Ireland’s Great Famine began in 1845 when the potato crop, the main food of much of the population, was destroyed by a potato blight. This blight recurred in the following years, leading to the deaths of over a million people. With the emigration of up to another million people, Ireland lost almost a quarter of its population.
Among the vast range of books and other materials our library has to help us study the Famine, there are a couple of rare or unique items. Such items give insight into various aspects of people and communities. One such item is the notebook shown here, the accounts of a soup kitchen, one of the many set up to give relief during the Famine.
This is the daybook, or notebook, listing all the receipts and expenditures for Drumbo Soup Kitchen from December 1846 to March 1848, accompanied by a sheet of tickets for Drumbo Soup Kitchen (MSE/IR 0100). Of the various places of that name, this is most likely Drumbo, County Down. This has not yet been verified. It was acquired by the Library in 2012.
The expenditure gives us an idea of the ingredients. In January 1st, 1846, purchases included cayenne pepper, black pepper, split peas, whole peas, barley, beef, cow’s head and carrots.
The 32-page notebook includes the names and amounts of cash subscriptions, and the notebook bears the treasurer’s name — “Dr. James Orr, Treasurer to the Drumbo Soup Kitchen.”
Along with the notebook is a sheet of printed tickets with the following text: “Drumbo: Soup Kitchen: One Ration. Paid, One Penny.”
2019-2020 marks the two hundred years anniversary of Washington Irving’s first publication of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., which includes the perennial Halloween favorite “The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow”. In the time since its publication, the story has found its way into films, TV shows, other books, and various other popular culture references. In honor of the anniversary, we’ve selected it for our 2020 Halloween tale.
The particular volume shown in this post came to us across the ocean from Ireland. It was part of the library of Walter Sweetman, a nineteenth-century Catholic landowner in County Wexford. When the Sweetman family of South Dakota inherited the Irish property, all the books from the library were included with furniture, but many perished from exposure to the salt water. It’s a pity our conservators were not involved in organizing that shipment. We like to imagine a reader in a large Irish country house reading of Sleepy Hollow with the backdrop of an Irish stormy evening.
Irving’s headless horseman was not the first of his kind, however. Riders who have lost or carry their head appeared in various stories and folklore before featuring as Ichabod Crane’s nemesis, beginning as early as the 14th century poem Gawain and the Green Knight. In Irish legend, the Dullahan or dúlachán is a Grim Reaper-like rider who carries his head under his arm (sometimes also known as the Gan Ceann, meaning literally “without a head” in Irish). (See Jessica Traynor’s ‘How tales of the headless horseman came from Celtic mythology’ in the Irish Times, October 23, 2019.)
Our colleague Doug Archer, a longtime activist for intellectual freedom and a Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor awardee, has always used Banned Books Week as a time to raise awareness of threats to intellectual freedom. During this year’s Banned Books Week (September 27 to October 3), since Doug is enjoying his well-earned retirement, we decided to dive into our collections and identify books whose circulation has been impeded in different times and places.
In this post, you will find an assortment of examples that show various types of books and the ways that they have been withheld, by government or by church, nationally or locally, in various parts of the world.
This was the poster for our 2008 exhibit on the Index of Prohibited Books, curated by Benjamin Panciera (now Director of Special Collections and Archives at Connecticut College). The Freedom to Read and the Care of Souls: The Index of Prohibited Books since the Enlightenment examined how the Catholic Church sought to influence the circulation of ideas in the 19th and 20th centuries and what sort of material was considered dangerous.
The Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list compiled by the Catholic Church over a period of four centuries, consisted of a large number of books that lay Catholics were not permitted to read. Galileo’s Dialogo dei massimi sistemi [Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems] was added to the Index in 1634 and was not removed until 1822. In addition, Galileo was tried for heresy in 1633 and placed under house arrest, where he remained until his death almost a decade later.
One of the most famous pronouncements on censorship of a literary work, which occurred in the U.S., is that of Judge Woolsey on James Joyce’s Ulysses. This was widely reported in newspapers at the time.
