- This is a copy of a message sent to me by Susie Warren on 20
January 2007 about an article Michael Purcell sent me back in the mid
- What a saga it has been and I wonder if and when we will ever get
to look at these archives while we are still alive. They are supposed
to be in the hands of the local library I think!!
[Introduction only party transcribed due to bad copying] Here,
MICHAEL PURCELL of Carlow County Heritage Society outlines the history
of the Jackson Collection and explained why a visiting archivist should
think the future bleak.
Jackson Collection - a jewel in our
The fascinating story behind the Jackson Collection stretches back
almost 150 years to when Miss Frances Jackson willed to the people of
Carlow an eclectic collection of miscellaneous material. The collection
was compiled by Robert Jackson, a brother of Frances, who was a
quartermaster in the Carlow military barracks.
Carlow in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was a
busy garrison town, the centre of judicial and military activity for the
county. A lot of the administration for the region was implemented from
the military barracks.
Robert would have had access to much of the "wheeling and dealing"
records of the day. He owned or leased considerable property on both
sides of the Barrow – his interests here and in the collection were
continued by his brothers William and Adam who, in their sister’s words,
"preserved and completed the collection."
Following the death of the Jackson brothers, their sister, Frances,
inherited the brothers’ possessions. Frances died on June 15, 1859, and
by her last will and testament of June 13, 1859, disposed of the
"Jackson Collection" as follows:
"I give and bequeath to Robert Clayton Browne, Esquire: Thomas
Jameson, Esquire, and the Incumbents of the parishes of Killeshin and
Carlow, the museum belonging to my late brother, Adam Jackson, Esquire,
with all the ancient books and manuscripts belonging there-to: also the
House of Commons Journals, Almanac's, Army Lists, etc. as books of
reference, in trust for the public whenever a suitable room shall be
obtained for it."
Incidentally, among the people named in the will was her daughter,
Mary, to whom she left "the sum of £10 to be distributed among the poor
she is in habit of assisting." I wonder if there are any descendants of
Mary around today?
Among the items of historical significance in the collection were the
keys of Carlow Castle, Carlow Distillery and the Orange Lodge (the
Orange order was very strong in Co. Carlow in 1798) as well as cannon,
muskets, pistols, swords, coins, medals, urns, signets and elk’s head,
found in a quarry in Killeshin. But much of the unique value of the
Jackson Collection, and what most concerns us in the Carlow County
Heritage Society, is the archive of manuscript material to which I will
The collection was removed form the family mansion at Graigue (which
devisees had occasion to surrender to the landlord) and was placed in
the lecture room of the Mechanics’ Institute in Burrin Street, Carlow,
where the members of the public generally, with certain restrictions,
might have free access to the library and museum.
In an article published in The Nationalist of August 19, 1971, by
Pádraig Ó Snodaigh, he continues, "a sub-committee of the Carlow
Mechanics’ Institute was set up to arrange and classify the contents but
beyond a partly completed catalogue of printed books and pamphlets
little was done to properly classify the collection."
When the Mechanics Institute moved to a smaller premises in 1869 they
found they could no longer display or conserve either the museum
material of the archival collection. The Jackson Collection reverted to
the principal trustee Robert Clayton Browne, the 1870 pamphlet states,
"in whose custody at Brownes Hill the collection will find a safe and
Browne subsequently stored the material in Sion Cottage on his estate
and there it remained, almost forgotten, until 1892 when historian and
journalist Michael Brophy was allowed access to the collection.
His observations were published in The Nationalist of that year on
June 11 and August 13 under the title, "The Proposed Carlow Museum –
Random Glances at the Jackson Antiquities." Michael also wrote an
account in his journal (now in the possession of Carlow County Heritage
Society). In it he stated:
I was brought into a large room packed with ancient documents from
floor to ceiling and perused many of the chronicles. Therein I was
brought back to the Carlow of 1686 my maps, census and tolls for the
I noted complete sets for, The Carlow Morning Post, The Carlow
Sentinel, Carlow Standard and complete volumes of Finns Leinster
Journal, Le powere / Eustace papers, Musgrave Report, Cox papers. The
Documentation consisted of Grand Jury Records commencing 1670, Cess
lists, tolls, petitions, declarations, deeds, memorials, indictments,
letters, rewards, records of Carlow assizes, paper currency and bound
debates of the Irish Parliament. There were also boxes of old jewellery,
coins, badges and a box of quartz collected in Graigue. A large bound
volume contained tracings and rubbings of antiquities in Carlow and
Killeshin collected by Do. Donovan in 1839. A label attached to two
small pieces of red cloth proclaimed "These are the cuffs of the yeoman
jacket that I Samuel Jackson wore when I fought the famous battle of
Carlow, 25th May, 1798, where we shot, burnt, and destroyed 800 rascally
rebels in about two hours which are now buried in Graigue. God Save the
No more was heard of the Jackson Collection until custody of the
material was transferred to the Urban District Council. There are few
clear facts to be discerned about what happened thereafter.
