Asset Stripping Of St Patrick’s College Library, Thurles

“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.” – Vera Nazarian.

Sadly a number of rare books, maps, and letters; readily identified as previously having being housed in St. Patrick’s College Library, (situated in Cathedral Street, Thurles, Co. Tipperary) were actioned off at the Gresham Hotel, Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin, recently (December 13th 2016 last to be precise), by Auctioneers Fonsie Mealy, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny, as part of their Christmas 2016 sale.

Lot No 734

Dozens of books, with visible St Patrick’s College library stamp and shelf numbers, were among some 800 or so items in this December 13th auction. There were several with handwritten ownership marks of Archbishop James Butler (Lot No’s. 555, & 745.) priced at €6,000 – €8,000 or Archbishop Robert Laffan (Lot No’s. 691, & 693.) and at least one book donated by former early 20th century Thurles Town Clerk, local historian and IRB 1916 Volunteer, the late Mr James (Jimmie) Kennedy, with his name on it (Lot No, 630.).

There were also maps (Beaufort 280, Report of Bogs Lot No, 734.) priced at €1,800 – €2,500, Taylor & Skinner (Lot No 693) and several books with engraved views (Grose, Bartlett 215, Eyzingen (Lot No, 706) priced at €3,000 – €4,000), latter which can be made immensely more profitable by tearing our the maps or engravings and selling the pages separately in antique frames.

There were many travel books (if my memory serves me correct) reflecting Fr James Ryan’s fondness for travel – the man who brought the Pallottines to Thurles. There was an early report on the United States, (Lot No, 290.) priced at €1,000 – €1,500). There were several collections of Irish Statute laws; useful for obtaining knowledge and further understanding regarding the penal laws of the 1700’s, (Lot No’s 531, 710, 664.).

It must be to our great shame, as a community, that Thurles has been deprived of such historic works, now gone to ‘God knows where’, and this action must be seen as comparable to the wanton vandalism of moving the Protestant Bolton Library (Please read full report here) from Cashel, Co. Tipperary to Limerick city.

Just a few of the assets stripped from St. Patrick’s College which I identified from Fonsie Mealy’s Catalogue.

Lot No. 280Description: “Map: Beaufort (Dan. Aug.) Ireland Civil and Ecclesiastical, v. large engraved linen backed folding map, published by James Wyld, London 1829, finely hand cold. in outline, in slipcase. V. good. As a map, w.a.f. (1).  Estimated value (Asking Price): €300 – €400.

Lot No. 435. Description: “We could vex Lord Doneraile in this Way” Croke (Archbishop Thomas W.) [1824-1902] A very good collection of three ALS to Michael [Murphy], evidently a church administrator at Doneraile, where Dr. Croke was formerly parish priest. All three letters on his headed notepaper from The Palace, Thurles, one dated 1876. The first letter, dated May 11, marked ‘Private’, states that Mr. Dudley [a teacher?] is leaving Doneraile, ‘having been very badly [treated?] by Lord Doneraile. ‘It occurs to me that we ought to give him an address and testimonial. First and foremost, he deserves it – and, secondly, we could vex Lord D. in this way.’The second letter, a fortnight later, welcomes the news of a testimonial for Mr. Dudley (as though he himself had nothing to do with it), and promises a subscription of £5. Both with excellent signatures.The third letter, dated 1876, is on a matter concerning cattle. Also with this lot is a small notebook containing church accounts for Doneraile Parish, 1866-1870, signed by Michael Murphy, countersigned in various places by T.W. Croke [parish priest]; and with a cabinet photograph of Dr. Croke (stained). Dr. Croke, from Co. Cork, was educated at the Irish Colleges in Paris and Rome. According to William O’Brien, he was present at the barricades in Paris during the revolution of 1848. He was appointed to Doneraile in 1865, and attended the First Vatican Council in 1870 as theologian to the Bishop of Cloyne. He became Bishop of Auckland in New Zealand in 1870, and was appointed Archbishop of Cashel and Emly in 1875. He is best known for his strong support for the G.A.A. in its early years.” (1). Estimated value (Asking Price), €400 -€600.

Lot No. 569. Description: “Milner (Rev. J.) An Inquiry into Certain Vulgar Opinions concerning The Catholic Inhabitants and the Antiquities of Ireland, L. 1868. First, cont. hf. calf; Usher (Dr. J. ) A Discourse on the Religious anciently professed by the Irish and British, D. 1815, hf. cloth; Clowry (Rev. W.) Controversial Letters in reply to Rev. Mr. Daly, Rev. Dr. Singer etc., to which are added The Letters Signed B.E., D. 1827, L.S. on t.p., boards. (3)“. Estimated value (Asking Price): €400 -€600.

