GAA founding father's archive presented to James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

The Cusack Archive, containing unique official and personal material relating to the founder of the GAA, Michael Cusack and his family, has been presented to the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway at a special reception at the University.

The archive was donated by a former librarian at NUI Galway, the late Patricia O'Connell, who was a niece-in-law of Michael Cusack. Material includes:

  • the official Minute-book of the Dublin Hurling Club, from its foundation in 1883 - giving membership, minutes and accounts for the fledgling club, of which Cusack was Vice-President, and also arrangements for hurling matches in the Phoenix Park in early 1883;
  • Michael Cusack's diary of his visit to Clare in June 1902;
  • a letter to his sons on the same occasion;
  • a prayer book presented by him to his wife Margaret in 1880;
  • notes tracing his ancestry, including a note from him for his children;
  • photographs of Michael, Margaret and their children.

Librarian Marie Reddan highlighted the significance of the donation. "The Cusack Archive adds substantially to NUI Galway's holdings on the revival of Irish culture in the later nineteenth century. It is a unique collection and complements existing material from the Stiophán Bairéad Collection (the first Treasurer of the Gaelic League) and the University's newspaper holdings from the later nineteenth century, which include The Celtic Times."

Michael Cusack (1847 – 1906) was born in the parish of Carron on the eastern fringe of the Burren. As a teacher, he taught in Corofin, Lough Cútra, St Colman's College, Newry, Blackrock College and other schools in Dublin, Kilkenny and Kildare, before founding his own academy. In 1884 he founded the GAA, aiming to revive hurling and Gaelic football and to develop athletics. Cusack was also involved in the Irish language revival movement, and was a regular contributor to various periodicals, as well as founding The Celtic Times, a weekly newspaper devoted to 'native games' and Irish culture.

Aside from its value for researchers into the cultural forces at work in that seminal period and in particular the events leading up to the foundation of the GAA in 1884, the Michael Cusack Archive affords an unparalleled insight into the personality of Cusack, the private family man. It is furthermore unique in constituting the only known surviving material in Cusack's own hand, donated to NUI Galway directly from his family.

The University is deeply appreciative of this generous and valuable donation from Patricia O'Connell to the James Hardiman Library to which she devoted so much of her life. Unfortunately, Patricia herself, who was a distinguished author of three books on the Irish Colleges on the Continent, passed away in December 2006.

ENDS

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