George Petrie (1789-1866)

[var. 1 Jan 1790, Hoagland]; born Dublin, Scottish father, painter and engraver; ed. Samuel Whyte’s school, and intended for medicine, but entered RDS Drawing School, 1805; won RDS medal for modelling; walking tours in Dublin, Wicklow, collecting music and architectural scenes, 1808; visited Wales, 1910, and England, 1813; m. Eliza Mills, 1819; exhibited RHA, 1826-58; MRHA, 1828, in spite of deficit of oil paintings; elected RIA, 1928; advisor council of RIA, 1830; friend of Mulvany and but did not paint in oil; worked for Thomas Larcom on Ordnance Survey, Topographical Section, from 1830, and charged with the historical section in 1835; accredited with recognising the abilities and enlisting the support John O’Donovan and Eugene Curry as participants in the Ordnance; house at Great Charles St. a centre of literary life;
ed., with Otway, Dublin Penny Journal (first issue, 30 June 1832), and later ed. Irish Penny Journal (1842); illustrated numerous guide-books on Ireland; his Essays on Antiquities of Tara (1839) and the more celebrated “Round Towers of Ireland”, in which he disproved the Phoenician ‘fire-tower’ theories of their origin (later published in Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, 1845) won RDS gold medals; ill. Cromwell’s Tours of Ireland and Brewer's Beauties of Ireland; civil pension list (£300 p.a.), 1849; designed new Irish type-faces; issued The Petrie Collection of Ancient Music of Ireland (1855), in which he noted ‘this awful, unwonted silence which during the Famine and subsequent years almost everywhere prevailed’;
instrumental in establishing a permanent premises for the the Royal Hibernian Academy [RHA] in James Gandon’s building in Lwr. Abbey St., Dublin - which was burnt down in the 1916 Rising (together with the curator); elected President of RHA, 1857; he also collected Irish music as The Ancient Music of Ireland (1855) [var. 1st edn. 1853 DIH]; also a supplementary collection, Music in Ireland (1882); bur. Mount Jerome, in a grave covered by flat Celtic memorial slab; there is a portrait of Petrie by Sleator in the RIA; there is a bronze crown known as the “Cork horns” in at Cork Public Museum which originated in his collection of unrecorded origin; an exhibition of Petrie’s work with over 80 drawings, water-colours and engravings was held at the Crawford Gallery as “Artist and Antiquarian” during 13 March-17 April 2004. CAB ODNB DIB DIW DIH BREF DIL RAF FDA

Photo and engraving after portrait by Mulvaney
See also...
An Album of Drawings Made Petrie in Dublin and Ireland [attached]

Exhibitions ...

An exhibition of Petrie’s work with over 80 drawings, water-colours and engravings was held at the Crawford Gallery as “Artist and Antiquarian” during 13 March-17 April 2004 - see online.

An exhibition of “Views of Dublin: original watercolours by George Petrie, MRIA, 1790-1866” was held at the RIA (Dawson St., Dublin) during 9 Jan. - 15 Feb. 2016 - online [accessed 15.06.2017].

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  • On the History and Antiquities of Tara Hill (1839).
  • The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland: Uses of the Round Towers of Ireland (Dublin: Hodges & Smith, 1845) [includes his ‘Round Towers’ essay of 1833]; facs. rep. as The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland - An Essay on the Origin and Uses of the Round Towers of Ireland (Shannon IUP 1970).
  • Christian Inscriptions in the Irish Language, 7 pts. [RSAI] (1870-77) [var. 1872-78; presum. ed. Margaret Stokes, 1872 &c.], ill. [57 pls.].
  • The Petrie Collection of Ancient Music of Ireland, 2 vols. (Dublin UP, 1855-82).
See also Charles Villiers Standford, ed., The Complete Collection of Irsh Music, as noted by George Petrie, 3 pts. in 1 (1902-05), xxix+397pp.
Reprints incl. The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland, ed. David Cooper (Cork UP 2002; pb. edn. 2005), 280pp. [200 airs; orig. 1855 & 1882].
Articles [incl.]:
  • ‘Historic Sketch of the Past and Present of the Fine Arts in Ireland’, in Dublin Penny Journal, 1 [1], 1[8]32], pp.83-84.
  • ‘On the History and Antiquities of Tara Hill’, in The Transactions of the Royal Academy, 18 (1839), pp.25-32
The ecclesiastical architecture of Ireland, anterior to the Anglo-Norman invasion[,] comprising an essay on the origin and uses of the round towers of Ireland, which obtained the gold medal and prize of the Royal Irish academy. [2nd edn.]
Published in 1845, Hodges and Smith (Dublin).
Statement: By George Petrie.
Edition: 2nd edn.
Pagination: 2 p. l., [iii]-xxi, 525pp.
Subject: Church architecture - Ireland - Round towers - Antiquities.
Internet Archive Bibliographical Record.

