‘And so the pillar lived to fall another day…’

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.

TCD MS 4456 fol. 1
TCD MS 4456 fol. 1

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.

TCD MS 4456 fol. 2
TCD MS 4456 fol. 2

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.

Aisling Lockhart

Trinity College Dublin and Rebellion in Ireland

Among the many commemorations that coincided with the hundredth anniversary of the Easter Rising were articles that reflected on Trinity’s role. Described in one newspaper as ‘a bulwark of Empire,’ the College was a crucial staging ground for the British army in its effort to subdue the insurgents. It occupied a strategic point between the General Post Office and St. Stephen’s Green, both held by Irish Volunteers.

Petition of Provost etc. to Lords Justices and Council, 25 November 1641 (TCD MUN P/1/329)
Petition of Provost etc. to Lords Justices and Council, 25 November 1641 (TCD MUN P/1/329)

As an early modernist examining the history of Trinity during the mid-seventeenth century British Civil Wars, I was struck by some parallels between Trinity’s role in 1916 and its place in the 1641 Rebellion. Founded fifty years earlier, by 1641 Trinity had largely failed in some aspects of its mission, namely to train a native clergy and spread Protestantism in Ireland. It catered increasingly to settlers that had arrived during the Elizabethan and Jacobean plantations. However, with the outbreak of rebellion in 1641, Trinity assumed a role as an English military outpost—and it nearly drove the University into dissolution.

A series of manuscripts in the College Archives highlight the extent to which the rebellion left Trinity destitute, with the Provost fleeing to England and the College losing access to revenues from its lands in Ulster, the epicentre of the rising. Trinity also quartered soldiers during the rebellion. While meant to aid in the defense of Dublin and the Pale, the presence of troops represented another financial drain on the University, which was supposed to pay the soldiers out of its own dwindling finances. This prompted the Vice-Provost, Fellows and Scholars to petition the Lords Justices and Council asking for recoupment of expenses (TCD MUN P/1/329). Students were also pushed to the brink of starvation in holding a continuous watch for the safety of the University. Their plight was outlined in another petition (TCD MUN P/1/334). The College’s petitions to Dublin Castle did not go unheeded. The government recognized that while the rebellion required defensive measures be taken, it could not risk the closure of the University, which was still viewed as central to the Crown’s rule of Ireland.

Petition from the students to the Lords Justices and Council, [? June 1642] (TCD MUN P/1/334)
Petition from the students to the Lords Justices and Council, [? June 1642] (TCD MUN P/1/334)

Trinity thus played comparable roles in the risings of 1641 and 1916. Both times the College quartered troops in an effort to subdue rebels, and both times the welfare of the College was considered crucial to the governing of Ireland and indeed, the preservation of imperial designs.

Salvatore Cipriano, Jr.
Ph.D. Candidate
History Department
Fordham University

Changed Utterly: recording and reflecting on the Rising 1916 –2016

The Proclamation TCD Papyrus Case 16 no.1
The Proclamation TCD Papyrus Case 16 no.1

The Library of Trinity College Dublin has launched a Long Room exhibition to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising. Changed Utterly: recording and reflecting on the Rising 1916 –2016 will run from 1 March to the end of April.

The exhibition features exhibits of unique material from Trinity’s Manuscripts & Archives Research Library and Early Printed Books collections relating to the 1916 Easter Rising, including photographs, diaries, memorabilia as well as digital content. The display will trace methods of recording and reflecting on the Rising from the initial scramble to record the events as they happened in 1916; the commemorative activity of 1966 and through to the Library’s current project to capture and preserve the 1916 related websites produced in 2016.

Silver cup presented to Cadet R N Tweedy of the Dublin University Officer Training corps for service during 1916. TCD MUN/OBJ/25
Silver cup presented to Cadet R N Tweedy of the Dublin University Officer Training Corps for service during 1916. TCD MUN/OBJ/25

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • The Library’s copy of the Proclamation, said to have been torn from the walls of the GPO, along with the World War I recruitment posters found pasted to the back
  • Photograph of British Troops in the Front Square of Trinity College Dublin
  • The scrapbook of Elsie Mahaffy, daughter of Trinity Provost John Pentland Mahaffy, and occupant of the Provost’s house during the Rising
  • Silver cup presented to a member of the Dublin University Officer Training corps for service during 1916
  • The casing of a bullet which pierced the roof of the Library during Easter week 1916.

