In addition to approximately 70,000 books, the RCB Library is the repository for the records of some 1,110 parishes. These registers often contain baptism, marriage, and burial records, but also numerous other items, such as vestry books, account minutes, and confirmation records, as well as other miscellaneous items. All these records capture the unique aspects of the life of a community at the local level and, on very rare occasions, allow the recovery of human stories. This might be in the form of correspondence between the rector and parishioners, but occasionally may even extend to such rare and unusual items as sketches and “doodles” on blank leaves within volumes, which uncover fascinating hidden stories.
One such example was revealed last year, when a visitor to Ireland, Kathryn Roberts, came to the RCB Library in 2017. Kathryn was researching her husband’s maternal line back to a Rebecca Caddy, who married James Leslie at St Nicholas Collegiate Church (the parish church for Galway) on 2nd April 1799. During her research, she corresponded with a person who was also tracing the same family line, and had been informed by a sexton of the church of the existence of the drawings. Kathryn visited the RCB Library in August 2017, and during her investigation of the earliest register (P.519.01.1), which records baptisms (1800-40), marriages (1792-1839), and burials (1832-38), Kathryn noticed that there were many blank pages at the end of the register. Deciding to take a chance to see if there was any further family history, Kathryn leafed through all the blank pages and came across the sketches.
At least one of the images is clearly in the hand of a child, and perhaps both (although one is suggestive of an older hand). The images are underscored by numerous names, most of them with the Caddy family name, although some of the Christian names are difficult to decipher. One such name that is clearly legible is Henry Caddy (c.1790-1853) who was a sexton of the church from around 1838 to 1847. These dates fit perfectly with the period in which the register ends. Interestingly, Henry Caddy had a son who was also called Henry, and another son, Edward (1821-1902), who succeeded his father in the role of sexton from 1848 to May 1854 (when he and his family emigrated to America).
Despite the names that have been deciphered, a question remains as to who may have drawn the images, and also who exactly they depict. A published edition of the original register, Register of the Parish of St Nicholas Galway 1792-1840,with an index of surnames and biographical notes on the clergy, edited by Brigid Clesham, is among the Library’s Parish Register publications, and is available for purchase here: https://store.ireland.anglican.org/store/product/74/register-of-the-parish-of-st
Returning to the caricature, despite the names that have been deciphered, a question remains as to who may have drawn the images, and also who exactly they depict. So in the context of this unusual story, the Library is appealing for budding graphologists or local historians to take a deeper look, and get in touch.