Thursday, December 22, 2016

Advent in the Archives - 22nd December

Today's item comes from the Prionsias Mac an Bheatha collection (G40) from the James Hardiman Library Archives. A full description of the collection is at and it reflects his interests in the Irish language, his work in Irish language journalism, as well as his interest in northern writers in Irish and the trade union movement. This particular item, a Christmas card from Eamon de Valera as President of the Republic, is interesting because of its date 1965.

It is interesting in another way too. The image for such Christmas cards has always been the usual season's greetings, but the image this year reflected the fact that the following year would be the fiftieth anniversary of the Rising.
It is perhaps fitting, on the year that sees the 100th commemoration of the Dublin Insurrection, that we have a Christmas card from the last surviving Commandant of that Rising.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Advent in the Archives -21st December

Today’s items come from the John Magahern collection which is housed in the archives service of the James Hardiman Library. The first image comes from an initial hand-written draft of part of the John Maghern short-story “Christmas”. In the story a boy, who has to serve at altar at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, looks forward with apprehension to the “hours of boredom” he will have to endure.  At the Midnight Mass itself the Monsignor’s sermon is disrupted by a very drunk Guard Mullins who states that the Monsignor is “a man after my own heart” before warning the parishioners to beware of hypocrites. The Monsignor cuts the sermon short, peremptorily wishing his parishioners a happy and holy Christmas with “a voice like acid”. For the boy “the shortest midnight mass the church had ever known” is a godsend.

Whether the Guard is referring to the Bible when warning of hypocrites, or is referring pointedly to his own personal experience of policing in the town remains unstated. The Catholicism portrayed here has echoes of Joyce’s politically charged Christmas dinner in “Portrait of an Artist”, and is tinged with repetition, boredom and despair.


The other item from the John Magahern collection highlighted here is a typescript draft of part of a piece on Christmas in Ireland; beginning 'In America, it is Thanksgiving; in Scotland, the New Year; and in Ireland the great festival is Christmas.' Contains handwritten amendments.


Descriptions of both of these items, and the rest of the collections, can be browsed at

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Christmas Archive Miscellany - Festive Acts and Writings

Christmas has inspired personal stories and writings for so many of Ireland's writers. From playwrights to novelists, the story of Christmas and what it means, in comedy and tragedy, for so many has resulted in great works, many of which are within the Archives of the Hardiman Library here at NUI Galway.

Draft of story, Christmas, by John McGahern

The writer John McGahern explored this particular time of year in one of his short stories. How that story even came to be is a story in itself. Christmas is the story of the young boy deposited to a family at Christmas time from an orphanage. He rejects a gift he is given, that of a toy aeroplane and this act forms the centre of McGahern's attention in the drafting of the story. The McGahern Archive contains numerous drafts of the story which was first published in the Irish Press in 1968. Numerous titles range from Santa Claus, A Gift for Himself, The Aeroplane, before finally being published as Christmas in the volume of short stories Nightlines in 1970.

Draft of story, Christmas, by John McGahern

The opening line of many of the drafts begin with "The thaw overhead in the bear branches had stopped the evening we filled the load for Mrs. Grey". This would imply that winter has passed and Christmas is over. Yet the published story opens with a different scene, one of a young boy being boarded onto a train, described as a "ward of State" and being sent to live with 'Moran' for the Christmas period. Moran is a recurring name within McGahern's work, also being the family name within his 1991 novel Amongst Women. The novel itself was nearly called The Morans, only to be changed very close to publication.

Given so much effort of redrafting, editing and re-titling of the story is evident with McGahern's papers, it is clear this particular story meant quite a deal for the writer in the late 1960s. The variances in handwriting styles also show the revisions were carried out over a number of years, as McGahern's hand changed over the years.

Cover of A Christmas Carol, Lyric Theatre Archive, 1981
Another traditional Christmas tale is that of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. The Lyric theatre in Belfast staged in 1980 in a version by John Boyd. Boyd was a prolific playwright during the previous decade of the 1970s, writing some of the most important plays regarding the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland with works such as The Flats in 1972 also presented by the Lyric Theatre. In his introduction to the play, Boyd writes of Dickens' story being linked to the plight of everyday life in Belfast at the time. The Lyric theatre founding director, Mary O'Malley, was so enthused with Christmas-themed drama that one of the very first productions by the Lyric players was a version of The Nativity, by Lady Augusta Gregory in November 1950. The script of this had to be procured from the Gate Theatre, Dublin, as seen in the letter here.
Scene from the Nativity by Lady Gregory, Lyric Theatre Archive, 1950
Letter from Gate Theatre sending script of The Nativity to the Lyric Theatre
Lyric Theatre Archive.
At the Gate Theatre itself, the theatre staged a revival production of Micheál MacLiammóir's Christmas play, Home for Christmas or A Grand Tour. First staged in 1950, in the original programme note, reproduced in the 1976 revival programme, MacLiammóir recounts how he was prompted to write the play by Orsen Wells about an prosperous English family touring across Africa and Europe at a time of Victorian empire and exploration. MacLiammór took that advice but set the story among an wealthy Irish family who are returning from world travels to Ireland for Christmas.

We wish all our readers a very
 happy Christmas and best wishes for 2017!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Archives and Special Collections - 17th December

The Wexford Carols

Diarmuid Ó Muirithe (ed) with musical transcription by Seoirse Bodley (Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1982)

& The Christmas Songs of Luke Wadding, Bishop of Ferns 1683-1688 (Dublin: M.H. Gill, 1960), introduced by Thomas Wall.

