been processed with the remainder due to be completed by the end of January / early February. Records have been removed from boxes that were buckled, disintegrating and overstuffed, and carefully placed in folders within archive boxes and stacked neatly on designated shelves within the storeroom. From chaos comes order!

An example of an overstuffed box of files
A warped and damaged box with buckling files and loose name-tags
Full Archive Boxes neatly stacked on shelves

What is “Appraisal”?


A vital component in this initial phase which has been mentioned already is the task of appraising the collection. Not everything in a collection should necessarily be kept – it may not be relevant or unique to that collection, it may be a duplicate or in some cases it may not be possible to suitably store it due to its format, size or other practical considerations.


In the case of duplication decisions need to be made about what to do with such duplicates when they are discovered. Generally speaking archives will retain between 3 and 6 copies of an item. Any more and you quickly face storage issues. Any less and you limit the choices you have to exhibit, digitise or lend an item, since the best possible copy needs to always be kept safe. When an archive arrives to an institution an agreement known as a Donor Agreement is made between the donor (in this case CnaG) and the institution (NUIG) which covers many things including what to do with items not to be retained.

Duplicate flyers


While duplication and practical considerations are self-explanatory, uniqueness needs a bit more explaining. Certainly if something is unique to your collection and not found anywhere else it obviously needs to be retained. But sometimes items become important and unique not for what they were originally intended for but for the secondary value they end up attaining. To give a good example of this let me digress momentarily and discuss my own personal archive. As a professional musician who has toured internationally for many years, I have some interesting items in my personal collection, none more so than a folder of sick bags! Why do I have such a thing you ask? Well because having being stuck on planes for hours at a time, when a melody comes into my head that I want to write down I use what’s to hand! Many of my compositions are thus written on sick bags and now stored in a folder. So imagine a blank sick bag (unused obviously!). Everyone understands its original purpose. But it is not unique. Now imagine a branded sick bag. Suddenly this item is unique to a particular airline, and perhaps to a particular period of that airline’s history if the branding has since changed. Now imagine one of my sick bags. Because of the compositions I have scrawled on them, they have now taken on a secondary value not relevant to the initial purpose but important and unique none-the-less. So when an archivist is appraising a collection, this uniqueness and potential for secondary value is a necessary consideration.

Discoveries so far:


With 80% of the boxes examined I can safely say that this is a very rich collection throwing up expected and surprising treasures at every turn (no pun intended!). Since a donation of archive material was previously made by Conradh na Gaeilge to the National Library of Ireland in the 1940s it was suspected that this collection might not have very many items pre-dating that but I am happy to report that every decade from Conradh’s first in existence in the 1890s to the first decade of this millennium are covered.

An Oireachtas Programme dating from 1897

An invite to Oireachtas na Gaeilge 1902

“Labhair Gaeilge Liom” Poster

Topics range from raising children through Irish to apartheid in South Africa, from organising Féile to campaigning for Civil Rights, from the work of the Timirí nationwide to the minutiae of company finances. Apart from paper items such as letters, reports, programmes, posters, chequebooks, invites and flyers, the collection also contains medals, brooches, badges, trophies, paintings, balloons, stickers, watches, pens, and even a framed £50 pound note! There are samples of bilingual packaging including a Welsh Tayto bag, a Monaghan Milk Carton and a Canadian Post Office envelope. Languages covered include Welsh, Breton, Manx, Scots-Gallic, French, German, Swedish, Finnish, Flemish, Basque, Greek, Bengali, Urdu, Hindu, and Mandarin. It is a fascinating collection that I hope you all get to enjoy in the near future…but not before I complete my work!

Welsh Crisps from the 1980s
Bilingual packaging for Welsh crisps


A selection of badges found in the collection


Looking ahead:


Between now and the end of the first quarter of 2019 it is envisaged that Phase 2 will be completed along with Phase 1. By that stage all items in the collection will be safe and secure, and a complete box list of the collection’s contents will then be used from which to plan an arrangement for the collection. Future blogs will cover this second stage and the subsequent work. In the meantime I hope you have enjoyed another glimpse at the work being carried out behind the scenes and the few gems I was able to share. Feel free also to check out the previous blog below.


Until next time

Beir bua,
Niamh





Previous Blogs:



Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Yeats Collection Exhibition Launch - 9th November



Invitation  |  Cuireadh

Yeats Collection Exhibition Launch

James Hardiman Library Special Collections

5pm Friday 9th November 2018

All are welcome to the reception and launch for NUI Galway's Yeats Collection Exhibition, 5pm Friday 9th November 2018 at James Hardiman Library's Special Collections Reading Room. 

NUI Galway is proud to confirm that recent acquisitions ensure valuable artifacts from the Yeats Collection remain in Ireland. Now newly on display at NUI Galway’s James Hardiman Library, this art and culture showcases the university's important holdings in visual arts, English and Irish literature, and drama. 

