Thursday, May 26, 2016

Public Lecture: Myth and Memory: the Battle of Aughrim (1691)

Myth and Memory: the Battle of Aughrim (1691)
to mark the bequest of the Morrissey Collection to the James Hardiman Library by Colman Morrissey

Dr Pádraig Lenihan

Discipline of History, NUI Galway
8.00 pm, Tuesday 31st May 2016

Aula Maxima, Quadrangle, NUI Galway

All Welcome

NUI Galway has received a significant donation of books about the Williamite War (1689-91) in Ireland and its aftermath from Colman Morrissey, son of a graduate of the University.

Over a period of 45 years Colman assembled the collection of over 200 Volumes containing all the known contemporary accounts of the war. For example the collection includes a copy (one of only 200) of John T Gilbert’s 1892 edition of the early eighteenth century manuscript ‘The Light to the Blind’. A highlight of the collection is a List of Claims  printed in 1701 of the Court  held in Chichester House (now the Bank of Ireland on College Green) Dublin where lands confiscated from the Irish Catholic losers and granted to the winners. This massive tome contains details of the former owners and the actual judgements on the claims written in by hand and so is a unique record of the land confiscations and transfers.

Other highlights include: the first biography of William of Orange/William III in 1703 in original binding; the first biography of King James II by J S Clarke published in 1816 also in original binding; the English 1759 translation of the Memoirs of the Duke of Berwick (natural son of James and a celebrated general in French service); a signed copy of William King’s influential State of the Protestants in Ireland…published in 1691; and its refutation by Charles Leslie in 1692. A framed copy of the 1688 Proclamation by Richard Talbot, Duke of Tyrconnell, proscribing persons in the province of Ulster and the town of Sligo as traitors is also included.

In addition there are copies of most of the publications by subsequent authors, including definitive Army Lists of the Jacobite Army, together with numerous shorter contemporary manuscripts describing parts of the conflict in various regions of the country, both North and South. In addition, the collection contains most of the publications from the 20th century dealing with the conflict including some rare items. Most items are in their original bindings and where repairs or rebindings have been necessary they have been carried out in a most professional manner.

John Cox, University Librarian at NUI Galway, said: “This is a wonderful collection and it is a real honour to receive it and to add it to the Library’s special collections. Colman has brought all his passion for this period of Irish history to bear on the collection, making great efforts to assemble it and often tracking down books in unusual places.”

Colman’s fascination with the Jacobite War was inspired by a boyhood visit to the Aughrim battle site. He was brought by his father, a friend of Martin Joyce, the local schoolmaster and guardian of the memory of Aughrim. This passion was subsequently reawakened by Richard Murphy’s 1965 epic poem on the Battle of Aughrim. The decision to donate the collection to NUIGalway in memory of the donor’s father, Joseph H. Morrissey, was taken because the Battle of Aughrim, the bloodiest and most decisive battle in Irish history, was fought in Connacht and because the donor’s father was a graduate of NUI Galway, or UCG as it was known then, where he attained a B.A. degree (with Martin Joyce) in 1935.
Dr Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway, said: “This is a most generous donation by Colman Morrissey, representing a lifetime of collecting, and we are delighted to honour the memory of his father in receiving it. The collection will be of great value to researchers now and in the future”.

NUI Galway’s Dr Pádraig Lenihan commented: “The collection will provide a wonderful resource to those interested in a time when the west was awake and events of continental reverberations took place on our doorstep.”

The Morrissey Collection will be included in the Special Collections of the Library and located in the Hardiman Research Building. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

NUI Galway to Digitise the Archive of Gate Theatre, Dublin

Prof. Patrick Lonergan, NUI Galway, Lorna Quinn, Actress, Michael Colgan,
Director of the Gate Theatre and Prof. Jim Browne, President, NUI Galway

NUI Galway and the Gate Theatre, Dublin are joining forces to digitise the Gate’s archive, a major resource for theatre scholars and artists.

When completed in 2018, the Gate Theatre Digital Archive will be exclusively available at NUI Galway’s James Hardiman Library, where users will be able to access hundreds of videos, scripts, show programmes, and many more treasures from the Gate’s history. 

