Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Advent in the Archives -21st December

Today’s items come from the John Magahern collection which is housed in the archives service of the James Hardiman Library. The first image comes from an initial hand-written draft of part of the John Maghern short-story “Christmas”. In the story a boy, who has to serve at altar at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, looks forward with apprehension to the “hours of boredom” he will have to endure.  At the Midnight Mass itself the Monsignor’s sermon is disrupted by a very drunk Guard Mullins who states that the Monsignor is “a man after my own heart” before warning the parishioners to beware of hypocrites. The Monsignor cuts the sermon short, peremptorily wishing his parishioners a happy and holy Christmas with “a voice like acid”. For the boy “the shortest midnight mass the church had ever known” is a godsend.

Whether the Guard is referring to the Bible when warning of hypocrites, or is referring pointedly to his own personal experience of policing in the town remains unstated. The Catholicism portrayed here has echoes of Joyce’s politically charged Christmas dinner in “Portrait of an Artist”, and is tinged with repetition, boredom and despair.


The other item from the John Magahern collection highlighted here is a typescript draft of part of a piece on Christmas in Ireland; beginning 'In America, it is Thanksgiving; in Scotland, the New Year; and in Ireland the great festival is Christmas.' Contains handwritten amendments.


Descriptions of both of these items, and the rest of the collections, can be browsed at

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