NUI Galway has been presented with a rare edition of an historically significant newspaper to the James Hardiman Library, through the donation from a private collection of the original 1691 edition of the London Gazette which features an account of the Battle of Aughrim.
The donation, from the personal collection of Councillor Norman Morgan, an East Galway collector, contains a copy of the London Gazette, 16-20 July 1691, issue 2680, which includes an account "From the Camp" of the Battle of Aughrim.
Speaking at a special presentation ceremony, Councillor Morgan explained: “The London Gazette of the 16th July, 1691 is the most important item in my personal library. It contains a report of the Battle of Aughrim while the battle was in progress. It states of the Irish troops: “some of their Horse are retired in a body to Loghreah, and that most believe St. Ruth was killed.” Loughrea is where I was born and lived all my life, and, St. Ruth is buried in the Old Carmelite Abbey in Loughrea. This newspaper, printed 320 years ago, 25 years after the first newspaper ever printed in Britain or Ireland, adds to its importance. My paper, while the contents are identical to those in the National Library of Ireland (NLI) and Trinity College Library papers, has a different layout, which proves that there were two printings. My paper has “The Battle of Aughrim” on the top of page 2, whereas “Hague, July 24”, is on the top of page 2 of the NLI and TCD copies and on the internet. The other difference between these two copies is the use of the capital letter, punctuation marks and spelling, which, in my opinion are more correct in the NLI, TCD and internet papers. This proves that my paper is the original, i.e. first printing.”
Councillor Morgan added: “I have served the people in Loughrea as their Town Commissioner/Councillor Loughrea for 39 years. My vote of 2.9 quotas is the highest ever; the Commissioners were established in 1862. I know that I could never thank the people enough in one lifetime, so, through my research, my publications and gifts from my library to other libraries: NLI, NUI Galway, British Library and many other libraries, I give benefit even to generations yet unborn. A gift to a public library is a gift to everybody.
According to Dr Pádraig Lenihan of the Department of History at NUI Galway, and a highly-regarded scholar of the period who has published extensively on the Battle of Aughrim and Irish military history: “This issue of the London Gazette, written while the smoke still hung over the field, vividly describes what was probably the bloodiest and most decisive battle in Irish history. ‘Aughrim’s Dread Disaster’ was an event of national and international importance but it has a special resonance for County Galway and it is entirely appropriate that the University should build a first-class collection of sources relating to this event and to the Jacobite War in general.”
Last year, Councillor Morgan was recognised by the University with an Honorary MA as a renowned historian and book collector, community activist and Loughrea Town Councillor. Councillor Morgan previously donated 13 rare issues of the Galway Independent from the 1820s to the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway and 157 rare editions of the Dublin Evening Mail which dated from 5 February, 1838 to 31 December, 1855 to the Dublin City Library.
John Cox, University Librarian at the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway, said: “It will be a privilege for the Library to hold this edition and I have no doubt that scholars will make good use of it as a very valuable primary document from an important period in Irish history. It is especially gratifying to see this significant document remain in Co. Galway and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Councillor Morgan.”
The donation will be held in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, home to a range of theatre, literary, historical and political archives. Collections include the archives of the Druid and Lyric Players Theatres and of Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe; the literary papers of John McGahern and Thomas Kilroy; the Huston Archive and original documents relating to the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Northern Ireland 'Troubles'.