Friday, December 22, 2017

A Muintir na Tíre Christmas release

The project to arrange and catalogue the Muintir na Tíre archive is nearly complete. After the Christmas break I will be spending the last two weeks finalising the catalogue and writing up reports and a blog or two on the project to arrange and catalogue the Muintir na Tíre archive.

As an early Christmas present into the work of Muintir na Tíre we have released the The Official Handbook/Rural Ireland annual from 1941 to 1955 online. This annual provides information on the guilds, those on the national executive and the work that Muintir na Tíre were involved in during the year. This is available for anyone to read and is available here. Thanks to the collaboration with colleagues in the Digital Publishing and Innovation Team.More journals will be coming on line in the New Year. 

We hope you have enjoyed our blogs on the work that has been done on the Muintir na Tíre archive and some of the topics that have been discovered in the archive. This collection will be available for use for research in 2018 so do keep an eye out for when it will be released. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

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 ClausA Gift for HimselfThe 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!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Archive Launch and symposium celebrating John Arden and Margaretta D'Arcy

British and Irish Political Theatre Since 1950: Celebrating the Legacies of John Arden and Margaretta D’Arcy

O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance
 Friday 24 November 2017, 09.30-17.00
John arden and Margaretta D'Arcy, Galway, 1972

09.30 –10.30 Symposum welcome and introduction (Patrick Lonergan) Patrick Duggan 'Attempting Conversations with the State: 'Loose' Performances of Radical Resistance'
Chair: Marianne Ni Chinneide

10.30 – Coffee.

11.00 - 11.40: Formal Launch of the John Arden and Margaretta D’Arcy Archive at NUI Galway

11.45-12.30:  Sources for Research on John Arden and Margaretta D’Arcy 
Kieran Hoare (NUIG)– The Arden/D’Arcy archive at NUI Galway 
Harriet Reed: (Victoria and Albert Museum) “Arden, D’Arcy and the Irish in the Royal Court Archive’.
Chair: Barry Houlihan

12.30-13.30 – Reception with sandwiches/lunch at this time.

13.30- 14.45: Showcase of NUI Galway research on British and Irish political theatre since 1950
•       Miriam Haughton, “Staging Trauma: Politicising Performance”
•       Lionel Pilkington, ‘The Challenges of Anti-Capitalist Theatre in 1980s Ireland’
•       Patrick Lonergan, The Troubles Untroubled: Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman
•       Charlotte McIvor, ““Archives, Activism, Absence: Suzanne Day’s “Toilers” and ‘Where Are the Irish Women Playwrights’ (Again)”
Chair: Ian Walsh

14.45 – break

15.00 – 15.45  Vicky Angelaki, “Contemporary British Political Playwriting: The Disappearing Binary”
Chair: Catherine Morris

Conclusion of symposium.

15.45 – coffee/tea

16.00 – 17.00 Margaretta D’Arcy public interview

Monday, November 20, 2017

'Explore Your Archive' week at the Hardiman Library

James Hardiman Library

 invites you to

Explore your Archive

  Wednesday 22nd November
 (Bridge Room), Hardiman Research Building
Four of NUIG Library Archivists will give a 10-minute talk (see below) and you will have an opportunity to view exhibits and ask questions.
Tea/Coffee will be served from 11:30 

Muintir na Tíre Periodical literature – Fiona Kearney

Muintir na Tíre is a national voluntary organisation dedicated to promoting the process of community development. The archive consists of material from the foundation of Muintir na Tíre Limited in 1931,the foundation of Muintir na Tíre in 1937 to the end of the 20th century.

Sir Peter Freyer - Kieran Hoare

Sir Peter Freyer was born on 2 July 1851 and was baptized in the parish church at Ballinakill, Co Galway on 26 July.  He was the eldest of the children of Samuel Freyer, a small landholder of Sellerna, near Cleggan and his wife Celia Burke.   He went to the Erasmus Smith School in Galway and won a scholarship to attend the Queen’s College, Galway.    He had a distinguished academic career at the College, obtaining in 1872 a first-class honour degree in Arts and winning the gold medal, two years later he was awarded his M.D., again coming first in his class. He worked in the Indian Medical Service from 1877 to 1894, becoming a specialist in urological surgery. On his return he set up in private practice in Harley St., becoming involved in the training of the Army Medical Corps among other things in the early twentieth century. He was active as a supervisor of a number of army hospitals during World War One. He died on 9 September 1921, aged 70 and is buried beside his father in the Church of Ireland cemetery at Clifden, Co Galway.


