Women in Irish Prisons: Autographs of Prisoners in 1923

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian (retired)

Autograph books, nicely-bound books full of blank pages, have been popular for a long time — from schoolchildren’s record of classroom friendships to collections of famous people’s autographs. The Hesburgh Library recently added to its collection a small but powerful document of women’s involvement in Ireland’s politics one hundred years ago. 

Our new acquisition is the prison autograph book of Aoife Taaffe (MSE/IR 1101). The autograph book, signed by her fellow prisoners in 1923, documents the women, and also their dates and places of imprisonment during the Civil War of 1922-23.

Aoife Taaffe, Political Prisoner. Four Courts, Mountjoy, N. D. U., Kilmainham. 1922, 1923.

Information given on this page tells us that Taaffe was a prisoner in the Four Courts, in Mountjoy Jail, in the North Dublin Union, and in Kilmainham Gaol. The book is filled with the signatures of other women who were imprisoned during the Civil War of 1922-23, and their signatures are usually accompanied by information on imprisonment places and dates.

Like many women activists of her time, Aoife Taaffe is not well-known today. Information gleaned from various sources tells us that she was very involved in theatre both as an actor and a director, and she was also involved in many commemorative events for the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence during the 1920s and 30s. While in Kilmainham Gaol, she marked the seventh anniversary of the 1916 Rising by producing P. H. Pearse’s The Singer, with a cast of women prisoners. 

Autographs in the book include those of Margaret Buckley, Kid Bulfin, Eithne Coyle, May Gibney and Margaret Skinnider. In all, the book features the names and signatures of dozens of women prisoners.

The history of women’s involvement in the Irish War of Independence and Civil War is still relatively unknown. Sinéad McCoole’s No Ordinary Women: Irish Female Activists in the Revolutionary Years 1900-1923 (2003) is an important history, and a number of articles and podcasts on the website of Century Ireland provide interesting perspectives on women’s history of the period. A major primary source is the Military Archives, particularly the accounts of service provided by applicants for a pension.

Seven years ago, we mounted a centenary exhibition, Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion, which featured books and documents on a small number of women. This autograph book encourages us to look more widely for sources of Irish women’s history, which is slowly being pulled from the shadows.

On the Retirement of Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements

by Erika Hosselkus, Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Resources and Services

Aedin Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

Aedín Clements joined Hesburgh Libraries in 2005 as the organization’s first dedicated Irish Studies Librarian. During her tenure, Aedín has developed world class research and special collections in Irish literature, history, and adjacent fields. These include the near-comprehensive Irish Fiction Collection, the Jonathan Swift collection, a large Irish broadside ballads collection, and the Captain Francis O’Neill Irish music collection, among many others. A native speaker of Irish, Aedín has also envisioned and developed Hesburgh Libraries’ substantial Irish-language holdings. 

Along with her collection development activities, Aedin has worked extensively to support students, faculty, and visiting researchers and dignitaries interested in Irish Studies and Irish Language and Literature. As part of her broad outreach, Aedin has curated exhibitions on the writings of the Irish diaspora, Irish children’s literature, the Easter Rising of 1916, and Irish book arts. In 2018, she developed the Keough-Naughton Library Research Award, a partnership between Hesburgh Libraries, the Keough-Naughton Institute, and Notre Dame International offering research fellowships that enable external scholars to utilize the Libraries’ rare Irish collections. Most recently, Aedín collaborated with Hesburgh Libraries’ and Irish Studies colleagues to develop an app-based tour of Dublin featuring connections to materials in our Irish collections.

Aedín has built Hesburgh Libraries’ Irish collections and forged critical connections with campus partners and a global network of researchers. In anticipation of her retirement, we asked colleagues to reflect on her impact and the importance of her work at Notre Dame.

Sarah E. McKibben (Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Irish Language and Literature, University of Notre Dame):

Aedín was a simply marvelous colleague and we will miss her so much! She was so responsive and helpful whenever I located a text I thought we should acquire. She was always full of ideas for my own or my students’ research. She was eager to show my students around the library or teach a research methods session with them, or to help them find the perfect text for their final presentations. In fact, she was so enthusiastic, creative and inspiring that I know she helped many students fall in love with their topics and even pursue further work in Irish Studies.

Since she retired just a week ago, I keep thinking “oh I must email Aedín about this”…I must say, I’m a bit lost without her. She was one of the best hires ND has ever made in Irish Studies.

Aedín receiving a tune written for her by Seán Doherty, a lecturer Dublin City University and one of the recipients of the Keough-Naughton Library Research Award in Irish Studies in 2023.

Natasha Lyandres (Curator, Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Library, University of Notre Dame):

Almost a year ago, Aedín Clements, our dear colleague, started an epic countdown to her retirement. At the end of October she left the Hesburgh Libraries after serving as Irish Studies Librarian for almost twenty years. Aedín has had an incredibly successful career at Notre Dame. It’s been a real honor to work with her over the past ten years in Rare Books and Special Collections. 