See also his “Memoir of the Ancient Irish Harp Preserved in Trinity College” which Edward Bunting quotes extensively in the 1840 edition of his Ancient Irish Music (3rd edn. 1840), Chap. 3 - where Bunting analyses the way the ancient harp was played, citing the brief account by Galilei in 1581 suggesting that the instrument had twenty-nine or thirty strings. Bunting retells Petrie’s acount of the legend associated with ‘Brian Boru’s harp’ in the Trinity College Library of which Petrie writes that ‘we are told that Donogh, the son and successor of the celebrated Brian Boru, who was killed at the battle of Clontarf in 1014, having murdered his brother Teague, in 1023, was deposed by his nephew, in consequence of which he retired to Rome, carrying with him the crown, harp, and other regalia of his father, which he presented to the Pope to obtain absolution [...].’ These regalia were kept in the Vatican till the Pope sent the harp to Henry VIII, with the title of Defender of the Faith, but kept the crown, which was of massive gold.’ Bunting goes on to retell the legend that Henry VIII presented the harp to the Earl of Clanricarde from whence it reached the hands of Le Chevalier O’Gorman who donated it to TCD - a legend which Petrie dismisses as an invention citing Thomas Moore’s similar dismissal of the story with reference to the absence of any such allusion to the harp in the Irish annals in conjunction with the fact that Donogh never owned his father’s crown. For Petrie, the harp is more likely to be an ecclesiastic instrument on account of its small scale size, being thirty-two inches high and made of oak by ‘exquisite workmanship’(Bunting) with one row of thirty strings. (Bunting, Dissertation, prefixed to Ancient Irish Music, 1840 Edn. [pub. by Petrie], as cited in Wikipedia - online; accessed 17.10.2103.)

See also P. W. Joyce, A Short History of Ireland  from the Earliest Times to 1608 (London: Longmans, Green 1893) - in which he refers to Petrie’s demonstration that the harp in TCD cannot enjoy the aniquity alleged of it: ‘Several harps of the old pattern are still preserved in museums in Dublin and elsewhere, the most interesting of which is the one now popularly known as Brian Boru’s harp in Trinity College, Dublin. This is the oldest harp in Ireland - probably the oldest in existence. Yet it did not belong to Brian Boru; for Dr. Petrie [ftn.] has shown that it could not have been made before the end of the fourteenth century. It is small, being only thirty-two inches high; it had thirty strings; and the ornamentation and general workmanship are exquisitely beautiful.’ (Joyce’s footnote here refers to Petrie"s ‘memoir of this harp [viz.,] Bunting, Anc. Mus. of Irel. 1840. p.42.’)

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  • Samuel Ferguson, ‘George Petrie’ [Gallery of Illustrious Irishmen], in Dublin University Magazine (Dec. 1839).
  • Samuel Ferguson, ‘Petrie’s Round Towers’, in Dublin University Magazine (April 1845).
  • William Stokes, Life and Labours in Art and Archaeology of George Petrie, LD, MRIA (London: Longmans Green & Co. 1868), xvi, 445pp. [incl. Petrie’s ‘Aran - The Character of the Islanders’, cp.52.]
  • A. P. Graves, ‘George Petrie as an Artist and Man of Letters’, in Irish Literary & Musical Studies (1913), p.200ff. [extract].
  • Desmond F. Moore, ‘The Royal Hibernian Academy’, in Dublin Historical Record (March/May 1966), pp.28-37 [extract].
  • Myles Dillon, ‘George Petrie 1789-1866’, in Studies (Autumn 1967), pp.266-76.
  • Grace J. Calder, George Petrie and the Ancient Music of Ireland (Dublin: Dolmen 1968) [ltd. edn. 1500], 59pp.
  • J. Sheehy, The Rediscovery of Ireland’s Past; the Celtic Revival 1830-1930 (London: Thames & Hudson, 1980), pp.22-45, 58-61.
  • John Hutchinson, The Dynamics of Cultural nationalism: The Gaelic Revival and the Creation of the Irish Nation State (London: Allen & Unwin 1987), espec. pp.80-90.
  • Peter Murray [RHA Director], ‘Trouble at the Mill: George Petrie and the Royal Hibernian Academy’, in Martello Arts Review, ed. Maureen Charlton [“Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts Special Issue”] (1991), pp.14-22 [extract].
  • Peter Murray, George Petrie (1790-1866): The Re-Discovery of Ireland's Past [Crawford Municipal Art Gallery] (Dublin: Gandon 2004), 180pp. [incls. J. Leerssen, ‘Introduction - Petrie: Polymath and Innovator’].
  • Joep Leerssen & Tom Dunne [essays], George Petrie (1790-1866): The Rediscovery of Ireland's Past [exhib. of March-April 2004 cur. by Peter Murray; toured to NLI] (Kinsale: Gandon Edns./Crawford Municipal Art Gallery 2004), 240pp., ill. [some col.; plans, ports.]
  • P. Walsh, 2012, ‘George Petrie: His Life and Work’, in Próinséas Ní Chatháin & Siobhán Fitzpatrick with Howard Clarke, eds., Pathfinders to the Past - The Antiquarian Road to Irish Historical Writing - 1640-1960 (Dublin: Four Courts Press 1012), 200pp.
  • Charlotte Salter-Townshend, “Round Towers and the Birth of Irish Archaeology: George Petrie and Changing Perceptions of Irish Archaeology in the 19th Century” [MPhil candidate] (TCD 2013) [available at Archaeology Online Journal - online; accessed 15.06.2017.]

