Making public spaces unsafe for women, and denying authority to the female voice has, as we are told by Professor (or SAINT!) Mary Beard, a long and dis-honourable history. The campaign for female suffrage in 1918 was part of this story.
Funerals of patriots have often proved to be pivotal moments in Irish history. The funeral of Thomas Ashe (1885-1917) is a particularly poignant case. In life he was a popular and cultured school teacher, a founding member of the Irish Volunteers and leader of the 1916 Rising in Ashbourne, Co Meath. In death he came to epitomise the struggle and suffering of his generation for Ireland’s cause. He died aged 32 on 25 September 1917 in the Mater Hospital after incarceration in Mountjoy Prison, a hunger strike and botched force feeding. The tragic brutality of his death, coming after the protracted executions of the other 1916 leaders the year before, resulted in an upsurge of support for the republican movement.
The funeral on 30 September 1917 therefore presented an opportunity for a pageant of political propaganda along the lines of the funerals of O’Donovan Rossa and Parnell. It also provided a significant challenge for the Volunteers and other republican forces who had lost men and arms and were struggling for cohesive leadership. However, the opportunity was defiantly seized and a large funeral procession to Glasnevin cemetery was planned involving various republican forces along with the Dublin Fire Brigade and around 30,000 members of the public who had travelled from across Ireland to line the streets. City Hall was also seized from British forces for the lying in state. The graveside oration was delivered by the young Michael Collins who, after a volley of shots, took inspiration from Pearse’s oration at the graveside of O’Donovan Rossa and proclaimed ‘Nothing additional remains to be said. That volley which we have just heard is the only speech which it is proper to make above the grave of a dead Fenian’. A statement of intent for the years to follow.
One unlikely observer from the side-lines was Elsie Mahaffy, the daughter of Trinity College provost John Pentland Mahaffy, who kept a careful record of the 1916 Rising and aftermath, in a scrapbook which includes diary entries, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, photographs, postcards and other collected memorabilia.
Whilst holding firmly to her unionist point of view (describing his death as ‘suicide’, and the procession as being ‘attended by thousands of armed rebels’) Elsie was clearly mesmerised by the press coverage of Ashe’s death and funeral. The type and amount of material she collected on the funeral in particular displays an awareness of this as a key event in the evolution of contemporary Irish politics. The most remarkable items are three photographs of the cortege and procession, which indicate that Elsie was sufficiently fascinated to join the crowds herself and to take the images as the procession passed her. We would welcome any further information on the location or participants in any of these photos.
The scrapbook also includes newspaper clippings detailing the funeral arrangements and order of procession, as well as numerous clippings from after the event. In addition Mahaffy has also pasted in a memorial card and a copy of ‘Let me carry your cross for Ireland, Lord’ the poem written by Ashe in Lewes jail. She devotes a number of pages to a description of the circumstances of his death, the government reaction, his lying in state in City Hall, and the ‘huge funeral’.
Whilst captivated by the tragic story and unfolding public reaction, we cannot know if this had any effect on her politics. However, she may have held the same view as General Sir Bryan Mahon, then head of British forces in Ireland, who commented that republican forces were now ‘exhibiting discipline to a degree which is perhaps the most dangerous sign of the times.’
A fuller account of Elsie Mahaffy’s scrapbook, written by Lucy McDiarmid, can be found on the Library’s 1916 digital resource ‘Changed Utterly’. The scrapbook has been digitised in its entirety and is available on the Library’s Digital Collections site.
Last year, the Preservation & Conservation department in conjunction with DRIS (Digital Resources & Imaging Service) of Trinity College Library was asked to survey a collection of the Dublin University Boat Club’s photographs and other documents that hung in the club’s boathouse in Islandbridge on the river Liffey. The collection – which spans the period 1841 to the present – includes 255 framed photographs of winning crews and notable club members, a racing programme, and 70 winnings sheets.
The collection represents a unique record of rowing in College since the middle of the nineteenth century, providing inspiration to countless Trinity rowers over the years. The Boat Club has been aware of the priceless nature of the collection and there has long been a desire to maintain and preserve it for future generations.
