local studies

The Kevin Street Librarian and the Rising

James O'ByrneFormally named as Byrne (the family later changed their surname to O'Byrne, a practice not uncommon at that time), James O'Byrne was from Lower Mayor Street in Dublin's North Wall area.

Young James was recruited to the city libraries as a 'boy' library assistant in 1913 and from that time was assigned to the Charleville Mall, North Strand library.  He was 20 years old by Easter Week 1916.

Image: James O’Byrne, AKA James Byrne (1896 to 1947)

As he didn’t provide a witness statement to the Bureau of Military History owing to his untimely death in 1947, details of O'Byrne's Easter week activities are sparse. He was attached to the second Battalion, 'F' Company of the Irish Volunteers Dublin Brigade, a small company which was under the command of Captain Frank Henderson and 1st Lieutenant Oscar Traynor.  O’Byrne attended Fr Matthew Park in Fairview on Thursday evenings for drilling and on Sundays for rifle practice.  In Easter week, he was engaged in combat across a number of sites - at Fairview, the Metropole Hotel, Eason's, the GPO, Moore Street and Henry Place. After the surrender, he was arrested and interned first in Knutsford and later Frongoch Prison from where he was released in July 1916.

Exploring Georgian Dublin

Charlemont HouseThe Georgian period was an important era in the development of Dublin city. Beginning in 1714 with the coronation of King George I and ending with the the death of King George IV in 1830, it has left a lasting impression on the landscape of the city. We immediately think of the Georgian architecture of Mountjoy Square, Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square and Henrietta Street and of great architects such as James Gandon, Edward Lovett Pearce and William Chambers.

During Heritage Week 2016 we are celebrating this influential era with a free full day seminar, 'Living in Georgian Dublin', which will explore a wide range of topics including the architecture, shops, street paving and the politics of the period. Speakers include Harold Clarke, Liz D'Arcy, Dr Patricia McCarthy, Dr Finnian O'Cionnaith, Dr Sarah Foster, Dr. Diarmuid O Grada and William Cumming.

Image: Charlemont House, Rutland Square. Engraving from the Dublin Penny Journal. View larger image

Can I have your autograph please?

MS 161-37Autograph books were a popular way to collect the signatures and other messages from well-renowned poets and artists in Ireland during the 20th Century. Jill Noone, Teresa Kelly, and Mary Ryan were among those who kept autograph books. All three books contain notes, poems, playbills, drawings, and autographs from a number of local performers and high-profile individuals and are now housed at Dublin City Library and Archive. Taken together, these autograph books highlight the growing importance and popularity of the arts and local, Irish figures.

Image: Painting of flowers from Teresa Kelly's autograph book (Ms-161-37)

Jill Noone’s autograph book (Ms 129), dated 1922-1925 contains the signatures of a number of different individuals, many of whom left poems and stories along with their signatures.  Miss Noone herself was a contralto in the Sligo Philharmonic Society Chorus, and her autograph book features a signed programme.

1916 Diaries

Fitzpatrick diary pg1During the Easter Rising of 1916 many Dublin residents, caught in the middle of the fighting, recorded their experiences in diaries and journals. Herbert Victor Fleming and Nora Marion Fitzpatrick were among those to do so. Fleming, a store manager, and Fitzpatrick, a V.A.D. nurse, were both loyal to England and regarded the Sinn Féin Rebels as traitors and the enemy. Their vivid descriptions of destruction and survival remain captured in their diaries for generations to come.

Image: Page 1 of Nora Marion Fitzpatrick's 1916 Diary

Herbert Fleming’s Diary excerpt:
"All the roads covered with dead and dying horses and wounded people... I then tried to get home but cannot. The bridges into the city held by Rebels."

The Clontarf Town Hall Caretaker and the Rising

Michael McGinnA native of Omagh, Co. Tyrone, ‘Mick’ McGinn was an ‘old’ Fenian who had been a Tyrone IRB leader since the 1870s and had spent a lot of his life in British jails.  McGinn was a close personal friend of Thomas Clarke, who was seven years his junior.  Indeed, Clarke had joined the Tyrone IRB in 1878 at the request of both leading Fenian John Daly and Michael McGinn. By the late 1890s McGinn was the Fenian Head Centre for Co. Tyrone, based at Dergmoney House in Omagh. 

