Keeping the Records Safe – edition of Irish Archives journal attests to RCB Library’s Role
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By popular demand, and to encourage followers of Archive of the Month to consider buying this high–quality colour publication, we open 2015 on the theme of “keeping the records safe” (what we do at the RCB Library) by providing some visual insight to the content of the annual publication of the Irish Society for Archives which devotes its current edition (vol. 21) to the records of the Church of Ireland.
The journal Irish Archives reflects the vast array of materials that are kept safe in the RCB Library. It was launched in the Deanery of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, in November 2014 by the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan TD, who said great credit was due to the Church of Ireland for gathering its records and keeping them safe.
Referring to the journal’s cover photograph which features American First Lady, Michelle Obama and her daughters viewing the parish registers of Templeharry, County Offaly, the Minister stressed the importance of record–keeping:
‘We are all aware that there are parish records. But it is important that they are gathered together and made available to the public. Looking at the cover photo, we wouldn’t have had President Obama’s visit if it hadn’t been for archives because he would have been able to trace his family,’ she said. ‘The gathering of these records and the provision of them to people is a service to the nation. And as a national we rely on these archives because of the destruction of the Public Records Office in 1922.’
Commending the journal, the Minister suggested that it would make interesting reading not just for Church of Ireland people, but for anyone interested in the evolution of modern Ireland.
Launch of Irish Archives vol. 21 Records of the Church of Ireland, at the Deanery, St Patrick’s Cathedral, November 2014. Back row: Dr Raymond Refaussé, Dr Susan Hood (co–editor) Dean Victor Stacey, Minister Jan O’Sullivan and Ms Elizabeth McEvoy (co–editor). (photo: Lynn Glanville)
The volume provides a published platform for the current generation of historians and archivists to reassess and reconstruct some of the complex aspects of Church of Ireland identity which the safe custody and availability of these records makes possible.
To give some visual insight to the journals’ content (produced in full colour throughout) a taste of the illustrative material it includes is given below.
The lead article by Dr Refaussé charts the evolutionary story of the creation of a Church of Ireland archive and establishment of the Representative Church Body Library (RCBL).
He pays tribute to those who have looked after an array of parish collections, diocesan papers and miscellaneous manuscripts in local and central custody through the ages before efforts to centralise and co–ordinate record keeping were taken up by an Ecclesiastical Records Committee appointed by the Standing Committee of the General Synod in June 1925.
The Church’s leading historians at the time were co–opted to its membership and included such figures as Revd J.B. Leslie whose monumental work on the biographies of clergy now form a corpus of work – the diocesan clerical succession lists – which provide enriching information about individual clergy, their families and family connections.
Next, Dr Miriam Moffitt (St Patrick’s College, Maynooth) acknowledges the strength of the RCB library lies in its holistic approach to historical documents. Her analysis of a broad selection of late 19th and early 20th–century collections demonstrates how they can be used to explore not only the experiences of the Church of Ireland community of southern Ireland, but also the motivations, attitudes and feelings which underpinned their actions and responses.
Careful analysis of the Church of Ireland Gazette for example revealed this unusual reference to the lack of support within the Church membership for Home Rule during the third Home Rule crisis in 1912.
Later insecurities and feelings of vulnerability during the early days of the Irish Free State are revealed by the Church’s decision to commission the writing of a new history in 1929 (eventually published in three volumes in 1933) which is further explored by Moffitt, and includes analysis of such materials as this letter of the Most Revd John A. F. Gregg, Church of Ireland archbishop of Dublin (1919–39) to Professor Walter Alison Phillips, first Lecky Professor of Modern History at Trinity College Dublin, who was to undertake the task of editing the work.
