Nationalist Laois – Beginning of work on the incredible treasure of Laois

With the Ronnie Mathews Collection at Bloom HQ Mountrath, from left to right: Tim Mathews, son of Ronnie Mathews; Sinead Holland, LCC Local Studies Librarian; Catherine Casey, Laois Heritage Officer and Dom Reddin, LCC Tourism Officer. Photo: Alf Harvey

WORK is underway on an amazing archive compiled by a historian from Laois, which reflects his knowledge and passion for the rich history of his hometown.

The Laois Heritage Office and the Laois County Library Service have announced the start of work on the Ronnie Mathews archival collection, which was acquired earlier this year by Laois County Council.

Collected over decades by the late Ronnie Mathews, a well-known and well-respected local historian and author of Portarlington, the collection contains documents and artefacts relating to the history of the town and surrounding area, including maps, photographs, business records and much more.

The large collection will be handled in collaboration with Eneclann, Ireland’s leading history and heritage company. Professional archivist Orlagh Connaughton will list, describe and physically reorganize the contents of the collection, for easy future access and display.

Tim Mathews, son of the late Ronnie, said: “I think it’s great news that we are starting to archive my father’s collection. He was born and lived his entire life in Portarlington and loved the city, and has spent more than half of his life collecting and researching items relevant to the city and county. He would be very proud and honored of the acquisition of his collection by the General Council of Laois.

Everything in the collection is original, be it cards, letters, photos, postcards, etc., and many items are well over 100 years old. Archiving these documents and preparing them for future public display will give people a glimpse of life in the city over the past several centuries.

The collection also includes items collected by Ronnie’s father. The family businessJT Mathews, established in 1866, was a bakery, confectionery, tearooms, hardware and general stores store that had been in business for over 130 years.

The company’s ledgers and account books shed fascinating light on many aspects of life in Portarlington in the past and are also part of the collection. Among the objects of interest are a series of glass plate negatives showing all aspects of Irish life dating from around 1910; a famous cannonball from the site of Lea’s Castle outside Portarlington; and a hand-painted chessboard, featuring the Dawson family crest of Emo Court.

The documents also include a map of Patrick Street dated 1889 and a large collection of postcards by Wynne of Portarlington showing Portlaoise (formerly Maryborough), Mountmellick, Monasterevin and more.

At the time of the announcement, Laois County Librarian Bernie Foran said: “Acquiring records is an important first step in preventing memory loss, but processing records is an essential step in ensuring that memory is shared and endures. By handling the collection to the highest archival standards, the County of Laois Library Service ensures that this remarkable local collection can be viewed by this generation and preserved for generations to come.

Over the next few months, the collection will be carefully archived and cataloged and arrangements will be made for any necessary conservation, as well as the preparation of the material to be made available for research and for future exhibition at the local studies department of Laois, which is part of the county library. service.

The department houses the Laois Collection, a collection specializing in the local, social, political, economic and geographical history of the department. A dedicated member of staff is available to help and support the public with their research and questions. Collection and service are open to all by appointment. More information on www. laoislocalstudies.ie and / or 057 8594985.

Collaboration between the heritage office and the library service on the Ronnie Mathews archival collection is supported by Creative Ireland Laois, as part of the Creative Ireland program (2017-2022) in partnership with Laois County Council.

With objects from the Ronnie Mathews Collection at Bloom Mountrath Headquarters, from left to right: Orla Connaughton, Archivist; Catherine Casey, regional heritage officer; Bernie Foran, Laois County Librarian; Tim Mathews, son of Ronnie Mathews; Dom Reddin, LCC Tourism Officer and Sinead Holland, LCC Librarian Local Studies. Photo: Alf Harvey.


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