ISA tour of Birr Castle, 13 April 2019

On Saturday 13 April a group of 18 members of the ISA assembled outside the Davenport Hotel in preparation for a day trip to Birr Castle. The numbers had been restricted to 20 by the Castle and with one member driving from Tullamore and one late cancellation the visit was effectively full. Barton’s coach conveyed us by the scenic route via Edenderry to Birr where we arrived at 11am to begin our visit.

We were met by Lisa Shortall, the archivist at the Offaly History Centre, who works one day a week in the Castle, and by Lord Rosse. We were divided into two groups with one group being shown around the Muniment Room by Lisa and the other taken round the exterior of the Castle and shown the impressive Science Gallery by Lord Rosse, and then we swapped over.

The Birr Castle archives, which have been gathered together from various parts of the estate, were catalogued by Dr Anthony Malcomson, in his days in PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland) and the catalogue was subsequently published in 2008 by the Irish Manuscripts Commission as Calendar of the Rosse Papers. Work continues on the collection as a heavily annotated copy of the catalogue indicates. Among the treasures which were shown to us was a 17th century recipe book which had been used in the RTE TV programme ‘Lords and Ladles’. Currently, Lisa is working on the Castle’s photographs which includes a collection of glass plate negatives.

A three course lunch, with wine, was served in the Castle Dining Room and included a delicious casserole with venison from the Castle estate.

After lunch Lady Rosse gave a tour of the Castle, including rooms which are not usually open to the public, and there was an opportunity to see the splendid portrait collection with, among others, important works by the 17th century Irish painter Garret Morphey. The day concluded with a tour given by Lord Rosse of the gardens and a visit to the famous telescope.

The feedback from those who travelled has been very positive with, in particular, an appreciation of the role of Lord and Lady Rosse which gave the visit a distinctly personal feel.

ISA Seminar: ‘Revolutionary Diplomats: the activities and archives of the Dáil Éireann foreign service’ by Dr. John Gibney,  12 February 2019


ISA Seminar: 90 years Gate Theatre, 13 February 2018

The seminar held on February 13th this year was dedicated to the Dublin Gate Theatre’s computing 90 years. A large audience enjoyed five lively and in parts theatrical papers about the Gate Theatre and its founders Hilton Edwards and Micheál Mac Liammóir. Maître de cérémonie was Hugh Linehan, Arts and Culture Editor (Irish Times), introducing speakers Dr David Clare (Mary Immaculate College, Limerick), Colette O’Flaherty (Keeper of Archival Collections, National Library of Ireland), Barry Houlihan (archivist, NUI, Galway), Des Lally (NUI, Galway), and Dr Mary Clark (Dublin City Archivist). Each paper was generously illustrated with photographs of stage productions as well as Mac Liammóir’s captivating drawings and sketches, proving that he was a superb and imaginative draughtsman as well as a humorous correspondent. To add real dramatic flair, Dr Clare laced his talk with dialogue from plays by Mary Manning, Christine Longford and Maura Laverty and proved that their comical potential is not diminished despite the decades that have passed since their first productions.

A panel discussion honed in on the two founders’ huge energy, diligence and courtesy while also broadening out to the archives of the Abbey Theatre and the theatre company of Edward Pakenham, 6th Earl of Longford and Christine Longford (“the Longfords”) who for a time partnered with the Gate.

The papers will be published in this year’s Irish Archives which will be launched in November 2018


2nd May –  Celebrating 90 years of ESB

7th February – Hidden Pages of Irish Sports History