Joynt Family Chronicles
A One-Name Study

"Suggestions for the Establishment of a Limerick Athaeneum" -I


 William Lane Joynt, Esq. 

[Limerick Chronicle, 9th April 1853].


                        The Limerick Institution is the oldest literary body in Limerick, but it partakes more of the social than the literary character.  Its chief attraction is the reading of newspapers, the friendly association and conversation of the members.  Its exclusive character and large subscription render it impossible to open it to the general public, or associate it with the project now under consideration; and it is not the intention of the supporters of an Athenaeum to interfere with it in any respect - such interference would be equally unjust and impolitic.

 The "Friends' Scientific Society" has been in existence for several years.  The unostentatious character of its members has not narrowed its utility - its success - nor its promise of future usefulness.  It has supplied respectable lecturers from its own ranks on literary and scientific subjects, and amongst its members will be found substantial elements for the component parts of an Athenaeum - those who will contribute by their subscriptions to found it - by their energy to work it - and by their ability to render it successful.

            The Literary and Scientific society it is unnecessary to describe to its own members; but for the information of others I may state, was founded in 1847, for the purpose of improving the members in the practice of English composition, and extending their knowledge of literary subjects.  Many of the original members will recall, with pleasure, the general character of its meetings, and the delight and improvement which resulted.  The attempt to establish it was deemed so visionary, that its objects were confined alone to the reading of essays, and the discussion of their contents; but its success for the past five years, and in the present session, is a signal proof that the most honourable distinction in literature and science can be attained by the energy of some, and co-operation of all its members.  From its foundation it was intended to be the nucleus for a Limerick Athenaeum; but the liberality of other societies in Limerick shares with it the common aspiration to make such an Institution the common property, and a common benefit to all.

The School of Ornamental Art has only been a few months established.  Its success up to the present has been matter for sincere congratulation to the lovers of Art.  The expensive house it now occupies is not exactly suited for the purposes of the School, and is more than calculated to exhaust the energies of the master, Mr Raimbach, in marching up and down stairs, from room to room, superintending the different classes, who could be, with much more ease to master and pupils, attended to, and taught, in large and commodious rooms, on the same floor.  The expenses and resources of the School, from the unwise parsimony of the Board of Trade, are somewhat disproportional, notwithstanding the energy of its Committee, and the sympathy of the public.  In the plan now suggested for its accommodation, much expense will be saved, and a fund created for enabling the committee to render the School more extensively useful.

            The Limerick Harmonic Society has been in existence for several years.  The Concerts it has given are such as are beyond my humble power to praise; but those who listened to the way in which the "Creation" of Haydn, parts of the "Messiah"

of Handel, and the "Elijah" of Mendelssohn, have been rendered must feel anxious to have a fit practice room for the members of that Body, and a concert room, where, not only the friends of the members, but the community at large could experience the delight of hearing the works of the great masters, given in the most classical and refined manner.

            The Social Inquiry Society has been formed within a short period.  It is connected with the Statistical Society of Dublin, at the head of which is Archbishop Whately, Professor Handcock, and other distinguished economists.  As it deals with social and economic subjects, it is deserving of support and attention, and might, usefully to its members, be associated with the project under consideration.

            With respect to the working classes, there is not belonging to them, as far as I know, any establishment for literary or educational purposes in the City   This is the more to be regretted, as they are the class, above all others, who are most in need of education in the scientific department of industrial art, and are keenly open to the beauties and influence of popular literature".


                      (To be continued in our next)               


"Suggestions for the Establishment of a Limerick Athenaeum." -II

[Limerick Chronicle, 13th April 1853]


 William Lane Joynt, Esq. 

 (Continued from last Chronicle)


            I have now briefly described all the bodies which are supposed to have literary aims in this City; but I have not stated that all or any of them possess a lecture theatre, a public library, a museum, or even a respectable set of scientific apparatus.  I have not stated it, simply because I dare not state what everyone knows to be false.  Monstrous though the reflection be, in the second half of the nineteenth centur, a City, containing fifty-four thousand inhabitants - the emporium of wealth, commerce and enterprise - famed over the world for several productions - seated on the finest river in the empire - surrounded by the finest agricultural districts in Ireland - and not unknown to historic fame, or that Pantheon where art, science and learning have collected their High Priests, is, notwithstanding all these considerations, destitute of those means and appliances for educational and scientific instruction which the smallest German principality supplies to the citizens of the smallest towns in Badeau or Hesse Cassel.  To wipe away this stain - to blot out this reproach - is the object of those who seek to establish an Athenaeum.  To establish, in military parlance, a "point d'Appui", from whence all the literary and scientific operations of the City may be carried on with discretion, energy and ability.