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General studies: Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (1986) [sundry pages], and Fintan Cullen, ed., Sources in Irish Art: A Reader (Cork UP 2000) [writings by George Petrie, Edmund Burke, Samuel Madden, Lady Morgan, W. B. Yeats, Elizabeth Thompson, Mainie Jellet, et al.]

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Thomas Carlyle, Reminiscences (1882), calls Petrie an ‘enthusiast for Brian Boru and all that province of affairs [...] an excellent, simple, affectionate loveable soul, “dear old Petrie”, he was our chief figure for me [...] real knowledge though with sad credulity on Irish antiquarian matters; not knowledge that I saw on anything else’ (see further under Carlyle [q.v.]).

P. W. Joyce, Short History of Ireland from the Earliest Times to 1608 (London: Longman 1893) — on the Round Towers of Ireland:
Formerly there was much speculation as to the uses of these round towers ; but Dr. George Petrie, after examining the towers themselves, and — with the help of O’Donovan and O’Curry — searching through all the Irish literature within his reach for allusions to them, set the question at rest in his Essay on The Origin and Uses of the Round Towers. It is now known that they are of Christian origin, and that they were always built in connection with ecclesiastical establishments. They were erected at various times from about the ninth to the thirteenth century. They had at least a twofold use: as belfries, and as keeps to which the inmates of the monastery retired with their valuables — such as books, shrines, croziers, relics, and vestments — in case of sudden attack. They were probably used also —when occasion required — as beacons and watch-towers. These are Dr. Petrie's conclusions, except only that he fixed the date of some few in the fifth century, which recent investigations have shown to be too early. It would appear that it was the frequency of the Danish incursions that gave rise to the erection of the round towers, which began to be built in the ninth century simultaneously all over the country. They were admirably suited to the purpose of affording refuge from the sudden murderous raids of the Norsemen : for the inmates could retire with their valuables on a few minutes' warning, with a good supply of large stones to drop on the robbers from the windows ; and once they had drawn up the outside ladder and barred the door, the tower was, for a short attack, practically impregnable. Round towers are not quite peculiar to Ireland : about 22 are found elsewhere— in Bavaria, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Scotland, and other countries.

—P. W. Joyce, op. cit., p.113; available online [accessed 30.12.2023].

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A. P. Graves, ‘George Petrie as an Artist and Man of Letters’, in Irish Literary & Musical Studies (1913), p.200ff. Born Dublin, 1 Jan. 1790; ed. Whyte’s, Grafton St.; silver medal for group of figures in RDS School; his father James Petrie executed portrait of Emmet for Sarah Curran [see Curran, supra] Friend of Danby and O’Conor with whom he travelled in Wales; provided 96 illustrations for Cromwell’s Excursions in Ireland, 21 to Brewer’s Beauties of Ireland, 16 to Fisher’s hist. Guide to Ancient and Modern Dublin, and others to Wright’s Tours and to the Guide to Wicklow and Killarney. Contributed engravings to Dublin and Irish Penny Magazines. Series of articles on fine arts in Ireland, in Dublin Examiner (aged 26); deals with attempt to establish an Academy of Arts in Dublin between 1809 and 1816; society split into Irish and Hibernian Soc. of Arts, combining finally with the Dublin Society. A further five articles contain more general criticism, showing decline of European art due to inferiority of education among modern artists etc., and espousing Ruskin’s dictum that art should be considered as writing or language, the value depending on what the artist has in him to say. Contrib. Dublin literary journals of 1816, 1818; started in 1832 Dublin Penny Journal with Caesar Otway ‘on new and exclusively national grounds and with national as well as useful objects in view’; politics and sectarian religion excluded; ten years later, he edited exclusively the Irish Penny Journal for a year; contributors to the former included Otway, Petrie, O’Donovan,and to the latter O’Curry, Wills, Anster, Ferguson, Mangan, Aubrey de Vere, Carleton. Petrie bid farewell with the notice that ‘the volume now brought to a termination will live in the literature of Ireland as one almost exclusively Irish.’ ‘As Stokes [Petrie’s biographer] points out, Petrie may be said to have discovered the Aran Islands, from the antiquarian point of view. Two visits of considerable duration, the first in the 1820s; he contested Pinkerton’s view of the Aran islanders as ‘some of the veriest savages in the globe’, representing them as a brave and hardy race, industrious and enterprising, simple and innocent, but also thoughtful and intelligent; credulous, and in matters of faith what people of a different creed would call superstitious, but, being out of reach of religious animosity, still strangers to bigotry and intolerance. ‘[T]hey never swear, and they have a high sense of decency and propriety, honour and justice. In appearance they are healthy, comely, and prepossessing; in their dress, with few exceptions, clean and comfortable. In manners serious yet cheerful and easily excited to gaiety; frank and familiar in conversation, and to strangers polite and respectful; but at the same time wholly free from servile adulation. They are communicative, but not too loquacious; inquisitive after information, but delicate in asking it and grateful for it communication.’ [Cont.]

