Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Private Life of a President - Douglas Hyde at Frenchpark

The distinctive signature of 'An Craoibhin'

All Presidents need some down time. For Douglas Hyde, academic, Irish language activist and first President of Ireland, this place of privacy and contemplation was at his family home at Frenchpark, Co. Roscommon. The family moved to the area of Ratra in the 1860s and always maintained a special place in the heart of Douglas Hyde. (Hyde would also go by the nom de plume “An Craoibhin Aoibhinn”) Even in his advanced years, after becoming President of Ireland in 1938 and taking residence in Áras an Uactaráin in Dublin, Hyde still made private visits to Frenchpark, returning to re-live some quieter moments among the nature he so quite clearly loved.

Cover of the Hyde Photograph Album (P38)
Within the Hardiman Library is a bound volume containing a photographic album of 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. Of the sixty-six images included in the album, over half show Hyde or others with a range of family pets, from dogs, cats and goats to horses and cattle. The young Hyde was a keen huntsman and his general love of nature and contentment within the surroundings of Frenchpark and its rural estate and community reveal a side of Ireland's first president that is rarely seen.

The album is a wonderful addition, among other Hyde papers at the Hardiman Library and which explore the deep connection to the West of Ireland to the social, cultural and political development of the State. Here are a selection of images from the album and the album in full can be viewed in the Archives Reading Room.

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