Aedín contributed to the significant growth of Irish Collections by bringing major acquisitions and expanding the reach and impact of her collections through fruitful collaborations with the Keough-Naughton Institute, Notre Dame International, and with the Department of Irish Language and Literature. From teaching numerous classes and supporting graduate and undergraduate students, to installing exhibits and writing blog posts, to launching the Library Research Award in Irish Studies, to welcoming numerous visitors, to assisting scholars from all over the world with their research on campus, Aedín has been the driving force behind the Rare Books and Special Collections’ success and wide international recognition of our Irish collections.

We will miss Aedín’s infectious enthusiasm for Irish Studies, her cheerful personality, her dedication to the Libraries and the University, and also the beautiful sound of the Irish language echoing through the department. Congratulations, dear Aedín, on your retirement. You will always hold a very special place in our hearts.

We thank Aedín for her service, contributions, and collegiality and wish her the best in retirement.

Demon Horses and How to Tame Them

by Sara Weber, Special Collections Digital Project Specialist

This year’s Halloween post brings you tales of the Pooka:

“an avil sper’t that does be always in mischief, but sure it niver does sarious harrum axceptin’ to thim that deserves it, or thim that shpakes av it disrespictful.”

Broadly speaking, the Pooka (also referred to as a púca or puca) is a mischievous creature found in Celtic, English, and Channel Islands folklore—its name is the root of Shakespeare’s Puck in the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although a shapeshifter capable of a variety of appearances, in our story the Pooka takes one of its more common forms, that of a black horse with fiery eyes and blue, flaming breath.

The volume this story comes from is Irish Wonders: the Ghosts, Giants, Pookas, Demons, Leprechauns, Banshees, Fairies, Witches, Widows, Old Maids, and other marvels of the Emerald Isle by D. R. McAnally, Jr. We hold both American and British editions of this text from 1888, both illustrated by H. R. Heaton. The title page describes the book as “Popular Tales as told by the People.” The stories and storytellers are integrated in the narrative, with storytellers represented as local characters. The Hiberno-English, or English as spoken in Ireland, is represented in the spelling and dialogue shown above.

“Taming the Pooka” tells two brief stories of interactions with the spirit before settling in to the longer tale of how King Brian Boru tamed the beast. Click below for a PDF of the entire tale. Enjoy!

Happy Halloween to you and yours
from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!

Halloween 2022: A Halloween Tale: “John Reardon and the Sister Ghosts”
Halloween 2021: A Welsh Witch in the Woods
Halloween 2020: Headless Horsemen in American and Irish
Halloween 2019: A Halloween trip to Mexico
Halloween 2018: A story for Halloween: “Johnson and Emily; or, The Faithful Ghost”
Halloween 2017: A spooky story for Halloween: The Goblin Spider
Halloween 2016: Ghosts in the Stacks

Converting Irish-speaking Catholics to Protestantism

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

Tyrone-born clergyman John Richardson (c. 1669-1747) was a strong advocate of publishing Irish-language religious works as a means of converting Ireland’s Catholics to Protestantism. The Hesburgh Libraries recently acquired a copy of his 1711 book of sermons, Seanmora ar na Priom Phoncibh, na Chreideamh or Sermons upon the Principal Points of Religion, Translated into Irish. The book was published in London by Elinor Everingham.

In the same year that he published this book, Richardson presented a petition to the Lord Lieutenant, the duke of Ormond, calling for the publication of testaments, prayer books, catechisms and sermons in Irish, and he also published A Proposal for the Conversion of the Popish Natives of Ireland to the Establish’d Religion. Our book of sermons represents an early part of his campaign to provide printed sermons.

Richardson makes the case for his project in the book’s dedication to the Duke of Ormond.

It is too manifest to be denied that the many dreadful Calamities with which that unfortunate Island hath been miserably Afflicted since the Reformation, are in a great measure owing to the unhappy differences of Religion in it. To prevent them for the time to come, several Laws have been made to weaken, and at last to Extinguish Popery in that Kingdom; and there seems to be only one thing wanting, one thing very becoming the Professours of Christianity, in order to attain this happy End, which is, that proper Methods be used to Instruct the Natives in the true Religion, and to Convert them from their Errours.


The first sermon, by Richardson, is headed with a Bible verse on the necessity of godliness. This is followed by a sermon by John Tillotson, the Bishop of Canterbury, preached in the presence of the King and Queen at Hampton Court in April 1689. The translator of this sermon, Pilib Mac Brádaigh (c.1655-1720), is said to have been a Catholic priest who “embraced the aristocratic religion of the State, for which he handed down his name to posterity as Philip Ministir” (John O’Donovan).