            The Athenaeum should comprise a Lecture Theatre, Library, or Reading Room, Museum, a Room for Classes, or Literary and Scientific meetings; and also embody, if possible, on the terms hereafter stated, 'The Limerick Friends' Society", "the Limerick School of Ornamental Art", "the Limerick Literary and Scientific Society", "the Social Inquiry Society", "the Limerick Harmonic Society", and any societies which may, hereafter, be established, and which may, without violation of the rules, become federal parts of the Athenaeum.  The Government should consist of a Board of Directors, annually elected, consisting of a President, two vice presidents, a treasurer, and honorary secretary, and 12 members, together with 2 members from each of the above societies, selected by them, and deputed to represent and protect their individual interests.  It will be evident, from this proposal, that each of the local societies would still maintain and preserve its original laws, governnment, mode of action.  For instance, "the Harmonic Society" would preserve its musical character, carry on its practices as usual, and maintain its regulations regarding the admission of  choir performers.  The Friends Scientific society would preserve its objects for the advancement of science - its rules for the admission of members, and the delivery of lectures, untouched by the laws of the Athenaeum; and so on with the other bodies.  For the success of this plan and its practical usefulness, I may point to the Manchester Athenaeum, which extends its shelter and protection to several societies, such as the Essay and Parliamentary society, the Instrumental Musical society, the Chess Club, the Dramatic Reading society, together with various classes in the departments of language and science, which are all sectional parts of the Manchester Institution.  If it were proposed to amalgamate all the societies in Limerick the plan would fail.  But this plan has, at least, one virtue - it combines all that is really useful, and does not interfere with the laudable jealousy which might object to the individuality of one society being swallowed up, or lost in the amalgamation of all.

            Taking it for granted that an Athenaeum can be, or at least ought to be, established on such a basis, and that the various societies above referred to, are filled with the impressions that such a building would extend the sphere of their comforts and  usefulness - let us now consider.  Firstly - What would be the best site in Limerick for such a building?  Secondly - What will be the probable expense of such a building?  And thirdly - What are the ways and means for raising and  maintaining such a building?

            The places are not numerous, notwithstanding the size of the city, which from their position, size, and rent would be suitable.  The fine plot of ground at the Crescent, and corner of Newenham-street is about 135 feet long and sixty in breadth.  I shall not praise the position, because I do not know the rent, having been unable to see the proprietors; but the site could not be considered unfavourable and enquiry ought, I think, be made on the subject. The premises occupied by Mr John Fogarty, in Catherine- street, facing Trinity Church, are large, commodious, well situated, and capable, according to the plans furnished by Mr Fogarty, of accommodating all the societies above referred to, especially as regards the plans of the rooms for the School of Ornamental Art, which have been approved by the master of the school, Mr Raimbach; and the Lecture Theatre, which can be so made as to accommodate from six to seven hundred spectators.  The rent demanded for this ground is 30 per annum; and it is stated Mr Fogarty, himself, pays that rent, or at that rate for the place.  Mr Edward Cruise has a very fine plot of ground on the Military road, between the Crescent and the Barracks.  It would be let on reasonable terms, or even a building erected on it by Mr Cruise, for accommodating the several societies, according to some plans which that gentleman is now making.  I shall conclude the list of sites by directing your attention to the garden adjoining the mansion of the Earl of Limerick.  It is in Henry-street, facing Glentworth street and George street.  It is large beyond the required size; and the opinion of all those whom I have conversed with on the subject is, that it is, par excellence, the best site in Limerick.  I am not aware of any other suitable sites in Limerick, though I am far from saying that there are none other suitable for our purpose.  I have given the list of those which may be procured, and it removes, at least, one difficulty, to know that we have several from which to make a selection.

                  (To be continued in our next.)


 Suggestions for the Establishment of a Limerick Athaeneum" -III


 William Lane Joynt, Esq. 

 (Continued )

                                      Limerick Chronicle, 16th April 1853.