Letter of the Most Revd J. A. Gregg, archbishop of Dublin marked, ‘confidential’, to W. A. Phillips, 1 October 1929 in which he urges the need for ‘a carefully and scientifically prepared history of the Church of Ireland’, RCBL, Ms 60/37
The exploration of identity issues is followed by the essay by Dr Martin Maguire (Dundalk Institute of Technology) who examines the wide range of sources available to document social tensions within the Irish Protestant community from a class perspective. These include such gems as a parish visitation book including family information about parishioners of St Peter’s parish during the 1840s and the papers of the City and County of Dublin Conservative Working Mens’ Club 1883–1987.
Parish visitation book covering the parishioners of Cuffe Street, St Peter’s parish, 1844, RCBL P45/15/1; and City and County of Dublin Conservative Working Mens’ Club 1883–1987, Committee Minute Book, Entry dealing with the boisterous behaviour of two members, Messrs Mitchell and Tully, in the context of drinking and related activities on the King’s Birthday, and how they were disciplined, 22 November 1901, RCBL, 486/3/1.
Turning to education, Andrew Whiteside (Archivist and Historian) focuses on the large number of Church of Ireland secondary schools that had past pupils at the front during the First World War and how their memory was preserved by these institutions, resulting in an array of illustrative documentation on paper and in memorial tablets.
Front cover of special war issue of Mountjoy School Magazine, 1919, including detail of the photographs of nine past pupils RCBL Ms 151; the First World War memorial for Ranelagh School in St Mary’s Church, Athlone, and the Church of Ireland roll of honour for Athlone parish, including past pupils of Ranelagh School (the latter two images courtesy of the Rector and Select Vestry of St Mary’s Athlone).
Dr Robbie Roulston (UCD School of History and Archives) reassesses the Church of Ireland’s relationship with the Irish state in education using recently catalogued collections of papers including those of the General Synod concerning education and diocesan reports.
Richly–embellished letter head of the Educational Company of Ireland to the Representative Church Body, enclosing royalty details up to May 1946 for Dora Casserley’s History of Ireland, 1 July 1946, Memorandum on school transport, as printed for circulation, annexed to the minute book of the Church of Ireland Board of Education, 19 June 1951 (both RCBL GS 2/1) and title page of the diocesan report for Dublin and Glendalough in 1968 which included a survey of 574 young people (RCB Collection)
Screen shot of the home page of the RCB Library Architectural Drawings with detail plan of the nave of Youghal parish church as adapted during the 1830s, RCBL Portfolio 5
A visual dimension is provided by Dr Michael O’Neill FSA (Architectural Historian) focusing on the architectural drawing collections in the Library and ongoing efforts to digitize and make available the contents of these resources online at this link.
Focusing on these visual materials, combined with other text–based sources such as the vestry minute books, he shows how it possible to reconstruct how buildings were constructed to various styles and layouts.
Interior and exterior images of Kells parish church, as designed by Thomas Cooley, together with a page from the vestry minutes of Kells parish, county Meath, April 1789 demonstrating how building accounts for the new church survive amongst the minutes, RCBL P192.5.1
Susan Hemmens (Marsh’s Library Dublin) focuses on Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin’s 18th–century music archive of both manuscript and printed materials and draws attention to its uniquely rich informational context.
A selection of previous ‘Archives of the Month’ archived which are all available through this permanent digital link: www.ireland.anglican.org/about/130
The volume concludes with Dr Susan Hood’s summary of the RCBL’s effort to reach out to the wider world by showcasing selected collections and updated lists online via the ‘Archive of the Month’ medium, of which this presentation represents the 37th continuous online exhibit.
‘The First Lady of the United State of America, Michelle Obama, viewing the parish registers Templeharry, County Offaly, during her visit to Ireland with her daughters Sasha and Malia, 17 June 2013. Photograph courtesy of Maxwell Photography, www.maxwellphotography.ie.
The Obama family all received copies of Irish Archives vol. 21 as Christmas gifts from a relative and genealogical researcher.
Copies of Irish Archives are available for €10 at the Representative Church Body Library. Orders will be distributed direct for an additional €2.25 per copy to an address within Ireland or €4.25 per copy for international orders. Please make payments to the Representative Church Body.
For further information please contact:
Dr Susan Hood