Skip to main content

John Windele was a native of Cork city. As an adult he was employed in the sheriff’s office and lived at Blair’s Hill on the outskirts of the city. He had a particular interest in archaeology and joined with others interested in antiquities to explore Counties Cork and Kerry, including islands such as Skellig Michael and Inis Tuaisceart. He became a member of the South Munster Antiquarian Society (forerunner of the Cork Archaeological Society) and in 1836 was a founder member of the Cork Cuvierian Society through which he could pursue his interest in antiquities. Architecture and druidism were other interests. Sketching antiquities in the landscape and collecting archaeological artefacts such as gold ornaments and Ogham stones were among his pursuits. Most of his collection of gold objects and Ogham stones is now in the National Museum of Ireland; one of the Ogham stones he helped preserve is in University College Cork.

Some of Windele’s early antiquarian and topographical researches on Kerry and West Cork were published in Bolster’s Quarterly Magazine in the late 1820s (NLI, MS 25,627 contains his original manuscript drafts of this material). His book on Historical and descriptive notices of the city of Cork and its vicinity: Gougaun-Barra, Glengariff and Killarney was first published in 1839 and regularly reprinted. James Coleman later prepared an abridged and annotated edition, published as Windele’s Cork in 1910. Windele also wrote a Hand-book to Killarney, through Bantry, Glengariff & Kenmare (1844), A guide to Cove and the harbour of Cork (1840), and a short pamphlet on The Irish antiquities of the National Exhibition (Cork, 1853).

John Windele assembled numerous scrapbooks of his own research notes, which included extracts from the researches of his contemporaries. These were arranged in a series of bound volumes, and include cuttings from printed sources. His notes on antiquities are illustrated with many small sketches, and include occasional lithographs that he commissioned.

The Royal Irish Academy collection includes twenty-four volumes of Windele’s notes on Irish history and antiquities (3 B 41–42; 3 C 28; 12 C 102; 12 C 4; 12 C 9; 12 F 32, 12 G 15, 12 I 6–8; 12 I 20; 12 K 4; 12 K 17; 12 M 10–12; 12 N 18; 12 O 7; 24 C 26) eleven volumes on antiquities in County Cork (12 I 4; 12 I 9–12; 12 K 15–16; 12 K 20; 12 K 24–5; 12 L 3; 24 I 6), and a further six on Munster and the south of Ireland (12 C 3; 12 C 11; 12 K 27–8; 24 B 17). Other specialised volumes in the collection relate to architecture (12 C 5; 12 K 21, 12 M 15), druidism (12 F 19; 12 L 4), and ogham inscriptions (12 C 12; 12 K 29–31).

Windele corresponded with many other researchers interested in antiquities, folklore and literature. His papers in the Royal Irish Academy include thirty-three volumes of this extensive correspondence: 4 B 1– 4 B 23 (4 B 24 is an index to foregoing); 12 K 6; and 12 L 5–12 L 12.

His interest in literature brought him into contact with Jeremiah J. Callanan (1795–1829), a Cork poet and translator. In the years after Callanan’s early death in Lisbon in 1829, John Windele made copies of some of his poems, notes and correspondence. This Callanan material is in one bound volume: RIA, MS 12 I 13 (microfilm N5028).

Windele was largely self-taught, and studied the Irish language to an advanced level. He collected some Irish manuscripts and employed scribes to make copies of others. He worked on English translations of some of the Irish manuscripts he owned. These were among the items from his extensive collection that were purchased by the Royal Irish Academy after his death in 1865. Irish language manuscripts from his collection are catalogued in the printed Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy (28 fasc, Dublin, 1926-70).

The Royal Irish Academy online catalogue of manuscripts includes detailed, descriptive entries of some of the Windele papers. Some further volumes await full descriptive cataloguing, and the numerous incidental antiquarian sketches in his notebooks are not yet individually described. (Microfilm copies of some of the Windele papers are on RIA microfilms N5001–N5031.) A summary list of shelf-marks of the Windele collection of manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy is available.

Windele’s personal collection of books, artefacts and manuscripts was auctioned by John Fleming Jones, Dublin, in December 1865. Most of his manuscripts were purchased for the Royal Irish Academy. Some additional Windele manuscript material is in the National Library of Ireland (, including some correspondence with George Petrie, while other volumes of his antiquarian research notes remain in private hands.

Further reading

Mary Cahill, ‘John Windele’s golden legacy: prehistoric and later gold ornaments from Co. Cork’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 106C (2006), pp 219–337

Mary Cahill & Aideen Ireland, ‘John Windele’s antiquarian scholarship’, in Bernadette Cunningham & Siobhán Fitzpatrick (eds), Treasures of the Royal Irish Academy Library (Dublin, 2009), pp 229–35

John Fleming Jones, Catalogue of books, including the library of the late John Windele … (Dublin, 1865). [Copy in National Library of Ireland, shelf-mark LO P 645(8)]

Joan Rockley, ‘John Windele’, in Pádraig Ó Macháin & Sorcha Nic Lochlainn (eds), Leabhar na Longanach : the Ó Longáin family and their manuscripts (Cork, 2018), pp 139–60

Fionnuala Carson Williams, ‘Windele, John, “Trismagistus MacSlatt”, Seághan Bhindele’, in Dictionary of Irish Biography (9 vols, Cambridge, 2009), vol. 9, pp 987–8 (

National Library of Ireland. Sources for the history of Irish Civilization(link is external)

National Museum of Ireland(link is external)

Royal Irish Academy online catalogue of Prints and Drawings