The final texts are three sermons given by Bishop William Beveridge, Bishop of St. Asaph, and are translated to Irish by Seón ó Mulchonri, or Seán Ó Maolconaire. 

The printed text uses many contractions, and these are almost, but not all, listed in the key at the back of the book. The key displays the Irish alphabet of eighteen letters, the symbols for contractions of common letter-combinations, and a display of the lenited consonants, each one with an overhead dot.

We know of six other copies of this book in the U.S.

Upcoming Events: October 2023

Please join us for the following public events and exhibits being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, October 5 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar: “The Archival Turn and Network Approach: Examining Evolving Translation Practices and Discourses in the British Publishing Firm Complex, 1950s-1980s” by Daniela La Penna (University of Reading, UK).

Thursday, October 24 at 5:00pm | McBrien Special Collections Lecture Series: “Chief O’Neill in Ten Tunes” by Dr. Seán Doherty (Dublin City University).

Captain Francis O’Neill’s collection 1001 Gems: The Dance Music of Ireland (1907) is so important to the world of Irish traditional music that it’s sometimes called the Bible or simply, ‘The Book’. Starting as a pandemic project, the Irish composer and musicologist Seán Doherty analyzed all 1001 tunes in this influential collection. In this lecture and performance, Seán will discuss the music along with O’Neill’s biography and will play tunes linked to key moments in Chief O’Neill’s life.

Captain O’Neill donated his personal library to the University of Notre Dame, where it is held at the Hesburgh Library. Dr. Doherty’s research visit is supported by the Keough-Naughton Library Research Award in Irish Studies.

The exhibition Making and Unmaking Emancipation in Cuba and the United States is now open and will run through the fall semester.

Curator-led tours, open to the public, will be held noon–1:00pm on the following upcoming Fridays: October 13 and 27 [tour on 10/27 cancelled], and November 17.

Tours of the exhibit may also be arranged for classes and other groups by contacting Rachel Bohlmann at (574) 631-1575 or Rachel.Bohlmann.2@nd.edu.

The October spotlight exhibits are Football and Community at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (August – December 2023) and Path to Sainthood: Brother Columba O’Neill (October – November 2023).

RBSC will be open regular hours (9:30am – 4:30pm) during the University of Notre Dame’s Fall Break, October 16 – 20.

A Hesburgh Libraries Walk in Dublin

This month, thousands of supporters of Notre Dame’s football team will travel to Ireland for the Aer Lingus Classic, to be played against the Naval Academy in Aviva Stadium in Dublin on August 26th.

The Hesburgh Libraries, home of one of the great Irish studies collections, has found a way to enhance visitors’ experience of Dublin while also telling them about connections with our library. We have developed a short and interesting walk in Dublin’s city center that connects stories of our library collection with the streets and buildings along the way. We hope the discussion of special books and manuscripts within a geographical context will make for a memorable experience.

The tour may be followed using an online app that combines a spoken narrative, mapped directions, and additional links to library books and manuscripts.

Statue of Henry Grattan and books from Henry Grattan’s personal library, as seen in the Dublin Tour app.

On Thursday, August 24th, the program will be introduced in Trinity College, Dublin, and will feature musicians from Trinity’s Traditional Music Society along with the librarians who will set the scene for the ‘Hesburgh Libraries Walk.’

Anyone may download the walk app to their phone, allowing them to follow the walk. The walking tour is guided by a map, an audio narrative, and visual details. For those taking the walk immediately following the presentation, Hesburgh Library personnel will provide wi-fi along the route.


A Hesburgh Libraries Walk in Dublin City Center
Maharry Theatre, Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin
Thursday, August 24th, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

To follow the self-guided walking tour, use the QR code here and follow the instructions.

Keough-Naughton Library Research Award — Visiting Scholars of Irish Studies

We congratulate the following scholars who won this award in 2023, and we hope they will enjoy, as well as benefit from, their time in the Hesburgh Libraries.

The Keough-Naughton Library Research Award in Irish Studies, a grant designed to assist scholars who travel to use the Irish collections at the Hesburgh Libraries, was inaugurated in 2018. The annual competitive award is sponsored by the Keough-Naughton Institute of Irish Studies and ND International.

Dr. Seán Doherty, a lecturer at the School of Theology, Philosophy and Music, Dublin City University, is a composer and musicologist.

Seán Doherty

His project is ‘Patterns in 1001 Gems: The O’Neill Collection of Traditional Irish Music.’

Seán expects to visit in the fall and will work closely with the O’Neill Collection, the personal library of Francis O’Neill, the Chicago Chief of Police whose published collections of Irish traditional dance music have played a large role in the music of Ireland. 

Dr. Anne Jamison,  Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies at the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University, Australia.

