I beg to move the adoption of the final Report of Committee on Irish Manuscripts as follows:—
Do ceapadh an Coiste seo do réir an Rúin seo leanas do cuireadh i bhfeidhm ag an Seanad ar an 19adh Aibreán, 1923:—
Coiste do cheapadh chun scéim do chur os comhair an Rialtais chun Láimhscribhínnibh Gaedhilge atá 'n-a luighe anois san Acadamh agus i gColáiste na Tríonóide agus i n-áiteannaibh eile nach iad do chur i n-eagair, do chlárú agus do chur amach; chun na canamhaintí beódha d'iniúchadh go cruinn is go beacht; chun foclóir foghanta na sean-Gaedhilge do chur le chéile is do chlóbhuail. Go mbheadh comhacht ag an gCoiste cabhair a d'iarraidh ó dhaoinibh nach baill de'n Seanad agus fiadhnais do thógaint 'n-a thaobh; na Seanadóirí seo do bheith ar an gCoiste sin:—Liam Yeats, Eilís Bean de Graoin, Eibhlín Bean Mhic Coisdealbha agus Eamonn MacGiollaiasachta; beirt mar líon-chomhairle.
Do réir an Rúin seo do tháinig an Coiste le chéile 26º Aibreán, 1º Bealtaine, 3º Bealtaine, 8º Bealtaine, 31 Bealtaine, 27º Meitheamh, 1923 agus 21º Bealtaine 1924.
Do héisteadh fianaise o sna finnithe seo leanas:—Dr. R.L. Praegar, Dr. R.I. Best, An Dr. Oir. O Leathlobhair, An Dr. Dubhglas de hIde, E.S. Mac Fhinn, F.T.C.D., An tOllamh Osborn O hAimhirgín, An tOllamh, Tomás O Raithile, Riseárd O Foghludha agus an tOllamh Tomás O Máille.
Do beartuíodh an socrú so leanas do mhola don tSeanaid:—
This Committee was appointed by Resolution of the Seanad adopted on the 19th April, 1923, in the following terms:—
That a Committee of the Seanad be appointed to submit to the Government a scheme for the editing, indexing, and publishing of manuscripts in the Irish language, now lying in the Royal Irish Academy, Trinity College, and elsewhere; for the scientific investigation of the living dialects; for the compiling and publishing of an adequate dictionary of the older language. That the Committee have power to invite the assistance of persons not members of the Seanad and to take evidence on the subject; the Committee to consist of Senators W.B. Yeats, Mrs. Alice Stopford Green, Mrs. Costello, and Edward MacLysaght; two to form a quorum.
The Committee met in accordance with this Resolution on 26th April, 1st May, 3rd May, 31st May and 27th June, 1923, and on the 21st of May, 1924.
Evidence was heard from the following witnesses:—Dr. R.L. Praegar, Dr. R.I. Best, The Rev. Dr. Lawlor, Dr. Douglas Hyde, Mr. E.J. Gwynn, F.T.C.D.; Professor O'Bergin, Professor T. O'Rahilly, Mr. R. Foley, and Professor Tomás O'Máille.
It was decided to make the following report to the Seanad:—
Your Committee is gravely impressed by the responsibility now laid upon the Saorstát towards the Irish people. For the first time in many centuries our country, free and independent, is charged with the pious duty of preserving and making accessible to Irishmen the mass of learning and tradition which forms the basis of our National history—a body of manuscript tradition bequeathed to us by a noble succession of scholars and scribes throughout a thousand years of labour, and further enriched by folk-lore, folk-song and music, and the important study of topography.
It is well known that the British Government by its political and administrative policy through a long course of centuries did in fact make wreckage of Irish learning and language. But we are bound to remember that in our own time among the rulers there were men who did not remain deaf to claims of scholarship. We may recall the valuable services rendered from time to time by enlightened statesmen in funds allotted to such work as the Irish volumes of the "Rolls Series"; the "Historical Manuscripts Commission"; the "Ancient Laws of Ireland"; published by the Government under the direction of the Commissioners; the "Ulster Annals," which it published under direction of the Royal Irish Academy. The Government was prepared to do the same with the "Annals of Tigernach," when, unfortunately, the editor recommended died. A grant in aid to the Academy was employed, to issue the Todd Lectures, Facsimiles, etc., etc. For some years a grant was also given to the School of Irish Learning founded by Dr. Kuno Meyer, £700 in all.
