Thomas Johnson Westropp, MRIA, 1860–1922
Thomas Johnson Westropp was born in Attyflin, County Limerick, and was privately educated by his mother and by a private tutor. He later studied at Trinity College Dublin and qualified as a civil engineer in 1885. He had a lifelong interest in antiquities and archaeology, and made numerous sketches and plans of historical monuments, with a particular emphasis on antiquities in Counties Clare and Limerick. He organised his field notes and sketches in a meticulous manner. He was a prodigious researcher in archives and an active member of various antiquarian societies, including the North Munster Archaeological Society and the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. He was elected to the Royal Irish Academy in 1894 and later served as editor of the polite literature and antiquities section of the Academy’s Proceedings.
Westropp bequeathed seven volumes of his annotated sketches of Irish antiquities to the Royal Irish Academy. These volumes of notes and sketches are broadly chronological, rather than geographical, and reflect his fieldwork between 1880 and 1910. It is clear that he travelled repeatedly to various parts of Ireland in connection with his antiquarian researches, revisiting many places, and sketching and annotating as he went. Many individual pages in these sketchbooks contain multiple ink drawings.
Volume 1. Sketches in Ireland: Cork, Dublin, Kerry, Kildare, Leitrim, Louth, Meath, Roscommon, Sligo, Waterford, Wicklow. 1880–1891 (RIA, MS 3 A 46)
Volume 2. Sketches in Ireland: Clare, Limerick, Galway (with Aran Islands, 1878). 1885–1894 (RIA, MS 3 A 47)
Volume 3. Sketches in Ireland: Tipperary, Clare, Limerick, Cork, Dublin, Wicklow, Meath, King’s County, Westmeath, Longford, Louth, Roscommon, Galway. 1875–1894 (RIA, MS 3 A 48)
Volume 4. Sketches in Ireland and Germany: Limerick, Clare, Galway, Kildare, Meath, Lower Rhine. 1894–1896 (RIA, MS 3 A 49)
Volume 5. Sketches in Ireland and Scotland: Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, King’s County, Limerick, Mayo, Waterford, Wexford, Hebrides, Orkneys, 1896–1900 (RIA, MS 3 A 50)
Volume 6. Sketches in Ireland: Waterford, Limerick, Clare, Antrim, Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Kerry, Cork, King’s County, Kildare, Meath, Wicklow. 1903–1904 (RIA, MS 3 A 51)
Volume 7. Sketches in Ireland: Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick, Dublin, Antrim, Down, Tipperary, Cork, Kerry Waterford. 1904–1910 (RIA, MS 3 A 52)
The contents of this set of seven albums (3 A 46–52) have been digitised and catalogued individually on the RIA online catalogue of prints and drawings where thumbnail images of each page can be viewed.
Also included in Westropp’s bequest to the Academy was an unpublished volume of ‘Notes of materials for the history and archaeology of counties of Ireland (with photographs)’ (RIA, MS 3 A 43) and a copybook of ‘Notes on the topography of Clare’ (RIA, MS 3 A 44), both of which he had compiled in 1894. His manuscript ‘Notes on the topography of Co. Limerick’ (RIA, MS 3 A 45) was compiled in 1903.
In 1890 Westropp presented two bound folio volumes of his illustrated research notes relating to County Clare to the Royal Irish Academy (RIA, MS 3 A 39; 3 A 40). Some additional loose material was included (now in five accompanying folders: 3 A 40a). This collection of annotated research notes and sketches is entitled ‘A collection of notes on several families and places in Clare’ and had been compiled between 1883 and 1890. It extends to more than 1,000 pages. Many of the pages contain multiple sketches, some in colour, together with some maps. Westropp also provided indexes of place-names and families mentioned in the two volumes (RIA, MS 3 a 39, 3 A 40, & 3 A 40a have been microfilmed: RIA microfilm N2008.)
Almost twenty years later, in 1909, Westropp also presented a large selection of offprints of his published articles to the RIA Library, having first arranged them thematically in bound volumes. The library also holds his interleaved and annotated copies of some printed works by other authors, some of which incorporate additional illustrations.
Westropp photographic collections are divided among a range of libraries and archives in Dublin, including the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland, National Photographic Archive, Irish Architectural Archive and Trinity College Dublin.
The Royal Irish Academy holds an album of photographs of Dublin taken by Westropp in the immediate aftermath of the Easter rising, 1916, and presented to the Academy on 13 June 1916. The album was entitled ‘Ruined buildings in Dublin after the Sinn Fein rebellion, April/May 1916, photographed May 17th and 18th, 1916’. The album has been digitised and archived with the Digital Repository of Ireland.
Mairéad Ashe FitzGerald, Thomas Johnson Westropp (1968–1922): an Irish antiquary (Dublin, 2000)
Liam Irwin, ‘Westropp, Thomas Johnson’, in Dictionary of Irish Biography (9 vols, Cambridge, 2009), vol. 9, pp 861–2 (dib.cambridge.org)
Thomas Johnson Westropp. Selected periodical articles are accessible online (jstor.org)
National Library of Ireland. Sources for the history of Irish Civilization