The Papers of Prof G.A.Hayes-McCoy
IDENTITY STATEMENT
Reference code: A35
Title: The Papers of Prof G.A.Hayes-McCoy
Date(s): (1800) 1927 - 1977
Extent: 11 boxes
Location: James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway
CONTEXT
Biographical History

Gerard Anthony Hayes-McCoy was born 15 August 1911 in Galway, of Thomas Hayes McCoy and Mary Kathleen Hayes McCoy (née Wallace). His grandfather Thomas Hayes McCoy had been a Dubliner who as a child came to Galway in 1834; he was later a well-known Parnellite. His maternal grandfather, Thomas Burke, had been a Galway artist. [A35/ 10] Hayes-McCoy grew up on Eyre Square where his father ran a gentleman's hairdressing business. His two siblings were Ignatius and Marguerite; the latter also received a PhD-degree in History at University College Galway, and later taught at the Galway Technical School.

Hayes-McCoy received his early education from the Patrician Brothers, Galway. His earliest notebook of 1927 [A35/ 4] and a manuscript history of Poland of the same year, now at the National Library, testify to an early interest in history and heritage. From 1928 to 1932 he was a student scholarship holder at UCG, graduating in 1932 with a Bachelor of Commerce, and a Bachelor of Arts, with first-class honours in both, and a specialisation in "History, Ethics, Politics" for the latter. Mary Donovan O'Sullivan was one of his professors of history, and Liam Ó Briain, professor of Romance languages, was a stimulating influence. At this time Hayes-McCoy was a member of the Republican Club, a committee member of the Literary and Debating Society, and in 1931 he was one of the founding members of a new Irish Students' Association.

Hayes-McCoy pursued his PhD at the University of Edinburgh (conferred July 1934), and then spent two years at the Institute of Historical Research, London, in the Tudor seminar of J.E.Neale, rewriting his PhD and eventually publishing it as Scots mercenary forces in Ireland, 1565-1603 (Dublin and London, 1937), with a foreword by Eoin MacNeill.

This was characterised by meticulous archival research, and it anticipated by sixty years the much vaunted New British History of the late twentieth century by tracing the interconnections between events in England, Ireland, and Scotland.

In the absence of an academic post, Hayes-McCoy became an assistant keeper in the Art and Industrial Division at the National Museum of Ireland (1939-1959), with a responsibility for the Military History, and the War of Independence collections. One of his first tasks was to prepare a standing exhibition on Irish history before 1916. His research, long-standing personal interest in the military, and his curatorial experience, helped form an expert knowledge of historical Irish warfare. This led to his role in co-founding The Military History Society of Ireland in 1949 whose journal The Irish Sword he edited (1949-1959). [A35/ 96-105] Hayes-McCoy described the vagaries of setting up such a body, its reception, and the historiographical considerations attendant on it, in a paper published posthumously in The Irish Sword.

Earning high reputation by continued research and by publishing led to Hayes-McCoy's receipt of the D.Litt. degree from the National University, and to his membership in the Royal Irish Academy (1950). In his professional career, he published prolifically (this is apart from the broad spectrum of press publications) - a comprehensive list was made by Harman Murtagh. The works that were judged most influential, were his Scots mercenary forces in Ireland 1565-1603 (1937) ("a pioneer study in Scots-Irish relations"), the papers "The early history of guns in Ireland" (1938-1939), "Strategy and tactics in Irish warfare, 1593-1601" (1941), "The army of Ulster, 1593-1601" (1951), the controversial "Gaelic society in Ireland in the late sixteenth century" (1963), and the monographs Irish battles (London 1969), and A history of Irish flags from earliest times (Dublin 1979). A member of The Irish Manuscripts Commission, his most notable contribution was the publication Ulster and other Irish maps, c.1600 (Dublin 1964).

In 1946, he was appointed to a committee of eight historians to advise on setting up The Bureau of Military History - a body established by the Minister of Defence for the creation and compilation of material on the history of the Irish movements for independence, 1913-1921. [A35/ 10, 137] The Bureau had been conceived by Major Florence O'Donoghue, one-time editor of the journal of the Defence Forces, An Cosantóir, to which Hayes-McCoy had contributed articles as early as 1932. [A35/ 42] The committee was also to further offer guidance and oversee progress of the Bureau.

Having begun writing for the press at an early stage, G.A.Hayes-McCoy's public position at the Museum encouraged him to go further, and this collection testifies to his broad involvement with local history groups to whom he presented papers, to his work for the press and for radio and television. To the national and Galway press he usually contributed articles on military aspects of Irish history, as well as book reviews [A35/ 54], but he also used them as a platform to engage with what he saw were flaws in the education of history in Ireland [A35/ 44, 51 and 222].

