Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spotlight on Douglas Hyde, First President of Ireland

As Irish people go to the polls to elect the ninth President of Ireland, the Archives and Special Collections of N.U.I. Galway are delighted to present records and memories of our first President, Douglas Hyde/Dubhghlas de hÌde.  Hyde (1860–1949) was born near Castlerea, co. Roscommon, on 17 January 1860, the third son and fourth child of the Revd Arthur Hyde (c.1820–1905), rector of Kilnactranny, co. Sligo, and his wife, Elizabeth (1834–1886), daughter of the Ven. John Orson Oldfield, archdeacon of Elphin.
Douglas Hyde was Hyde was inaugurated as the first President of Ireland on 26 June 1938, in the first inaugural ceremony in the nation's history. An account from The Irish Times dated 27 June 1938 reads:

“In the morning [Dr Hyde] attended a service in St. Patrick's Cathedral presided over by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Gregg. Mr. de Valera and his Ministerial colleagues attended a solemn Votive Mass in the Pro-Cathedral, and there were services in the principal Presbyterian and Methodist churches, as well as in the synagogue. Dr. Hyde was installed formally in Dublin Castle, where the seals of office were handed over by the Chief Justice. Some 200 persons were present, including the heads of the Judiciary and the chief dignitaries of the Churches. After the ceremony President Hyde drove in procession through the beflagged streets. The procession halted for two minutes outside the General Post Office to pay homage to the memory of the men who fell in the Easter Week rebellion of 1916. Large crowds lined the streets from the Castle to the Vice-Regal Lodge and the President was welcomed with bursts of cheering.”

The Archives and Special Collections of the James Hardiman Library, N.U.I. Galway offers a rich account of the personal as well as professional life of our first president. Some of the most precious items are those which were bequeathed by Douglas Hyde to NUI Galway on his death in 1949. The Lamhscribhinní Dubhghlas de hÌde are 116 items of manuscripts relating to Irish language, folklore and culture that Hyde collected over the course of his life. They range in date from 18th to 20th centuries. During a year-long project involving the James Hardiman Library and the Irish Script on Screen project, eleven of manuscripts were digitised and are fully available online here. Pictured is an example of the manuscript text and is taken from LS de hÌde 7. These digitised manuscripts are a vital resource for any researcher in the field of Irish language and culture and is a testament to Hyde’s own dedication to Irish language.

 Also in the archives is a letter written by Hyde (Ref - G29) Hyde on behalf of Connradh na Gaeilge in [1912]. The letter is signed “An Craoibhín' (Douglas Hyde), Connradh na Gaeilge, Baile Átha Cliath”, to Miss Anna Nicol, Parkhead, Glasgow, and is an appeal for donations for a fund for 'teaching and propagandist work in the Gaeltacht'. (2 items)
A hand-written poem (Ref G30) of 26 lines entitled 'Don Dochtuir Seóirse Sigerson' by Douglas Hyde, is a warm tribute to an old friend of his, Dr. George Sigerson and is written in a traditional declamatory style and dates from [1922].
A bound volume of photographs features the Hyde family during the 1890s. All of the photographs are taken at Frenchpark, County Roscommon and the subjects are mainly Douglas Hyde and his family, other family members including his father, family pets and Douglas Hyde with locals. There are sixty-six images in total and the photos show Hyde in relaxed shots and rural locations and offer an insight into the personal life of the then future president.
Material relating to Hyde also features in the Morrisroe Connolly Collection (G37) Tom Morrisroe was a close friend of Hyde and was also from Roscommon. Morrisroe joined An Garda Sìochana and served in Mayo and Galway until his death in 1954. The collection features hundreds of letters between Hyde and Morrisroe, photographs of Hyde and press cuttings of Hyde’s tour of America in 1906.
The Bairèad collection (G3) also held by the James Hardiman Library relates to three members of the Bairèad family of Roscommon who were involved in Irish language and cultural movements. This collection features series of letters between members of the Bairèad family and Douglas Hyde and others such as Padraic Pearse and Eoin McNeil.
The James Hardiman Library also holds numerous original published works of drama, poetry and essays by Douglas Hyde. Examples include Hyde’s 1902 play An Posadh, Maistín an Bheurla (An Maighistir Sgoile), An Cleamhnas  and Casadh an tSúgáin.
For a full search of our library holdings of Hyde material and other papers relating to the first President of Ireland click here. For archives and manuscript material, visit the Archives homepage.

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