These are a few illustrations of obligations to the country recognised by a British administration. We claim that the Irish Nation should fare no worse under a home Government, when it depends on its own honour, its own patriotism and resources, to complete the task of research, to preserve for future generations all that has been or can be saved of older learning, and to secure to the people of Ireland their full national tradition.
We may observe that the present moment is usually favourable for reviving and enlarging the study of Old Irish Law and government even beyond the bounds of this country; since the important research work of Professor MacNeill is rousing amongst foremost Continental scholars a new interest not only in questions of language but of the study of Comparative Law. By judicious use of its scholars and its means Ireland may take the lead in a new historic movement.
Your Committee, in the course of enquiry, has interviewed many witnesses of the most diverse groups and opinions. We have endeavoured to find out the points on which there is practically unanimous opinion, and to advise measures which are of urgent necessity, and promise useful results under conditions of sound administration and sympathetic aid. We therefore recommend the following suggestions as a basis for any scheme of financial assistance:—
(1) The editing and publishing of important texts, both of the early and the classical periods and of modern times, considering Irish literature as forming one indivisible whole. This work would involve grants in aid of publication to competent scholars.
(2) Publication of photographic facsimiles of important Codexes by the latest scientific processes. This is most essential for purposes of study. A grant to aid in the production of such a facsimile might be given to a learned body outside Ireland—for example, to the Oxford Press for the publication of Ms. Laud 610.
(3) The dictionary of Old Irish in course of preparation by the Royal Irish Academy under the editorship of Dr. Bergin—a work of enormous labour and difficulty—should receive further aid. Its progress must be slow, as the meaning and use of old Irish words can only be determined when more texts are made available by editors and photographers for the work of the Dictionary. At present three workers are employed, necessarily on half-time which is as much as the excessive strain of the task will allow. The number of workers might be increased to six—all on half-time.
(4) The publication of Catalogues of MSS. is of great importance for students. Catalogues should be compiled not only for the Royal Irish Academy but for collections elsewhere, as for example, in the Franciscan Convent, and the King's Inns, the National Library, and many others in Ireland or outside. We suggest that the Dictionary workers, and others, now employed at half-time, might most profitably also serve in this task of cataloguing.
(5) Investigation of living dialects. This work is of immense importance when dialects are rapidly dying out. It has been done in patches of the Irish speaking regions, but a systematic study is in fact essential, and the work cannot be relegated to volunteers. Research should be endowed. For example, a grant to a trained phonetist would be of the utmost value, with aid in the publication of his results. It is unnecessary to add how great would be the stimulus given by such training to local workers in Gaelic-speaking regions.
(6) Folk-lore, songs and traditions cannot be neglected. The best aid would be a grant towards publication of work done, as for example, a grant to the Irish-Folk Song Society in aid of publishing work submitted by the Society and approved.
(7) The Academy has drawn attention to two other needs of a pressing character: a survey of the antiquities of the country, such as is at present being carried out by Commissions in England, Wales and Scotland. In this connection it remarks that the measurements and plans of earthworks of different types and surveys of cairns already published by the Academy would serve as a nucleus for this undertaking. The work might be very gradually carried out, district by district.
Excavations should also be conducted under scientific direction of the more important archæological sites, to determine their age, significance and historical associations.
In the view of the Committee all grants should be allocated by an authoritative body, including trained Irish scholars, animated with the desire to encourage students by the assurance of means of publication of their work. We have, therefore, enquired into the best machinery by which these suggestions may profitably be carried out, and the body to which public funds should be entrusted.
The body which in our opinion is marked out for the development of Irish studies is the "Royal Irish Academy," which has now incorporated the "School of Irish Learning."
