Francis J. Crowley bequest

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 1 (Spring 1999), News, Volume 7

Under the terms of his will, the late Professor Francis J. Crowley,California, USA, who was of Irish descent, made a bequest to the Irishstate in which he provided that funds from his estate should be used inthe acquisition and conservation of the records of the history of theIrish people. With the financial resources made available through thegenerosity of the late Professor Crowley, the National Archives hasagreed to undertake a project involving the listing, microfilming andpublication on CD-Rom of the Registered Papers of the Chief Secretary’sOffice 1818-1852, a period dominated by the twin issues of famine andemigration.
The Chief Secretary was the member of the British cabinet withoverall responsibility for the government of Ireland, his office in Dublin Castle being the nerve-centre of the administration in Ireland. The Registered Papers of the Chief Secretary’s Office are the singlemost important series of archives concerning Ireland in the nineteenthcentury held anywhere in the world and contain invaluable historicalinformation on a wide range of issues such as emigration, law andorder, the penal and judicial systems, relief of distress, finance,military affairs, public works, etc.. The work when completed willprovide to the researcher and historian alike an invaluable source ofsocial and historical information on this pivotal period of ournation’s history.
Delegates from almost every county in Ireland attended a re-enactmentof the Catholic Convention in Tailors’ Hall, Back Lane, Dublin, on 5December 1998. The original Convention, dubbed the ‘Back LaneParliament’ by its detractors, met in the same place on 3-6 December1792, to organise the Catholics of the country and to petition forrelief from the strictures of the Penal Laws.
The re-enactment was organised by Dublin ‘98 (the Dublin 1798 Commemoration Committee) as part of their commemoration of the eventsleading up to the rising of 1798. During the year a programme oflectures by leading academics and historians had been held in publiclibraries throughout the Greater Dublin area; several plaquescommemorating leading United Irishmen like Lord Edward Fitzgerald andthe Sheares brothers had been unveiled; and a number of relevantpublications had also been produced.
The reconvening of the Back Lane Parliament was the last majorcommemorative event of the bicentenary year and attracted a full housefor a morning seminar and afternoon panel discussion. Proceedings wereopened by Minister of State Seamus Brennan TD, chairman of thegovernment 1798 commemoration committee. Speakers included Dr DavidDickson, Dr Dáire Keogh, Dr Ruan O’Donnell, Brian Cleary, Breandán MacSuibhne, John Gray and Tommy Graham. Chairing the proceedings wereRichard Roche, chairman of Dublin ‘98, and Tomás Mac Giolla, chairmanof the event sub-committee.

The open discussion in the afternoon produced some livelycontributions from the floor, including suggestions that pike groupsthroughout the country should remain in existence; that RTÉ becriticised for lack of coverage of commemorative events during theyear; and that local government should be more democratic. Thegathering passed, with acclamation, a resolution reaffirming theprinciples of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ as originallyenunciated by the United Irishmen and restating Wolfe Tone’s ideal of afree, sovereign and united Ireland.

A dinner for delegates in the evening rounded off a memorable day with United Irish toasts being drunk amid acclamation.


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