The Irish Tourist Board Association Survey: a forgotten Limerick resource

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 4 (Winter 2003), News, News, Volume 11

The Irish Tourist Association (ITA) survey for Limerick city and county was for several years stored away quietly in an old box in Limerick County Library. It was one of those library collections that promised to be a rainy-day project for cataloguing but it was never given any real priority until now.
The ITA was a precursor of Bord Fáilte. It sponsored the survey of Limerick (and other counties) with a view to assessing their potential for tourism. The Limerick survey was carried out in 1943/44 by the noted archaeologists Ralph Lucas and P.J. Lynch, who completed several detailed forms on the parishes (Roman Catholic) around the county and including Limerick city. These parishes were grouped along barony lines, of which there are fourteen in Limerick. The survey form was quite extensive. The archaeologists had to list items of topographical interest, local geological features, local mansions and castles, and local customs and patterns. They also had to make an inventory of local amenities, give general information on towns and villages, list local dance halls, cinemas, industries, handcrafts, fairs and markets, and local petrol stations. Copious notes were taken, often illustrated with pencil drawings—the one for Manister Abbey being particularly detailed. These notes now give us a valuable insight into Limerick social history in the 1940s. The types of local bed and breakfasts were listed, together with a commentary on whether they had facilities such as bathrooms, toilets, etc.
Besides completing the survey forms, the archaeologists took black-and-white ‘box brownie’ photographs of local antiquities deemed to be potential tourist attractions. These photographs are in mint condition and only a few are out of focus. They were placed in an envelope and clipped onto the survey forms. The William Smith O’Brien mausoleum at Rathronan, near Ardagh, is shown in a much better state than its present condition. The Fr Casey monument in Abbeyfeale is shown surrounded by its original railing, which was ornately embellished with shamrocks. There is an excellent photo of Tervoe House in Clarmna, once the home of the Maunsell family. This ‘big house’ has since been demolished and the photograph is therefore an important record. In order to make the collection more available and to preserve the photographs for posterity, it was decided to scan them into a computer with a view to making them available on the library website, With a little editing they have come up really well. ITA surveys are also known to exist for counties Clare and Cork, and others may be lying dormant in local libraries.

Margaret Franklin is head of the Local Studies Department, Limerick County Library.


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