            I now approach the second question - namely, what are the probable expenses of such a building?  In dealing with this part of the subject, I desire to express distinctly, my utter ignorance and inexperience of the mode of making up the estimate.  But the data furnished by Mr John Fogarty, is, at least a guide, by which some approach to accuracy may be determined.  Mr Fogarty is the owner of the site, before alluded to, in Catherine-street.  He describes it as "fronting Trinity Church, 130 feet in depth by 52 feet wide, which he offers at the yearly rent of $30, with a  subscription  of 50 for the undertaking", and he goes on to say in a letter placed before a meeting held at the School of Ornamental Art, on the 19th February 1853, that "he further offers to advance 500 on the building, provided a similar sum is adavanced on the part of the society (Athenaeum).  he then states he has procured a draft plan and estimate of such a building as he deemed suited for the purpose, consisting of a theaatre, a lecture room, 67 feet by 36, capable of seating 700 persons, and having galleries designed by a museum, on the plan of the hall of arts at the Polytechnic Institution, London; a private room for the lecturer, 20 feet by 12, communicating with a laboratory, etc., 3 roms for distinct societies, a library, each 24 feet  by 16, capable of being connected, as occasion may require; 3 rooms for the school of design, 48 ft by 23 ft., and 24 ft. by 23 ft., with master's rooms, and convenient offices, apartments for caretakers, etc., upon such a scale of economy and ornamental design as, he trusts will meet the approbation of the city in general, the estimate of which amounts to 1500".  From this it appears that the expense of such a building as would suit the wants of the Literary societies, the school of Art, and the Harmonic society need not exceed  1500.  That  500 of that sum would be lent to Mr Fogarty, at interest at 6 per cent; and that the public should subscribe 1000, of which he would subscribe 50 for the purpose of completing the building.  Those who are capable of judging of this offer state that it is a very liberal and enterprising one on the part of Mr Fogarty; and his readiness to advance 500 is at least a proof of more hope and faith in the establishment of an Athenaeum than any expression of opinion, however liberal or enlightened.

            The expenses, therefore, of such a building are known, - the sum to be raised by donations would be, at the most, 1000.  I do not pretend to know the public mind of the city on the subject. I do not pretend to know the exact sentiments of its merchants, its wealthy residents, its professional men.  I  may not understand the sentiments of its traders and working classes; but I conceive I do not allow enthusiasm to run counter to my judgement, when I say, with united, earnest, and thorough work, this sum could be raised  in 3 months.  There is no city in the world where appeals are so constantly made to the benevolent, the affluent, the generous of all classes and persuasions, and in no city in the empire are those appeals so triumphantly successful.  If this project be calculated to supply a great public want - if it has in itself, that which commends it to the thinking and intellectual portion of  the citizens - if it be calculated, as assuredly it is, to develop before the minds of the young, the rich treasures  of art, science and literature - if it  be managed with discretion, steering clear of the shoals and quicksands on which its predecessor foundered; then, I conceive, the sum so required could, nay will, be easily procured from our fellow citizens.  But it is not enough that the project should be matured, the site selected, the building completed - when all these things are done much yet remains to be accomplished.  The objects of such a building are before described, the ways and means for maintaining it remains to be considered.  Like all institutions of the kind it chief support will be derivable from the subscriptions of members.  These might, from the population of the city and the desire of all parties to support such an institution, be taken at 400 annual subscribers.  To make the Athenaeum open to all classes and thus establish it upon a broad basis, the subscription should be low, and, if  possible, not more than 10s per annum.  I would also suggest that as in the Leeds and Manchester institutions, ladies should be admitted as members, at half the annual subscription; and, I am sure, that we might calculate upon, at least 100 ladies joining the society.  Thus, I conceive, 225  is not too much to estimate as the income which might be derived from general subscribers. 

            The Sectional Societies, to which I have referred, would be also bound to furnish to the General Directors, such an annual sum as would be deemed fair for the accommodation afforded.  Thus the Literary Society might, from its members - nearly 200 - be expected to pay 20 per annum for the use of Lecture Rooms, Gas, and the distribution of its circulars.  The School of Design, for the three fine rooms before referred to, 20 per annum - thus saving nearly 40 per annum to the Committee, on the score of rent alone, and in exchange, getting superior accommodation; and, I may add, with a surplus the general committee could engage in no better expenditure  than in enabling the committee of the school to extend its usefulness, and impart to some youthful Barry or Shee that instruction in Art which poverty has denied him at home.  The Friends' Scientific society could easily pay 10 per annum, as its contribution to the general fund.  The Harmonic Society would also, I conceive, pay 10 per annum, for the use of the rooms for its practices, and public concerts; and, by its own exertions, in a year or two, place a fine organ in the lecture hall, such as may be found in the room of the Ancient concert society in Dublin, and in many of the towns in England.  Thus, the yearly rent, 60, would be derived from these societies alone, while much more would be easily raised from the Social inquiry and other societies, and the occasional rent of the lecture theatre, for useful public purposes.  A surplus  after paying the rent would thus remain, of 225; and this would be chargeable with the expense of keeping the place in repair, paying the wages of a porter, paying for public lectures, and teachers of classes in science and languages, in the purchase of books for the library, and in the general expenses attendant upon such an institution. The museum would be commenced with those articles which are, at present, kept in the rooms of the "Institution", and which were handed over by the late Philosophical Institution to certain trustees, in trust, that when any literary body open a museum, or lecture room, or proposed to carry out the same objects as the Philosophical Society, the property, consisting of books, a portion of their scientific apparatus, and stuffed birds, and other matters, should be transferred to their legitimate successors.  There is also a fine collection of minerals in the room of the Institution, which, I have no doubt, the Committee would place in the museum.  Many private citizens also would contribute to its formation and adornment.


