The Loyal National Repeal Association was founded in 1841 by Irish politician Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), the leader of the movement for the repeal of the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. O’Connell fostered mass participation in the association at local and national levels through meetings, speeches, establishment of Repeal “reading rooms,” and fundraising and mobilization of the electorate.
O’Connell declared 1843 “Repeal Year” and began a series of large-scale public demonstrations, popularly referred to as “monster meetings.” The British Government banned a critical meeting at Clontarf, near Dublin, in October 1843, and later arrested and imprisoned O’Connell and colleagues for sedition. Upon release the following year, O’Connell tried to revive the Repeal campaign, claiming he would achieve repeal in only six months. When this promise was not kept, his power began to diminish. By 1846 the organization had lost political influence.
Many items in the collection include the name of Thomas Mathew Ray (1801-1881), the engineer of the grass roots repeal campaign. Assembled as a scrapbook, the Association’s ephemeral documents (tickets, certificates, and membership cards) are now keepsakes. Through their chronological placement, the material can be viewed as one timeline of the Loyal National Repeal Association. The scrapbook was disassembled for conservation reasons, but copies of its pages were made and are included in the collection.
The material illustrates the symbols of Ireland and Irish nationalism that were utilized by the Repeal movement: the shamrock, crowned harp, sunburst, wolfhound, round tower, and others. The loyalty of the organization to Great Britain is represented with the inclusion of the statement “God save the Queen.”
—Shelley Barber, Reference & Archives Specialist, John J. Burns Library
Boase, Frederic. Modern English Biography, Vol. 3. London: Frank Cass, 1965.
Connolly, S.J., ed. Oxford Companion to Irish History, 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Crone, John S., ed. Concise Dictionary of Irish Biography. Dublin: The Talbot Press, 1937.
Davis, Richard P. “Ray, Thomas Mathew (1801–1881), political organizer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 10 Nov. 2020. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-23205.
Geoghegan, Patrick M. Liberator: The Life and Death of Daniel O’Connell, 1830-1847. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2010.
Hickey, D.J. and J.E. Doherty, eds. A New Dictionary of Irish History from 1800, 2nd edition. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 2003.
Loyal National Repeal Association of Ireland scrapbook, MS.2007.019, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.
Morris, Ewan. Our Own Devices: National Symbols And Political Conflict In Twentieth-century Ireland. Dublin, Ireland: Irish Academic Press, 2005.
For a closer look at Burns Library resources which aid in the study of the Irish historical events mentioned here, we recommend Sadie Sunderland-Rhoads’ series of Burns Blog posts: “The Act of Union, 1800” and “Catholic Emancipation.”