Boston College 2017

Boston College – June – July 2017

“Research holiday.” “Work-cation.” “Educational leave.” Any way you present it, the past five weeks with the Irish Institute at Boston College have been transformative.


Earlier this year, James H. Murphy (Professor of English and Director of Irish Studies and the Center for Irish Programs at Boston College) extended an invitation to undertake a brief research residency at Boston College to continue my work on environmental destruction and the Irish Revolution. I had previously identified how several B.C. collections could enhance my study, but wasn’t prepared for all that I would discover at the Bapst, Burns, and O’Neill libraries, or how we as a family would fall in love with Newton and Boston as a whole.

IMG_4525.JPGWe were provided ample accommodation on Priscilla Road, one block from campus, in a gorgeous family home built in 1930. The house, as I have come to understand, belonged to the late Professor Adele Dalsimer, whose memory and academic legacy are being honored this fall in the inaugural Adele Dalsimer Memorial Lecture.

During our time we’ve had the opportunity to visit with local friends, welcome some family guests, and explore Boston.


Hal Hodson first introduced me to Boston in 2012. Lauren Arrington and I go way back; Lauren and I did our MAs together at UCD in 2004. Our Idaho Falls friends, Chris and Clara, also visited, with Madeline and Alma in tow. Megan’s sister Kelly and her family visited in time to meet up with cousin Tommy, a dentist living in Back Bay, and my sister, Kate, also made stopped over. I also met up with several B.C. colleagues, including Kathy Williams (Senior Reference Librarian), Christian DuPont (Burns Librarian and Special Collections Director), and Professor Oliver Rafferty, who hosted us for dinner in St. Mary’s Jesuit residence on campus.


My good friend, Oliver Rafferty – so kind.

The kids enjoyed many of the local sights and activities, including the New England Aquarium, Duck Boat Tour, the Harvard Museum of Natural History, numerous public parks, playgrounds, and splash pads, canoeing the Charles River, and taking in a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.



Two words: Fenway franks.

Irish Collections at Boston College

It’s difficult to assess the overall worth of the Burns Library Irish collections, or the vast offerings available on the shelves of the Bapst and Tip O’Neill libraries. There are numerous holdings unique to B.C., while other more widely known pieces are also readily available. Here are a few elements that really struck me about the collections and their accessibility.


Sign at entry to O’Neill Library


I imagine it’s easy to take for granted the variety of material available for Irish studies scholars at B.C. Its book collections not only reflect an acquisition of the most recent scholarship but rare volumes essential to the field. In certain cases, these books are reserved for the Burns Library, but on the whole they are shelved – out in the open – at the O’Neill Library. Moreover, I was able to find rare, fragile books professionally bound or boxed on the shelves. I only express surprise (delight) at this because of the joy I experience in perusing shelves, and because it allows for a much more organic approach to secondary source research. My Alma Mater, Trinity College Dublin, had/has world-class collections, but its volumes were too often stored in Santry and needed to be called to campus – a minor inconvenience but one that the luxury of a five-story library on a hill easily overcomes.

Archive holdings represent B.C.’s broad approach to collection, with rich and diverse literary, historical, and artistic material. The Thomas and Kathleen Clarke Collection, for example, contains the type of political material one would expect from a Fenian family. However, you can also find dozens of postcards reflecting not only the political atmosphere of revolutionary Ireland, but family ties as well. For example, Kathleen’s correspondence with her New York-based nephew include postcards with pictures of cartoon cats (*obsession with cute cats predates the Internet). Mary Flannery Woods’ papers also illustrated a deeply documented life, which can be further cross-examined in her witness statement to the Bureau of Military History, a way of extending the relevancy of the B.C. collections.

Access and Digitization

Dublin and London are historically rich, beautiful cities with archives and libraries that provide a foundation for modern Irish history. But if you can’t make it to Bishop Street or Kew, consider a stopover to B.C. The O’Neill Library houses microfilm of some of the most significant files from the Colonial Office records of the British administration in Ireland – the infamous CO 904 series. These records include police reports, suspect profiles, agrarian outrage summaries, and returns on political violence. Conducting research abroad is an adventure, but is very time consuming and expensive. In my estimate, these records would permit undergraduate, graduate, and even postgraduate students to establish a solid foundation of primary source research in Boston before having to travel abroad. This is complemented by the vast collection of Irish daily and radical newspapers housed in O’Neill. However, the greatest asset (I believe) is B.C.’s microfilm reader, which allows for continuous, automatic scanning to USB key – truly novel.

Some setbacks do exist. Much of the newspaper record ends in 1922, reflecting past collection priorities aligned to the orthodox chronology of this period of Irish history. My interest in how The Irish Builder and Engineer covered Dublin’s reconstruction or the reopening of the General Post Office in 1929 will have to wait until I can get back to The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland in Dublin. In addition, there is only one microfilm reader. This might pose a problem if the O’Neill were suddenly beset with Irish source-hungry patrons. Despite these observations, I never found the reader occupied or the microfilm I needed in use.