Michael Colgan, Director of the Gate Theatre, stated: “The Gate Theatre is full of admiration for NUI Galway and we congratulate them for having the vision and courage to provide this extraordinary resource for generations to come. Long may their work continue and long may it be supported.”

Founded in 1928 by Hilton Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóir, the Gate Theatre has played a leading role in the production of Irish and international theatre, launching the careers of such actors as Orson Welles and Michael Gambon, staging the premieres of major plays like Brian Friel’s Philadelphia Here I Come! and presenting major international festivals dedicated to the Nobel laureates Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter – among many other major achievements.
Barry McGovern

The Gate Theatre’s archive is drawn mainly from the years since 1980, and includes information about many of the Gate’s major national and international successes during that period. The Gate has a long tradition of working with some of the world’s great actors; the archive features material relating to Orson Welles, Michael Gambon, John Hurt, Penelope Wilton, Stephen Rea, Ian Holm, Liam Neeson, Charles Dance, and many others. As a multimedia archive, this resource demonstrates the Gate’s enormous contribution not only to the art of playwriting but also to acting, design, direction and production.
Patrick Lonergan, Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway, stated that the Gate Theatre project will have a transformative impact on Irish theatre research. “The Gate is one of the major European theatres, and has played an enormous role in the development of our theatrical culture, especially in the areas of design, direction and acting, but also in playwriting, as shown by its long association with Brian Friel. This archive will allow NUI Galway researchers and students to learn from these achievements and, we hope, to build on them into the future as well.” 

NUI Galway is the home to numerous Irish theatre archives, all of which are stored in custom-built facilities at the University’s James Hardiman Library. These include the archives of Druid Theatre, the Lyric Players Theatre, Thomas Kilroy, John Arden and Margaretta D’Arcy and Siobhán McKenna, as well as online access to the Abbey Theatre Digital Archive. These resources make available almost 1,000 videos of Irish theatre productions since the 1980s and thousands of scripts, photographs and other files. Archival material from prior to that period is currently stored at Northwestern University, Illinois.
Susan FitzGerald

To mark this exciting project with the Gate, NUI Galway is announcing the establishment of a new MA in Irish Theatre History and Archives. Students on this course will have full access to resources like the Gate Theatre Digital Archive, and will get hands-on training in the use of theatre archives, including internships.

Professor Lonergan added that the digitisation process will preserve the Gate’s archive for future generations. “Digitisation allows us to use archival material in new ways, to search through it quickly, to cross-reference it, and so on. But crucially it also protects the Gate’s material, ensuring that this national treasure will be available in Ireland for future generations.”

John Cox, University Librarian at the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, said: “By connecting the Gate collection to its existing archival material on the Abbey, Druid and other theatres, NUI Galway’s status as the leading international centre for the study of Irish theatre will be further enhanced. The University will also have access to an extraordinarily large dataset for several major Irish cultural institutions, opening up opportunities for new research through text and data mining.”

The digitisation of the Gate Theatre archive commenced on February 1, 2016 at the James Hardiman Library. Digitisation will take 18 months. The project will encompass 200,000 pages, 20,000 images, 150 hours of audio and 750 hours of video, representing a comprehensive archive of material since 1983. The digital archive will be available for use in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room at NUI Galway.For further details visit:  

The digitisation of the Gate Theatre archive commenced on 1 February 2016 at the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway.  Digitisation will take 18 months.  The project will encompass 200,000 pages, 20,000 images, 150 hours of audio and 750 hours of video, representing a comprehensive archive of material since 1983. The digital archive will be available for use in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room at NUI Galway.

Further news on the project partnership is available in The Irish Times

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The executioner speaks: 1916, Cork rebel Thomas Kent and the Galway professor.

Dr Gearóid Barry, History, NUI Galway.