The Rynne Family Archive: Ireland Through Generations - Barry Houlihan

The Rynne family archive comprises records of multiple generations of a family which had formative roles in shaping Irish culture and society from the Revolutionary era through to recent years. Dr Michael Rynne, a veteran of the War of Independence also served as Irish ambassador to Spain in the Free State; his sister Mary, was a prominent writer and playwright at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Michael’s son, Etienne, was Professor of Archaeology at NUI Galway, a position he held for thirty years. This talk explores the processes of preserving and cataloguing this vast family collection

 Michael Maurice O'Shaughnessy: Engineering the Promised Land - Aisling Keane

The Michael Maurice O'Shaughnessy archive is the basis for an exhibition that is currently on display in the Hardiman foyer, Michael Maurice O'Shaughnessy 1864-1934: Engineering the Promised Land. It tells the story of the Limerick man, who in 1884 graduated from Queen's College Galway as NUI Galway was known at the time. He emigrated to California the following year, where he enjoyed an illustrious career as a civil engineer. From 1912-1932 he served as San Francisco's City Engineer. In this role he oversaw iconic projects in the region, including San Francisco's hydro-electric power scheme, and he approved the concept for the Golden Gate Bridge. The archive offers a window into the life of an Irish emigrant in America in the late 19th century, and documents a fascinating time of  development in America.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Muintir na Tíre involved in Community Alert and Community Enterprise Development

Muintir na Tíre have been involved in many initiatives and projects throughout its history. Some of the projects they have been involved in include rural electrification, building of community halls and centres, EEC Pilot Project for the Training of Trainers and The Tidy Towns competition. Further information on the many projects they have been involved in can be found here.

Some of the files that I have recently catalogued have dealt with two big initiatives that Muintir na Tíre have been involved in. Both of these initiatives involved community development and empowering the local community to work together.

The first initiative is Community Alert which Muintir na Tíre are still involved with today. Muintir na Tíre became involved with Community Crime Prevention back in 1985. The idea of Community Alert was Muintir’s response to a number of vicious attacks on elderly people in 1984 and 1985 in rural Ireland. 

Muintir na Tíre worked with An Garda Síochana to establish the community crime prevention programme. Neighbourhood Watch had been introduced in urban areas in 1984 and Community Alert was launched in 1985 for rural areas.


Community Alert was organised by local community councils or interested local people with the help of a Muintir na Tíre Development Officer and a Garda. Community Alert road signs were erected in local areas and a local campaign was established.

Funding for Community Alert was provided by government departments including Department of Social, Family and community Affairs, Department of Health and Children and Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The files in the collection give us a great understanding of the development of community alert and how Muintir na Tíre were to the forefront of its development. To find out more about the Community Text Alert Scheme run by Muintir na Tíre today visit here.

The second initiative that Muintir na Tíre was involved in was with the Youth Employment Agency. They employed an Enterprise Development Officer to work with community groups to establish community enterprises to create jobs in the local community. 

The beginnings of an initiative to have full time staff involved in community development training began with the EEC Pilot Project in the 1970s but it was not until the mid 1980s that they got to initiate the initiative. Through the support and financial backing of the Youth Employment Agency, which later became FÁS, they were able to employ a fulltime Enterprise Development Officer.

This work was led by Eamon O’Sullivan, the Enterprise Development Officer, and he worked with numerous community groups such as Burgess Community Enterprise Group, Castletownroache Community Enterprise Co-op, Galbally Community Enterprise Group and Tallow Community Enterprise Group.

The files detail the work that Eamon did with each group to investigate and establish various community enterprises. They also detail how the state agencies were working with different groups to improve the unemployment situation that was in Ireland during the 1980s. 

The programme ran until 1988 and while there was some success with industries formed by local Enterprise groups not all groups involved in the programme were a success. The files provide us with great insight into the programme and how Muintir na Tíre worked with government departments. The programme was another example of how Muintir na Tíre was always working with communities to be self-reliant.

