Archive of the Month
The Irish Huguenot Archive
By Dr Raymond Refaussé
In 1993 the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland entered into an agreement with the Representative Church Body to allow the RCB Library to host what was to be called the Irish Huguenot Archive. It was hoped that this new entity would develop as a centre for Huguenot studies in Ireland and so serve a similar purpose to the Huguenot Library in London.
The choice of the RCB Library was logical for most of the Huguenot refugees to Ireland had, eventually, conformed to the discipline of the Church of Ireland. Whilst for a period, they continued to hold their services in French, this practice in time died out and they were absorbed into the mainstream of the Church of Ireland being distinguished only by their names and their history. And so the RCB Library was already a place of resort for those interested in Huguenot families. The Library’s unrivalled collection of registers of baptisms, marriages and burials contained many entries with Huguenot names while the Library’s considerable collection of parish histories, many with small and limited circulations, included references to Huguenot families who had settled in various parts of Ireland.
As well, the Library also had some Huguenot material in its manuscripts collection. For example, J.J. Digges La Touche, who had been Deputy Keeper of the Public Records of Ireland, and, himself, a descendent of one of the more considerable French families to settle in Ireland, had copied the minute book the French Church of St Mary in Dublin, for the years 1706–17 – happily so, since the original volume was destroyed in the fire in the Public Record Office of Ireland in 1922. This, together with notes by La Touche on the Dublin banking firm of David La Touche, and a copy of a La Touche genealogy, 22 copies of which had been printed for private circulation in 1822, had been presented to the Library in the 1960s. Also there were papers of descendants of prominent Huguenot families such as the Ercks, who had intermarried with the Caillards in the 18th century, and the Lamillieres, one of whom became Archdeacon of Cork in 1796.
And, of course, among the clerical succession lists, and in the papers of Canon J.B. Leslie, who had compiled many of the lists, there was much biographical detail about Huguenot clergy who had conformed to the Church of Ireland, and similarly information about Church of Ireland Clergy who were descendants of Huguenot families.
Also, among its printed books collections, the Library held some French service books such as a copy of Les Pseaumes de David with musical notation, published in Amsterdam, as well as copies of the standard published works on the Huguenot refuge in Ireland.
With the inauguration of the Irish Huguenot Archive, material began to flow into the Library and has continued to do so. Many of the accessions have been random, in the sense that people have decided, for reasons of their own rather than having been targeted, to present material, although Annette Camier, during her period as Honorary Secretary of the Irish Section, was a powerful advocate for the fledgling collection. And, in recent years, the Irish Section has given an annual grant for the purchase of relevant printed material.
The collection, therefore, is varied both in quality and quantity, with archives, manuscripts, copies of family research papers, photographs, printed books, photocopies and printed ephemera.
Fundamental to the collection are the records of the Irish Section of the Huguenot Society – minutes, reports, newsletters, orders of service at the annual St Patrick’s cathedral commemoration and copies of addresses which were delivered there, photographs of outings and other occasions. Together, these give a sense of how the Irish Section sought to stimulate interest in Huguenot studies in Ireland; how, as a very varied collection of people, they interacted; and, of course, how they chose to entertain and inform themselves.
Also of administrative interest are the files of the French Huguenot Fund relating mainly to the Huguenot cemeteries in Peter Street, Cathedral Lane and Merrion Row, Dublin, for the 1960s until the 1980s. This material is complemented by papers of Danny Parkinson relating to Merrion Row and Peter Street; photographs and presscuttings concerning the sale of Peter Street in 1965; and a copy of the address of the French ambassador at the re–opening of the refurbished Merrion Row cemetery in 1990.
Among the manuscript collections are papers of the Hautenville family and related families of Rambaut and Cope; papers of Grace Lawless Lee relating to her researches for her seminal book Huguenot settlements in Ireland (London, 1936), generously donated by her son Dr Robin Gwynn in New Zealand; and letters from T.P. Le Fanu to Albert Carré relating to his book, L’influence des Huguenots Francais en Irelande… (Paris, 1937).
Especially useful are the results of research by many genealogists and historians which have illuminated the lineages of families such as Cassan, d’Arabin, De Brecquet, Gaussen, Fleury, La Naze, Le Bas, Robinette, Saurin.
The collection also includes a large number of printed books, periodicals and off–prints all of which have been added to the RCB Library’s on–line catalogue of printed books which can be consulted here. Most valuable of course are the Huguenot Society’s publications – the many short articles which have been published in the
Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland (now titled The Huguenot Society Journal) and the more substantial publications which have appeared as parts of the Quarto Series.
Scholars and researchers have been generous in presenting off–prints of articles, some published privately or in local journals, such as the many contributions to the history of the Huguenots in Portarlington by John Stocks Powell. The recent decision of the Irish Section to give an annual purchase grant has ensured that new books can be regularly added to the collection.
The collection has grown, largely due to the generosity of those who have been involved in or who have been interested in the history of the Huguenot refuge in Ireland, and as it has grown, so too has its usefulness. The Curator of the Irish Huguenot Archive, Dr Susan Hood, will always be glad hear of prospective donations.
All of the original archive materials have been catalogued as a stand–alone collection (the Irish Huguenot Archive, or IHA) consisting currently of 113 manuscripts – although this number is increasing incrementally with new donations. Thanks to the work of Julia McCarthy, an undergraduate student at Trinity College Dublin, who worked in the Library as an intern during the summer of 2017, the details of the contents of each of these materials (originally handwritten on index cards) are now searchable through an Excel spreadsheet, available in pdf format here at this link
For further information about Huguenot history in Ireland see http://huguenotsinireland.com/