A. P. Graves (‘George Petrie as an Artist and Man of Letters’, 1913), - cont.: Petrie described four typical Aran islanders of his day, Mr O’Flaherty, one of the two aristocrats of the island, Rev Francis O’Flaherty, their venerable pastor, Tom O’Flaherty, who combined [...] medicine with [tailor], and Molly M’Auley, the wise woman’ (Graves, 1913, p. 208ff.) Petrie purchased O’Cleary’s [Ó Cléirigh] MSS at the sale of Edward Reilly’s MSS, and later under similar circumstances the autograph copy of the 2nd part of The Annals of the Four Masters, both of which he gave to the RIA library at cost price, being made a member for life in a resolution acknowledging his generosity. ALSO, In 1838, Petrie found Mangan a job on the Ordnance Survey team. In 1824 and English Parliamentary Committee had recommended that all Ireland be surveyed and remapped. Lieut. Thomas Larcom was put in charge of the project, and he employed Petrie to direct those working on the topographical material. Their office was at Petrie’s own house, 21 Gt. Charles St. There, from 1838 to 1841 [when the Commission was terminated], Mangan was in frequent, sometimes daily contact with O’Curry, O’Donovan, Petrie, Samuel Ferguson, and W.F. Wakeman. It was this sense that past and present should be inseparable [arising from their examination of place names in Ireland] [...] that the English speaking part of the population should be made aware of the extent and depth of its roots in the past, that provoked the founding of the Irish Penny Journal in 1840, as it had provoked the founding of the Dublin Penny Journal in the early thirties. Petrie was editor of both these journals, and his intention was to raise national consciousness [...] in a way that would strengthen [...] an Irishman’s sense of what it was to be Irish (from Welch, Irish Poetry, 1980), p.99. There is an essay by Ferguson on the Dublin Penny Journal in DUM, 1840, ‘a brilliant statement of how the past may be operative in the present, in a positive reconciling way, rather than in the divisive way it usually tends to operate in Ireland.’ Graves gives an account of Petrie’s theory of Lia Fail at Tara and its refutation by P. W. Joyce, p.171ff. [Cont.]]

A. P. Graves (‘George Petrie as an Artist and Man of Letters’, 1913), - cont.: ‘As Dr Stokes points out, Petrie may be said to be the discoverer of the Aran Islands, at least from the antiquarian point of view. He paid then two visits of considerable duration, the first in the twenties of the last century, before the islands had been as much influenced from the mainland as they have gradually become. Indeed, an interesting contrast might be made between Dr Petrie’s experiences on the islands and those of Mr. J. M. Synge. It is, as a descriptive writer and painter of character, such as he found it in Aran, that we are here concerned with Dr Petrie’s relation to these islands. Quoting, with three notes of exclamation, Pinkerton’s statement that the wild Irish are at this day known to be some of the veriest savages of the globe, Petrie proceeds to show that after visiting Aran out of a desire to meet the islanders who were reputed to be the most primitive people within the five corners of Ireland, he found them to be where uncontaminated, as in Aranmore and Inisheer, a brave and hardy race, industrious and enterprising, simple and innocent, but also thoughtful and intelligent; credulous, and in matters of faith what persons of a different creed would call superstitious, but, being out of reach of religious animosity, still strangers to bigotry and intolerance. Lying and drinking - the vices which Arthur Young in his time regarding as appertaining to the Irish character, formed at least no part in it in Aran. Not that they were rigidly temperate, instances of excess followed by the usual Irish consequences of broken heads did occasionally occur; such could not but be expected when their convivial temperament and dangerous and laborious occupations are remembered. ‘But,’ he adds, ‘they never swear, and they have a high sense of decency and propriety, honour and justice. In appearance they are healthy, comely, and prepossessing; in their dress, with few exceptions, clean and comfortable. In manners serious yet cheerful and easily excited to gaiety; frank and familiar in conversation, and to strangers polite and respectful; but at the same time wholly free from servile adulation. They are communicative, but not too loquacious; inquisitive after information, but delicate in asking it and grateful for its communication’. Further, Petrie described four typical Aran islanders of his day, Mr O’Flaherty, one of the two aristocrats of the islands, the Rev. Francis O’Flaherty, their venerable pastor, Tom O’Flaherty, who combined the honourable practice of medicine with the less distinguished calling of tailor, and lastly Molly M’Auley, the wise woman [...] &c. Petrie’s account of the first three are reproduced her in small print over pp.209-13, all quoted from Stokes. [Graves, in Irish Lit. & Mus. Studies (1913)].

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Padraic Colum, ed., Anthology of Irish Verse (1922) - Introduction: ‘How it affected everything that belonged to the imagination may be guessed at from a sentence written by George Petrie. He made the great collection of Irish music, but in the preface to his collection he laments that he entered the field too late. What impressed him most about the Ireland after the famine was, as he says, “the sudden silence of the fields.” Before, no one could have walked a roadway without hearing music and song; now there was cessation, and this meant a break in the whole tradition. / And what Petrie noted with regard to music was true for song and saga. The song perished with the tune. The older generation who were the custodians of the national tradition were the first to go down to the famine graves. And in the years that followed the people had little heart for the remembering of “old, unhappy, far-off things and battles long ago.” The history of Ireland since is a record of recovery and relapse after an attack that almost meant the death of the race.’ (See full text in RICORSO Library, “Critical Classics” > Anglo-Irish > Padraic Colum - as attached.)