In the village of Kilmore in county Wexford a tradition exists of the unaccompanied singing of carols at Christmas, the words of which date back to at least the 17th century. The words of at least two of the carols still sung in Kilmore originate with the friar Luke Wadding, Bishop of Ferns, 1683-1688. In 1684 Wadding published his Pious Garland, containing mostly religious poems and songs. This pamphlet edited by Thomas Wall analyses Wadding’s life and some of his songs and poems. In 1982 the specialist publishers Dolmen Press undertook a more ambitious project recording not only the Wadding carols still sung at Kilmore but also carols associated with other areas of county Wexford, notably the carol known as the Enniscorthy Carol, which has become more widely known was the Wexford Carol.
For more information about the Kilmore and Wexford carol traditions visit the Reading Room at the Ask about Ireland website

Advent at the Archives and Special Collections - 16th December

Todays items come from the Rennaissance Card Company, featuring their Christmas Card Catalogue for 1938 with personalised printed cards.

Dated to 1938, the catalogue is available for consultation at the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room, the reference code in BUS14.

Advent in the Archives and Special Collections - 15th December

John S. Goodall. An Edwardian Christmas (London: Macmillan, 1977) [Anon Collection]
This small attractively illustrated volume was acquired by the library in 1999, through an anonymous donation originating in Galway City. The artist John Strickland Goodall (1908-1996) is famous for his “wordless” books, relying entirely on the illustrations to convey the story. This little volume has a lengthy dedication to a former owner, part of which reads “I open it each day at a different page and have it on display as part of my Christmas”.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Advent at the Archives and Special Collections - 7th December

Ceol na Nollaig: Carúil Nollag agus roinnt Amhrán
Fionnuala de Barra-Cusack a thionscain. (Baile Átha Cliath: Cló Chaisil/Foras na Gaeilge, 2002)
Is é a chuir an tionscnamh seo sa tsiúl ná go raibh Fionnuala de Barra ag obair le Ghaelscoileanna nach raibh aon chnuasach cuimsitheach an de Charúil Nollag Gaeilge. Bhí gá lena Leithéid. D’oibrigh sí le Cló Chaisil agus Foras na Gaeilge chun an cnuasach seo a fhoilsiú. Is é Jenny Cleary a rinne an obair ealaíne álainn sa leabhar.
The background project to this book came about as a result of work being conducted by Fionnuala de Barra with Gaelscoileanna who didn’t have access to a comprehensive collection of Christmas carols in Irish for which there was a need. She worked with Cló Chaisil and Foras na Gaeilge to publish this collection. The beautiful art work in the book was undertaken by Jenny Clarke.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Advent at the Archives and Special Collections - 6th December

Today's images come from the Bairead Collection. They are from Christmas cards in Irish in the early twentieth century, published by Connradh na Gaeilge in an effort to encourage use of the Irish language. As first Treasurer of the Gaelic League Stiophan Bairead would have been in charge of the Publications Committee, who were behind the campaign to get Irish language Christmas cards into wide circulation.
Stiophan Bairead was born to Stephen Barrett and Sheila O'Beirne in Kilmore, County Roscommon on the 22nd August 1867. His father was a well-to-do farmer, and had held the position of barony constable at the time. Stiophan was one of nine children who all received a good education, the boys in the Grammar School in Athlone, and the girls in convents in Athlone and Sligo.

When Stiophan was eleven he was in a bad accident which took him three years to recover from. When he finally left hospital in 1882, he had a permanent limp. He was educated at home and developed a good head for figures. He also read voraciously at this time, and at nineteen became interested in the Irish language movement. He corresponded regularly with a number of people, including R.J. O'Mulrenin of the Gaelic Union. He was also a member of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language and the Irish National League. He moved to Dublin, learned Irish, and began to give classes to the Celtic Literary Society, He was active in Connradh na Gaelige from its foundation as Treasurer, and by the turn of the twentieth century he was working full-time for Connradh as well as organising the "Oireachtas". He got to know many people through his work, including Padraig Pearse, working on the financial side of "An Cliadheamh Solus" as well as the foundation of Scoil Eanna.


In spite of the trouble which occurred at the Dundalk Ard Fheis in 1915 when An Craoibhin resigned as President, Stiophan continued on, looking after financial matters and doing the work of officers such as Sean T O Ceallaigh when they were in prison. He was arrested after a raid on Connradh offices uncovered a small quantity of ammunition in November 1920, but he was subsequently cleared of the charges brought against him. He died suddenly while attending mass with his daughter Sighle on 26th March 1921.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Advent at the Archives and Special Collections - 2nd December

Over the years the Quadrangle at NUI, Galway has become one of the most iconic and enduring symbols of Galway, featuring on postcards and in many other publications. Today's photograph comes from An Teanglann Collection, the audio-visual service of the university which not only looked after the audio-visual requirements of the university for many years, but also kept a photographic record of changes in the physical structure of the campus.
Today's image features the Quadrangle, taken from the side, with a light dusting of snow to add to that festive feeling.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent at Archives and Special Collections

To celebrate advent we will be uploading an image a day from various collections across archives and special collections here at the James Hardiman Library - which celebrate Christmas. Our item for the first day of advent features a hand-written copy of poem "Mi Nodhlaic", 1879. Written by Doglas Hyde in a book he had acquired the previous year, John O'Daly, Reliques of Irish Jacobite Poetry by John O'Daly, published by John O'Daly, Rose-Inn-Street, Kilkenny in 1844.
This book, along with many others, arrived in with the Eamon de Buitlear collection - which, along with the archival material, cover a range of cultural topics, as well as the landscape and countryside of Ireland and elsewhere. Eamon's father would have served as aide-de-campe to An Craoibhin during his time as first President of Ireland. The poem itself shows the early efforts of An Craoibhin to compose in Irish, and to gather books on the literature and language of Ireland.