Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Land - Ownership, Occupancy & Use: the O'Connor Donelan Archive

Letter from John O'Connor Donelan to his mother
21 July 1893
Land–its ownership, occupancy and use– has been a central motif in Irish history and in the Irish imagination for centuries. Land has been a source of wealth and income, as well as a key marker of social rank and political power. A history marked by confiscation and plantation resulted in the land being a site for conflicting claims and identities in Ireland. Accordingly, primary documentary records relating to Irish landed families and estates provide a rich resource for the investigation of many aspects of Irish history. 

The Archives of the Hardiman Library hold a number of landed estate collections relating to major estates and families in the West of Ireland. The O’Connor Donelan collection provides a good example of the value of such records. The papers relate to the O'Connor Donelan family of Sylane, Tuam, County Galway. The papers cover the legal dealings of the family, the management of their various lands, and personal papers relating to various family members. The bulk of the personal material relates to Thomas O'Connor Donelan (1812-1874) and his sons. His eldest son Dermot had an interest in genealogy and forestry, and his other three sons were doctors in Dublin, Leeds and Manila.
Thomas O'Connor Donelan,
c. 3 years old, c. 1870

A Galway landowning family, the O’Connor Donelan family papers relate principally to the nineteenth century, though reflecting the activities of both the Donelan and O’Connor families in earlier centuries. The papers document various aspects of the lives and range of interest and responsibilities of the family: the legal aspects of their affairs, the challenges of estate management and the personal concerns (including political activities) and contacts of family members in the nineteenth century. The collection offers the researcher a valuable case-study of a modest Galway landed estate of the nineteenth century.

Also available online from NUI Galway is the Landed Estates web site, www.landedestates.ie, a comprehensive and integrated online resource guide to landed estates and gentry houses in Connacht c.1700-1914.

Lease for Cuilmore [Peterswell, County Galway]., containing three acres, for use as a priest's residence for 999 years, at £11 per annum. 31 January 1846

Monday, August 18, 2014

Minutes and moments in Galway History - Galway Urban District Council Archives

As part of the Local Authority Collections of the Hardiman Library Archives, the minutes books of  Galway Urban District Council, ranging from 1899-1922, cover a key period in the development of Galway city and its environs. The Urban District Council was set-up after the 1898 Local Government Act, it replaced the Board of the Galway Town Commissioners. As an 'Urban District Council' rather than a 'Corporation' the body was subordinate to Galway County Council, in administrative terms this put Galway City on the same level as towns such as Athlone and Clonmel.

Galway Urban District council was responsible for the upkeep of Galway'’s roads, street lighting and the collection of tolls. Unlike it predecessor body the Galway Town Commissioners it was also responsible for the provision of 'social housing'. During the period covered by this collection a number of housing schemes in Galway city were undertaken by the Urban District Council, including the construction of 'working class' homes in Henry Street. The period covered by this collection also saw the replacement of the tram service to Salthill with a bus service.

The minute books of the Galway Urban District Council also include a number of references to political events of the time including The First World War, The Conscription Crisis and the War of Independence. One such entry on 18 July 1918 sees a request for assistance made to The Galway U.D.C. from the Irish Recruiting Council, regarding recruitment into forces fighting in the First World War. The Galway U.D.C minuted that they were willing to meet and hear the request from the Irish Recruitment Council. A following meeting, dated, 1 August 1918, notes that Colonel Arthur Lynch M.P. addressed the meeting on behalf of the Irish Recruitment Council and explained the necessity of having voluntary recruiting carried out in order to obviate the necessity of conscription.

18 July 1918

A resolution passed on 17 June 1920 explicitly stated that the Urban District Council recognised "the authority of Dáil Éireann as the duly elected Government of the Irish people".
17 June 1920
So much economic, social and political evidence can be gleaned from such documents. When considering one of the duties and responsibilities of the Galway U.D.C. was upkeep and maintenance of roads within the district, even details regarding condition of the roads can steer researchers toeards information regarding population growth, increase in number of vehicles in Galway City at the time and even the impact the First World War was having by increasing military traffic in the region. An entry from Aril 1919 gives reasons as following for degrading of road conditions:

 ". . . .That the traffic from the County districts over the roads within the Borough boundary has been considerably increased in recent years, and that to this has been added a large volume of Army motor traffic which resulted in increased expenses in the repair and up-keep of the roads."

17 April 1919
All these images are from volume LA4/3 and are from just one volume of a series of four which are a vital and unique resource for a study of the period of key development in Galway and indeed nationally at the time. A full description can be seen here: http://archives.library.nuigalway.ie/FlatList.php?col=LA4