Image: Michael McGinn 1851-1916, from a photograph of the O'Donovan Rossa Funeral Committee 1915.

James Thomas Dowling: Dublin’s County Librarian and the Rising

James Thomas DowlingA native of Dublin’s north inner city, ‘Tom’ Dowling was recruited in 1915, aged sixteen, to the Dublin Corporation Libraries as a junior library assistant, having achieved second place in the Libraries examination.  His first assignment was to Capel Street library under Tommy Gay, who by that time was Capel Street Head Librarian. Dowling later transferred to the Dublin county libraries and by 1931 had progressed to the top post of Chief Librarian for Dublin County, a role in which he served with distinction until his death in office in 1966.

Image: James Thomas Dowling (1899 to 1966)

Dublin City’s Second Chief Librarian and the Rising

Paddy StephensonA native of Dublin’s north inner city, ‘Paddy’ Stephenson (known to his family as ‘Paddy Joe’) was educated by the Christian Brothers at the O'Connell School, North Richmond Street.   By late 1911, he sat and achieved second place in the Dublin libraries examination, in line with the system then in place of recruiting the ‘best and brightest’ sixteen year old boys as library assistants.  By January 1912 he began his long and distinguished career in the city’s public libraries, assigned initially to the Thomas Street branch; by 1950 he achieved the top post as the city’s second Chief Librarian, succeeding Róisín Walsh.

Image: Patrick Joseph Stephenson (1895 - 1960). Image courtesy of Jimmy Stephenson, grandson of Paddy Stephenson.

Dublin City’s first Chief Librarian and the Rising

Róisín WalshA native of the Clogher Valley in Co. Tyrone, Róisín Walsh was born into a staunchly nationalist, Catholic family on 24th March 1889.  Walsh was a brilliant linguist and gifted scholar and received the best education then available to females.  She went on to become a teacher (she later switched career to librarian).  By 1914, due to the outbreak of the Great War, she had returned to Ireland from a teaching post in Germany.  From that time she was based in Belfast as a lecturer in Irish and English at St. Mary’s Training College (then a primary school teacher training college for Catholic women).

Image: Róisín Walsh (1889 - 1949)

9th June 2016 marks International Archives Day #IAD2016

Charter of Henry IIThe celebration is a global opportunity for archivists to connect with colleagues, donors, users, volunteers, partners and decision makers as well as the public at large. Archive services around the world will be tweeting using #iad2016 on International Archives Day, and we thought we would join in the fun at our twitter handle @dclareadingroom.

Image: Charter of Henry II 1171/72, the earliest Norman document in Ireland

Dublin City Archives has been providing an archive service to the city of Dublin since 1980 and has a acquired a huge number of archival treasures dating from 1171. The records relate to civic administration, theatre, archaeology, business, sport, landed estates, oral history and much more.  Researchers are welcome to delve into our collections at Dublin City Library and Archive Reading Room under the watchful eye of Nelson’s Head. For those who won’t have an opportunity to visit us in person, we have created a slide show of some of our more unusual items:

The Capel Street Librarian and the 1916 Rising

Tommy GayA native of Dublin’s inner city, 'Tommy' Gay was educated at Synge Street CBS. His early life coincided with the political and cultural revival of the late nineteenth century and he became very active in a range of sporting and cultural organisations, including the GAA and the Gaelic League.  A keen sportsman, he was a member of the Croke Gaelic Club where he became an accomplished hurler and was also a founder member of the Dublin Camogie Club.

Right: Thomas E. Gay (1884-1953)

As Gay himself later explained it, these organisations ‘gave impetus and new life to the revolutionary movement’.  He started in the Corporation libraries as a library assistant at the then newly-opened Charleville Mall Library in line with the practice of recruiting 16 year old boys.  By April 1916 he was already a mature 32-year-old man, established in his career as Capel Street Head Librarian and engaged to be married.