Thomas Kent
What brings together a Cork rebel executed one hundred years ago this week, the man who commanded the firing squad and esteemed Galway professor Liam Ó Briain appointed here at the then-UCG in 1917? As I write this, in May 2016, as the main period of 1916 commemorations winds down, it is hard for those of us in the historian’s trade to avoid the Easter Rising – even in our downtime! So it was that during my sojourn this past weekend in my native Cork that I happened upon a play entitled Thomas Kent: 1916 Rebel written by Ferghal Dineen and Eoin Ó hAnnracháin and produced by Cork-based company Lantern Productions

The play tells the story of the Kent family of Castlelyons Co. Cork, two of whom, the brothers Richard and Thomas Kent died as a direct or indirect result of a dramatic dawn firefight at the family farm at Bawnard on 2 May 1916. The play runs at the Everyman Theatre in Cork up to Friday 13 May 2016  and if you are near Cork this week, go. As one post on Twitter said ; ‘Laughter, tears, absolutely capitivating. Amazing work’.  I must admit an interest: Kent has been of interest to me these past months since I was asked to write a piece on his religious faith for an interesting new book, The End of All Things Earthly: Faith Profiles of the 1916 Leaders (edited by David Bracken and published by Veritas)

And the link to NUI Galway, you might well ask? It comes, indirectly, through our current exhibition A University in War and Revolution: the Galway experience now in its second month here in NUI Galway in the foyer of the James Hardiman Library.

One of the significant figures who features in the exhibition is Liam Ó Briain. Ó Briain was himself an Irish Volunteer who knew many of the executed leaders especially Seán MacDiarmada and  Michael Mallin who were executed in the same week as Kent. He lost his teaching job at UCD’s French department for taking part in the Rising, fighting at Stephen’s Green. Released from Frongoch prison camp in 1917, Ó Briain secured a post as professor of Romance languages at University College Galway (today NUI Galway) in 1917. The relevance to the Kent story in Cork though is a chance encounter in 1925 between Ó Briain and the British soldier in charge of the firing squad that executed Thomas Kent at Cork Detention Barracks on 9 May 1916.   Price, the solider whom Ó Briain met in Reigate, Surrey, in summer 1925, was the brother of Hereward T. Price, a British academic and old friend of Ó Briain’s, who had been a lecturer at Bonn University in Germany when the Irish academic has been there on a travelling scholarship in 1914.

Liam Ó Briain
Price’s brother, as a Royal Navy man stationed at nearby Queenstown, maintained he was in in charge of the firing squad in Cork in 1916. Price shows apparent regret for what he had to do. Ó Briain’s account –written in Irish and appearing in Last Words, a collection of material on the executed leaders’ final days put together in the 1960s by the Kilmainham Gaol Restoration Committee - states that Professor Price’s brother had remained quiet during Liam’s visit to his friend’s home in Reigate but made a startling confession to the Irish visitor as he accompanied him to the local railway station to catch his train. Apologizing for his awkward silence, the soldier Price, brother of Ó Briain’s colleague, said to him: ‘I was thinking if you knew a certain thing about me you might refuse to sit in the same room as me.’ Price told Ó Briain that ‘your business in Dublin caused a rare shake-up in the forces in Cork and, to make a long story short, I found myself in charge of a firing squad, the squad which executed one of your men.’ It was indeed Thomas Kent -‘ aye, that was the name’- and when asked how he died, Price added: ‘Oh, very bravely, not a feather out of him.’

Alongside the family dramas of the deaths of Richard Kent and policeman William Rowe and the execution of Thomas Kent in Cork in May 1916, the brief encounter in Reigate involving Galway professor Liam Ó Briain casts once again a human light on the dramatic events of the Rising and its aftermath. All the more reason, then, to visit our free exhibition in NUI Galway in the coming months!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

1916 and a sister's private grief: Seán Heuston's execution and Galway

In the little cemetery attached to the Dominican Convent at Taylor’s Hill, a black cross standing under the shade of an elm tree indicates the remains of Mother Bernard Heuston, O.P.  Bernard (christened Mary), was the older sister of Seán Heuston, one of the executed leaders of the Easter Rising.  Mary was born in Dublin in 1889; she entered the enclosed Dominican Monastery at Galway in 1914, where she made her religious profession at the age of 26 in 1915.  She died April 21, 1960.  Before entering the religious life, Mary was trained as a teacher in King Inns Street near Dominick Street where the family then lived.  The Heustons later moved to nearby 20 Fontenoy Street. 
As an enclosed nun, Sr. Mary’s receiving the news of her younger brother’s execution, naturally may have been accentuated by a sense of helplessness and frustration at not being able to attend his funeral.   Her community noted at the time however, that she accepted the tragedy of the cross she bore with quiet dignity and resignation; never referring to the matter of her famous brother’s death.   The Dominican friars at Dominic Street (Dublin) evidently played a significant role in the upbringing of the Heuston household, particularly after the departure of their father to England.  Mrs. Maria Heuston and all of her offspring were third order (tertiary) Dominicans. Indeed, Mrs. Heuston had wished that her son Jack (Seán) might be buried in the Dominican habit on hearing word of his ensuing execution.  The young revolutionary however, insisted on being interred in his own military garb.

