Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Will of James Hardiman

James Hardiman, historian and librarian was born around 1782. Hardiman was born in Westport, County Mayo, in the west of Ireland around 1782. His father owned a small estate in County Mayo. He was trained as a lawyer and became sub-commissioner of public records in Dublin Castle. He was an active member of the Royal Irish Academy, and collected and rescued many examples of Irish traditional music. In 1855, shortly after its foundation, Hardiman became librarian of Queen's College, Galway. The university library was later named in his honour.

From Errew near Westport, the site of Errew Franciscan Monastery was donated by James Hardiman, the foundation stone was laid on the 21st of July, 1840 and a great number of people were present. Dr. McHale, Archbishop of Tuam was the leader of the ceremonies. James Hardiman laid the foundation stone and placed coins of the day under it, the people of Errew helped with the building. Local tradition in Errew states that James Hardiman had a son called `Black James Hardiman`. `Black` James often visited the Monastery and had special rooms reserved for him there. He married a lady from Galway and lived in Dublin. When his wife died he left Dublin and it is believed that he had no family and his whereabouts were unknown.

James Hardiman, Historian and first Librarian of Queen's College Galway

This will of James Hardiman who died in 1909 fills in the details of this Black James Hardiman. Two beneficiaries are mentioned in the will Lily O’Flaherty Johnston of Kilmurvey House, Aran Island and Brigid (or Delia) O’Flaherty of 51 Leinster Road, Rathmines, Dublin. Lily and Brigid are sisters, and another sister, Julia, had married James. The O’Flaherties were middlemen who became the biggest landholders on Inis Mór, and feature strongly in Tim’s book Stones of Aran: Labyrinth. Because of this will we have an address for James in Dublin, and from the Census returns of 1901 held in the National Archives of Ireland and now available digitally, James’ age is given as 81 in 1901, and Delia’s as 45.

This will and it’s associated material relating to James Hardiman’s grave plot in Glasnevin, was donated by Tim and Mairéad Robinson  as part of their collection to John Cox, the librarian of the James Hardiman Library in September 2013. It is a link between the many strands that go to make up Humanities research. From the work of James Hardiman himself, to the folklore of his local area of Errew, available at http://www.castlebar.ie/clubs/ballyheane/bally2.html. Black James Hardiman features in the work of Tim Robinson in a footnote, that has contributed to an entry by Moore Institute scholar Deirdre Ní Chonghaile, who’s blog entry on the piano at Kilmurvey House available at http://aransongs.blogspot.ie/2013_12_01_archive.html fills in the O’Flaherty of Aran connection with James Hardiman. The address furnished in the will allows us to check the census returns in the online version of the 1901 census digitized by the National Archives of Ireland available at http://census.nationalarchives.ie/pages/1901/Dublin/Rathmines/Leinster_Road__Part_/1296656/ .

This will provides a tangible link with the family of the first librarian of this Library, and is an example of how one item can link and overlap with other research being done in the humanities.

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