|Clare County Library||
on the Antiquities of County Clare, 1835 by Eugene O’Curry
These seven letters of Eugene
O’Curry, transcribed and edited by Brían Ó Dálaigh,
were written while O’Curry was working in the Limerick Lunatic Asylum.
He was employed by the Ordnance Survey shortly afterwards. Previously
unpublished – apart from letter V, which was published in the Ordnance
Survey Letters – the originals are held in the Royal Irish Academy,
Dublin and in the National Library of Ireland. Clare County Library is
grateful to Brían Ó Dálaigh for donating these letters
and to the RIA and NLI for permission to publish them.
In the summer and autumn of 1835 Eugene
O’Curry engaged in an extensive correspondence with George Smith,
book seller and manuscript collector of College Green, Dublin. O’Curry
had been employed in the Limerick mental asylum from 1826 and devoted
much of his spare time to the study of Gaelic manuscripts and Irish antiquities.
He had a logical and enquiring mind and was an acute observer of the landscape.
It is evident from these seven letters that while resident in Limerick
O’Curry had visited the castles and tower houses in the vicinity
of the city. He was most familiar with the antiquities in the Sixmilebridge
and Newmarket-on-Fergus districts. However, the area about which he was
best informed was the landscape of the Loop Head peninsula, where he had
grown up in west Clare. George Smith first made contact with Eugene O’Curry
in September of 1833 and sought his help in procuring Irish Language manuscripts.
Through George Smith, O’Curry made contact with John O’Donovan
and it was Smith, who informed O’Curry in October of 1834 that he
was to be offered employment by the Ordnance Survey of Ireland. George
Smith maintained a lifelong interest in Irish antiquities and it was he
who provided the finance for the publication of the Annals of the Four
Masters in 1855.