by Eva Holland, BA History Student
The Dunraven Papers are among the largest and most viewed collections in the Special Collections and Archives Department in the Glucksman Library at the University of Limerick. Made up of over 15,000 documents and around 225 volumes, they range from the early 17th century to the early 20th century. The collection is associated with the Wyndham-Quin family, Earls of Dunraven, of Adare Manor, County Limerick, who left behind a large number of personal diaries. These diaries provide insights into the social and cultural history of the Victorian era as well as the lives lived by an elite Irish family.
Lady Eva Wyndham-Quin née Bourke (1858–1940)
One of the diarists of note in the Wyndham-Quin family was Lady Eva, wife of Henry Wyndham-Quin, 5th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl (1857– 1952). Eva Constance Aline Bourke was the daughter of Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo (1822–1872), and Blanche Julia Wyndham. She came to Adare Manor in 1927 when her husband succeeded his cousin Windham Wyndham-Quin, 4th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl, when he died without male issue.
Lady Eva’s original diaries remain in the possession of the Dunraven family, however, typescript copies of entries ranging from 1885, the year she married, to 1907 can be found in D/3196/H/3. These typescript entries document the life that she lived and the people that she encountered on her travels as well as an insight into the military life of her husband. They also provide information on places connected to the British Empire.
Connections to India
Of particular significance are diary entries relating to Lady Eva’s 1887 travels in India where her father had previously served as the fourth Viceroy of India (1869–1872) and where her new husband served as military secretary to the Governor of Madras (1886–1889). Madras, now known as Chennai, a city in Tamil Nadu, is the southernmost state in India. The city was founded in 1639 by the British East India Company, becoming a thriving trading port of interest to rival European powers with colonial ambitions in the area.
The small typescript diary covering Lady Eva’s travel in India does not offer much for a first impression. However, one look at the first page reveals many small and minor details about the life that she lived. Every page has the date and the day noted on top of each entry and all the entries are given on a day-by-day basis. Some provide little to no detail and could just be the mention of the weather, but others go into details of where she went and what people she encountered along the way. All the entries are typed out which is easier to follow then the original that was in her own handwriting.
One can read how Lady Eva enjoyed going to the racecourse and drawing sketches of landscapes She also describes the parties that she had and how she met many travellers from countries like India during her time in Madras.
Life in India
In her diary, Lady Eva documents her time in Madras and in Ootie (or Ooty), now officially known as Udhagamandalam, a city and municipality in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. She describes her daily activities and writes about the weather a lot, revealing how most of the time it is dreary. She notes that she makes sure to check in with the staff in the house in which she is staying to make sure that the fire is always lit.
There are also mentions of the way of life in India and how she has had to adapt to that very quickly due to her husband’s dedication to the military. In one entry she describes how she met a tree planter from the Kundur hills and visited a lodge where a man who wanted to sell a rifle was in her company and a tiger that had been shot by a local in Nagpoor was in his company. Many of these details seem very little but it can open one’s eyes to the life that a young woman, who was part of an important Irish family, living abroad in the 1880s.