The 1841 Irish Testimonial to Lord Morpeth

Collaborative partners

  • Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates (CSHIHE), NUI Maynooth.
  • Castle Howard, Yorkshire and the Yorkshire County House Partnership (YCHP)
  • Russell Library and the John Paul II library, NUI Maynooth
  • Ancestry.com

Background

Owing to the links between the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates (CSHIHE) at NUI Maynooth, and the Yorkshire Country House Partnership (YCHP), the Irish testimonial roll to George Howard, Lord Morpeth, is currently on loan in the Russell library. The testimonial comprises a farewell address signed by approximately 275,000 people (according to contemporary sources) on 652 individual sheets of paper. These sheets were subsequently joined together to create a continuous length of paper, approximately 412 meters in length (Croke Park is only 145 meters long), which was rolled onto a mahogany spool. It was presented to Lord Morpeth at the Royal Exchange, Dublin, in September 1841 following his defeat in the 1841 general election which consequently led to his departure as Chief Secretary of Ireland. George Howard, or Lord Morpeth as he was known until he succeeded to his father’s title, was born in 1802, the eldest son of the 6th Earl of Carlisle.

For many years the testimonial roll remained hidden away in a basement at Castle Howard, Yorkshire, but it is now on loan at NUI Maynooth thanks to the generosity of Simon Howard, owner of Castle Howard and the efforts of Prof. Christopher Ridgway, Curator and Dr Terence Dooley, Director of the CSHIHE. It is now the focus of an important scholarly investigation with research led by Dr Patrick Cosgrove, Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the Department of History.

This unique document has huge research potential, whether looked at as a pre-Famine census substitute, a family heirloom, a genealogy resource or a politically motivated document in its own right. Moreover, it has the potential to provide a unique insight into Irish life, society and politics in pre-Famine Ireland. As a pre-Famine census substitute it is unparalleled and its importance is multiplied by the scarcity of census material from this period. The document also provides empirical evidence of mass political involvement.

SOME FAMOUS NAMES THAT APPEAR ON THE TESTIMONIAL ROLL:

Daniel O’Connell: Born in Co. Kerry in 1775 and often known as the Liberator. A lawyer and a politician, he successfully campaigned for Catholic emancipation, which was granted in 1829, and later for the repeal of the political union between Ireland and Britain. Elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1841. He died in Italy in 1847 while on a pilgrimage to Rome.

Thomas Davis: The Young Irelanders were a nationalist group, whose members comprised both Catholics and Protestants from middle class backgrounds. One such member, whose signature appears on the roll, was Thomas Davis. Davis was born in Mallow, Co. Cork in 1814. He was the son of a British army surgeon, who died before he was born, and an Irish Protestant mother. In 1842 he co-founded the Nation newspaper and became its editor. In his editorials and poetry, he publicised his theories of self-government in countless articles on Irish history and culture. Davis later became leader of the Young Ireland movement but died from scarlet fever in 1845 just three years before the failed Young Ireland rebellion of 1848.

Charles Gavan Duffy: Born in Co. Monaghan of a middle-class Catholic family, he became a journalist and was appointed editor of the Belfast Vindicator in 1839. Along with Thomas Davis, he was involved with the Nation newspaper and in 1844 he was arrested for sedition. He supported the Irish rebellion of 1848 and as a consequence he was imprisoned. Upon his release he emigrated and later became a very prominent politician in Australia.

Augustus Frederick Fitzgerald, 3rd Duke of Leinster: Resided at Carton House, Maynooth Co. Kildare. He was Ireland’s premier peer and served as Commissioner for National Education in Ireland 1836-41. Grand Master of the Freemasons of Ireland from 1824-74.

Charles Bianconi: Charles Bianconi was an Italian immigrant who came to Ireland in 1802. He revolutionised public transport in Ireland by establishing regular horse-drawn carriage services on various routes from about 1815 onwards. He established a network of routes, which eventually covered most of the country from north to south. Thanks to his system of transport rural Ireland became much more accessible which in turn stimulated trade and even helped reduce the price of many commodities.