Sydney Auchinleck – female despite the name – was an impressive woman from an early age. A published poet in her teens, she wanted to be an engineer but Trinity College wasn’t ready for that in the early 1900s, or indeed the late 1900s. Sydney consoled herself by becoming the first female chemistry graduate and a mechanic in her spare time. Her story is included in a memoir recently published by her family one of whom has volunteered this guest blog post.
The role of Trinity College Dublin during the Easter Rising has been well documented, and during the course of the commemorations, numerous personal experiences of this period have been brought to public attention. An eye-witness account by alumnus James Alexander Glen was presented to the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library just over 50 years after the events of 1916, and it is a record of his involvement in the protection of the College (TCD MS 4456). We know from other manuscript sources that JA Glen, the son of a farmer, was born in Newtowncunningham, County Donegal, and entered College in October 1911, aged 17 years. He received his early education at Foyle College, Derry. In 1914 he was awarded a scholarship in classics, graduating with a BA in Winter 1915 and MA in Summer 1919. He joined the TCD Officer Training Corps (OTC) in his second year as an undergraduate. He was a recipient of a silver cup, one of a number of replicas of the two original cups that were presented to the College by local business who had benefited from OTC actions during the Rebellion.
At the outbreak of trouble, a uniformed Glen and a fellow artillery officer, with whom he had enjoying an outing to the Phoenix Park, made a cautious journey to TCD after their tram was halted in O’Connell Street. They met with a group of Australian and South African soldiers en route, who subsequently volunteered to act as lookouts on a portion of the College roof. Under the direction of AA Luce and EH Alton (both OTC captains and College professors), operations began to protect the College from within the walls. The gates were closed, ammunition distributed and sentries were posted at various locations.
As events unfolded during Easter Week, Glen was ordered to follow a colonel to an attic window in one of the College buildings that overlooked Westmoreland Street and O’Connell Street. The ‘red-tabled and red-hatted senior officer’ was considering a possible plan to demolish Nelson’s Pillar, and enquired of Glen about the type of artillery that would be required for such an operation. The pillar was seen to act as a shelter for the rebels as they moved between Clery’s department store and the General Post Office. As Glen himself recognised, even with his limited knowledge of firearms, this method would not have been a success even with the most powerful of guns. While parts of central Dublin were destroyed during Easter week, the pillar remained standing until 8 March 1966 when, fifty years after the events of 1916, it was severely damaged by explosives planted by the Irish Republican Army. The remnants were later removed.
The manuscript is in very good condition, consists of five sheets written in the author’s hand, and can be consulted in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library.
Norman Parsons Jewell was born in County Antrim and entered Trinity College Dublin in 1903. He was a star athlete in boxing, athletics and rugby and when he finished his medical degree he went to join the Colonial Medical Service in Seychelles. At the outbreak of WWI he joined the East African Medical Service with the rank of Captain and was eventually awarded the Military Cross. Jewell’s memoir has now been published by his family and this guest post by his grandson outlines his career:
An archival collection which will be of great interest to Irish music enthusiasts is the papers of the family of Arthur Darley. Arthur Darley was a violinist, teacher, and collector of traditional Irish folk music. A founder member of the Feis Ceoil Association and the first director of the Dublin Municipal School of Music, Darley worried about ‘musical apathy’ in Ireland, which he countered by vigorously promoting Irish music festivals. The Darley archives were donated to the Library by Arthur Darley’s granddaughter Mary Warren Darley in 1996, and are available for consultation in the M&ARL Reading Room. Continue reading
Francis Edmund (Frank) Stephens was born in Rathgar, Dublin in November 1884, eldest son of solicitor Henry (Harry) Francis Colcough Stephens and his wife Annie Isabella, née Synge, sister of the playwright John Millington Synge. The Synge family connection was a powerful and formative influence on Frank Stephens. The two families lived in adjoining houses in south Dublin from the time of the Stephens’s marriage in 1884 until shortly before J M Synge’s death in 1909. Even summer holidays were spent together in various rented houses in Co Wicklow, notably in the seaside village of Greystones and further inland at Castle Kevin. This close proximity meant that from an early age Frank was exposed to his Uncle John’s interests in natural history, music, Irish language, Celtic antiquities and ancient Irish monuments. They also shared a mutual interest in photography, a popular hobby in the Stephens/Synge social circle at this period particularly for Frank and his younger brother Edward.When Synge first visited the Aran Islands in 1898 he acquired a camera to document his experience. The plates from this first visit were developed by his nephew in Castle Kevin, Co Wicklow, which marks Frank, aged 13, as a proficient in the chemistry of photography. Frank, in turn, paid homage to the islands in the 1920s and 1930s in his own series of beautifully realised images.
Frank graduated as a B.A. from TCD in 1908 and qualified as a solicitor, but he soon relinguished his practice. He trained as a teacher and worked in education for the rest of his career. He was a lecturer in Irish and history in the Church of Ireland Training College, Kildare St, Dublin from 1930 until his death, aged 63, in 1948.
Frank Stephens cast a non-partisan eye on life in Ireland at a time of seismic political and cultural change. His images capture traditional aspects of life and landscape in Ireland that were rapidly disappearing. But it is not a purely sentimental or nostalgic view. Frank deployed his hand-held box camera to record antiquities, architecture and street scenes and, perhaps most effectively, the often strenuous reality of life on the Aran Islands and the west of Ireland.
The impact of colour is of course absent in these Aran lantern slides. J M Synge describes the islanders’ clothes in his book The Aran Islands (1907):’The women wear red petticoats and jackets of the island wool stained with madder, to which they usually add a plaid shawl twisted round their chests and tied at their back. When it rains they throw another petticoat over their heads with the waistband round their faces, or, if they are young, they use a heavy shawl like those worn in Galway. Occasionally other wraps are worn, and during the thunderstorm I arrived in I saw several girls with men’s waistcoats buttoned round their bodies. Their skirts do not come much below the knee, and show their powerful legs in the heavy indigo stockings with which they are all provided. The men wear three colours: the natural wool, indigo, and a grey flannel that is woven of alternate threads of indigo and the natural wool.’Frank used his collection of over 2000 lantern slides as a source for entertainment and education, illustrating his frequent public lectures on local history, Celtic art and Irish antiquities. This collection – now TCD MS 10842 – was generously presented by Margaret and Lanto Synge. We are also grateful to Anne Louise Moore and Gerry Cantan, Frank Stephens’s grandchildren, for copyright permission to reproduce these images.
Felicity O’ Mahony