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The Morpeth Roll. Ireland identified in 1841

James Durney

In 1841, on stepping down as Chief Secretary, George Howard, Lord Morpeth, received a grand farewell testimonial from the people of Ireland. This took the form of 160,000 signatures on sheets of paper wrapped around a gigantic bobbin; when unwound, the testimonial measures a staggering 420 metres. After decades of lying in obscurity in Castle Howard, in Yorkshire, the Morpeth Roll has been the subject of intense research, digitization and conversation. It is now been seen in public for the first time in 170 years as part of a touring exhibition throughout Ireland. The project is a unique and exciting collaboration between Castle Howard, NUI Maynooth and Ancestry.com.
Four Courts Press have published a lavishly illustrated book of essays The Morpeth Roll. Ireland identified in 1841, discussing the significance of the roll, and examines what it can tell us about pre-Famine Ireland. Just how the roll was commissioned and assembled in a matter of weeks, with signatures collected from across Ireland, is one focus of enquiry; as are the reasons for Morpeth’s extraordinary popularity, which endured when he returned to Dublin as viceroy in the 1850s. The roll is not only a document of national significance, it is also a unique mechanical object, presenting a very special challenge for display and interpretation.
Christopher Ridgway, editor and contributor to the publication, is curator at Castle Howard in Yorkshire and adjunct professor in the Department of History at the national university of Ireland, Maynooth. The Morpeth Roll is a significant historical and genealogical source and Ridgway wrote:

In Ireland, the expertise and knowledge of the local and family history communities are crucial in uncovering the stories behind the names on the roll … In November 2012, Mario Corrigan of Kildare Co. Library, gave a stunning presentation on how to trace these signatories and overcome the absence of any identifying tags. His successful interrogation of the roll convincingly laid to rest anxieties about how traceable these names were.

The collaboration between Castle Howard, NUI Maynooth and Ancestry.com has enabled the roll to be researched, conserved and digitized. The Morpeth Roll can be seen and searched on the Ancestry website at www.ancestry.com/Morpeth

The recently discovered Morpeth Roll is a pre-Famine significant genealogical and historical source

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