The office of Mayo County Librarian was hardly a crucial post. It was little more than a routine appointment, yet it escalated into a conflict that had national consequences. It set Church against State, County Council against Government Department and even members of the same political party against each other. In July 1930 Miss Letitia Dunbar Harrison, a graduate of Trinity College, was appointed to the post of Mayo County Librarian. Her appointment set in motion a chain of events that resulted in a full scale political crisis. Mayo priests and politicians attempted to have her removed, and organised an effective boycott of the Library Service.
The Mayo library row, as it was commonly known, became news far outside the confines of the county. Not only had it made headlines in Ireland, it had caught the attention of newspapers in places as far away as Boston and London. Why would such a seemingly unassuming appointment drive a government to the brink, and clash church and state against each other so heavily? Letitia was a Protestant.
Looking at the background to the dispute uncovers many of the fault-lines of the newly formed Free State. Examining the anatomy of the crisis lays bare the tensions of society in 1930s Ireland as it moved away from colonial rule.
Pat Walsh is a Librarian with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Library Service. Originally from Mayo, he now lives and works in Dún Laoghaire. He is the author of The Curious Case of the Mayo Librarian and Patrick Kavanagh and The Leader.
'An Irish solution to an Irish problem'
- Sunday Tribune
'A timely reminder of the controversy'
- Irish Examiner
'...intriguing, entertaining and informative'
- Galway Advertiser
'A fascinating chronicle of a controversy that captivated the country...The Curious Case Of The Mayo Librarian is an expertly written book and no stone is left unturned'
- Western People