Royal Irish Academy

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The Royal Irish Academy (RIA) plays an important part in the story of Thady McMahon and his relationship with his associates and patrons from amongst Dublin’s intellectual élite. The RIA was established in 1786 for the purpose of ‘promoting the study of science, polite literature and antiquities’. At the time of McMahon’s arrest, George Petrie had already served as an elected member of the Academy (MRIA) for nearly a quarter of a century, and (according to his Dictionary of Irish biography entry) ‘invested considerable energy in invigorating the Academy, founding a museum and a library, and assisting with the purchase of a number of important manuscripts, including the second volume of the Annals of the Four Masters’. Eugene O’Curry had been employed on a number of RIA initiatives, including cataloguing and transcribing manuscripts, before his election as an MRIA in 1853. Among Thady McMahon’s associates who were either MRIAs or had won RIA gold medals in recognition of their research were James Henthorn Todd, Robert Spencer Dyer Lyons, John Edward Pigot, William Stokes (the first physician to be elected as president of the RIA) and his son Whitley. The academy was based at 114 Grafton Street until 1851 (just months before McMahon’s arrest for street begging), when the organisation moved to its current premises at 19 Dawson Street.

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