Environmental Humanities

I saw a lot of material in five weeks. The following list briefly outlines the key books and collections I consulted while at Boston College, whose contents provide a foundation for the study of environmental humanities in Ireland during the revolutionary period. I will follow this with a blog about their integration to my work. Until then!

Complete shelf references and archive call numbers can be found through the Boston College libraries search portal.

Bapst Library

  • JoAnne Marie Mancini, Keith Bresnahan, Architecture and Armed Conflict: the Politics of Destruction (New York: Routeledge, 2014)
  • Anne Tucker Will Michels, Natalie Zelt, War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and its Aftermath
  • Moises Saman, Witness to Man’s Destruction: This is War (Milan: Charta, 2004)

Burns Library


  • Michael Brennan, The War in Clare, 1911-1921: personal memoirs of the Irish War of Independence (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1980)
  • Christine Cusick, Out of the Earth: Ecocritical Readings of Irish Texts (Cork: Cork Univesity Press, 2010)
  • Mary E. Daly, The Buffer State: the Historical Roots of the Department of the Environment (Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, 1997)
  • John Devoy, Recollections of an Irish Rebel (New York: Charles P. Young Co., 1929)
  • G. Douglas and J. Anthony Gaughan, Memoirs of Senator James G. Douglas: Concerned Citizen (Belfield: University College Dublin Press, 1998)
  • Kevin Galligan, Peter Paul Galligan: “one of the most dangerous men in the rebel movement” (Dublin: LIffey Press, 2012)
  • William Henry, Blood for Blood: The Black and Tan War in Galway (Dublin: Mercier Press, 2012)
  • Kathleen K. McDonnell, There is a Bridge at Bandon (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1972)
  • W. Moody, “Irish World” on the Reconstruction of Ireland (Dublin: Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union, 1886)
  • Ríonach Ní Néill, Yvonne Whelan, William Nolan, and Anngret Simms, Irish Towns: A Guide to Sources (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1998)
  • Brian O’Neill, War for the Land in Ireland
  • J.P. Tynan, The Irish National Invincibles and their Times (New York: Irish National Invincible Publishing Co., 1851)
  • J. Walsh, Recollections of a Rebel


  • Mary Flannery Woods papers
  • Kathleen and Thomas J. Clarke papers
  • Pádraig De Brún, Maire Nic Shuibhlaigh, Aftermath of Easter Week (Dublin: published for the benefit of the Irish National Aid and Volunteer Dependents Fund, 1917)
  • Nurse Linda Kearns, “In times of peril: memoirs of the Irish War of Independence” (Belfast: B. Clifford, 1995)
  • General Liam Lynch, Chief of Staff, I.R.A.: killed in action defending the republic, 10th April, 1923, Knockmealdown Mountains, Co. Tipperary, 60th anniversary commemoration 1923-1983
  • Oglaigh na hEireann Training Manual, c. 1921
  • The Battle of Ashbourne: victory won by 43 Irish volunteers over 165 Peelers on April 28, 1916
  • Canon Rogers pamphlet collection

O’Neill Library


  • Virginia Berridge and Martin Gorsky (eds), Environment, Health and History (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)
  • B. Crozier, Ireland Forever
  • Wilfrid Eward, A Journey in Ireland 1921
  • Wayne G. Landis and Ming-Ho Yu, Introduction to Environmental Toxicology: Impacts of Chemicals upon Ecological Systems (Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2000)
  • Redfern Mason, Rebel Ireland
  • Morton Lippmann, Environmental Toxicants: Human Exposures and their Health Effects (New York: Wiley-Interscience, 2000)
  • Report of American Committee for Relief in Ireland
  • Edmund Russell, War and Nature: Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War One to Silent Spring (Cambridge: CUP, 2001)
  • J.C. Street, Ireland in 1921
  • Robert J. Whelan, The Ecology of Fire (Cambridge: CUP, 1995)

Microfilm: Newspapers

  • Bottom Dog, 1917
  • Phoenix, 1916
  • The Irish Builder and Engineer, 1916-1922
  • The Irish Homestead, 1919-1920
  • The Irish Law Times and Solicitors Journal, 1916-1922
  • Land, 1923
  • Republican War Bulletin
  • Truth
  • The Unionist, 1921
  • Weekly Summary, 1920-1921

Microfilm: Files

  • CO 904/120: Police Reports: Report on the state of the counties, 1916
  • CO 904/121: Colonial Office: Return of Agrarian Outrages, 1920-1921
  • CO 904/148: Weekly Summary of Outrages against Police, 1920-1921
  • CO 904/149: Weekly Summary of Outrages against Police, 1920-1921
  • CO 904/150: Weekly Summary of Outrages against Police, 1920-1921

Couldn’t do it without my family.