Mother Bernard Heuston (centre) with her sister Teresa (left)
at the Domincan Convent, Taylor's Hill, Galway.
After the passing of execution on Captain Seán Heuston (who was in charge of the D Company that seized the Mendicity Institution during the Easter Rising); he sent word to Tallaght, where his brother Michael (later Fr. John Dominic, O.P.,) was then a Dominican novice, that he wished to see him before his death.  Accompanying the young friar on his visit to Kilmainham Prison was Fr. Michael Browne, O.P., (later Master General of the worldwide Dominican Order, and brother of Monsignor Pádraig de Brún, later President of U.C.G from 1945-59).   Michael Browne O.P.’s letter to Sr. Bernard in Galway, dated May 12, 1916, expressed apologies for the tardiness of its sending caused by ‘the wrenches my feelings got on Sunday night’.  Browne also relates in the same letter that ‘during these last few days’, there was special attention given to her brother (Br. John Dominic Heuston, O.P.,), and that ‘as long as I live he [Seán] will have a memento in my prayers and in my Masses’.

The ‘Sunday night’ referred to by Browne was May 7 of 1916, the night before Seán Heuston’s execution.  On the same day, Heuston wrote his last letter to his sister in Galway.  The rebel pleaded with his eldest sibling to ‘teach the children the History of their own land and to teach them [that] the cause of Caitlín Ní hUallacháin never dies.’  In the same letter, the condemned revolutionary also expressed his concern for their mother, who was by then financially dependent on him, ‘Poor mother will miss me, but I feel, with God’s help, she will manage.  You know the Irish proverb’ he continues, ‘God’s help is nearer than the door’.  

A young Sean Heuston, pictured in Limerick (n.d)
After the events of 1916, Sr. Heuston went on to hold many offices of responsibility within the Galway Dominican community, including: principal at the Dominican Secondary School; novice mistress; archivist and prioress (hence Mother).  She taught Latin, English, religion and history as subjects at the Dominican College.  She also ran the Aquinas Study circle at Taylor’s Hill which included U.C.G sociology lecturer Dr. John Howley, as one of its members. Mary Donovan O'Sullivan, Professor of History at U.C.G., from 1914 to the 1950s, was a prominent past-pupil of Taylor's Hill, though her politics as a Home Ruler and advocate of enlistment in the First World War would have been quite different from that of Seán Heuston who died as a republican martyr in 1916. The present author, a Dominican sister, knew and was taught by both Mother Bernard Heuston and Mary Donovan O'Sullivan, each of whom, in their own ways, were women of their times.

By T.P.L., graduate of the school of history at U.C.G., and former pupil of both Mother Bernard at the Dominican College at Taylor’s Hill and Prof. Donavan O’Sullivan at U.C.G. 

The Exhibition "A University in War and Revolution - The Galway Experience 1913-1919 is open daily at the Hardiman Research Building, NUI Galway and admission is free.

Monday, May 9, 2016

'Yeats & the West' Closing Lecture: Pearse, MacNeill, the Revival & the Rising, at the Model, Sligo, 12 May

Romanticism & Realism: Pearse, MacNeill, the Revival & the Rising

Public Talk with Dr. Mary Harris, 

Senior Lecturer in History, NUI Galway

6pm Thursday 12 May

The Model Theatre, Sligo

followed by Exhibition closing wine reception

All welcome!

