Published in Editorial, Issue 3 (May/June 2014), Volume 22

A campaign is under way to repatriate the personal papers of John Carvill (1854–1927), a merchant of Newry, Co. Down, held in the archives of the Paterno Library in the State College of Pennsylvania. The documents include deeds, ship mortgages, financial reports, legal advice, bound letter-books and school workbooks, and were acquired in 1970 from a second-hand bookshop by a teacher at the university. Local historian Michael McKeown from Newry has asked the university to transfer the collection to an institution in Northern Ireland such as the Newry & Mourne Museum, but the college will not consider this. Now Newry is mobilising to bring pressure to bear on the college to relinquish possession of the Carville collection. So Paterno Library had better watch out!

With the centenary fast approaching, two museums are planned to commemorate the 1916 Rising. An Post will host one in the GPO, O’Connell Street, the rebels’ headquarters, while the other will be in the newly designated national monument at 14–17 Moore Street, where they made their last stand. The designs for the latter are with Minister Deenihan for approval, as they involve a national monument. Just when we were beginning to think that the government was leaving it too late to do anything about the 1916 centenary it comes along with these two projects.

The Irish branch of the Richard III Society has organised a public lecture by John Ashdown-Hill on Saturday 17 May at the Pearse Street Library in Dublin. He is one of the people (along with Philippa Langley) who discovered the remains of Richard III in a car park in Leicester in 2012, as shown on the Channel 4 documentary The King in the Car Park. John has also written a book that highlights the links between Richard III and Ireland, focusing on his brother George, duke of Clarence, who was actually born here while his father was viceroy. Who even knew we had this monarchist society operating in our midst?

A group has been set up to save a museum dedicated to Oliver Cromwell. Cambridgeshire County Council, which owns the museum, needs to make savings of £149m over five years. The Huntingdon museum costs £30,000 a year and will close by 2015 if an alternative owner is not found. The campaigners say that this would be ‘a significant loss, locally, regionally and nationally’. Their campaign is being supported by the Cromwell Association, a charity set up in 1937 to promote Cromwell’s life and legacy. Cromwell and Samuel Pepys were both educated in the former grammar school building, which dates back to the twelfth century. Since 1962 it has been the Cromwell museum. So let’s start a collection now. Sure wasn’t he a significant figure in Irish history?

I always thought that ‘Murphy’s Law’ (that anything that can go wrong will go wrong) was one of those made-up things that, if not exactly racist, was disparaging towards the Irish. I now read, however, that the phrase was coined by Ed Murphy, a US air force aeronautical engineer who worked on its nuclear weapons programme in the 1950s. What’s worrying is that he was referring to nuclear weapons! Interestingly, a rival claim was made by Admiral Lewis L. Strauss, who was also involved in the US nuclear programme. He coined the phrase, ‘If anything bad can happen, it probably will’. He wanted this called Strauss’s Law but it never caught on.

In County Antrim they have erected a blue plaque to the memory of James ‘Jemmy’ Hope, a genuine working-class hero who was a leading figure in the 1798 Rebellion. The plaque has gone up in Mallusk graveyard near Roughfort, where he was born. Interestingly, Hope was probably the first republican ‘on the run’ to receive a letter of comfort. After 1798 and 1803, when he helped Robert Emmet in his rising, Hope went on the run. He led an underground existence for many years until his wife contacted the authorities to establish his legal position. They wrote back to say that there were no outstanding warrants against him and so Hope could return to his old life, a free citizen.

This is one museum I’m looking forward to visiting. Extreme Events Ireland plan to open a museum of Irish whiskey at a cost of ?1.9m in August 2014. Located in 119 Grafton Street and 37 College Green, it will showcase existing whiskey brands and celebrate Ireland’s whiskey heritage. The property is appropriate, as it was once a sugar and whiskey store. The project is backed by Pernod Ricard and Diageo, the global drinks giants. The museum will offer a new visitor attraction and hopes to benefit from the recent upsurge in demand for the Irish variety of the water of life.

In an amazing feat of logic, John A. Murphy, emeritus professor of history at UCC, has come to the conclusion that Ireland would never have achieved independence without the English language. In a public lecture recently he argued that it was the growth of literacy in English, through the national schools system, that enabled the mobilisation of public opinion in favour of independence. All of which may be true, but is there not a connection between the need for independence and English? In other words, if the speakers of English had not invaded, conquered and suppressed, there would have been no need for an independence struggle.


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