The winning history of the club goes back to about 150 years ago when Trinity competed for the first time at the Henley Royal Regatta, and won the Visitors’ Challenge Cup with Charles Burton Barrington (on the left in the fig. 1), who contributed to the distinguished reputation that the club has held since.
Interestingly, for most of its history the Trinity Boat Club – like the rest of the university – was a purely male enterprise. The collection is a testimony to that fact, and records only one female rower, K.E. Rooney (1998).
Moreover, this collection represents a fascinating history of photographic portraiture. For instance, you will rarely find a protagonist looking at the lens of the camera in the earliest photographs (fig. 1). This would change over time and eventually subjects even began to smile. The age of selfies was still very far away however!
The background and the way people would pose in front of the camera also evolved. In the earliest photographs, the influence of art is apparent, with subjects posing in front of a beautiful plant wall, or next to elegant furniture in a luxurious interior (fig. 2). Nowadays, crews are photographed in a simple and more straight-forward way (fig. 3).
Just as the subject changes his pose through the ages, so too do the photographic techniques – from positives on paper to digital photography. The crews were photographed almost every year since 1863, so these photographs offer a unique record of the evolution of photographic techniques.
Before Photoshop or any other retouching computer programs, people were using collage or adding colour by hand on the photographs themselves. Going through the collection, we found that some heads were replaced by others, or that blue and black colours were added on the photograph itself to give further details to the rowers’ outfits (fig. 4).
These images and documents hung on the walls of the Boat House at Islandbridge for several decades. Unfortunately, years of display and fluctuating environmental conditions have had a detrimental effect on the photographs, making the need for conservation more urgent with each passing year.
The documents were housed in frames that had become quite acidic and did not effectively protect the document from the dust (fig. 5). The glass in some of the frames was broken, making consultation dangerous. Documents suffered from tears, losses, scratches, mould stains and cockling. Silver mirroring (when a silver metallic haze appears over the dark areas of some gelatine silver photographs) and fading was also apparent in the photographic material. Finally, most of the mountings were held together with a great deal of adhesive tape, which is notorious for causing damage.
The project started in July 2016 thanks to the financial support given by the TCD Association & Trust. The priority was to house the photographs and winning lists in suitable storage units. It was decided that the whole collection would stay in the College Archives and the Boat Club would receive surrogates framed in the original frames to be replaced on the walls of the Boat House at Islandbridge.
The original photographs and other documents were catalogued and each was assigned a unique archival reference.
Before digitisation, a long process of un-framing and mount removal, where necessary, began. Following that, dry-cleaning of the documents commenced. Dry-cleaning is essential in conservation not only for aesthetic reasons but also because dust and dirt can be damaging to paper and photographs in different ways. It can be abrasive, acidic, hygroscopic or degradative. Soft Japanese brushes were used to remove dust, and Smoke Sponges were used to remove the more ingrained dirt on the verso. A crepe rubber was used as well to remove synthetic glue from modern tapes.
Space and time were two main concerns. Because storage is an issue with regard to archives, we wanted the collection to take up as little space as possible. We removed damaged and detached mountings that did not show any information. Also, since there were more than 300 documents to house, we undertook repairs on the documents only when it was absolutely necessary for the preservation of the items. Each item was housed in Mylar® sleeves and archival boxes (figs. 6 & 7). The final stage of the process was the transfer of the original collection to the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library. There is takes its place among the many other student society and sports club records which may be consulted in the reading room there.
All the documents were digitally imaged and will be soon accessible on DRIS catalogue for all those wishing to dive in the history of the Boat Club, or indeed those interested in the history of photography.
We wish to gratefully acknowledge the financial support that has been given by the TCD Association and Trust.
Many thanks to Mark Pattison from the Boat Club for his knowledge and availability and to Lucilla Ronai, former conservation intern who had the courage and motivation to start the project.