James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” a novel which has been banned from the United States by custom censors on the ground that it might cause American readers to harbor “impure and lustful thoughts,” found a champion yesterday in the United States District Court.
Federal Judge John M. Woolsey, after devoting almost a month of his time to reading the book, ruled in an opinion which he filed in court that “Ulysses” not only was not obscene in a legal sense, but that it was a work of literary merit.
New York Times, December 7, 1933.
As we have seen in the case of Galileo (above), in various places and at various times in history, censorship has not only prevented people from access to certain books, but has sometimes punished, imprisoned, or publicly shamed their authors.
This rare book is an example of early Stalin propaganda. It became the first and only Stalin-era book that glorified the use of slave labor in the massive building projects of the 1930s. An estimated 170,000 prisoners worked in subhuman conditions on Belomorkanal, moving stones and digging the canal using their bare hands or primitive materials and technologies. Tens of thousands of inmates died during the twenty-one months of its construction (1931–33).
Commissioned by Stalin and published in Moscow in 1934 to coincide with the opening of the infamous XVII Party Congress, this book was presented as a souvenir to Congress delegates to celebrate the success of the First Soviet Industrial Five-Year Plan. Thirty-six Soviet writers and many leading artists, including the avant-garde photographer Aleksandr Rodchenko, visited the Canal and contributed their essays and photographic images of prisoners to praise the “transforming power” of the Gulag. By 1937, at the height of the Stalin Great Terror, the policy of “reeducating” class enemies through corrective labor was replaced by mass arrests, imprisonments and executions. The new policy called for the physical extermination of the “enemies of the people” and the obliteration of their names from the public record, including books. Four years after its publication, even this blatantly propagandist piece was found suspect and withdrawn from circulation; most copies were destroyed, and its many contributors were sent to the Gulag.
While many countries have not taken such extreme measures against authors, censorship has sometimes been carried out along with public shaming.
In Ireland, books that portrayed indecency or behavior that was not approved by the Catholic Church were often subject to censorship. A famous case was that of The Tailor and Ansty, Eric Cross’s book portraying the storytelling and commentary of a rural couple, Tadhg Ó Buachalla and his wife Anastasia, or Ansty. Not only was the book the subject of government debate over a four-day period, but the couple were visited by a priest (or three priests in some accounts) and ordered to burn their own copy of the book.
In the first decade of Ireland’s Free State, the Censorship of Publications Act, 1929, was enacted to prohibit the sale and distribution of “unwholesome literature”. Over the next forty years, hundreds of books were banned from sale in Ireland.
Ethel Voynich’s popular novel, The Gadfly, first published in the U.S. in 1897, was banned in Ireland in 1943. We had occasion to pull this book off the shelves as a Notre Dame student who is writing her senior thesis on this novel is particularly interested in why the book, popular elsewhere in Europe, was little known and also banned in Ireland.
Novels by Kate O’Brien were banned in Ireland and in Spain. The novel featured here, Land of Spices, was apparently banned in Ireland on account of one sentence in which the protagonist learns that her father was in a homosexual relationship. “She saw Etienne and her father in the embrace of love.” Thus the novel was deemed indecent and obscene.
Edna O’Brien, whose recent books include Girl (2019) and The Little Red Chairs (2016), is the author of novels that were very controversial in Ireland in the 1950s and ’60s. Her earliest novels, found offensive for their depiction of girls’ and women’s lives, including sexuality, were consistently banned by the Irish Censorship Board. O’Brien’s books circulated widely in spite of censorship, and the following account by Dónal Ó Drisceoil shows that the Irish Censorship Board was fighting a losing battle:
At a packed public meeting in Limerick in 1966, O’Brien asked for a show of hands as to how many had read her banned books: she was met with a sea of hands and much laughter.
