Annotated Copy of the Electoral Register for Naul Polling District,Co. Dublin, 1893

Among the many treasures held in the RCB Library is a unique item that gives a glimpse of the political situation in a rural town in Co. Dublin in the mid-1890s. Electoral registers from this time give a list of men who owned property over a certain amount, and were thus entitled to vote in parliamentary elections.

What makes this item unique is its use by the Unionist Registration Association (Dublin) to determine the likely voting intentions of all those registered. Each name either has a tick or an ‘x’ beside a name. The tick presumably denotes that the person in question has confirmed that they will be voting for the Unionist candidate in the forthcoming election.

The first page of the item, which details the areas listed in the polling district.

The history of Ireland in the 20th Century – particularly with regards to The Troubles – might lead to an assumption that individual voting intentions would be based strictly on sectarian lines, but this does not seem to be the case. The listing for two names in particular suggests that class was an important factor in political persuasions during this time. Two names with ticks shown in the Register, Anthony Strong Hussey and Henry James Hussey, are shown in the 1901 Census as Roman Catholics and living in a substantial house, comprising of the Hussey family and some nine servants. Mr Hussey is listed as ‘land owner & Justice of Peace’.

The document also shows the difficulty that faced the Unionist position in the mid-1890s in areas like Naul: only 20 of the 511 names listed have ticks beside them.  This item also encapsulates the importance that the Library placed on the item. It forms part of the earliest collection of the RCB Library – that of the Ardfeenish Library which was started by Rosamond Stephen, its founding benefactor. Having started as a printed item in the Library’s collections, given the unique annotations on the document, it has now been assigned a manuscript reference, as RCB Library MS 1112, and is integrated in the Library’s extensive archival holdings.

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