The Academy was founded to encourage learning in a wide range of Sciences in which it has earned distinction. It has also charge of linguistics and archaeology, and Irish research has long been a notable part of its business. Since it has no special funds for archaeological work, apart from occasional grants, its resources have been spent on publication. The Government grant is £1,600, and £885 comes from members' subscriptions and other sources. On a total income of £2,485 — with establishment charges of £1,050—the Academy shows an admirable record of careful administration. It must be remembered that the benefits it contributes to Irish learning include a library rich in Irish books, to which the public have admission; a valuable collection of ancient MSS.; and also the printing in its "Proceedings" of important Irish communications. For many years past an average of six hundred pounds—over a third of its annual income available for general publication —has been expended on Irish subjects, literature, archaeology and the like. At the moment the Leabhar na hUidhre (Book of the Dun Cow) is being published at a cost of about £1,000. The task of publishing the Irish Dictionary, now calculated at nearly £600 a year, must necessarily occupy many years, and remain a heavy charge on finances. All strictly Irish work of the Academy is delegated to an "Irish Studies Committee," drawn from two older groups —the Dictionary Committee and the Irish Manuscripts Committee. It has enlisted in its service all the best Irish scholars, whose knowledge, experience, and ardour in the cause cannot be surpassed.
The "School of Irish Learning" was founded in 1903 by Dr. Kuno Meyer at a time when there was no regular teaching in Dublin of an advanced nature in Old or Middle Irish. The School held summer courses by professors invited to lecture from England, Scotland, Germany, Denmark, and Norway, and students were attracted from oversea by the remarkable training thus offered. Travelling scholarships were also given by the School with excellent results. With a single exception all the professors and lecturers in Irish in the National University Colleges have been students of the School, as also have been Professors of Celtic in Great Britain and abroad. The work of the School has for some years past been limited to summer courses, the last of which, in 1923, was a remarkable course in Phonetics, and the study of a living Irish dialect by Professor Sommerfelt, of Christiania.
An important and enduring work of the School was its journalEriu, devoted to Irish philology and literature, and recognised in the learned world as the leading review of its kind. The School also published text-books on Old and Modern Irish which are now used by scholars in every country.
It was felt desirable at this time to unite forces working for Irish scholarship, so as to avoid all overlapping of effort, all conceivable competition in publications, and all unnecessary doubling of rent and services. An amicable arrangement has, therefore, been made by which the School of Irish Learning has been incorporated in the Academy, and so far as Irish studies are concerned,Eriu remains the common Journal, the representative work of the united body.
Your Committee, therefore, after careful consideration, recommend that the authoritative financial control of any grant allotted by the Government should be placed in the Academy whose Irish Committee is fully qualified, trained in this special work, generous in outlook, and easy of access to all.
We believe that additional funds allotted to it by the Government will be spent not only with a due sense of stewardship, but with an earnest desire to advance the cause of Irish Learning, and to complete the national work of restoring to the Irish people their inherited tradition both of ancient and of later times.
We fully realise the overwhelming claims on the Government in these times. On the other hand we feel it to be of great importance that some earnest should at once be given of its sympathy with the national desire to renew and broaden its historical tradition and faith. We, therefore, recommend that an additional annual grant be given to the Academy, and especially earmarked for the disposal of the Committee of Irish studies on the lines indicated in this Report. In the existing state of our national finances we do not name a definite sum, but we urge that as liberal a grant as possible should be given immediately, and that the Government should bear in mind that as soon as our financial position allows not less than £5,000 per annum should be devoted to Irish research.
W.B. YEATS, Cathaoirleach an Choiste (Chairman of the Committee).
EIBHLIN BEAN MAC COISDEALBHA.
EAMON MAC GIOLLAIASACHTA.