Ó Drisceoil, 154
The censorship in Ireland of Frank O’Connor’s Kings, Lords, and Commons continues to provide amusement as the content that raised the censors’ concern was O’Connor’s translation of the acclaimed poem “Cúirt an Mheán Oíche” written in the eighteenth century by Brian Merriman. Much praised and valued as a literary work, the original Irish language text, and even earlier English translations, had never been censored, but this translation by O’Connor, conveying the humorous, hard-hitting language of sexually frustrated women, suggested that such lively discourse could exist in Irish-language literature, but not in English.
Once again, the Republic of Ireland is the place where this book by Hemingway was banned. This book and many others in our collection that could be freely read in the U.S. might not have been available to readers in Ireland and in other countries where such censorship was practiced. Examples of American books not allowed in Ireland for some time during the twentieth century include Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell (banned 1933), Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos (banned 1934) and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (banned 1941).
Moving from national censorship to local censorship, the Hesburgh Libraries’ shelves are filled with books that have been censored in some way, either by being removed from the shelves of libraries, or being challenged and banned by local school boards. This is the kind of censorship that is generally of concern to the American Library Association, and that is highlighted during Banned Books Week.
Judy Blume, an author whose books have often been removed from school libraries, has become a spokesperson against the censorship of books. Her 1970 book, Are you there, God? It’s Me, Margaret, has a young protagonist who muses on, and discusses, sexuality, menstruation, bras, and religion. Reasons that the book has been challenged and sometimes removed from library shelves include the sexual content and the treatment of religion.
Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, has frequently been challenged, e.g. by parents asking school districts to have the book removed from library shelves. The combination of science and religion in the book, along with a kind of magic or fantasy, is at the root of many of the challenges. The American Library Association’ Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles annual lists of books based on reports they receive from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country. For two decades, L’Engle’s novel was in the top one hundred challenged books.
More on the American Library Association’s findings on the books challenged throughout America may be learned by checking the Banned Books Week website.
Ó Drisceoil, Dónal. ‘The Best Banned in the Land: Censorship and Irish Writing since 1950’, in The Yearbook of English Studies 35 (2005), pp. 146-160. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3509330
Waterford-born artist William Hincks created a set of prints depicting linen production in the north of Ireland. It is assumed that he spent some time in Ulster, but this has not been documented. He published the prints in London in 1783, and the set was republished in 1791 by R. Pollard of Spafields, London.
The linen industry played an important part in Ireland’s economy, accounting for the occupations of a large proportion of the people of Ulster in the eighteenth century. The prints show a whole range of tasks performed in the pre-industrial production of linen, from ploughing and sowing flax seeds in a County Down field, to selling the linen at Dublin’s Linen Hall.
The fourth plate is the first with an indoor setting. Women, girls and a man are engaged in beetling, scutching and hackling. These were all very unfamiliar verbs for me, and I recommend the video of Ulster Folk Museum curator, Valerie Wilson, who describes the process of linen-making from beginning to end. The video is at the end of her blogpost, Warp and Weft: The Story of Linen in Ulster.
This print, the sixth in the series, shows women spinning, reeling, and boiling the yarn or thread.
Following spinning and boiling, the next print shows a weaving shed, with the tasks of winding, warping and weaving. At this time, Ulster had an estimated 40,000 weavers, so one can imagine that the activities depicted were common in villages and towns throughout the province.
As Irish economic history forms an important part of the Irish collections at the Hesburgh Libraries, we have many books treating various aspects of the linen industry. We are glad indeed to have a set of William Hincks’ prints, with their view of activities and equipment that were once an important part of Irish life.
RBSC is closed Monday, September 7th, for Labor Day.
The Irish Broadside Ballads are a treasure trove of nineteenth century social media, including commentary on economic affairs, accounts of crimes and tragedies, and political news and opinions.
We thought our readers might enjoy seeing a sample from our collection. The collection may be viewed online.
While the authors of many ballads remain unknown, some ballads may be traced to their author. This ballad, ‘A New Song on the Happy Return of Moody and Sankey‘, is described in an engaging article by Robert Gahan, ‘Some Old Street Characters of Dublin’, in the Dublin Historical Record of December 1939.
