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Dublin Rising 1916-2016

Academy partners with Google to launch virtual tour.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, have launched Dublin Rising 1916-2016 a virtual tour developed by Google as part of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme. The Royal Irish Academy has provided images as part of this commemorative tour of Dublin.

The Academy has also curated two galleries for the centenary celebrations with Google Cultural Institute.

The first, a display of 40 photographs by RIA member and antiquarian Thomas Johnson Westropp (1860–1922) who documented key buildings, monuments and streets in Dublin in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising. Westropp donated these photographs to the Royal Irish Academy in June 1916, just weeks after the events of the Rising unfolded.

Held in the RIA library and recently digitised and deposited in the Digital Repository of Ireland (more information here), Sharon Webb outlines on the DRI blog how this fascinating collection was ingested. RIA Librarian Siobhán Fitzpatrick posits Westropp’s photography as marrying his engineering practice with his antiquarian interests, in this introduction to the collection. The library holds seven further volumes of Westropp antiquarian sketches, comprising over 3,000 images, which will be posted to the online catalogue this year.

The Academy has also exhibited artwork from the book 1916 Portraits and Lives.

This details the stories of 42 men and women – British and Irish, belligerents and pacifists – involved in the events of Easter week one-hundred years ago. The profiles of these people have been taken from the Dictionary of Irish Biography (online here).

‘The Royal Irish Academy invites you to explore Thomas J. Westropp’s images of Dublin streets in the aftermath of the Rising and presents an opportunity to see how contemporary artist David Rooney created 42 new portraits of key people involved in the Rising, the subject of our publication 1916 Portraits and Lives and of a forthcoming exhibition at Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin’. Said Ruth Hegarty, Managing Editor of Publications at the Royal Irish Academy.

You can read Westropp’s full biography entry from the Dictionary of Irish Biography below.

Westropp, Thomas Johnson (1860–1922), antiquarian, was born 16 August 1860 at Attyflin, near Patrickswell, Co. Limerick, son (and only surviving child) of John Westropp and his second wife and cousin, Charlotte Louisa Whitehead. His father, a substantial landowner with estates in Co. Limerick and Co. Clare, also had four sons and three daughters from his first marriage. He was educated at home, initially by his mother, an Englishwoman from a military family, and then with a private tutor, both of whom encouraged his interest in antiquities. His diary shows an exceptionally close bond with his mother, especially after the death of his father in 1866. He entered TCD in 1879, obtaining his MA degree in 1882 and qualified as a civil engineer in 1885. He worked only briefly at this profession, as an assistant surveyor in Co. Meath, and from 1888 devoted his time entirely to antiquarian work, living for the rest of his life on a private income. He did not marry and lived in Monkstown, Co. Dublin with his mother until her death in 1891, then in Lower Leeson St., Dublin, and for the last twenty years of his life with his nephew and his family at Strand Road, Sandymount.

He had started recording, sketching, and drawing archaeological features, castles, and abbeys from his teenage years and read his first paper to the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland in 1886. His first academic article appeared in the 1887 volume of the RHAAI journal. Thereafter he produced over 300 publications. His major field work and research was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries and the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Other work appeared in local journals, particularly those of the Limerick Field Club, North Munster Archaeological Society, Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, and Galway Archaeological Society. He also contributed articles to Folklore, Irish Monthly, and Irish Builder. While he never produced a major monograph, he wrote a short life of Brian Boru (1914), was the main contributor to a Handbook of antiquities in the Limerick area (1916), and his long paper on forts, which had originally appeared in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, was also issued as a separate publication (1902).

Westropp’s greatest achievements were the comprehensive surveys of the prehistoric monuments and medieval buildings of Co. Limerick and Co. Clare, and the academic papers on the more important castles, abbeys, and friaries in each county. He also wrote a range of articles on structures or sites throughout Munster and Leinster as well as in Galway, Mayo, Londonderry, and Armagh. In addition to this vast output of major publications he regularly contributed short notes or miscellanea on an enormous range of topics. These show the impressive breadth of his interests and erudition. He drew attention to and summarised neglected historical source material, published corrections of place name derivations, recorded stray archaeological finds, and elucidated heraldic devices. He offered informed comments on architecture, corrected errors and unwarranted assumptions relating to folklore, and promoted oral history.

In contrast to that of most of his contemporaries, Westropp’s work is still frequently used by modern scholars. His detailed surveys, with their excellent plans, detailed sketches, and meticulous notes, provide an invaluable resource where deterioration, modification, or destruction has occurred. Ironically their excellence has meant that no revision or fresh examination of many sites has been undertaken since. His extensive use of documentary materials from the Irish PRO, destroyed in 1922, has provided invaluable information, often buried in extensive footnotes.

He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (1893), vice-president for two periods (1902–5, 1913–16), and finally president (1916). He was also librarian, honorary curator of the photographic collection, indexer of its journal, and member of the publications and other committees. Elected MRIA (1894), he became a council member and editor of the RIA’s Proceedings four years later. He was on the committees also of the North Munster Archaeological Society and the Society for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead in Ireland.

In declining health for the last decade of his life, Westropp suffered from interstitial nephritis, a debilitating condition, though he still continued his arduous field work and publishing activity. He died, 9 April 1922 at his Dublin home, and was buried in the family vault at Kilpeacon, near his childhood home in Co. Limerick.

The bulk of his papers, including two large volumes of field notes and seven books of sketches, are in the RIA. His extensive photographic collection is divided between the National Museum of Ireland, the National Photographic Archive, TCD, the RIA, the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, and the Irish Architectural Archive. Clare county library, Ennis, has some photographs and drawings, and it is known that material has also found its way into private collections. A Thomas Johnson Westropp room, detailing his life and achievements, has been opened in the Kilfenora heritage centre.

‘Chronicon Westropporum’ (T. J. W.’s private diary in possession of George Stacpoole, Adare); RSAI Jn., 1886–1922; Mairéad Ashe FitzGerald, Thomas Johnson Westropp (1860–1922): an Irish antiquary (2000)