The Irish Collection

The Irish Collection was formed in 1924 with a bequest to Newman College, and it has since been augmented by the addition of several libraries of deceased priests and later acquisitions relating to Ireland.


The Irish Collection was formed in 1924 with a bequest to Newman College of the personal library of Dr. Nicholas O’Donnell, Irish nationalist and Gaelic scholar. Nicholas O’Donnell was born in 1862 in Victoria of Irish parents and he was a collector and diligent reader of all areas of Irish history and culture. The initial collection comprised approximately 700 books and 300 pamphlets in both Gaelic and English, covering history, literature and topography, with many titles annotated by Nicholas O’Donnell.

The descendants of Nicholas O’Donnell have recently loaned the Academic Centre two of his scrapbooks of news clippings, letters and photographs. These have been digitised with generous support from the Embassy of Ireland as part of their support for events to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising. In the days around the Rising, Nicholas captured news of events in Dublin as reported in Melbourne newspapers such as the Argus.

The scrapbooks are available for download below.

Volume 1

December 1911 - May 1916


Volume 2

May 1916 – January 1920


Also included in the Irish Collection are 334 items on long term loan from the Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission. These are from the Raheen Collection of Archbishop Daniel Mannix’s Irish books.

The Irish Collection has also been augmented by the addition of several libraries of deceased priests and lay people and later acquisitions relating to Ireland. This includes donations from Fr L’Estrange SJ (Rector of Newman College 1991-2005), Colin Ryan, Helen O’Shea (academic, ethnomusicologist) and Rev Dr Robin Boyd (Irish Scholar, pastor, missionary and ecumenist) and Irish and Scots Gaelic and related books from the collection of Robert Wallace (Wally) Thompson.

Scope of the Collection

There are over 3,000 items in the Irish Collection. Half of the Collection pertains to history, with the remainder relating to language, literature, biography, religion travel, music and education. Most of the titles were published in the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. The O'Donnell Collection includes two 19th century manuscripts: the Tain Bo Cuailgne, written by Joseph O'Longan in 1862, and a collection of tales by Joseph and his brother Peadar, Brisleach Mhor Mhuighe Muirtheimhne. Our two manuscripts have been photographed by Ms Lee McRae of Digital Media Services, University of Melbourne for display on ISOS. the Academic Centre is delighted to be part of an Australian/Irish collaboration with the ISOS project. They are available online on ISOS, Irish Script on Screen. 

How to access the Collection

The Irish Collection is housed behind locked cabinets in the Gerry Higgins Room (Irish Room) on Level 4 of the Academic Centre. Access to the Collection is restricted due to the age, uniqueness and value of the material. Items may be used on-site by scholars and researchers by arrangement with the Centre Director.