I hope and indeed I have no doubt that the Seanad will accept this report. I would like, however, to draw the special attention of one section in the Seanad to the nature of the report. Certain members of the Seanad have. I think, a great dislike to pray in a language they do not understand. There are other members of the Seanad who dislike having our Acts of Parliament expensively printed in two languages. That may be right or wrong; but this is an entirely different question. We are asking the Seanad to urge upon the Government to do a work for learning, a work for literature and a work for history which any Government in the world would consider its duty and its privilege. This country possesses a great mass of old mediaeval literature in the Irish language. There are great collections of manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy in the Library of Trinity College, at Maynooth, and in the Franciscan library. There are very large collections of manuscripts in other countries. There is a great collection in the British Museum, in the Bodlean, and in the Louvain. These manuscripts are a historical trust to this nation, but they should be interpreted, edited, indexed, and catalogued.
Much work has been done on them in the past — much by Irishmen, much by Germans, and to some extent we may say that the centre of Irish scholarship has in recent years been in Germany. But the German interest is only primarily a philological interest. If we are to exhaust the value of these manuscripts for literature and history we must do that work ourselves. They possess first of all their value to this country; then they possess their value to the world. They consist of stories, annals, and poetry. I think that all the famous stories have been translated and have been edited. We will learn nothing new of importance about Finn and Cuchulain and other old Irish heroes or Kings of the legendary period. The annals have to a great extent been edited and translated, but I understand, they have been badly edited and translated in many cases, and if they are to be of historical value that work has to be done over again. In the case of poetry there is probably still a large quantity of untranslated and of even unread poetry.
That poetry would be of two kinds: First of all, what is called the official poetry, not of great literary value but of great historical value — the work of the official Bards. But there is also much poetry which is personal expression — that kind of poetry which Dr. Kuno Meyer has translated in recent years. If we can judge the unread and unedited by the read and edited, they will be of supreme value. I should say that we had evidence given before us, that great scholars might work for 100 years on the old Irish manuscripts now in the possession of the Nation, and in the possession of other nations without having exhausted the subject. We are anxious that provision should be made for that work and that the work should be carried out. Already the traditional imagination in these old books has had a powerful effect upon the life, and I may say upon the politics, of Ireland. People forget that the twenties, forties and fifties of the last century was the forming period of Irish nationality, and that the work was begun by O'Donovan, Petrie and men steeped in this old literature.
We owe it also to learning and the scholarship of the world that we should provide means for the doing of this great work. Twenty years ago, in Paris, I knew slightly the great French scholar, D'Arbois de Jubanville, who devoted his life to the study of our literature because he believed that only through that literature could he find light on the most important secular event in human history. Going back 1,000 or 1,200 years before Christ we find Dorian tribes descending on the Mediterranean civilization. They destroyed much and wandered much, and it has been held that we owe to their destruction, the story, of the Fall of Troy, and to their wandering, the Story of Odyssey. D'Arbois de Jubanville considered that only through Irish literature can you rediscover the civilization of these tribes before they entered the Mediterranean. That does not mean than our people were the Greeks or that our literature is as old as 1,200 years before Christ, but our legends and our books have preserved and gathered together the old literature and much of the history of a similar period. We ask you to urge upon the Government that they, shall place in the hands of the Royal Irish Academy sufficient funds. We heard much evidence and we came to the conclusion that the Royal Irish Academy itself contains within its limits practically all the great Irish scholars and that it is the proper body to carry out this work in a spirit of scholarship. The danger is that it may be carried out in some other spirit. It is most important that nothing should be taken into consideration except the interest of scholarship alone.
It should not be allowed to become a means by which some man will make a living until he gets some other occupation; the money should be used to help a man whose life-work is study and scholarship. It has been contended that the Royal Irish Academy is not a democratic body and that therefore we should not ask the Government to endow it in this way. I have heard it contended that it is not a democratic body because by its rules it can only elect seven new members every year. Twenty years ago I should not have been able to invite you, with the same confidence, to ask the Royal Irish Academy to undertake this work, because twenty years ago it had not that rule. It could elect any person who professed himself interested in the subjects with which it dealt. That rule of electing only seven members a year was instituted in order to raise the position of the Academy by making it necessary to elect those only who were eminent in the studies of the Academy, and not merely interested in those studies. I think I am right in saying that since that rule was passed the Academy has risen more and more in the estimation of the learned, and in helping it to do its work we are helping a body which has advanced the learning of this country. I beg to move the adoption of the Report.