Gahan describes a trio of street musicians known as Hamlet, Dunbar and Uncle, who performed together on Dublin’s streets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in the 1870s. He goes on to tell us the circumstances that led to this ballad:
In 1874 the eminent Evangelists, Moody and Sankey, came to Dublin ; walls and hoardings were covered with posters announcing their meetings, and Dublin was, as a prominent newspaper said, “greatly stirred.” “Hamlet” was stirred too, but it was to compose in “appreciation” of the evangelists. The song the trio let loose upon Dublin… is “A New Song on the Happy Return of Moody and Sankey.”
The story behind the statues is well known: a young CSC priest, William Corby, offered a general absolution to members of the Irish Brigade, part of the Second Corps of the Union’s Army of the Potomac, minutes before the soldiers engaged in fierce fighting late on the second day of the battle at Gettysburg (July 2, 1863).
Corby served as chaplain to the 88th New York Infantry, which was part of the famous Irish Brigade. This group of soldiers were mostly Irish and Irish-American Catholics from New York and Philadelphia who were formed from five regiments: three from New York (the 69th Infantry, 63rd Infantry, and 88th Infantry), the 28th Massachusetts Infantry, and the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry. After the war Corby returned to the University of Notre Dame where resumed his teaching position; he later became the school’s president.
The priest had given general absolution to his flock of mostly Irish Catholic soldiers before, most notably at Antietam in September 1862, just before the brigade suffered heavy casualties. But this time, as fighting raged around the soldiers at Gettysburg, when Corby climbed up on a boulder and spoke, not just the Irish Brigade but the whole Second Corps fell silent. It was a moment that many officers and soldiers remembered later. For many Catholics it came to mean recognition, if not full acceptance, by their non-Catholic fellow Americans.
Less well known is how the statues materialized. The Catholic Alumni Sodality of Philadelphia spearheaded the project and reported it in this pamphlet. The sodality had been formed in 1902 to promote faith and collegiality among Catholic men who were college graduates. The sodality implemented the statues’ financing and creation, but it acted on an idea of St. Clair Mulholland, commander of the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment and witness to Corby’s actions at Gettysburg.
The Irish-born Mulholland was just 23 years old when he began serving as a Lieutenant Colonel of the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry in 1862. He fought in some of the war’s major battles, including Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, and of course, Gettysburg.
After the war Mulholland dedicated himself to commemorating Civil War soldiers, particularly the Irish Brigade. In 1888 he led the initiative to raise a monument to the brigade at Gettysburg. The Alumni Sodality of Philadelphia embraced the idea of creating a memorial to Corby only after a member heard Mulholland speak movingly about the incident. It was a speech the old soldier had given countless times over the years.
The sodality hired sculptor Samuel Murray to create the monument. It was placed at Gettysburg, amid an extensive program of speeches and dignitaries, on October 29, 1910. A replica, created by the artist, was mounted on Notre Dame’s campus on Decoration Day (now called Memorial Day), 1911.
Mulholland and the sodality were not unique in remembering those who served. Between the end of the war and the 1930s thousands of Civil War monuments rose around the nation. As we have seen in recent disputes over monuments in the United States, public statues have multiple uses and their meanings change over time. Monuments evoke the past even as they convey contemporary expectations about class, race, gender, and religion.
As this pamphlet reminds us, Corby’s memorialization was about more than the priest’s service. It created a narrative of Catholic loyalty and patriotism at a time when American nativism was again on the rise, sparked by large immigration from southern and eastern Europe. By focusing on a priest rather than on Catholic soldiers, the statue’s creators deemphasized the larger Irish Catholic experience of the war, fueled as it was by a mix of American patriotism, Irish Republicanism, and economic need. The image reinforced instead a message of cleric-led, middle-class Irish American respectability. 
 Randall M. Miller, “Catholic Religion, Irish Ethnicity, and the Civil War,” in Religion and the American Civil War, Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout, and Charles Reagan Wilson, eds., (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 285-86.
