local studies

Yeats Collections at Dublin City Library & Archive

WB YeatsIn this the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) people from around the world will be reassessing the contribution to world cultural heritage made by William Yeats and by other members of his family. Dublin’s libraries and galleries are very well furnished with the artistic output of the family, from the world-renowned poetry of William, to the paintings of his father John Butler Yeats (1839-1922), the exquisite paintings and drawings of his younger brother Jack Butler Yeats (1871-1957), and the stunning hand-printed books, broadsides and greeting cards published by his sisters Susan Yeats (1866-1949) and Elizabeth Corbet Yeats (1868-1940) at the Dún Emer and Cuala presses. The National Gallery holds a renowned collection of Jack Yeats drawings as well as some of his finest paintings and the National Library hosts the fine Yeats exhibition.

Dublin, June 1865

Sandymount AveWhat youthful mother, a shape upon her lap ... …
    ... Would think her son, did she but see that shape
    With sixty or more winters on its head,
   A compensation for the pang of his birth,
   Or the uncertainty of his setting forth?

Right: Sandymount Avenue (Courtesy: Google Maps)

So wrote W.B. Yeats in his poem 'Among School Children'. Did he have his own mother in mind, that shadowy figure, Susan Pollexfen Yeats, whose life was plagued by ill-health, the deaths of two of her children, and an unhappy marriage? What were her dreams, as she waited for the birth of her first child, in June 1865?

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

WB YeatsWilliam Butler Yeats, known to friends and family as Willie, was born in Sandymount Avenue, Dublin, on 13 June 1865. He was the eldest son of John Butler Yeats, portrait painter, and his wife Susan Pollexfen, whose family came from County Sligo. The family moved to London when Willie was a baby and remained there until 1880, but he spent his summers with his mother’s family in Sligo. When the family returned to Dublin he attended the High School in Harcourt Street. He originally studied art at the Metropolitan School of Art and the Royal Hibernian Academy School, but later decided to devote himself to literature, especially poetry and drama.

Elsie's Letter - Extracts

Elsie McDermidOn Wednesday, 27th May last, Dublin City Council’s Public Library Service took possession of a copy of a rare eye-witness account of the outbreak of the 1916 Easter Rising. The account was in the form of a letter written by Elsie McDermid, a popular opera singer of the era, to her mother in England on the occasion of Elsie's visit to Dublin. She was in Dublin to perform in Gilbert and Sullivan Shows at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. However, the performances were cancelled as a result of the dramatic outbreak of the Easter Rising on Monday 24th April 1916. Elsie wrote the 26-page letter and in it she relates, among other things, the digging of trenches in St. Stephen’s Green and eye-witness accounts of the first casualties on the streets of Dublin.

Here are some extracts from Elsie's letter:

The Evolving Face of a Dubliner

Mark LeddyAn American studying in Ireland has the opportunity for many adventures and cultural experiences. Although I never thought my experiences would enable me to search for a nameless face in an intriguing old photograph. But somehow it did and I’m certainly glad it did.

As a student at Trinity College pursuing my Master’s in Public History and Cultural Heritage, I decided to take on my internship at the Dublin City Library and Archive (DCLA); I knew I wanted to work with people and photographs and I felt this was the place to do it.

As I searched through the countless photographs at DCLA, I sought to discover a face with a story, even though that story was at the time unknown to me.

Rare and Dramatic First-Hand Account of 1916 Rising

McDermid letterDublin City Council’s Public Library Service organised a preview of a rare eye-witness account of the outbreak of the 1916 Easter Rising at The Mansion House, Dawson Street today (Wednesday, 27th May 2015).

The letter was written by Elsie McDermid, a popular opera singer of the era. She was in Dublin to perform in Gilbert and Sullivan Shows at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. However, the performances were cancelled as a result of the dramatic outbreak of the Easter Rising on Monday 24th April 1916. Elsie wrote a 26-page letter home to her mother in England dated 25th April in which she related, among other things, the digging of trenches in St. Stephen’s Green and eye-witness accounts of the first casualties on the streets of Dublin.

The Sé Geraghty Collection

Sé Geraghty CollectionDublin City Council were delighted to receive the late Sé Geraghty’s private library when it was donated by Sé's best friend and companion Alice Hanratty in June 2008. 

On the occasion of the donation,  Cllr Mary O’Shea, representing the then Lord Mayor Gerry Breen, said "Sé Geraghty’s private library is a wonderful resource and will be a huge benefit to the public. It is made up of around 7,000 items, mainly books, but also many pamphlets and periodicals, on topics such as history, politics, literature and the arts. Anyone with an interest in fascinating subjects like the Spanish Civil War, 1916, the history of the Irish Trade Union movement, the Irish language and other topics will discover a mine of information. Dublin City Library and Archive Service did a very professional job in cataloguing the material and on their behalf I would like to thank Sé’s partner Alice Hanratty and his family for this wonderful donation."

Tragedy off the south coast – Sir Hugh Lane one of the casualties

Freeman JournalDublin, Monday, 10 May 1915. Following the tragic loss of RMS Lusitania, on Friday afternoon 7 May, off the south coast of Ireland near the Old Head of Kinsale, in which 1,198 passengers and crew were drowned, it is reported that Sir Hugh Lane, benefactor to this city, is among the casualties. The ship, en route from New York to Liverpool, with civilian passengers, seems to have been torpedoed by a German U-Boat.

New Database Site Now Available

databases.dublincity.ieA new website allowing for the cross-searching of a number of databases produced by Dublin City Public Libraries & Archive can now be accessed online.

databases.dublincity.ie replaces dublinheritage.ie as the point of access to a variety of databases, which heretofore could only be searched individually. In addition to those databases which were available on dublinheritage.ie have been added the Cemetery Burial Registers and the Dublin Directory 1647-1708. [First posted 29th April 2015]

Remembering Gallipoli - Books and Exhibitions

Memorial Book CollectionTwo complementary exhibitions were launched yesterday in the Dublin City Library and Archive. These are the 'Çanakkale: Road to Peace out of War' and the 'Fragments: Stories from Gallipoli 1915' displays which will appear in the Dublin City Public Library and Archive from Wednesday, 22 April, 2015 until Friday, 29 May, 2015.

The 'Fragments: Stories from Gallipoli 1915' exhibition, curated by Dublin City Archives, draws mainly on sources from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association Archive which is held at Dublin City Library and Archive. It gives an overview of the failed 1915 Campaign by the Allies and highlights the personal experiences of a number of Irish-born World War I soldiers who fought in Gallipoli by utilising diaries, photographs and correspondences.

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