Many items and documents were, to quote Pádraig Ó Snodaigh,
"liberated," indeed some of the items, ie muskets, were later offered
for sale, more recently some of the manuscript material is reported as
being peddled about in the hope of finding a buyer.
In 1948 officers of the National Museum examined and listed the, by
then, much depleted, collection of museum material. This material went
on to form the nucleus of our present day County Museum, administered by
the Old Carlow Society. As to the fate of the documentation, after 1892
little can be verified. We now know that portion of it was stored under
Vandalism in the form of official negligence saw to it that much of
that portion was lost. Some of it was ordered to be dumped to make rooms
available for election boxes. Selected documents, mainly relating to
1798, were removed and fell into private possession where they remain.
As they are the property of the people of Carlow as a whole, should not
and cannot be the subject of commercial transaction. Flooding under the
Courthose then completed the havoc that had marked the resting place of
this significant segment of the Jackson Collection.
It was significant we know because even today a cursory examination
of what remains bears testimony to what was lost. However, despite the
ill-fated guardianship of the local authority much remains. It appears
that a large section of the manuscript material had been placed in
private custody and it is this that forms the core of what is now
recognised as the most unique collection of archival material in
In the words of a County Carlow Heritage Archive Proposal, ‘the
discovery of the magnificent archive or eighteenth and nineteenth
century Grand Jury records for Co. Carlow is an event of unprecedented
magnitude in the archival history of the county. This archive is unique,
no other county, north or south of the border has even a skeletal
collection of comparable documents. The magnitude, completeness and
quality of the "Jackson Collection" is unrivalled.’
In 1987, a deputation from Carlow County Heritage Society led by
Pádraig Ó Snodaigh, Prof. T.P. O’Neill, Sister Maura Duggan and Dr.
Kevin Whelan supported by Prof. Donal McCartney, Maurice Manning, TD;
M.J. Nolan, TD and Prof. L.M. Cullen met with the Co Manager to seek
the appointment of a qualified archivist to ensure that this collection
could be properly catalogued and stored so as to ensure its security and
accessibility. In the words of the Archive Proposal, the gauntlet has
been thrown down. Will Carlow Co. Council pick it up?
I believe that if Carlow Co. Council provided a heritage centre, it
would also act as the basis for a county archive, other collections
would surely accrete around this magnetic core. Already in our
possession are the Beresford estate (Beresford) papers, the Edward
Duggan collection which includes the complete set of Carlow Gas Works
minute books 1847-1953, Carlow Workhouse Records, Frank Slater papers,
Michael Brophy papers and many smaller but no less important manuscript
Other county families have expressed willingness to deposit copies of
documents in their possession to a county archive.
Co Carlow is well represented at national level covering the
historical community and these well-placed individuals have again
indicated their willingness to exert leverage to channel materials in
the direction of a count archive. Another source of additional material
would be the completed work of Co Carlow Heritage Society: their
valuable work on genealogical indexing would be a major financial asset.
The booming roots market has to be catered for in this kind of way and
the experience of other counties has proved that tangible employment can
result from servicing genealogical enquiries.
An additional spinoff is that tourists are attracted to the town and
many stay over an extensive period in conducting their research. The
presence of a well appointed, properly functioning archive, having use
of the best sets of documents in the country, would be a major boost to
the tourism industry of Co. Carlow and could be advantageously used in
promotional material. The unique nature of the Grand Jury material gives
Carlow an unprecedented advantage over other counties.
Unfortunately to date nothing has been done. More recent approaches
to Carlow Co. Council to provide accommodation for a heritage centre to
house the collection, as well as provide a genealogical service, have
not met with any success.
I wish to acknowledge the help I received from De. Kevin Whelan,
Oonagh Warke and Pádraig Ó Snodaigh in preparing this paper.
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