There are many more examples of the initiatives that Muintir na Tíre were involved in in the collection and this shows the impact and involvement that they have had on Irish society in their 80 year history. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Public Lecture by Fintan O’Toole and new Exhibition to Mark the Publication of "Judging Shaw"

NUI Galway in conjunction with the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) will host a public lecture by Fintan O’Toole entitled ‘Bernard Shaw and the Uses of Celebrity’ to mark the publication of Judging Shaw on Tuesday, 7 November at 6.30pm.

The event will take place in the Aula Maxima at the University and will be followed by a panel discussion on “Making Judging Shaw” moderated by Professor Patrick Lonergan, NUI Galway with Ruth Hegarty, RIA, Barry Houlihan, Archivist, James Hardiman Library and Fintan O’Toole.

Judging Shaw is the fourth book in the Royal Irish Academy’s award-winning ‘Judging’ series and looks at the legacy of George Bernard Shaw (GBS), Nobel prize-winner for literature and internationally renowned playwright, intellectual and commentator.

The book, written by Orwell-prize-winning journalist Fintan O’Toole, traces the growth of ‘GBS’, the first great global brand, and discovers how Shaw created this most modern of concepts. Judging Shaw brings together a new insights on the making and invention of GBS, the complex relationships Shaw had with both England and Ireland, through times of revolution and after; reconsiders the ‘dark side of GBS’ as well as his death, commemoration and legacies. The illustrated volume features over one hundred digitised archival documents, sourced from institutions around the world, including NUI Galway’s digital theatre collections at the Hardiman Library, many published for the first time and which visualise the great achievements and also wide range of networks Shaw lived and worked in.

Also being unveiled is a new exhibition to coincide with the publication of Judging Shaw. Co-curated by Barry Houlihan of NUI Galway, Ruth Hegarty and Jeff Wilson of the Royal Irish Academy and Fintan O’Toole, the exhibition brings a wealth of archival images and stories from Shaw’s remarkable public and private life, drawing on many experiences such as time spent in the West of Ireland at Coole Park, the home of Lady Isabella Augusta Gregory, Shaw’s political and socialist writing, his theatre as staged in London, Dublin and also in Belfast after his death. The legacy of Shaw is considered in the ‘afterlife of GBS’, how his work was staged in contemporary times and how his life was commemorated. Before he died, Shaw noted those around him were ‘going Shaw-mad!’

The exhibition will be open to the public at the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance, NUI Galway.

George Bernard Shaw has left a vast legacy of theatrical, fictional, polemical, critical and philosophical writing. The first person to win both a Nobel Prize and an Academy Award, Shaw bridges the Victorian era and the contemporary culture of celebrity. The GBS brand came to be recognised globally as referring to an Irish provocateur with a red beard and startling opinions. He was a master of self-invention, a nobody who captured the zeitgeist and one of the first private individuals to understand fully how to generate—and how to use—global fame.
Scene from John Bull's Other Island, Belfast, 1971, Lyric Theatre Archive, NUIG

Speaking in advance of the public lecture, Professor Patrick Lonergan, said: “We are delighted to welcome Fintan O’Toole and the Royal Irish Academy to NUI Galway to explore and celebrate the life and work of George Bernard Shaw. This university is deeply committed to preserving our nation’s theatrical heritage through our work in archives, allowing us to offer courses that give our students a unique behind-the-scenes perspective on Irish theatre.  We also are strongly committed to promoting awareness of that heritage through talks, publications, and other activities. This beautifully produced book and the fascinating exhibition that accompanies it will bring huge pleasure to readers and theatre-makers around the world, ensuring that Shaw’s legacies – as a dramatist and a political thinker – will have an impact for generations to come.” 

George Bernard Shaw
Fintan O’Toole said: “Shaw had an ambivalent relationship with Ireland, but Ireland had a very ambivalent relationship with Shaw. He is by far the most influential, famous Irish person who has ever lived. There is no other Irish person that had the global reach that Shaw had. He is a vast terrain. It is a pleasure to see the book translated into an entirely different medium in the exhibition and one of the things that you see in it is that as well as being a great thinker, a great political activist, great dramatist, as well as that he was one of the world’s great posers.”

