Long ago and far away –

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a library in possession of great artefacts, must be in want of an opportunity to bring them out to light in public.

The naïve twist to the very opening of the beautiful novel Pride and Prejudice is my humble attempt at depicting what my time with the manuscripts collection in the Library has been. It has allowed me to understand how the physical attributes of an object could signify the pride and prejudice that comes along with analyzing an artefact.

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Women of the Cuala Press.

We’re back with another blog from the Cuala Press Print Project – this one will showcase the women of the Cuala Press. The Cuala Press began its life as the Dun Emer Press and was part of Dun Emer Industries, established by Evelyn Gleeson (1855-1944) and Susan and Elizabeth Yeats in Dundrum, Co. Dublin, in 1902. Their aim was to employ and train local Irish girls and young women in ‘the making of beautiful things’. Elizabeth (1868-1940) trained two people at a time on an Albion printing press and they gained knowledge of composition, typography, type setting, and ink rolling; they were also involved in the hand painting of the prints and the other material they printed. Susan Yeats (1866-1949) ran the embroidery section and taught embroidery herself. The trainees were also instructed in Irish by the writer Susan L. Mitchell (1866-1926) and in the dramatic arts by the Fay brothers, who were among the founders of the Abbey Theatre. 

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Cuala Press Prints Project

A collection of one hundred and eleven hand-coloured Cuala Press Prints (TCD MS 11574) was donated to the Manuscripts and Archives Research Collection in Trinity College Dublin where they are currently being catalogued as part of a project to make them accessible to researchers. It is a visually stunning collection and represents an important part of Irish visual culture. It also includes work by many female artists from the early 20th century. The collection was a gift from a private individual who built the  collection in the  mid 20th century and the philanthropically-funded project to make them available includes the appointment of an archivist, a conservator, a digital photographer and a post-doctoral researcher in the history of art. The project will not only focus on the new collection of prints but will also look at the business archives of the Cuala Press itself (TCD MS 11535). Thus, we will ensure and enhance the usability, visibility and accessibility of these significant materials to support the teaching, learning and research needs of staff, students and the wider research community.  

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Wives, widows and mothers: recovering records of women in the early eighteenth century building trade

Melanie Hayes, Irish Research Council Advanced Laureate Project Fellow CRAFTVALUE

The early eighteenth-century building industry was a male-dominated arena. Craftsmen populated both building site and records of the same; building-craft skills were handed down from father to son, from master-craftsman to young male apprentice, while the industry’s organisational framework, at least in Dublin, centred on the freemen of the city. Female involvement, save unskilled labour in the brickfields, was peripheral and prominent figures like Eleanor Coade, who was active later in the century, were the exception rather than the rule. But what of the ancillary industries and associated supports within the building trade? Does the overt gender-bias in the documentary record represent a true picture of the reality on the ground, of the role (or lack thereof) of women behind the scenes in the complex, multifaceted mechanics of the early Georgian building industry?

Trawling through the catalogue of Trinity College Dublin’s muniments in the college’s Manuscripts and Archives collections my colleague, Andrew Tierney and I were struck by the (relatively) frequent appearance of women’s names in the College building accounts.* Between 1700 and 1745 a number of women were involved in the supply of labour and materials to the major building works then taking place on campus, the New Laboratory or Anatomy House, 1710-18; the New (now Old) Library, 1712-32; and New Kitchens, 1719-22. Although these women may have been drawn into the building trade through necessity or the demise of their male relation, several seem to have carried on successful enterprises in their own right.

Jane Spencer, plastering and painting

Jane Spencer’s account, Documents concerning College building’s, TCD Mun/P/2/30/14

In April 1715 Jane Spencer, widow, was paid £2 2s. 8d. for ‘plastering worke done in Trinity College Dublin,’ which was measured by Henry Kinder. The bill, which appears to be in Jane’s own hand presumably relates to work previously carried out by the plasterer Nathaniel Spencer, who had worked at the college since 1707. Nathaniel, like several of his contemporaries, carried out works in both plaster and paint (despite moves by the painter’s guild to prohibit this encroachment on their trade), and was admitted to the Guild of St. Luke in 1701 (NLI MS 12,122 ff75r). Nathaniel had submitted his final bill to the College in October 1714 (TCD Mun P/2/26/27), and therefore appears to have died sometime in the intervening six months.