During the 1940s and 1950s, Hayes-McCoy became involved in a number of paratheatrical events of national significance one of which - the "Pageant of St.Patrick" for which he wrote the script (An Tóstal 1954) - was realised on an immense scale. On the first Tóstal event in 1953, he wrote that he regarded it as "an event of national importance", asking a nominal fee for the script, 67 costume drawings and other sketches and notes (£90). Striving for historical accuracy, he acknowledged that especially in the case of two historical figures, Murragh and Gormlaeth, he took liberties for the sake of art. [A35/ 111, 112] While writing scripts in the beginning (1947, 1953, 1954), he was principally engaged as historical consultant (1947, 1955, 1956, [1957]). In that capacity, he collaborated in 1955 and 1956 with Micheál Mac Liammóir and Denis Johnston on their scripts for pageants on St.Patrick and on the Táin Bó Cuailgne, at times finding it difficult to square the historical liberties taken by these artists with his own role. [A35/ 117-121]

On Irish radio and television Hayes-McCoy was most active in the mid-1960s; editing and contributing to Thomas Davis lectures series, writing scripts for a series of thirty children's programmes on all aspects of Irish history, and preparing the television series "Irish battles" and "The long winter".

In 1959 Hayes-McCoy succeeded to the chair of his former history professor at UCG with the full remit of lecturing (in English), administering examinations to undergraduates, and supervising postgraduate theses - among those of his students who continued in the field of history were Nicholas Canny, Martin Coen, Patrick Melvin, Peter Toner, Tony Claffey, and Breandán Ó Bric.

In the early 1960s Hayes-McCoy became a spokesperson for the movement rekindled by the Old Galway Society to preserve the landmark "Lion's Tower". The ultimate failure of the campaign informed Hayes-McCoy's regret, expressed a year later, that Ireland was forgetful about its past and that "we don't bother to find out about it or to maintain our ancient heritage…", and, on a perceived spirit of conformity: "take my own city of Galway, it is now more prosperous than it was, but it is no longer distinctive. I do not believe that it is essential for progress that we should lose our heritage" [A35/ 53]

On 19 August 1941 Hayes-McCoy had married Mary Margaret "May" O'Connor (daughter of C.J. and M.B. O'Connor, New Ross/Enniscorthy). They had three daughters and two sons (Mary, Ann, Ian, Robert, Felicity). The family home was in Dublin, and after his appointment to UCG, Hayes-McCoy commuted to Galway. This was "frequently cited against him in the university politics of Galway", according to Nicholas Canny, who also points to Hayes-McCoy's opposition to the obligatory Irish-language test for UCG faculty members: Here he hoped more to keep the debate alive than to see the relevant enactment abolished in his lifetime, and he derived a quiet satisfaction from knowing that he enjoyed a higher standing, both with students and in the world of scholarship, than most of those who decried him for speaking against the orthodoxy that legitimised their existence.

While at one time member and secretary of the London Sinn Féin office (Roger Casement Cumann, 1935), and informed by a pride of country and place, Hayes-McCoy's professional and private outlook were marked by a distrust of nationalism or of any antagonising national agendas compromising genuine scholarship. In a paper drafted on tendencies in modern historical studies, he criticised the two historiographical extremes, each to be avoided, each unfortunately characteristic of the moment - extreme de-bunking and extreme 'adding for effect'. A history is a record of fact; to add pseudo-facts is as grave a sin as to leave out real facts that may change the colour of the whole.[A35/ 65]

Hayes-McCoy's abiding pastime was drawing, as borne out by c. 40 items in this collection with predominantly maritime subjects, which predilection went with a special regard for the history of ships (see his series in the Galway Observer [1949] A35/ 47), and a romantic liking of the sea. He variously gave expression to his appreciation of Robert Louis Stevenson and his works. G.A.Hayes-McCoy's middle age was marked by intermittent ill health. He died on 27 November 1975 in his room at the Great Southern Hotel, Eyre Square, Galway.

Immediate Source of Acquisition or Transfer

NUIG acquired this collection by donation in 2008 on an indefinite loan from Felicity Hayes-McCoy, London, on behalf of the family. Her permission as copyright-holder is required for reproductions (in print or online).

CONTENT AND STRUCTURE
Scope and Content

This collection consists of written, printed and photographic archives pertaining to the academic career, and wider historical interests, of Gerard Anthony Hayes-McCoy (1911-1975), historian, and professor of History at University College Galway from 1958 to 1975. Publications (academic, and in the press) -offprints and press cuttings, few drafts, correspondence. General correspondence - also concerning Galway heritage. Media work, public lectures and collaboration with public pageants - correspondence, drafts and final scripts. Photographs - prints for use in scholarly publications and to accompany press articles, including file of aerial photographs by Conan Doyle, few private photographs. Collections of printed material in the course of research, and from gifts Drawings and sketches

System of arrangement

Some sections were found previously arranged (specific publications and radio and television projects); the overall arrangement into seven sections has been imposed. Earliest document by Hayes-McCoy include a specially-compiled scrapbook on his early career which ought to be consulted for all lines of investigation [A35/ 10]. The following sections contain papers stemming from the various facets of his professional life, as publishing academic, as a "public historian" and consultant, as an active participant in professional bodies and an advocator of the conservation of local heritage. Sketchbooks and drawings follow. Various printed papers and typescripts collected over the course of his career close the collection.

CONDITIONS OF ACCESS AND USE AREA
Conditions governing access

The material in this collection is available to all bona fide researchers and subject to the conditions of access governing the consultation of archival material at the James Hardiman Library. No material may be reproduced from this collection without the written permission of the Library. The most appropriate form of reference is title of item: date of item: reference number (A35/...), James Hardiman Archives, NUI Galway.

Finding aids
Descriptive list
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