Admission is free but places are limited so please register go to

GBS posing for statue of his likeness

Monday, October 2, 2017

Muintir na Tíre and Community Development as evidenced in its publications

My colleague Marie Boran and I gave a talk for culture night on 22nd September. Marie focused on James Hardiman and I focused on Muintir na Tíre. The common thread we weaved through or talks was community development. Marie looked at how James Hardiman got involved in community groups in Galway in the 19th century and I looked at how Muintir na Tíre conveyed the message of community development and showed it in action in Rural Ireland and The Landmark in the 20th century

Rural Ireland, an annual publication, was first published in 1941 and was initially titled ‘Muintir na Tíre Official Handbook’ and renamed in 1948. Contained within Rural Ireland were reports from guilds, agricultural advice, short stories, historical articles and articles on community development, vocationalism, rural sociology, rural electrification, water schemes and afforestation. Details of the National Executive and affiliated guilds were published annually. It ceased publication in 1972 when the last Rural Ireland was published.

The Landmark, a monthly publication, was first published in August 1944. It was hoped that The Landmark would ‘pass into many hands, and will also be a binding force for the guilds of Muintir na Tíre scattered throughout the country. It will serve as a platform for their views, and it will tell them what others are doing in the country’. …..The Landmark goes forth as a banner to lead and unite the vocation of agriculture and bring Christianity to our fields’.

The Landmark had more recurring themed articles which were targeted at women, agricultural workers, young people, gardeners and those interested in GAA. Articles on The Parish Plan, agriculture, vocationalism, electrification, forestry, water schemes, youth in the community, agricultural improvements and guild updates were published. It ceased publication in 1973.

Muintir na Tíre came into contact with the term community development in the late 1950s. The definition of community development that Muintir na Tíre adopted was from the United Nations who defined community development ‘as a process designed to create conditions of economic and social progress for the whole community with its active participation and fullest possible reliance upon the communities own initiative’.

Looking at the two publications we can see many examples of how Muintir na Tíre were involved in community development before it became the organisation’s focus after 1958. Before 1958, an example is the development and the promotion of the Parish Plan which was devised by Professor Joseph Lyons UCC and P.J. Meghen, county manager for Limerick. Muintir na Tíre believed that any reform of Irish agriculture should be based on the parish as a unit. The plan was to be administered by the Parish Council (the guild), with the co-operation of all sections of the parish in the interest of balanced agricultural effort. It was also intended that the Plan would utilise to the fullest the existing schemes offered by the Department of Agriculture for agricultural improvement.

We see articles on what the plan will mean for parishes, how productivity will be increased and how it will improve farming in both publications. ‘Better Farming by the Parish’ by Professor J. Lyons in Rural Ireland 1949 lays out how the parish council can establish a plan and how it should be organised. A second article in the same issue titled ‘The Parish Plan’ states that the plan is to increase agricultural production so that the country may have an increased income and thus a greater spending power.

Muintir na Tíre were also involved in the promotion of the use of electricity in rural Ireland. Bansha was one of the first guilds involved in the promotion and use of electricity with electricity switched on on May 23 1948. Fr Hayes stated on the day that “rural electrification has given a new life and new light to our community” The Landmark, June 1948.

Articles on rural electrification began to appear in Rural Ireland in 1945. In 1947 we see articles discussing how Muintir na Tíre can help with establishing rural electrification in your area and in 1949 discussing how the scheme of rural electrification is progressing. There are numerous examples of the work of the guilds with the ESB and rural electrification found in both publications.

Post 1958 we see an increase on the number of articles on community development. An article by Rev M. Morrissey in Rural Ireland 1959 entitle ‘Canon Hayes – Pioneer of the Community Idea in Ireland’ looks at how Canon Hayes was developing a community spirit through his work in Muintir na Tíre.

Muintir na Tíre was supported by Professor George F Thomason, from Cardiff University who was known for his research and work in industrial relations. He wrote numerous articles and publications on community development for Muintir na Tíre. He notes in his article ‘Community Development – A view of Society’ in Rural Ireland 1960 that the term community development and the application of the principles of community development that is changing the face of India, Ghana and other countries is not something that need worry Muintir na Tíre as they have been doing the same thing themselves. 

Another big scheme that Muintir na Tíre got involved in in the 1960s was in local group water schemes and getting piped water to communities. The guilds got involved in the planning of group water schemes and piped water. In The Landmark in February 1962 there is information provided on how to form a group water scheme and when it is best to do this “many groups of people throughout the country have found that where suitable water is not readily available, big economies may be effected by a number of householders getting together and utilising one source of water and one pump for the whole group”.