Shane Leslie, The Irish Tangle for English Readers (1946): ‘the great George Petrie drove all the way from Dublin ni his coach to save Emain Macha from the plough.’ (p.33.)

Desmond F. Moore, ‘The Royal Hibernian Academy’, in Dublin Historical Record, March/May 1966, pp.28-37. ‘George Petrie was the son of James Petrie, the miniature painter who [did] the Indian ink drawing of Robert Emmet, taken at his trial; parents Scottish, but born and educated in Dublin; intended as a doctor; nearly all guides and topographical works of the first half of the last century carried his work; a friend of Thomas Mulvany, he was admitted to the RHA on the undertaking that he would also paint in oil, a condition not complied with. Mainly responsible for the RIA Museum, and contributor of 28 articles to the Transactions. Petrie was elected President, with Mulrenan as Secretary, in Dec. 1856, after Michel Angelo Hayes [the current secretary under Cregan, and a leader of the Reformer Party concerned with fiscal remedies; also painter-in-ordinary to the Lord Lieutenant, and a miniaturist] had withdrawn Petrie’s membership; Hayes refused to surrender the keys; the Lord Lieutenant declined to intervene, but the Law Officers expressed doubt about the legality of the meeting; Petrie emerged triumphant at a subsequent meeting of Oct. 1857; nevertheless Hayes had the best of the correspondence published in the matter, some charges made by the Reformers not being satisfactorily answered; Petrie found some of the conditions in the new Charter, drawn up following a government enquiry, and withdrew from the Presidency in 1859; Hayes was brought back as a member though opposed by Catterson Smith, Petrie’s successor as President.

Peter Murray [RHA Director], ‘Trouble at the Mill: George Petrie and the Royal Hibernian Academy’, in Martello Arts Review, ed. Maureen Charlton [‘Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts Special Issue’] (1991), pp.14-22: The RHA was established in 1823, and situated in the building on Abbey St. provided by the munificent and art of Francis Johnson at an expense to him of £14,000. In 1853 it was in crisis, giving rise to the feud between Michelangelo Hayes and George Petrie, the former representing the party of radical reform seeking a new charter. He sought to banish Petrie on the grounds that he had not exhibited for two years. The real bone of contention was that Petrie had introduced and still supported the so-called ‘Gaslight’ exhibitions at a penny price - reduced from one shilling - after dark for the working-class. On this basis, it is estimated from accounts for 1849, when 29,910 tickets were sold, that two thousand people a night were seeing the exhibitions. The withdrawal of Petrie, although secretary, with others who objected to the rescinding of the Penny Admission, is documented in an article by Hayes to the Dublin Evening Mail, 2 January 1857. At the ensuing exhibitions, the Academy went back into profit. But the members were incooperative, and on 20 Dec. 1856 Petrie turned up with at a meeting with his associates, who were able together to vote themselves back into office. There were then two administrations claiming office; Petrie was advised that the legality of his position was doubtful. At the meeting of 17 Oct. 1857 he was however elected President. After some ensuing controversies, the unfortunate Hayes died in 1877, drowning in the cistern on the roof of his house. When Petrie sought increased government support for the Academy in late 1857, his memorandum was answered by Lord Naas, the viceroy, with stipulations requiring more direct government control. The membership prepared an Address with which Petrie could not agree, and following an unsatisfactory meeting in Jan 1859, when the Academy assented to the proposed charter, he resigned the presidency, writing to Mulrenin, ‘When I saw - unmistakably - that it was the gratification of petty objects of personal interest of ambition, and not the general interests of the body, and that the very men, whom I had, foolishly, supposed to be my warmest and most disinterested friends, who had persuaded me, of [sic, for or] as I may rather say, seduced me against my inclination to accept this office, were the very first to abandon me, I felt strongly that I was forfeiting my own self-respect by retaining the office any longer. To a man of feeble constitution, of my age, tranquillity of mind is necessary for the preservation of life; and my life is of some value to my children, and should not be sported with, except with a view to the attainment of a worthy object. My resolution is therefore fixed and unalterable.’ (NLI, MS793 No 520.)

Hubert Butler, ‘Lament for Archaeology’, in Roy Foster, ed., The Sub-Prefect Should Have Held His Tongue (London: Allen Lane/Penguin Press; Dublin: Lilliput 1990): Butler remarks on the treatment of Vallancey and his contemporaries at the hands of George Petrie and his followers. (See further under Vallancey, q.v.)

Charlotte Salter-Townshend, “Round Towers and the Birth of Irish Archaeology: George Petrie and Changing Perceptions of Irish Archaeology in the 19th Century” [MPhil candidate, TCD] (Archaeology Journal, 2013): Petrie’s opponent for the RIA prize was Henry O’Brien, a Trinity student. O’Brien concluded that the towers were fertility “temples constructed by the early Indian colonists of the country, in honour of that fructifying principle of nature.”55 Although Petrie won the gold medal and £50 for his essay, O’Brien was awarded a consolation prize of £25. The Academy also agreed to publish his essay. A drawn-out correspondence between O’Brien and the Academy ensued concerning the extent to which O’Brien would be permitted to supplement the essay. Eventually, the RIA terminated this correspondence and washed its hands of the essay as “the language appeared to them not sufficiently delicate.”56 O’Brien decided to publish The Round Towers of Ireland, or the Mysteries of Freemasonry, of Sabaism, and of Buddhism, now for the first time unveiled himself in 1834 as a 524 page tome. Petrie’s essay was similarly extended to comprise a key component of The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, 1845. The original essay was 50 pages long. By 1839 the publication ran at 500 pages, including 200 engravings. Like O’Brien, Petrie ended up having to publish it himself. The Academy also decided it could not support Petrie’s proposed second volume.