This occurrence is far from unique. The lack of either state support or indeed opportunities for their own gainful employment meant the widows of tradesmen had little or no means of their own, and were forced to pursue their husband’s creditors soon after the latter’s demise, often for relatively small amounts of money. Indeed, building accounts for Powerscourt Co. Wicklow (NLI Mss 3162; Mss 4875) are peppered with such payments to the widows of building craftsmen and suppliers in the 1730s, while the College accounts contain several other instances of such remittance to newly widowed women.
Jane Price received 5s. for carpenter’s work in March 1732, presumably relating to work by the carpenter Gabriel Price, who had worked at Trinity, sometimes in collaboration with Isaac Wills since 1700 (TCD Mun P/2/63/18). In 1705 Alice Banks received 14s. 6d. for plumbers work, likely carried out by her husband John Banks, a plumber who had also worked at the College from 1700, and had last received payment in January 1704/5 (TCD Mun P/2/14/1-2); whereas Ellen Smith continued to submit bills for plastering and painting work for almost five years after payments ceased to the plasterer James Smith, including a large bill of £23 17s. 6d. for ‘painting and gilding the new organ case and pipes’ in 1706 (TCD Mun P/2/15/8).

‘Agnes Heatly, slater’

Agnes Heatly account, Documents concerning College building’s, TCD Mun/P/2/47/20

Between 1707 and 1743/4 Agnes Heatly regularly signed for work carried out by the slaters Abraham and Thomas Heatly (alternately Heatley, Hately). The Heatlys were one of Dublin’s most prominent families of slaters. Abraham Heatly, who had worked at the Royal Hospital had been employed at the College since at least 1686, when he received a yearly salary of £20 for maintaining the College roofs (TCD Mun P/2/3/4).
Over the course of the next four decades Abraham received frequent payments for slater’s work, and on June 24th 1730 signed a new agreement with the Provost &c. for the maintenance of the College roofs worth £45 p.a. (TCD Mun p/2/60). During the 1720s several payments for slater’s labour and materials were made directly to Agnes Heatly, ‘for the use of my husband’ (TCD Mun p/2/47/20), and by 1730 Agnes seems to have taken over management of the slating contract, after which time Abraham Heatly’s name no longer appears in the records.
In 1685 ‘Thomas Hately’ received a single payment of £4 10s. for slater’s work at the College, but it was not until 1710 that this individual began to receive more regular employment, at the New Laboratory and the Library. Thomas continued to work at College until 1746, carrying out slater’s work for Richard Castle and John Ensor (TCD Mun P/2/86/11; p/2/90/5). He appears to have taken over Abraham’s maintenance contract in 1746 (TCD Mun P/2/90/7).

Agnes’s relationship to Abraham and Thomas is not directly stated in the records, but it appears that she was the wife of the former, and mother of Thomas. She certainly seems to have acted as a financial manager of sorts for the family business during the first half of the century. Women of the mercantile class and above would have been trained to keep domestic accounts, and were usually responsible for household management. It is therefore unsurprising that some of these enterprising individuals would have stepped outside the female domain, to apply their skillset in supporting roles in the business sphere.

‘Joan Delane, glazier’

Joan Delane account, Documents concerning College building’s, TCD Mun/P/2/43/14

A similar situation occurs in the case of Joan and George Delane, glazier. George Delane had been employed at Trinity College since the 1690s, when according to Arthur Gibney he replaced William Vizer, carrying out glazing work on several ad hoc projects, such as the gate house in 1705 (TCD Mun P/2/14/7). He was the only glazier employed at the College during this period and worked extensively at the New Laboratory and Kitchens in the 1710s. In November 1720 Joan Delane first makes an appearance in the records, when she signed for work carried out by George (TCD Mun P/2/40/19). This practice continued at regular intervals throughout the following year, until January 1721/2, after which time ‘Joan Delane, glazier,’ began to submit bills in her own right, and George’s name no longer appears, although he may well have executed some of the works.

Over the next five years there were several large invoices submitted, all meticulously set out in Joan’s neat hand, including bills for ‘work on [the] library’ for which she was paid £28 3s. 9d. in February 1723, and a further £30 in April that year (TCD Mun P/2/52/9-10). The last payment made to Joan Delane was in September 1726, suggesting that she had carried on the management of contracted glazing work at the College, for several years after George Delane’s absence from the records (TCD Mun P/2/56/10).