Other examples of community development shown in the two publications include the involvement of guilds in the Tidy Towns competition. This was very much encouraged by headquarters as it was something that the guilds could lead on. In 1963, 66 guilds provided entries to the Tidy Towns Competition. This was an increase of 11 on 1962. For Muintir na Tíre this showed great community spirit.

While only a sample of how community development is discussed and evidenced in both publications it shows how heavily involved Muintir na Tíre were involved in improving local communities and aimed to “organise the different elements of rural life in Ireland into one body for the common good. It strives to promote the true welfare of Ireland, spiritual, cultural and material based on a wider and better knowledge and practice of Christian social principles”.   

Friday, September 15, 2017

Culture Night 2017

This year’s culture night takes place on the 22 September. Culture night is an annual all-island public event that celebrates culture, creativity and the arts. The James Hardiman Library is holding an evening of talks and an exhibition to celebrate culture. The focus of the talks is on community development with the focus on materials from the Muintir na Tíre collection as well as volumes from the 19th century printed collections.

The James Hardiman Library’s collections hold a rich source of material on local and community studies. In the archives we have collections from The Abbey Theatre, The Gate Theatre, Professor Kevin Boyle, Brendan Duddy, Ritchie-Pickow, Éamon de Buitléar, Tim Robinson and Druid Theatre company to name but a few. The James Hardiman Library has recently acquired the archive of Muintir na Tíre, a national voluntary organisation dedicated to promoting the process of community development. A series of blogs have been written about the work to date of making the collection accessible for researchers. 

The Muintir na Tíre talk will look at Rural Ireland and Landmark two publications of Muintir na Tíre and discuss how they promoted community development before and after the United Nations definition in 1958. These will also be on display in the exhibition. Community development in Galway and the West of Ireland will be discussed as well during the talk. Much earlier attempts at community development in Galway will be addressed in the talk on James Hardiman and his involvement with organisations such as the Royal Galway Institution.

Venue: Room G010, Hardiman Research Building

18.30: “Muintir na Tíre Periodical literature”.  Speaker: Fiona Kearney, Archivist

19.30: “James Hardiman, historian of Galway” Speaker: Marie Boran, Special Collections Librarian

We hope you can come along and join us for the evening. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Muintir na Tíre's financial and governance records

In my last blog I wrote about the various stages of work that an archivist does in preparing a collection to make it accessible in the reading room. Having completed the arrangement (almost) I have now started describing the collection. These descriptions will provide researchers with sign posts to what is contained in a file or bound volume.

The material I have been cataloguing in the collection so far has been mainly financial records and governance records of Muintir na Tíre. The financial records of Muintir na Tíre contain various ledgers detailing membership, income and expenditure, annual reports and petty cash books. The annual reports of Muintir na Tíre date back as far as 1945. Below is an example of the annual report from 1974. These records provide a great understanding of the financial position of Muintir na Tíre throughout its history.  



The ledgers dealing with membership provide us with the details of the guilds and community councils who registered as members with Muintir na Tíre. The Guild’s Ledgers contain information on the subscriptions that guilds had for Landmark. Below is an example of this. All this valuable information provides us with evidence of the number of guilds/community councils that were members of Muintir na Tíre down through the years. We can ascertain the history of guilds/community councils for the last 80 years from these records as well.

A constitution has been used as the governing method of Muintir na Tíre since its foundation. The constitution has been amended over the years to reflect the development and different ways of working of Muintir na Tíre. In 1996, Muintir na Tíre became a Company Limited by Guarantee and now has a memorandum of understanding and articles of association. They developed guidelines on setting up a community council and they provided a template for the constitution they required if setting up the council as a company limited by guarantee. Examples of some of the constitutions is provided below.


We also get an understanding of the election process in Muintir na Tíre. The Honorary Returning Officer was a busy person organising and managing the election process from the nominations to confirming the names of those elected. We see the variety of individual who were nominated and got involved in the National Council.


Finally, we also get an understanding of the decisions made by the National Council of Muintir na Tíre. The minutes of the National Executive committee meetings provide the eveidence of the decisions made by the leadership of Muintir na Tíre down through the years. They also show the many discussions that took place on various issues that faced Muintir na Tíre and the many projects they got involved in.

These records provide us with the evidence of how Muintir na Tíre was governed over the last 80 years. The descriptions for these records have been written and while you have to wait until the collection as a whole is catalogued before they are available for consultation, you can start thinking about how you can use this wonderful collection for your research purposes.