Charlotte Salter-Townsend (“Round Towers and the Birth of Irish Archaeology ... &c.”, 2013) - cont.: ‘From his first visits to Clonmacnoise in 1818-20, Petrie had become dedicated to the study of Irish antiquities. His appointment to the Council of the RIA in 1829 was to usher in a new era where the earlier antiquarian pursuit of fantastical theories via dubious philological conjecture were finally laid to rest and a new paradigm of scientific archaeology supplemented by the evidence of historical texts began. Petrie’s The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland: An Essay on the Origins of Round Towers in Ireland, 1845, is noted as the first extended publication on Irish archaeology. The volume pays comprehensive attention to detail, including records of sites that have fallen into further ruin in the last 160 odd years. The descriptions of the towers are still useful today, although the persistent and seemingly irreversible myth of the use of round towers as fortifications where monks could barricade themselves safely originated in Petrie’s essay.’ (Idem.) Note: Salter Townsend cites R. B. McDowell, ‘The Main Narrative: Before 1800’, in T[omás]. O’Raifeartaigh, The Royal Irish Academy: A Bicentennial History 1785-1985, Dublin 1985).[Available at Archaeology Online Journal - online; accessed 15.06.2017.]

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Round Tower: ‘I have not, however, any very sanguine expectations that either the evidence or arguments which I have adduced ... will have any very immediate effect on the great majority of the middle classes of Irish people (for the lower of agricultural classes have no ideas upon the subject but the true one) in changing their opinions as to their indefinite antiquity and pagan uses [...]’ (The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland - An Essay on the Origin and Uses of the Round Towers of Ireland (Shannon IUP 1970 - p.ix [Opening]; in Charlotte Salter-Townshend, “Round Towers and the Birth of Irish Archaeology: George Petrie and Changing Perceptions of Irish Archaeology in the 19th Century” [MPhil candidate] (TCD 2013) - available at Archaeology Online Journal - online; accessed 15.06.2017.

Aran in 1823 (1): ‘The introduction, a few years since, of a number of persons into Aranmore forhte purposes of erecting a lighthouse has had an injurious effect on the character of the native inhabitants of the island. Their unsuspicious confidence and ready hospitality were frequently taken advantage of and abused, and their interesting qualities have consequently been in some degree diminished. Till that time roberry of any kind was wholly unknown in the island. (William Stokes, Life and Labours in the Art and Archaeology of George Petrie, London 1868, n.p.; cited in Patrick Sheeran, The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty: A Study in Romantic Realism, UCG 1972, p.9; also in The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty, Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1976, here 19.)

Aran in 1823 (2): Further, ‘Mr O’Flaherty may be justly denominated the pater patriae of the Arnaners. He is the reconciler in all differences, the judge in all disputes, the adviser in all enterprises and the friend in all things. A sound understanding and the kindest of hearts makes him competent to be all those; and his decisions are never murmured against or his affection met by ingratitude.’ (“Aran - Character of the Islanders”, in Stokes, Life and Labours, 1868, p.52.) Note that Petrie, Whitley Stokes, William Wilde, Ferguson, O’Curry and O’Donovan all returned in 1858, holding a banquet on Aranmore with the Provost of Trinity at the head; on that occasion, O’Curry and O’Donovan addressed the peasants in Irish: ‘To [which] addresses, one of the peasantry responded in Irish at considerable length, enforcing upon his hearers, by additional arguments, the exhortation of the last speaker.’ (Idem; Sheeran, 1976, p.28.)

Irish airs: ‘Our Irish airs are not, like so many modern melodies, mere ad libitum arrangements of tones, unshackled y a rigid obedience to metrical laws; they are an arrangement of tones, in a general way expressive of ht esentiments of thesongs for which hey were composed, but always strictly coincident with an dsubsevient to, the laws of rhythm and metre whci govern the construction of these onsgs, and to which the yconsdquently owe their peculiarities of structure.’ (Quoted in Seán Ó Baoil, ‘Irish Traditional Music’, in Michael Longley, ed., Causeway: The Arts in Ulster, 1971, p.119.)

Itinerant performers: ‘The rapid decrease in the number of itinerant Performers on the Irish Harp, with the consequent decline of that tender and expressive instrument, gave the first idea of assembling the remaining Harpers dispersed over the different Provinces of Ireland. A meeting of the m was accordingly procured at a considerable expense, by the Gentlemen of Belfast on the 12th of July 1792, and liberal Premiums were distributed amongst them, according to their respective merits. [...] A principal motive to convene this assemblage of the remnant of the Irish Bards, was to procure, as yet unattainable, the most approved copies extant and which were therefore likely to become extinct.’ (Collection, Preface; q.p.; quoted in Andrew Carpenter, ‘Changing Views of Irish Musical and Literary Culture in Eighteenth-centry Anglo-Irish Literature’, in Michael Kenneally, ed, Irish Literature and Culture, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1992, p.8.)

