HC Deb 19 June 1865 vol 180 cc457-61

who had given Notice to call attention to the state of the Ancient Records of Ireland, and to move— That it is the opinion of this House that measures should be taken for their publication as has been for the publication of the Reocrds of England and Scotland, said, the subject was of such importance that the Master of the Rolls in England had brought the matter under the notice of the Government. In Ireland the transcription and translation of its ancient documents and Records had been intrusted to Mr. Morrin. His work met with much criticism; he was accused of plagiarism, and an inquiry was, in consequence, set on foot by the Irish Executive. Every one would of course admit that the value of such a work depended on the fulness and accuracy of the translations; but, owing to the small amount of money which had been allowed by the Government for the purpose, Mr. Morrin had been obliged in some cases to make a condensation instead of giving a full translation of the Record. Objection having been taken to this as diminishing the value of the translation, a Commission of Inquiry was appointed, which admitted some inaccuracies and plagiarisms, but declared that the work, as a whole, was very creditable. Under these circumstances, he wished to know what the Government now proposed to do in the matter. It was the bounden duty of the Government to have a perfect set of these works issued, and to do that for Ireland which had been done in the case of England and Scotland. At present the Rolls published came down to Henry VIII., Elizabeth, and Charles, but a gap occurred at the reign of James I., which he need not inform Gentlemen at all acquainted with the subject was a most interesting period of Irish history. There were no less than 1,200 statutes of the Irish Parliament still unpublished, and it would be of great advantage in an historical point of view if they were given to the public in a collected form. In England as much as £22,000 a year for several years, or £600,000 in all, had been voted for purposes similar to those which he now advocated. In Scotland £143,000 had been granted for the like object; but in Ireland only £15,000 had been voted, and even that amount was to be applied mainly to the construction of a building to contain the Records. But it was not merely their custody but their publication that was desirable. He wished to impress on the Government that the time within which it would be possible for them to collect a staff of gentlemen capable of undertaking the work which he indicated was rapidly passing away.


said, he had intended to support the Motion. He complained that no encouragement was given to the study of Irish literature, and that no effort had been made by the Government to supply the places of the late Mr. O'Donovan and Mr. Eugene Curry, the most eminent Irish scholars which the country had produced. Now, whatever selection the Government should be pleased to make they ought to appoint men who could properly examine these documents and make a proper translation of them for publication. The system pursued in the government of Ireland would not be tolerated in England or Scotland. So far as the chief departments were concerned, the rule was that "no Irish need apply," and the Government thus put it out of their power to secure the services of gentlemen who, being acquainted with the country, would be able to advise them in every conjuncture. No other part of the country would submit to the system adopted in Ireland, and allow natives to be excluded from office. Englishman succeeded Englishman, and the only department at the head of which they found an Irishman was that of education. This was manifestly unfair, and no nation whose citizens were thus passed over and excluded from the management and administration of its affairs could be expected to be contented. They possessed the ablest arcæologist in the world in Ireland—he was the man most competent to perform the duties of calendaring and editing these records. If a new office were about to be created in regard to the Irish records, he trusted that, as an Irishman might be found who was highly competent to discharge the duties of the office, he would not be passed over.


said, he believed there were only two archivists in Ireland. He was personally intimate with both of them, and he had asked them who there was to succeed them in the event of anything occurring to render a successor necessary? They both said they knew of no one but Mr. Stokes. But instead of appointing Mr. Stokes, the work of editing the Brehon laws was given to Professor Hard wick, who, like every Member in that House, he (Mr. Scully) included, was profoundly ignorant of Irish. If the publication of these old musty records were good for Scotland and England, as illustrating the ancient history of those countries, it would be equally good for Ireland. He had no candidate to recommend for the appointment of editing these records, but he hoped a competent person would be selected.


said, that it was not necessary to re-open the controversy with respect to Mr. Morrin. He had been selected by the Treasury, on the recommendation of the Master of the Rolls, to edit and publish the Calendar of the Patent Rolls of the Chancery in Ireland. He published three volumes, which, with the preface, were severely criticized in a certain pamphlet. In fulfilment of a pledge made in that House, the Treasury sent the Rev. Duffus Hardy and Mr. Brewer to examine the work of Mr. Morrin and compare it with the original records of the Calendar. Their report, on the whole, was favourable to Mr. Morrin, and the Government gave their sanction to the completion of the work. After the manner, however, in which the work had been handled, Mr. Morrin thought it better not to proceed with it, and since then no steps had been taken for the completion of the Calendar of the Rolls of Chancery in Ire-laud. The Rolls of James I. had not been calendared by Mr. Morrin, but he believed that work had been already done, and all that was required was that these rolls should be printed uniformly with Mr. Morrill's work. The grants made by Parliament in previous years were intended to apply to Ireland as well as to other parts of the kingdom, and he knew that the Master of the Rolls had secured the publication of important papers illustrative of the history of Ireland. He thought that Irish members had every reason to be satisfied with the measures taken by the Government for the preservation and publication of Irish records. The Estimates of the present year abounded in items of this kind. The sum of £8,000 had been expended upon a commission for transcribing and translating the ancient Celtic laws, called the Brehon laws, and all that remained was to pass the work through the press. For that purpose the Estimates contained an item of £500, and a further provisipn for printing was contained in the stationery vote. There had also been this year an increase of the grant to the Royal Irish Society, specially to enable them to purchase any Celtic manuscripts, and to make copies of any that might be found, either in private collections in this country or on the Continent. With regard to the grant made to the Master of the Rolls in this country, he might say that it was intended to publish the second volume of the work, he believed, by Mr. Hans Hamilton, containing the domestic papers from the time of Henry VIII. to Elizabeth. In other parts of the estimates provision was made with respect to papers in the Lambeth and the Bodleian Library. The President of the College of Maynooth and Mr, Prendergast had been appointed to make the selection in the former case, and Mr. Bullen to prepare a calendar of papers in the Bodleian for the purpose of this work, which would be entirely confined to the illustration of the history of Ireland. All that was enough to show that the question of the publication of the records of Ireland was one which had received the attention of Government. But the most important thing of all was the step which was being taken to erect a Public Record Office in Ireland, in which the various important papers that were now scattered about should be collected. That building was on a scale large enough to receive all those records, it would be completed in the month of October next, and then it would be necessary to form a staff. It would be the business of the clerks to make an index of the papers, and he presumed the officer in charge of the department would take the same care as the Master of the Rolls in this country, to select the most competent persons to make compilations. He knew the interest which was taken in the subject by his hon, and gallant Friend, and be had no doubt the result would be satisfactory.