Lot No. 577. Description: “Laborde (M. Leon de) Journey through Arabia Petraea to Mount Sinai and The Excavated City of Petra, 8vo L. 1836. First English Edn., frontis L.S. on title, fold. map, & 24 full page plts. & map, text illus., orig. hf. calf, tooled gilt spine.” (1). Estimated value (Asking Price): €150 – €200.

Lot No. 594. “Early Limerick Printing Meagher (Rev. Andrew) The Popish Mass, Celebrated by Heathen Priests,[1] … or A Sermon Preached at Thurles, on Sunday 2nd August 1767. 8vo Limerick (T. Welsh) 1771. Sole Edn., list of subs., one leaf of preface torn with some loss, errata at end, cont. sheep worn. Scarce.” (1). Estimated value (Asking Price): €160 – €220.

[1] Rev. Andrew Meagher who lived in Church Lane, Thurles, is buried (outside) in St Mary’s Churchyard, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, in the grave of his brother Peter Meagher and just yards away from the pulpit (situated inside) from which he preached his anti-Catholic sermon on Sunday 2nd August 1767. Here one is reminded of the lament of a mother of a priest, Fr O’Donnell, who had become a Protestant minister, pleading for him to return to his Catholic faith.

The switching of Fr. Andrew Meagher to Protestantism would have been a huge scandal in Moyne and Thurles in the 1760’s, nearly as bad as the switching of Bishop John Butler to Protestantism in 1787. John Butler had been PP in Ardmayle, and got his promotion to be Bishop of Cork through his cousin, Archbishop James Butler of Cashel. (Both were relatives of Nano Nagle, who was at that time in the process of founding the Presentation nuns.)

Reason for the switching over in many cases was that one of the Penal Laws offered a life pension of £30 a year (equivalent to €30,000 in today’ money) as an incentive to priests who changed their beliefs over to the Protestant Established Church. It appears that Fr. O’Donnell had taken that bribe.  The poet, Mrs O’Donnell aforementioned, expresses her shock and anguish in the third verse of the poem hereunder.

Lot No. 594

Fill, Fill, A Rún Ó.

Fill, fill, a rún ó, – (Come back, come back, my darling,)
Fill, a rún ó, is ná himigh uaim, – (Come back, my darling and don’t leave me,)
Fill orm, a chuisle is a stór, – (Come back, my love and my darling.)
Agus chífigh tú an ghlóir má fhilleann tú. – (And you will see glory if you come back.)

 Shiúl mé thall is abhus, – (I travelled far and away,)
I Móta Ghráinne Óige do rugadh mé, – (It was in Moate I was born,)
Is ní fhaca mé iontas go fóill – (And I never saw anything so awful)
Mar an Sagart Ó Dónaill in a mhinistir. – (As Fr. O’Donnell a minister.)

Dhiúltaigh tú Peadar is Pól – (You turned you back on St Peter and St Paul)
Mar gheall ar an ór is an airgead. – (All because of gold and silver,)
Dhiúltaigh tú Bainríon na Glóire, – (You turned your back on the Queen of Glory,)
Agus d’iompaigh tu i gcóta an mhinistir! – (And became a turn-coat minister!)

Fill, fill, a rún ó. – (Come back, come back, my darling.)
Fill, a rún ó, is ná himigh uaim, – (Come back, my darling and don’t leave me,)
Má fhilleann tú inniu nó go deo, – (If you come back today or ever,)
Fill insan Ord inar oileadh tú. – (Come back to the Order in which you were trained.)

Lot No. 614. Description: “Bindings Pontificale Romanum Clementis VIII, Pont. Max Jussu Restitutum, atque editum, Folio Paris 1615, red & bl. title with engd. vignette, & printed red & bl. thro-out, mor. ownership label of Most Rev. Dr. Laffan, later full mor., tooled gilt borders & panel, gilt spine, mor. label; Missale Romenum ex Decreto Sucrosanti Concilii Tridentini Restitutum, Folio Antwerp (Plantin Press) 1771. Red & bl. title with engd. vignette, red & bl. type thro-out, within decorated borders; Missae quae in Regno Portugaliae, ejusgue Dominiis dici solent, & other items bound in at end, full blind tooled sheep, large borders & panels. As bindings, w.a.f.” (2). Estimated value (Asking Price), €200 – €300.

Lot No. 664. Description: “Penal Laws: A Statement of the Penal Laws, which Aggrieve The Catholics of Ireland: With Commentaries. 2 Parts in One Vol. 8vo D. (H. Fitzpatrick) 1812. Second Edn. hf. title, some mis-pagination, cont. full calf, mor. label. Good.” (1). Estimated value (Asking Price): €160 – €220.