      (To be concluded in our next)   



Suggestions for the Establishment of a Limerick Athenaeum" -IV


 William Lane Joynt, Esq. 

 [Limerick Chronicle, 20th April 1853]


In proposing to select a site, rent it, and erect a building, for public purposes on it, I know that the charge of rashness may be made, and perhaps, with some show of justice.  The only public building in Limerick, projected for literary matters, remains to this day a monumental warning to all who project such schemes; and the fact that the leading Institutions in Limerick, such as the "Chamber of Commerce" and the "Limerick Institution" are content to dwell  in private houses, procured at the most moderate rent, may, and not unfairly, be adduced as a proof that the Athenaeum should not rashly enter on a wasteful and extravagant expenditure; but by beginning wisely and humbly, advance as necessity demanded, and its resources warranted.  To this there is, and can be, but one reply.  No private dwelling house, or building of any kind, in Limerick, will answer as a Lecture Theatre for the Arts and Sciences.  If the promoters of an Athenaeum were to take a house in George-street, it would, at once, however remote the idea might be from the minds of the projectors, be described as a rival to the Limerick Institution; and then a war of extermination would follow.  The numbers  which this year attended several of the Lectures of the Literary and Scientific Society, prove that a Lecture Theatre could be well filled in Limerick, on popular anad useful subjects, even though it should contain 600 spectators.  The Leamy Institution has afforded its hospitable shelter for some years to the Limerick Literary and Scientific Society; and the kindness of the Trustees was as much the result of sound judgement as a full recognition of the trust imposed by the will of the founder.  But this cannot always be hoped for; and the Society is now anxious to have, in common with others, a fit building for literary and scientific purposes, which they may call their own.

            I have now placed before you those suggestions which appear calculated to lead to the conclusion of the necessity for founding, and the probability of maintaining, an Athenaeum.  It is for you, for the Citizens, to decide if the ideal shall become the actual.  No further reflections of mine can add dignity to the subject, or force to the arguments.  I have sketched the outline of the plan. -  The filling of it up must be determined by the wants, the interests, and the judgement of the future.  It will be the duty of the Societies I have referred to, and individuals who, as men of letters, are interested in the project, to develop the plan.  At present the practical result of what I have stated appears to be, that a site should be selected, plans and estimates prepared of the expenses of the proposed building on such a site, and, finally, that the citizens be appealed to, for the means to carry out the undertaking , the expenditure of which should be within a limited and reasonable sum.

            There never was a time so favourable for the undertaking as the present. The public mind of the city has been, and will be, completely roused on the subject.  The Government are fully aware, as appears by the second able report of the Commissioners of the Great Crystal Palace, of the necessity for maintaining schools of art and manufactures in each of the large towns in the empire, such as may be found in France, Prussia, and Belgium, and which have contributed so much to the industrial progress of these nations.  Limerick has, hitherto, been neglected by the Government.  Ii can scarcely be deemed a stretch of imagination to suppose that a school of arts and manufactures may be established in connection with the Athenaeum, and even the grant to the school of art increased, if the citizens display some taste, generosity, and sense of the value of such institutions, by extending to them liberal and energetic support.

            Our material wants are, at this period, closely attended to; several public projects, of great public utility, are making this year a starting point in the history of our city.  The Munster Fair, the New Corporation Bills, the Limerick Markets, the Ennis Railway Steam communication with England, the Foynes Railway, in connection with the question, of all others most important, a Transatlantic Packet Station, are proofs that the mind of the City is not slumbering, but active, energetic, and extended in its operations.  Let this year, also, be famous in our annals for the establishment of an Athenaeum, as well as the commencement of those truly great undertakings.

            I have now placed these "suggestions" before you.  I trust they will be received and read in no other sense than that in which they have been hastily put together - namely, a sincere desire to aid the establishment of an Institution in this, our native City, where the study of Science will be encouraged, the taste for Art assisted, and the love of learning promoted. - I have the honour to be, Gentlemen, your very faithful, humble servant,

                                         WILLIAM LANE JOYNT,

                                              President, Limerick Literary and Scientific Society, 82, George street, Limerick.  


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