The exhibition highlights the vibrant art of the west. It draws attention to the work of women in renewing Ireland’s culture, and the early years of Ireland’s theatrical renaissance. 

In an exquisite drawing by Jack B. Yeats, the Roscommon poet and Irish-language playwright Douglas Hyde is shown acting with characteristic gusto, and Abbey pioneer William G. Fay shouts at the players in rehearsal. Alongside original woodcuts, Elizabeth Rivers' fabulous illustrations of island life for the very last Cuala Press book Stranger in Aran (1946) represent an extraordinary history of book production. Cuala Industries are also represented by fine art books and a unique banner handpainted by Elizabeth Corbett Yeats for publicity. The centenary of Robert Gregory's death is recalled through bookplates and unseen visionary landscapes as well as the poetry of W.B.Yeats
 
Following controversial sales in the UK and Ireland which made headlines around the world, the rescue of such important items for the nation and future generations in the west by NUI Galway is thus cause for celebration. Join us to celebrate the launch of an exhibition which runs until Christmas. 



Wednesday, September 26, 2018

‘How important was Muintir na Tíre to Ireland?’

A guest blog from Dr. Tomas Finn, History, NUI Galway


Key to an assessment of the importance of Muintir na Tíre to Ireland was its relationship with the Catholic Church and the Irish state. The changing nature of that relationship is indicative of the transformation that took place in Ireland during the twentieth century. Government, the Church and society were inward-looking and distrustful of novelty in for example the immediate post WWII period but gradually they each opened up to new ideas about politics, the economy and religion. In that context, Muintir na Tíre, a civil society organisation active at the parochial level and with the protection and preservation of rural Ireland at its centre, increasingly sought to engage with national and local authorities. The tensions between tradition and modernisation inherent in initiatives such as the Parish Plan of the 1950s and contributions towards, for example, rural electrification thus lay at the heart of the movement.


Particularly crucial to Muintir’s success or otherwise was the Catholic Church’s attitude which ranged from leadership and praise to indifference and opposition, even hostility. Consequently, Muintir’s attempts to build a nationwide structure and profile were only partially successful, and often resisted. The organisations expansion from its Munster heartland into other parts of Ireland was simultaneously supported and opposed by different priests and members of the hierarchy. Amongst its foremost advocates were, of course, Canon John Hayes, Archbishop Thomas Morris of Cashel and Emly and Jeremiah Newman, the future Bishop of Limerick. More surprising is the active support of Bishops Cornelius Lucey of Cork and Ross and Michael Browne of Galway especially when contrasted with the attitude of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin. For the latter, Muintir was not Catholic and therefore could not be trusted to represent farmers or rural people. Preventing the organisations growth in the capital, McQuaid could not have been further from other bishops but most dramatically Pope Pius XII who in 1954 had commended Hayes and the choice of the parish as Muintir’s central unit. Such praise for Muintir along with his reference to Christian rather than Catholic is notable. As an organisation, Muintir sought to embrace all classes and creeds and at least under Hayes advocate a vocationalist Ireland, with a strong emphasis on the papal encyclicals.


What was key then to the success or otherwise of Muintir was the attitude of the local bishop and priest. At the same time, Munitir itself, following the death of Canon Hayes in 1958, underwent a significant transition. Initially inspired by Catholic social teaching, community development became its raison d’être from the late 1950s with the greater part of its work falling into the educational field. What followed was a greater engagement with local, national and supranational authorities. This was highlighted by the practical and financial support the organisation received from James Dillon and especially Seán Lemass. The contrast in Lemass’ and Eamon de Valera’s positions is notable. Committed to a self-sufficient Ireland, de Valera remained unwilling to fund Muintir or intervene in the economy and society while Lemass was somewhat impatient with the lack of support his Ministers gave to Munitir’s proposals which were designed to develop rural Ireland. 


The change in Munitir’s modus vivendi reflected concerns as to the effectiveness of the organisation. These centered on the range of issues it examined along with its need to address local and national audiences. Replacing vocationalism as its core ideology, Community development thus resolved some of the tensions between traditionalism and modernism. Muintir’s importance thus lay in its role in questioning the type of Ireland that was emerging. As a conduit for understanding rural Ireland and explaining the nature of state policy and what this meant to a local and national as well as an international audience, Muintir remained during much of the twentieth century a significant example of civil activism. More than that, a brief consideration of the organisation highlights the diversity of views found within the Catholic Church and serves as a warning not to treat it as a monolith. As to the continued relevance of Muintir na Tíre and civil society organisations in contemporary Ireland, de Valera’s warnings as to the dangers of state interference remain prescient as the appropriate balance between government and voluntary organisations continues to present a significant challenge in the twenty-first century. 



Dr Tomás Finn is a lecturer in History at NUI, Galway. His research interests include modern Irish and British history and politics, the role of intellectuals, public policy, Church-State relations and Northern Ireland.

To see what is help in the Muintir na Tire Collection at NUI Galway visit http://archivesearch.library.nuigalway.ie/nuig/calmview/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=P134