A happy Memorial Day to you and yours from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!
While the Irish Studies collection in the Hesburgh Libraries has grown considerably in recent decades, one of the enduring treasures, and the collection most often inquired about, is the O’Neill Collection. This is the personal library of Francis O’Neill, the famous collector of Irish music who was once Chicago’s Chief of Police.
Francis O’Neill (1848-1936) left Ireland in his teens, travelled the world as a sailor, settled in America and after first qualifying as a teacher in Missouri, moved to Chicago where he joined the police force in 1873. By all accounts a larger-than-life figure, he was well-known both as a police officer and as one of the major experts on Irish traditional music.
Sometime in the later 1880s… Francis O’Neill began to realize that there was yet much Irish traditional music to be collected and preserved that had escaped earlier collectors. He recruited James O’Neill to the project of collection and started to visit him regularly … so that the tunes remembered from Francis’ childhood in Cork could be noted down from his dictation in a private manuscript collection… [i]
As months and years passed and word of their enterprise spread others contributed tunes to the collection and James O’Neill began visiting musicians in their homes to note their music.
Nicholas Carolan goes on to describe how O’Neill’s project developed, his publication of O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903) and his other books, and of the enduring legacy of these books.
For generations of musicians who play Irish traditional music, O’Neill’s books are perceived as essential. Carolan aptly named his book ‘A Harvest Saved’ as O’Neill collected at a time and place where people had left the communities in which the music had thrived. The 75,000 Irish immigrants in Chicago carried with them the music of many parts of Ireland, and O’Neill was able to tap into the rich repository of their tunes and record them for posterity.
O’Neill was following in the footsteps of important collectors such as Edward Bunting and George Petrie, many of whose books are in O’Neill’s collection and bear pencilled annotations indicating his careful study of the contents.
This book is one of the most important works in the history of Irish music collecting. Edward Bunting began his life-long interest in the collection of Irish harp-music in 1792. He notated the music of performers at the Belfast Harp Festival that year, and this inspired him to continue for many years in his collection and study of Irish harp music.
The O’Neill Collection includes also Bunting’s two later collections, published in 1809 and 1840. O’Neill’s pencilled notes can be seen in the margins of these books.
The O’Neill Collection includes important works from Scotland including Orpheus Caledonius by William Thompson, one of the earliest published collections of Scottish songs. First published in two volumes in 1725, our O’Neill copy is volume I only of the 1733 edition. This copy has pencil annotations either by O’Neill or by an earlier reader. It also includes a subscribers list, which is not included in the facsimile edition published in 1962.
When Chief O’Neill offered his library to the University in 1931, he described it as having a ‘Hiberniana’ collection and a music collection. In each case, his library was exceptional. Our O’Neill Collection includes a valuable selection of books on Irish history and antiquities, and in the music section, a collection of many well-known collections of Irish music, along with lesser-known books of dance music, and books on the music and instruments of Ireland, England and Scotland in particular.
Hoping to bring the O’Neill Collection to enthusiasts who cannot visit the Hesburgh, we selected thirty of the rarest books from the collection for digitization. We plan to share these digital collections in a number of ways — the Internet Archive being one — making it possible to study the books anywhere in the world.
To mark St. Patrick’s Day, this year we are featuring a small selection from our recently-acquired collection of Irish postcards.
Picture postcards, commercially produced in Ireland by the beginning of the twentieth century, became enormously popular as a means of communication. From a wide range of postcard types, we have selected a small sampling of the type of cards used as St. Patrick’s Day greetings.
Postmarked in 1912, this postcard shows a boy wearing a large cross for St. Patrick’s Day, a custom no longer practiced now, but recorded in various sources. According to Cronin and Adair, crosses made by paper or card were commonly worn by children on St. Patrick’s day until early in the twentieth century. [i]
Searching the wonderful online source of Irish National Folklore Collection, Dúchas.ie, for references to St. Patrick’s Day crosses, we find some good primary sources. From 1937 to 1938, Irish schoolchildren interviewed older people in their homes and communities about folklore. In some of these accounts, people describe the ornate colored crosses they made as children for St. Patrick’s Day. The following is from a woman in County Kerry:
I used to make a beautiful cross for that day. The first thing I got was two pieces of stiff card-board, one piece longer than the other, then covered these pieces with some nice pieces of silk and I sewed them together in the shape of a cross.