Lot No. 691. Description: “De Burgo (Thomas) Bishop of Ossory Hibernia Dominicana, Sive Historia Provinciae Hiberniae Ordinis Praedicatorum… 4to Cologne [Kilkenny?] 1762. First Edn., Title inscribed “Ex Libris Robert Laffan,” list of subscribers, lacks as does most copies, pages 137 – 144, orig. sheep, spine worn. Rare. (1).” Estimated value (Asking Price): €325 – €450.

Lot No. 745

Lot No. 718. Description: “Legal: Bullingbrooke (Ed.) An Abridgement of The Public Statutes of Ireland…. 2 vols. in one 4to D. 1768. Orig. full calf, blind tooled borders, raised bands, mor. label. Good.” (1). Estimated value (Asking Price): €160 – €220.

Lot No. 734. Description: “With All the Maps & Plates Bogs in Ireland: Griffith (R.) & others, The First-Fourth Report of the Commissioners Appointed to enquire into the Nature and Extents of the Several Bogs in Ireland, In 3 Vols. Folio L. 1810-1814. Sole Editions, Complete Set, with 66 fold. & other maps plates etc. (complete), cont. hf. calf, marble sides, all joints loose.* A very good complete set, with all the maps very clean. unusual to get in this condition. (3).” Estimated value (Asking Price): €1,800 – €2,500.

Lot No. 745. Description: “An Exceptionally Rare Pair in Uniform Bindings Colgan (John) Acta Sanctorum veteris et maioris Scotiae, seu Hiberniae Sanctorum Insulae,… Tomus Primus, Qui de sacris Hiberniae Antiquitatibus est Tertius Januarium, Februarium, and Martium complecteus. Folio Louvain (Everardum de Witte) 1645. First Edn. Hf. title, [28] 906pp, first few & last few leaves stained, otherwise v. good. together with: Colgan (John) Triadis Thaumaturgae, seu Divorum Patricii, Columbae et Brigidae, trium veteris et naoris Scotiae, seu Hiberniae Sanctorum Insulae, Communium Patronorum Acta,… Tomus Secundus Sacrarum ejusdem insulae Antiquitatum, nune primum in lucem prodiens. Folio Louvain 1647. First Edn. Hf. title, pp[24], 740, [2, errata]. some mispagination.The pagination omits 153, 154, 387, 388, some damp weakening at fore-edge at front, a few leaves strengthened, in matching contemporary style 18th Century bindings with blind decoration, raised bands, gilt tooled floral decoration in panels, mor. labels. (2)* Each volume exceptionally rare, but the auctioneers have never handled the pair in near contemporary matching bindings. Shane Leslie in his article on ‘The Rarest Irish Books,’ 1935, mentions the above volumes, ‘which are the desire of every Irish Collector.’ . Bishop Reeves calculated there were about fifteen sets of Colgan in Ireland. There cannot be more than fifty in the world at a very large estimate.’ Estimated value (Asking Price): €6,000 – €8,000.

While I am unable to identify any other books, maps, and letter lots that were offered for sale from Thurles, suffice is to say that at least I had the privilege of enjoying many happy hours; since first coming to Thurles in 1978, to examine these rare historical documents up close and personal. Like playwright Alan Bennett (The History Boys), one feels that “The best moments in reading are when you come across something; a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things, which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”

Alas, most certainly, it cannot be denied that Thurles town has begun the year 2017 very much the poorer, not just simply in assets, but also in knowledge; with this collection now gone into private unseen hands.


6 comments to Asset Stripping Of St Patrick’s College Library, Thurles

  • Chrid

    Was it MIC/St Pats themselves who put these books up for auction or were these books borrowed and not returned?

  • Michael


  • George Willoughby

    These books were on show in the College Library and were never allowed to be borrowed for understandable reasons relating to their known rarity and value. While I defend the right, once ownership was established, to sell this rare collection, I cannot confirm at this time who was responsible for the sale. For me the sale remains an issue of ethics. Should the Irish Government sell the Book Of Kells, to get Ireland out of its current financial situation? Should the Irish Government sell the Derrynaflan Hoard simply to make financial gain for its owner?

  • Michael

    Could they sell the Cathedral of The Assumption Thurles, to get money, like they got for the St Patrick’s College Library, Thurles.

  • Liam J Duggan

    Were these treasures the property of the Archdiocese? How sad to have them scattered to the wind. I am quite sure if this event had been publicized especially the fact that the collection was going to be auctioned, so that local and other Tipperary interests were aware, there could have been an attempt made to keep and maintain such a wonderful collection of historical detail. Sad, Sad, Sad.

  • Victor Schenk

    Thank you for the information on the Rev. Andrew Meagher book and in particular for posting the lovely poem by Mrs O’Donnell. I have long had a copy of the book in my own collection (alas, not the best of copies) and I have often wondered about the author and his background. I agree with all the comments above that the Church authorities should be more careful about dispersing important book collections. Could the books not have gone to a university library, where the collection would have been kept together?

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




3 × 3 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.