Ellen Jeffers, building supply

Ellen Jeffers account, Documents concerning College building’s, TCD Mun/P/2/39/61

The College accounts also offer evidence of female involvement in the supply of building materials, which supports the broader picture emerging of this sector. In 1718 Ellen Jeffers supplied 10 brass sheaves, or grooved pulley wheels, at a cost of £4 12s. 4d. for use at the Library (TCD Mun P/2/37/59), and a further six sheaves the following year (TCD Mun P/2/39/61). In 1720 she presented a much larger bill for £29 15s. for a brass boiler and furnace for the New Kitchen. This business seems to have been previously carried on by one George Jeffers, who in 1711 had supplied the College with a copper still for the Laboratory for the sizeable sum of £12 15s. 1 1/2d. (TCD Mun P/2/20/38), while in 1713 he supplied pulleys for the gin at the Library (TCD Mun P/2/25/50). That Ellen was still responsible for the operation some seven years later suggests a less peripheral, and more sustained involvement of such women in this seemingly male dominated environment. Ellen Jeffers was not alone in this regard. At the former Parliament House at College Green Anne Staples was listed as the supplier of ‘nails, &c.’ receiving quite considerable payments of £18 1s. 2 1/2 d. and £27 1s. 10d. in 1730 and 1731 respectively (JHCI Vol viii, f. 68 & 11). These records, however cursory and fragmentary they might be, offer a tantalising glimpse into the role women in the early eighteenth century building industry, and begs the question of how much more these wives, widows and mothers were responsible for, behind the scenes.

Sources:
• James Ayres, Building the Georgian city, London, 1998.
• Arthur Gibney, Livia Hurley and Edward McParland (eds.), The Building Site in Eighteenth-Century Ireland, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2017

* Catalogue of Documents concerning College building’s, TCD Mun/P/2, Trinity Manuscripts & Archives Research Library.

We are very grateful to Estelle Gittins and the staff of the TCD Trinity Manuscripts & Archives Research Library for providing us with access to this valuable resource, and for facilitating this research in the Manuscripts & Archives collections, during the resumption of services in the early autumn.

For further information on this ongoing research and the Irish Research Council Laureate project, CRAFTVALUE visit www.craftvalue.org

‘The Show Must Go On’ – Ina Boyle Song Recording in London

Ina Boyle portrait, TCD MS 4174/1

If she were alive in 2020, the Irish composer Ina Boyle (1889-1967) would be unfazed by the current Covid-19 restrictions. She was accustomed to living a relatively isolated and solitary life, rarely venturing far from her family home at Bushey Park, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. Yet that did not prevent her from seeking every opportunity to have her music performed and published, as she meticulously chronicled in her ‘Musical Compositions Memoranda’ (TCD MS 4172).

So Boyle would have been very gratified that a long-planned project to record most of her songs at the Wigmore Hall in London was not derailed by the pandemic, in spite of a few late obstacles. The original plan for a public lunchtime concert and live recording had to be abandoned, but the three Irish singers Paula Murrihy (mezzo-soprano), Robin Tritschler (tenor) and Ben McAteer (baritone), along with pianist Iain Burnside, assembled on the appointed day (28 October 2020) so that the recording team from Delphian Records could still capture their performances for a CD due to be released in 2021.

‘Musical Compositions Memoranda’, TCD MS 4172

Only two of Boyle’s songs for voice and piano were ever published, so in preparation for the recording 35 songs had to be edited and typeset from the original manuscripts held at the Library of Trinity College Dublin. There was a last-minute hiccup when the editorial team needed to recheck some details in the manuscripts, but found that the campus was by then open only to TCD staff and students. Happily, Research Collections staff were able to save the day by calling up the manuscripts, taking photographs of the relevant pages and dispatching them urgently to the editors so that they could meet the deadline for preparing definitive typeset scores for the performers.

3 Songs by Walter de la Mare, TCD MS 10960/3

The 37 songs recorded – from a total of 66 preserved in the manuscript collection – represent the full span of Ina Boyle’s life as a composer, from 1909 until 1966 (only a few short months before her death). About half come from the 1920s, her most prolific decade. Boyle was inspired to set words by a wide range of poets, from Sir Philip Sidney, George Herbert and Robert Herrick to more recent writers such as Walt Whitman, Rudyard Kipling, Edith Sitwell, and Walter de la Mare. Settings of poems by several near-contemporary Irish poets also feature – Eva Gore-Booth, Patrick Pearse, W.B. Yeats, Austin Clarke, and James Stephens.

An RTE television news report on the recording session is available (Boyle segment at 39:00 – 41:00). And four of the songs were included in Ben McAteer’s recital at the 2020 Belfast Festival (Boyle songs at 26:06 – 37:40). As well as the forthcoming CD, the typeset scores will be published next year by TU Dublin so that other singers will be able to add some of Boyle’s songs to their repertoire. This project is another great success for the Ina Boyle Society and its indefatigable director, Katie Rowan, in achieving their primary aim of bringing the music of this pioneering Irish woman composer to the ears of a much wider audience.

UPDATE: A video report of the Boyle song recording at the Wigmore Hall, including interviews with the artists, score editors and others involved in the production, is now available. The central role of the manuscripts collection is acknowledged.

Roy Stanley