Diary 2: P1/22 William Massey Blennerhassett, Glin papers

P1/22 Pages from William Massey Blennerhassett’s diary, 1861–1865, Glin Collection

Kirsten Mulrennan and Rachel Murphy, 'Opening a window to the past: Researching archival diaries', University of Limerick Special Collections and Archives Department website (https://specialcollections.ul.ie/research-diaries/) (Date accessed).

P1 Glin papers

The Knights of Glin are a Geraldine family of County Limerick, whose title can be traced back to Sir John FitzJohn or Seán Mór na Sursainge who lived c. 1260. The Glin Papers, unfortunately, do not reflect the long history of the family, as many of the older documents were allegedly burnt in a tantrum by the aptly nicknamed ‘Cracked Knight’ or John Fraunceis Eyre FitzGerald, 25th Knight of Glin. The surviving papers date from 1800 onwards and have been arranged according to the tenure of the various Knights.

Personal diaries in the Glin papers
The Glin papers contain a number of personal diaries, including those of Desmond Windham Otho Fitzgerald (1901–1949), 28th Knight of Glin (1936–1949). The collection also holds the records of John Fraunceis Fitzgerald’s (1791–1854), 24th Knight of Glin (1803–1854), son-in-law, William Massey Blennerhassett, married to Margaretta Sophia Fitzgerald.

P1/22 Cover of William Massey Blennerhassett’s diary, 1861–1865, Glin Collection

William Massey Blennerhassett’s diaries
William Massey Blennerhassett was sub-inspector with the Royal Irish Constabulatary. The collection contains two of Blennerhassett’s constabulary journals, written between 1 August 1843 and his retirement on 31 August 1863. Blennerhassett first took charge the Tramore district in county Waterford (1 August 1843) and later obtained a transfer to Killadysert, county Clare (10 April 1846). These journals contain daily entries outlining his activities as sub-inspector, meticulously noteing the payment of his constables, and frequently mentioning the state of his health.

The Glin collection also contains 12 of Blennerhassett’s personal diaries, written between January 1861, and May 1897. These diaries contain daily entries concerning his personal activities, noting the date, weather conditions, and a brief comment on the day’s events, including any visits to or from friends in the Limerick, Clare and Kerry regions. Some entries are accompanied by illustrations in the left hand margin, although this is more prevalent in his early diaries. The back of each diary also outlines a register of outgoing letters for the period covered by the diary.

While few biographical details are recorded about Blennerhassett, his diaries record additional context about his life. We know he farmed at Cloughnarold, but from 1870 onwards, when he had moved to Shannon Lawn, at Glin, he concentrated on running the salmon weir. Sport also features highly in the diaries with mentions of shooting parties, fishing, sailing, yachting, tennis parties, croquet and archery. He notes visits to fairs in Rathkeale, Listowel, Cork, Killarney and Killorglin. He also occasionally records current affairs, such as the marriage of the Prince of Wales on 10 March 1863 and Phoenix Park murders in May 1882. He comments on the staff under his employ. As in his constabulary journals, Massey frequently refers to his state of health and notes that he suffers from lumbago, sciatica, rheumatism, vertigo, sprained ankles, bad headaches, colds and influenza. His record of the deaths and funeral arrangements of family and friends are meticulous, including that of the Knight of Glin in November 1866 and Lord Dunraven in October 1871. The Special Collections and Archives Department also holds the Dunraven Papers, containing another rich collection of personal diaries.

The diary used in this resource is Blennerhassett’s first personal diary P1/22, written between January 1861 and December 1865, and runs to over 350 pages.

For more information on the Glin family, and to download the Glin catalogue in full, click here.