RCB Library Notes
Archival puzzle solved by recent deposit of papers
The RCB Library’s Archive of the Month for May follows up on a previous story from December 2018 when, following generous financial support, the Library acquired a volume documenting the fund–raising and construction work involved in a significant renovation of St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, between 1859 and 1863 (RCB Library Ms 1048).
The volume was digitized and made available for all to view online with an accompanying introduction which could have been compiled by either of two creators – a father and a son both called John Armour Haydn, the name which appears on its front cover.
John Armour Haydn Sr (1845–1920) had a distinguished clerical career in the Diocese of Limerick and was additionally recognised as a skilled musician, while his ability as a painter was realised after his death with valuable sales of his works coming up for auction in recent years. One of his sons, John Armour Haydn Jr (1881–1957), was also a skilled artist, and passionate about the history of St Mary’s Cathedral, although never ordained and instead serving the Church in a lay capacity as secretary of the cathedral vestry and producing several published works about it.
Ascertaining the identity of the author was the focus of our original presentation and the story generated a lot of public interest. One of the online viewers to see it was Aileen Goulding Blomgren, who lives in Illinois, USA, and is descended from the family of John Armour Haydn Sr’s wife.
Her grandmother’s second husband, William H. Allen, was connected to the Haydns via marriage. William’s grandmother, Frances Priscilla Gregsten, nee Young, (1842–1930) was the sister of Louisa Young (1845–1916) who married the Revd John Armour Haydn, Sr. on 29 April 1873 in Dublin, at Monkstown parish church. Both women (known affectionately by the family as Fanny and Louey) were the daughters of James Mitchell Young and Sarah (nee Morrow) Young of Annaginny Lodge, near Dungannon, County Tyrone.
Aileen contacted us and subsequently donated an additional collection of papers and artefacts to the Library. This collection – accessioned as RCB Library Ms 1117 – comprises 11 separate files with a cover letter from the donor. Letters written by both men and contained in the collection have allowed the Library’s staff to compare the handwriting and determine that the original scrapbook was in fact the work of the Revd John Armour Haydn senior.
More significantly, the material provides a unique window into how families of Irish descent in America retained vital genealogical information about their connections in Ireland, through and correspondence and other memorabilia. The Library is most grateful to Aileen for generously donating this personal family collection to the permanent custody of the RCB Library, allowing us to complete the story of the restoration scrapbook, but also to build a more accurate picture of the Haydn family and their American connections.
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