    The casing of a bullet which pierced the roof of the Library of Trinity College Dublin during Easter week 1916
    The casing of a bullet which pierced the roof of the Library of Trinity College Dublin during Easter week 1916

The items displayed all appear on the Library’s popular 1916 blog project Changed Utterly – Ireland and the Easter Rising.

The exhibition also showcases the work of the Library’s 1916 Web Archiving project which sees the Library working in collaboration with the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford and the British Library to archive websites from both the Irish and UK web domains as they reflect on the 1916 Easter Rising.

Photograph of Troops in Front Square TCD/MUN/MC/207
Photograph of Troops in the Front Square of Trinity College Dublin TCD/MUN/MC/207

The exhibition and web-archiving project are part of the Library’s contribution to the Trinity College Dublin Decade of Commemoration.

 

99 Years On: Ireland and the Easter Rising

The birth of the Irish Republic- 1916. Shelfmark: OLS Samuels Box 4 no.112a
The birth of the Irish Republic- 1916. Shelfmark: OLS Samuels Box 4 no.112a

Today, the 99th anniversary of the start of the Irish Easter Rising, sees the launch of a new project for the Library. ‘Changed Utterly- Ireland and the Easter Rising’ is a weekly blog from our Research Collections departments. The aim is to highlight a particular item or collection each week which has relevance to Ireland during this troubled period. As the countdown to the 100th anniversary of the Rising draws near we hope that the selections will interest our readers and stimulate debate whilst affording us the opportunity to promote our holdings. We are delighted to announce that we will have some guest contributors along the way culminating in an online exhibition of the 52 items of interest in time for Easter 2016.

Our site can be accessed via www.tcd.ie/library/1916 where you can read the first entry – ‘The Howth Gun Running’. To discuss the weekly posts and to keep up to date with the project you can follow us on Twitter – @TCDLib1916, #TCD1916.

Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton with Shane Mawe and Estelle Gittins at the launch of 'Changed Utterly'
Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton with Shane Mawe (EPB) and Estelle Gittins (M&ARL) at the launch of ‘Changed Utterly’

All Changed, Changed Utterly

TCD MUN MC 207
TCD MUN MC 207

Changed Utterly – Ireland and the Easter Rising is a new blog project from the Trinity College Library Research Collections Division. Launching today, the 99th anniversary of the start of the 1916 Easter Rising, the project aims to explore the Library’s collections relating to the Rising through a year of weekly blog posts.

The posts will draw on the rich and diverse collections of 1916 material held in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library, the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections, the Glucksman Map Library and the Music Library. Posts will focus on one extraordinary item or collection each week, and will include diaries, letters, pamphlets, photographs, objects and even items of clothing.

The posts will draw on the rich and diverse collections of 1916 material held in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library, the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections, the Glucksman Map Library and the Music Library. Posts will focus on one extraordinary item or collection each week, and will include diaries, letters, pamphlets, photographs, objects and even items of clothing.

By starting in April 2015 the aim is to showcase the breadth of the 1916 collections and to act as a catalyst for research ahead of the anniversary in April 2016.

Helen Shenton, Trinity College Librarian and College Archivist with project leads Estelle Gittins, M&ARL and Shane Mawe, Early Printed Books and Special Collections
Helen Shenton, Trinity College Librarian and College Archivist with project leads Estelle Gittins, M&ARL and Shane Mawe, Early Printed Books and Special Collections

Blog posts are written mostly by Library staff, with contributions from Trinity College academics and other experts in the period. Each blog post will contain further links to entries in Trinity College Library catalogues, and to digitised items on TCD Digital Collections, as applicable.

The site can be accessed via www.tcd.ie/library/1916 where you can read the first entry – ‘The Howth Gun Running’. You can also follow on Twitter – @TCDLib1916.

Estelle Gittins