Dr. Mary Harris
This talk observes how a cultural revolution became a real revolution. It also examines  personalities and politics that more than any others shaped Irish history. Patrick Pearse and Eoin MacNeill were collaborators in the Gaelic League, writers, thinkers and educators working together on An Claidheamh Soluis; fatally, they disagreed over the preparation and timing for armed rebellion. Pearse’s plays drew upon ancient myth to openly demand revolution; MacNeill’s historical studies produced Phases of Irish History and Celtic Ireland. Was it simply romanticism vs realism? Looking back on the Easter Rising and the foundation of the Free State, W.B. Yeats suggested that ‘the modern literature of Ireland, and indeed all that stir of thought which prepared for the Anglo-Irish war, began when Parnell fell from power in 1891. A disillusioned and embittered Ireland turned from parliamentary politics; an event was conceived; and the race began, as I think, to be troubled by that event’s long gestation’. Looking back from one hundred years on, this talk considers the period’s complex interconnections of culture, literature and history, and asks how that ‘stir of thought’ at once created and limited the gestation and flowering of the decisive events of 1916.

Dr Mary Harris is Senior Lecturer in History at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She was born in Cork and is a graduate of UCC, proceeding to Cambridge for her PhD which led to her monograph The Catholic Church and the Foundation of the Northern Irish State (Cork University Press, 1993).

Mary has worked as a secondary school teacher in Cork and Grenada, West Indies.  From 1992-6 she taught Irish Studies at the University of North London.  Since 1996 she has been in the discipline of History at the National University of Ireland, Galway.  Her teaching and research focus is on modern Irish history, and she has published widely in this area. She is currently working on a book on Eoin MacNeill.

Mary is co-ordinator of NUI Galway’s programme commemorating the 1916 Rising and is a member of the Irish government’s expert advisory group on commemoration.

Dr Mary Harris appears in conversation with the curator of Yeats & the West, and Lecturer in English at NUI Galway, Dr Adrian Paterson. The talk is followed by a wine reception for the exhibition closing at the Model, honouring NUI Galway alumni, who include the illustrious collector and donor to the Model Nora Niland.

Tours of the exhibition from the curators take place every Thursday at 1pm.  Find out what makes art and poetry so close, and observe the connection of books, and music, drama, and discover never before seen rare books and fine art from the collections of NUI Galway and The Model. Come and get an inside view of the crafts and cultures that made a western revolution.

Emer McGarry, Acting Director, The Model, Cllr. Thomas Healy, Dr Jim Browne , President of NUI Galway, Martin Enright, President of Yeats Society, Sligo, Dr Adrian Paterson, NUI Galway, and curator of the exhibition, Senator Susan O’Keeffe, Ciaran Hayes, Sligo County Manager, Barry Houlihan, NUIG, Donal Tinney, Chairperson of The Model, and John Cox, NUIG, at the NUI Galway Launch of Yeats & the West Exhibition at The Model, Sligo.
Photo: James Connolly

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Remembering the Rising: The Pearse Brothers and QCG Visitor Book, 1899

Today, the third of May 2016, marks one hundred years to the day of the first executions of the leaders of the 1916 Rising. The executions were carried out at the Stonebreaker's Yard of Kilmainham Jail. On May 2nd 1916, the first courts martial sentenced Padraig Pearse, Thomas Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh to death. Pearse, a founding leader of the Volunteers, Commander-and-Chief of the rebel forces and stationed at the G.P.O. on O'Connell Street at the height of the conflict, along with fellow signatories of the Proclamation, Thomas Clarke and Thomas McDonagh, were executed by firing squad. Between the third of May and the twelfth of May 1916, fifteen leaders of the Rising would be executed. Among the fifteen were others such as Willie Pearse, brother of Padraig. Though not considered a senior leader or instigator of the Rising, Willie Pearse was also executed by firing squad, largely because he was Padraig's brother, on the fourth of May. 

As part of A University in War and Revolution1913-191 The Galway Experience currently on at the Hardiman Research Building, NUI Galway, a central item on exhibit is the University Visitor Book for Queen's College Galway (NUIG's former title). The visitor book records the signatures of both Pearse brothers, which they sign in Irish, Padraig agus William MacPiarais.

Q.C.G. Visitor book with signatures of Padriag and William Pearse

The visit by both Pearse brothers to the University campus in Galway in August 1899 is a truly unique moment in the University’s history. The presence of both signatures, when Padraig and William were nineteen and twenty years of age respectively, offers an illuminating insight into the exhibition, which tells the story of the University's impact and influence in major events of the time, such as the role of college students and academic staff in both the Rising and the War effort in Europe at the time; women in revolution; the place of the Irish language and also the post-1916 political landscape of the West of Ireland as seen at the 1918 election.

The exhibition is open to all and entry is free.