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Group seeks council help in preserving Kilkenny’s past

A LOCAL group that is collecting historic documents and records with the potential to be used by researchers, tourists and academics has appealed to Kilkenny County Council for assistance in ensuring that its work can continue.

Kilkenny Archives Ltd has secured an agreement with St Kieran’s College that is allowing the material to be stored on the campus’s third-level outreach facility with NUI Maynooth. There, the materials can be accessed by the third-level students and by the public by appointment.

The group made an appeal to the council for financial assistance to meet the operating costs of archivist fees and a nominal rent for the facility into the future. “If we are able to get some money from you to cover operating costs, we feel we can save you some money until your finances improve in the future and you can have an overall archives policy,” committee member Peter Seaver told the council’s committee on arts and heritage.

Most of the documents contained so far date from the 18th and 19th centuries, including collections such as the Wandesforde papers; the Aylward papers from Shankill Castle; the Smithwick papers from Judge Peter Smithwick, including correspondence from Daniel O’Connell and his son John to Edmund Smithwick; the Swift Heath papers; and the Catherine Lanigan collection.

There is also a 1764 survey of Callan that notes all the residents of the district and townlands, and even some from the reign of England’s Queen Elizabeth I in the 1680s and ’90s.

Documents include leases, registers, a legal collection documenting two landmark court cases from the 19th century, farm accounts, and some wills that didn’t survive in the National Archive because of the fire in the Public Record Office in 1922.

“We have material that isn’t anywhere else,” said consultant archivist John Kirwan.

Cllr Pat Crowley (FG) asked about the possibility of including documents such as those from the Callan workhouse. “It is not just the big estates. This is the other Ireland, the famine,” he said. “To have them somewhere where they would be included where people could access them would be a good idea.”

Committee member Brendan Conway said that the Kilkenny Archives had not been accepting new materials for a number of years because they didn’t have a headquarters, but now that it has a home on the St Kieran’s campus it could be in a position to do so.

“What you are talking about is absolutely worthy material,” he said. “We would like to facilitate the storage of whatever comes to us from any source.”

Rothe House manager Roisin McQuillan said their work was a wonderful complement to the papers in Rothe House, and that it was a further indication of a need for a county archivist/ curator.

Cllr David Fitzgerald (FG) cited Dublin’s City Hall, in which a city museum is operating in the building’s basement.

“I think there is a great momentum to create a city and county museum to provide an archive an opportunity to display the riches that are in the county,” he said.

 

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