Post-Famine: ‘The “land of song” was no longer tuneful; or, if a human sound met the traveller’s ear, it was only that of the feeble and despairing wail for the dead. This awful, unwonted silence, which, during the famine and subsequent years, almost everywhere prevailed, struck more fearfully upon their imaginations, as many Irish gentlemen informed me, and gave them a deeper feeling of the desolation with which the country had been visited, than any other circumstance which had forced itself upon their attention.’ (George Petrie, The Ancient Music of Ireland, 1855; cited Conrad Bladey, ‘Irish Potato Famine Commemoration WebPage’ at Toad Net > No Surrender - online [c.1996].

Painter’s aim: ‘my aim was something beyond that of the ordinary class of portrait painting [...] it was my wish to produce an Irish picture somewhat historical in its object, and poetical in its sentiment.’ (Quoted Stokes, Life and Labours, 186, p.15; cited in Terry Eagleton, Heathcliff and the Great Hunger, London: Verso 1995, p.6.)

False historians: ‘We have had historians, who, knowing little or nothing of our antiquities, have given full scope to their imagination, and have substituted the wildest theories for historic truth; and we have had antiquaries, who knew equally little of our history, and who have attempted to illustrate our ancient remains by bold assertion and fanciful conjecture, in the place of unprejudiced enquiry and historical research. The consequence is that both our history and antiquities shared the same fate, and were equally regarded by the literary world as undeserving of attention.’ (quoted in Stokes, p.23; cited in cited in Robert O’Driscoll, ‘Foundations of the Literary and Musical Revival’, in Cyril J. Byrne & Margaret Harry, eds., Talamh an Eisc: Canadian and Irish Essays [Irish Studies St. Mary’s Coll.] (Halifax Can.: Nimbus Publ. Co. 1986), pp.48-70, p.51-52.)

The Irish Penny Journal was founded in 1840 to explore ‘the history, biography, poetry, antiquities, natural history, legends and traditions of the country’ [quoted in R. F. Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch, 1993, p.4.]

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Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (Washington: CUA 1904), for extracts from The Round Towers; also ‘On Irish Music’, and ‘Pearl of the White Breast’ from The Irish [sic]. SEE also Irish Book Lover 2, 6.

Encyclopaedia of Ireland (Dublin: Figgis 1968), under ‘The Great Collectors’, p.390, George Petrie’s Ancient Music of Ireland (1855) counting 147 airs, with notes and commentary, is the most interesting and authoritative work in this field. His vast collection of material remained in manuscript until edited by Stanford in 1903, but without the notes which only Petrie could have written.

Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, Vol. 1 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), remarks that George Petrie carried on Bunting’s work under the same title (p.165). Vol. 2 lists titles incl. On the History and Antiquities of Tara Hill (1839), Christian Inscriptions (1872-78), and The Petrie Collection of Ancient Irish Music (1855-82), of which C. V. Stanford edited a 3rd Vol. between 1902-1905.

Henry Boylan, A Dictionary of Irish Biography [rev. edn.] (Gill & Macmillan 1988), gives var. bio-dates 1790-1866; lists subjects of topographical sketches incl. Cong, Killarney, Clonmacnoise, Aran.

J. S. Crone, A Concise Dictionary of Irish Biography (Dublin: Talbot 1928), gives bio-dates 1789-1866; lists Life by W. Stokes; ed. Dublin Penny Journal 1832-4; Irish Penny Journal, 1842; Tara and Round Towers; Ancient Music of Ireland; Ordnance survey 1833-46 [sic]. See also FDA1 notes at 962, 1267, 1268.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 2, selects The Petrie Collection of The Ancient Music of Ireland [77-79, 82-83, 86, 88, 160-61], ed. Samuel Whyte’s School and RDS [Art Schools]; collected music and made ecclesiastical sketches throughout Dublin and Wicklow in 1808; employed O’Donovan, O’Curry, and Mangan in Ordnance Survey [Commission], discontinued in 1840; continued his antiquarian work in Irish Arch. Society, 1840, and Ossianic Society, 1853; member of RHA, 1828; reorganised the RHA [see note, infra]; celebrated water-colours and sketches incl. ‘The Last Round of the Pilgrims at Clonmacnoise’, and ‘Gougane Barra’; co-edited Dublin Penny Journal, 1832-33; ed. Irish Penny Journal, 1842; essays on ‘Round Towers’ (1833) and On the History and Antiquities of Tara Hill (1839) awarded RDS gold medals; collections of Irish music. d. Dublin. WORKS & CRIT [as above]. FDA2 asserts that he reorganised the RHA, whereas Desmond Moore, supra, shows that he was a leader of the conservative opposition to such reforms; and DIB lists Michel Angelo Hayes, his opponent (1820-1877); ‘he reorganised the affairs of the academy, especially its finances, but antagonised older members. After a bitter quarrel he was expelled, but returned as a member in 1860 under a new charter; elected secretary again in 1861; retired 1870.] See also FDA2: ‘The importance of the work of Eugene O’Curry, John O’Donovan, Whitley Stokes, Standish Hayes O’Grady, can scarcely be overstated. With these scholars stands George Petrie’ (Thomas MacDonagh, 1916), 990. FDA2 gives details of the Ordnance Commission, active from 1830, first report 1839, government commission favourable report on which was rejected by the authorities. [FDA1 1265]; George Petrie was attached to the Commission from 1833 to 1839. [1267]. (Note: Petrie has a much higher profile in FDA than Eugene O’Curry, John O’Daly, or John O’Donovan.)