Anne Jamison

Anne is a feminist literary critic with a research focus on nineteenth-century Ireland and also on Australian women’s literature. She has published widely on Somerville and Ross as well as on other Irish women writers. 

Her project is ‘Irish Women’s Fairy Tale and Fantasy Writing for Children, 1800-1935.’

She expects to visit this summer, and to make great use of the Irish literature collections throughout the Hesburgh Library, focusing on works by Winifred Letts, Rosa Mulholland and Frances Browne in our Rare Books and Special Collections.

Annabel Barry is at the Department of English at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is a PhD candidate.

Annabel Barry

Her project is ‘The Romantic Ordinary’, and in her visit she studied materials from the nineteenth century and earlier, including the Holzapfel Collection of James Clarence Mangan.

Past recipients of the Award are listed on the Keough-Naughton Institute’s website, and this website also provides information on the award itself.

The Henry Grattan Pamphlet Collection

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

The Henry Grattan Pamphlet Collection, purchased by the Hesburgh Libraries some twenty years ago, deserves to be highlighted in a blogpost.

Henry Grattan (1746-1820), was a prominent Irish politician, closely associated with the Irish parliament so that from 1782 until the Act of Union of 1800, it was known as ‘Grattan’s Parliament.’ 

The collection of books and pamphlets, bound together in nine volumes, comprise part of his personal library. These nine volumes became separated from the rest of the Grattan Library which was sold at auction in 1888. These volumes were discovered some hundred years later in a country house in Ireland.

The thematically-arranged volumes are handsomely bound with a title on each spine and a list of contents inside, hand-written in ink by Henry Grattan and another person.  Many of the publications also have marginal pencil marks and some have annotations.

The volumes are as follows:

1. Ireland. Free Trade & Independence
2. Ireland.
3. Ireland. 1798
4. Ireland. Catholics
5. Ireland. Catholics
6. Ireland. Catholics
7. Ireland. Union
8. Ireland. Union
9. Ireland. Union

The fourth volume shown here has the usual listing of contents written on the inside cover, and this volume also has Henry Grattan’s name inscribed in ink.

Pencilled annotations were cut when the pamphlet was trimmed for binding.

Grattan’s careful reading of some of the publications may be inferred from pencil marks in the margins. In this example, the penciled annotations appear to have been cut when the pamphlet was trimmed for binding.

While the individual pamphlets are rare in libraries, digitized copies of various editions are available. Therefore, it is the provenance and the selection and grouping together of these publications that makes them so interesting, as part of the working library of an Irish politician.

To see a complete list of the pamphlets and books in these nine volumes, type the following in the ND Catalog: Henry Grattan Pamphlet Collection.

Upcoming Events: May and through the summer

Currently there are no events scheduled to be hosted this summer in Rare Books and Special Collections.

The exhibit Printing the Nation: A Century of Irish Book Arts  will run through the summer and close in late July.

The current spotlight exhibits are Language and Materiality in Late Medieval England (February – early May 2023) and Hagadah shel Pesaḥ le-zekher ha-Shoʼah – Pessach Haggadah in memory of the Holocaust (April – May 2023).

Rare Books and Special Collections is open
regular hours during the summer —
9:30am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.

RBSC will be closed Monday, May 29th, for Memorial Day and Tuesday, July 4th, for Independence Day.

Upcoming Events: April 2023

Please join us for the following public events and exhibits being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, April 6 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar: “Democracy and Defeat: Morante, Moravia, and Malaparte in Capri, 1946” by Franco Baldasso (Bard College).

Monday, April 17 at 4:00pm | Special Collections Lecture: “Heinrich Jöst’s Warsaw Ghetto Photographs and the Challenges of Interpreting Holocaust Images” by Daniel H. Magilow (University of Tennessee, Knoxville). This lecture is co-sponsored by Hesburgh Libraries, Florence & Richard C. McBrien and Richard C. McBrien Endowment and by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.

Thursday, April 27 at 5:00pm | Ravarino Lecture: “Pandemic and Wages in Boccaccio’s Florence” by William Caferro (Vanderbilt).

RBSC will be closed for Easter weekend, April 7-9, 2023.

The spring exhibit, Printing the Nation: A Century of Irish Book Arts, features selected books from the Hesburgh Libraries’ Special Collections that demonstrate the art and craft of the Irish book since 1900. The exhibit, curated by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, will run through the semester.

Tours of the exhibit may be arranged for classes and other groups, and additional curator-led tours are available at 12 noon on the following upcoming Friday: April 21.

The April spotlight exhibits are Language and Materiality in Late Medieval England (February – April 2023) and Hagadah shel Pesaḥ le-zekher ha-Sho’ah – Pessach Haggadah in memory of the Holocaust (April – May 2023).

Although ongoing library renovations will continue through 2023, Special Collections is no longer behind a construction tunnel!