A TREASURE trove of historical documents, including four royal seals, has been donated to the Irish state having been discovered in a skip over 40 years ago.
Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Seán Canney accepted the donation yesterday at Casteltown House in Co. Kildare and thanked the three men who had found and saved them over decades ago.
“I would like to thank Richard Gorman, Robert Maharry and Ruary Ó’Síocháin for their very generous donation to the State," the Minister said. “The papers will be conserved and returned to their home in Castletown House adding to our knowledge of that wonderful place.”
Almost 40 years ago, the three men stumbled upon the treasure trove containing 165 documents with royal seals in a Dublin skip.
Among boxes of documents found by the trio - Robert Maharry, Richard Gorman and Ruary O'Síocháin - was a metal chest displaying the name of Capt. Edward Michael Conolly with the address as Castletown.
Inside was a collection of maps, grants, seals and royal letters including the royal seals of Elizabeth I, Kings George I, James I and Charles I.
The documents had been stored in an attic for the past four decades before a string of coincidences over the past two led to their rediscovery.
Mr Gorman, now a recognised artist, had been looking for locations for a Hermes photoshoot where his paintings were being used as a backdrop.
He went on to contact Mary Heffernan, general manager in Castletown House, and soon the penny dropped when he saw the familiar but unusual spelling of the surname Conolly at the house - just as it had ben on the metal chest from all those years ago.
He called Mr Maharry and Mr O’ Síocháin to relocate their find and in December 2015 it was brought to Dublin Castle and given over to the charge of National Historic Properties.
Dr Myles Campbell of the Office of Public Works began cataloguing the papers in January of this year.
“The first inkling of its true significance came when a large wax seal tumbled out amid the papers. It quickly became apparent that it was a royal seal," he said.
“Undoubtedly the most memorable of these was when a grant of lands bearing the seal of Queen Elizabeth I emerged close to the bottom of the chest.
"It was dated 1578 and was in very good condition for a document of its age.”
Once all the contents, some dating back to the 16th century, were examined it was clear the find was in fact an archive documenting the history of Castletown House.
The house was built by William Conolly, a former speaker of the Irish House of Commons and said to be the wealthiest man in Ireland at the time.
Dr Campbell added: “I’m hopeful that through looking carefully at the papers in this collection, which include several versions of William Conolly's will, we should be able to form an even better understanding of his route to success and of the fortunes of those who came after him in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”