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Hyland Books (Cat. 224) lists Margaret Stokes, rd., Christian Inscription in the Irish Language, 2 vols. (Dublin U.P., 1872; An Essay on Military Architecture in Ireland Previous to the English Invasion (Dublin: Proc. RIA 1972 [‘Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy’, 72C, 1972; pp.153-269]) [De Burca Cat. 18]. The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, Anterior to the Anglo-Norman Invasion; [with] an Essay on the Round Towers of Ireland [2nd Edn.] (Dublin: [Hodges & Smith] 1845), xxi+525pp., ill.; Charles Villiers Standford, ed., The Complete Collection of Irsh Music, as noted by George Petrie, 3 pts. in 1 (1902-05), xxix+397pp.; Christian Inscriptions in the Irish Language, 7 pts. [RSAI] (1870-77); G. N. Wright, A Guide to County Wicklow (1827), map and 5 Petrie engravings.

De Burca Books (Cat. No. 44; 1997), lists J. N. Brewer, Esq., The Beauties of Ireland: Being Original Delineations, Topographical, Historical, and Biographical of each county [with] engravings by J. and H. S. Storer after original drawings, chiefly by Mr. Petrie of Dublin, 2 vols. (London: Sherwood, 1825-6), xcviii, 493pp.; cii, 501pp. [£200]

Ulster Univ. Library (Morris Collection) holds Christian Inscriptions in the Irish Language, 2 vols. (R. Hist. Arch. Irel., Hodges and Smith 1845); The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland anterior to the Anglo-Norman Invasion, comprising an essay on the origin and uses of the Round Towers in Ireland which obtained the Gold medal and Prize of the RIA (Hodges and Smith 1845) 519p.; On the History and Antiquities of Tara Hill (1839) 208p.; The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland, arranged for piano-forte (1978). Also, Whitley Stokes, The Life and Labours in Art and Archaeology of George Petrie, 2 vols. (Longmans 1868).

Belfast Public Library holds An Account of an ancient Irish Reliquary called the Domnach-Argid (1838); Christian Inscriptions in the Irish Language (1872); The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland (1845); Letter to Sir William R. Hamilton in reply to certain charges against the author by Sir William Be[n]tham (1840). Also biogs. by C. L. Graves (1866), and W. Stokes [quoted in CAB3, under Stokes] (1868).

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J. M. Synge read Petrie’s Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland and Stokes’s Life and Labours in Archaeology of George Petrie, which includes some of Petrie’s notes on the antiquities and the people of the Aran Islands [see David Greene and Edward Stephens, J M Synge, 1959, p.28].

Petrie Crown: The ‘Petrie Crown’ is an Iron Age metal object of unknown provenance, showing La Tène scrollwork, some with suggestions of bird-headed endings and settings for enamel; decorated plate, with concave roundels and a hollow horn; decorated in relief, and regularly cut to create an openwork effect. Period, 1st century AD; purpose unknown; formerly in the collection of George Petrie, now National Museum [BREF 192]

Barbara Hayley gives notice of a fine-arts book review of Petrie’s Ten Views of Picturesque Scenery in the North and North-west of Ireland appeared in the National Magazine, Aug. 1830, [Hayley,] in ‘Irish Periodicals’, in Anglo-Irish Studies, ii (1976) [pp.83-108], p.91. This was printed under the editorship of Charles Lover [...] who handed over to Philip Dixon Hardy before its expiration in 1831. For ironic comments on ‘true antiquarian friendship’, see also under John O’Donovan.

George A. Little (Dublin Before the Vikings, 1957) makes reference to Dixon-Hardy, the capable editor of Petrie’s Dublin Penny Journal and author of the guide, A Picture of Dublin [85], further remarking that Petrie acknowledges St Bride’s [Dublin church mentioned in Annals of Four Masters] was built in the pre-Scandinavian era of Dublin’s history [in Eccles. Arch. Irel.; here c.124].

Ordnance Survey: ‘Between the years of 1824 and 1846, the time it took to produce the 1,900 six-inch maps which were the central object of the survey, semi-literate peasants were quizzed about tals and place names they had known, or half-known, all their lives. Suddenly a half-reembered uth was, often infuriatingly, important, particularly if there was more than one version.’ (Eileen Battersby, review of Gillian Doherty, The Irish Ordnance Survey: History, Culture and Memory, Dublin: Four Courts, in The Irish Times, 6 Nov. 2004.)

The Synge Connection: In The Aran Islands (1907), J. M. Synge records a meeting with ‘and old dark man’ who recalls the visits of Petrie, Sir William Wilde, and Jeremiah Curtin on Aranmore. (Introduction.)

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