Heritage Council Intern, Glucksman Conservation Department, the Library of Trinity College Dublin
Blog post by Shauna Donnelly, Summer Intern in the Manuscripts and Archives Department, Trinity College Library Dublin
Professor Annette Jocelyn Otway-Ruthven, fondly referred to as ‘the Ot’ by those who knew her, was a pioneering female academic during the mid-twentieth century in Trinity College Dublin. Her achievements during her time at Trinity marked milestones not just in her own career, but also in the progress and history of women in Trinity, and the increasing possibilities for them in College. The first women students were admitted to College in 1904, with Constantia Maxwell becoming the first woman academic appointed to staff in 1909. Maxwell became the first female Lecky Professor of History in 1945, with the Ot succeeding her in the same role in 1951. Although Maxwell’s role in College’s acceptance of women academics was pivotal, she was not as groundbreaking as ‘the Ot’, as she was known to be shy, quiet, and conservative, accepting the discrimination and limitations placed upon her by her male counterparts.
‘The Ot’, however, was more strategic and ambitious in seeking gender equality in College. She began her teaching career in 1938, holding down year to year appointments until 1951 when she became Lecky Professor of History. 1968 became the high point of her career when she was elected the first female Fellow of Trinity College Dublin, which was a high honour. She also published her so-called magnum opus, A History of Medieval Ireland, the same year. Through means of institutional loyalty, proving her credibility as a top class academic, and gaining the favour of Provost A.J. McConnell, the Ot succeeded further in becoming the Dean of Arts and Humanities in 1969, breaking more ground in being the first woman appointed to that position. Her prolific career at Trinity continued until her retirement in 1981, spanning an impressively dedicated 43 years, during which she contributed to the life of College in far more than just the academic realm. She nurtured the talents of many of her female students, and through establishing connections and gaining the favour of influential male colleagues, she succeeded in changing existing attitudes towards women in Trinity. As a result, women became far more than second class citizens, instead being seen as fully integrated members of the College community and engaging in all aspects of life at Trinity. ‘The Ot’ truly played her part in the “quiet revolution” executed by women in Trinity excellently to yield a lasting impact and legacy.
MS 11093 is a collection of papers relating to the Otway-Ruthven family, from which ‘the Ot’ descended. It offers researchers a unique glimpse into the lineage of one of Trinity’s most pivotal female figures, containing a variety of materials spanning over three centuries from c1642–1974. A preliminary list of the collection’s contents was completed in 1999, but since then the materials have been largely untouched. I have had the pleasure of surveying and cataloguing the full extent of its rich contents 8 years later, unearthing many insights into the rich heritage of the Otway-Ruthven clan. The volume of materials, and their meticulous comprehensiveness, illustrates the Ot’s interest in the preservation of her own family’s history. It is clear that her abilities as a historian were lent to her beginning the collection, as she kept a log book of family documents (which is included within the catalogue’s personal section).
The collection comprises largely of miscellaneous estate papers, giving us insight into the large scale of the Castle Otway estate and its operations. Legal, rental, and financial documentation appears alongside maps and correspondence, while the collection also contains many personal items and memorabilia from different members of the extended family. Through these materials we gain insight into the life, times, and relations of the influential clan, and can decipher how life was at Castle Otway before it was burned in 1922. The Castle Otway harp is a particularly beautiful component of College’s acquisitions from the Otway clan. It is probably the largest and most ornate piece of memorabilia, with a rich and much debated history. Personal items relating to the Casement family also appear in the collection, illustrating the Ot’s connections to and relationship with a famously rebellious cousin, 1916 revolutionary Roger Casement. The diversity and comprehensiveness of MS 11093 provides a full picture of the Ot’s ancestry, and allow us to appreciate not just who she was, but where she came from.
MS 11093 will soon be available for viewing by Readers of the Manuscripts and Archives Department.
Biographical notes for this post were taken from Salters Sterling’s ‘Memoirs of the Ot’ (2002), published in A Danger to the Men? A History of Women in Trinity College Dublin 1904–2004, Susan M. Parkes, FTCD (ed.), (Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 2004) pp. 263–267.
One of the Library’s contributions to this year’s Trinity Week programme of events was a multi-panel outdoor display in Fellows’ Square, which showcased some of the items from the collections in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library. The theme this year was ‘Memory’, and M&ARL’s exhibit was entitled ‘The Library: Minds and Reminds’. It presented images from our archives of photographs, paintings, maps and plans of College buildings and structures, some of which still exist, some that have changed, and others that are long gone. One of the panels, for example, displays a photograph of the Magnetic Observatory, which was built in 1837 in what was then the Provost’s Garden, and which now stands in UCD’s Belfield campus! Continue reading