For about a month before St. Patrick’s day I used to be gathering the nicest bits of silk or satin I could find to cut them into narrow strips to make nice, neat, fluffy little bundles of them. I then sewed one bundle on each of the four ends and one on the centre of the cross.
Then my cross was complete and ready to wear on my left arm on St. Patrick’s day and for a whole week after going to school. There wasn’t any “meas” [ii] on any little girl that had not a cross for St Patrick’s day. [iii]
Many postcards suggest nostalgia and homesickness for Ireland, and may have been produced with emigrants in mind. They feature stereotypically Irish decorations such as shillelaghs, Celtic crosses, harps, and of course, the shamrock, which is specifically associated with St. Patrick.
The shamrock has become the most popular symbol for St. Patrick’s Day, referring to the legend which tells that Patrick illustrated the concept of the Trinity by plucking a three-leaved shamrock from the ground. Thus, many cards include the shamrock, and in some it is the main feature.
‘The Dear Little Shamrock’ song was composed by Limerick-born Andrew Cherry, an actor, playwright and theatre manager who was active from the 1770s until 1812. At the time of this postcard, the song must have been well known, being part of the repertoire of John McCormack, whose performances of Irish songs were very popular on his concert tours of the United States.
This card was posted in September 1911 from Dublin to Middlesex, England.
The Green Isle of Erin, posted in England, is a German-produced card full of standard references, i.e., the green isle, harp, emerald and shamrocks. Ann Wilson’s informative article on Irish picture postcards of the Edwardian Age tells us that Germany was the location of much of the early picture postcard production. [v]
Though this card celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, it was posted in November 1904 from County Cork to South Africa.
When postcards first began to be used, a message was written on the front of the postcard and the address written on the back. It took time, after the development of picture postcards, for postal administrations to allow for a message written on the same side as the address. Though the British Post Office allowed a message on the left and address on the right from 1902, this was not generally accepted in other countries at the time this card was posted, hence the writing on the picture side of this card.
Posted from Adrian, Michigan to Brooklyn, New York on March 15th, 1909, the cluster of items on this card suggest a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and an American celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
St. Patrick’s Day Souvenir. Meeting of the Waters Killarney, sent from Shakopee, Minnesota to St. Paul, Minnesota. The Lakes of Killarney were among the most celebrated beauty spots for tourists to Ireland, and so this postcard imparts a romantic view of Ireland.
The Crescent Embossing Company in New Jersey published many American patriotic cards such as Independence Day greeting cards. The signature on this card, as on other cards by Crescent, are of the owner, Fred C. Lounsbury, rather than of the artist.
As these cards suggest, celebrating St. Patrick’s day in the golden age of the postcard veered from a celebration of early Gaelic Ireland, with the symbols of Christianity such as the cross and round tower in this last postcard, to wistful nostalgia such as that depicted in the ‘Dear Little Shamrock’.
The postcard collection is currently being cataloged so that in time, it will be possible to locate each postcard from our online finding aid.
[i] Cronin, Mike, and Daryl Adair. The Wearing of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. Routledge, 2002.
The current spotlight exhibits are Touchdowns & Technology: The Evolution of the Media and Notre Dame Football (September – December 2019), a display of selected materials from the University Archives, and Irish Art and Literature from Graphic Studio Dublin (December 2019 – January 2020) in conjunction with the Snite Museum’s exhibit “Looking at the Stars”: Irish Art at the University of Notre Dame.
RBSC will be closed during Notre Dame’s Christmas & New Year’s Break (December 21, 2019 – January 1, 2020) and will resume regular hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm) on Thursday, January 2, 2020.