The Annaghmakerrig Papers are comprised of material associated with Annaghmakerrig House, near Newbliss in County Monaghan. Annaghmakerrig House is now the location of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, a residential workplace for artists, however its previous incarnation was as home to renowned theatre director Sir William Tyrone Guthrie, best known as Tyrone Guthrie. The Annaghmakerrig Papers encompass the documents of several previous generations of Tyrone Guthrie’s ancestors, tracing the lineage back through the Guthrie, Power, and Moorhead family surnames, and they contain everything from legal agreements, to rent books, to architectural drawings, to doodles by Sir Tyrone Guthrie.
Spanning three centuries, the Annaghmakerrig Papers embody the story of a place and its inhabitants. They capture not only the story of the Annaghmakerrig estate, the surrounding townlands, and the community who lived there, but also the family’s links across the Atlantic to America, across the Irish Sea to England and Scotland, and to Europe and beyond.
Some of the earliest items in the collection are in the series of papers associated with Tyrone Guthrie’s great-great-grandfather Dr James Moorhead. While this series draws together deeds from as early as 1667, as well as a range of papers relating to the Ley family, the previous owners of Annaghmakerrig, who called the estate Leysborough, one of the most interesting items in the collection is the 1820 advertisement for the sale of the land and its associated tenancies.
The advertisement provides a valuable resource for local history, listing the tenants by name and age in each townland area. It outlines to the potential buyer, by way of observation, that the bogland, being scarce in the district, “would set at a very extravagant rate,” setting out vividly the contrast between landowner and tenant in the 1820s, where one would hope to be the receiver of that extravagant rate, rather than liable for paying it. The annotations visible on the advertisement are in the handwriting of Dr John Moorhead, son of Dr James Moorhead, and are likely to be from the period following Dr James Moorhead’s death intestate. They show not just extensive analysis and calculation of the income from each tenancy but note the administrative history of the estate back to the time of Charles II of England. This habit of thorough calculation and recording characterises numerous materials associated with John Moorhead, giving the researcher a hint of his personality. A departure from the administrative focus is a poignant annotation on his brother Thomas’s will, that he died on 23rd November 1852 in Clones, County Monaghan, “having been attacked at breakfast on that day with apoplexy.”
The estate and the community around it are themes consistent through the generations featured in the collection, with many local surnames repeatedly appearing. For instance, the descendants of the McGonnell tenants listed in the advertisement above appear in a rent book of Tyrone Guthrie’s grandfather Sir William Tyrone Power, dated 1892.
This link to the local community, and with the land, is evident even in some of the latest items from the collection, in Sir Tyrone Guthrie’s series. There is a strong sense of Guthrie’s connection to Annaghmakerrig; as well as a quantity of receipts for local businesses, there is also an agreement with four others regarding use of a manure spreader.
Though this is a simple agreement on a mere slip of paper, nonetheless it shows Tyrone Guthrie beyond the theatre director, someone embedded in the local community, maintaining the Annaghmakerrig estate and closely connected to his neighbours.
The sense of the importance of place is not exclusive to Annaghmakerrig. One of the most emotive items in the collection also comes from the Sir Tyrone Guthrie series. A photocopy of a letter to Fania Lubitsch, to whom he was connected through theatre work, reports on a trip to Poland in 1947, just two years after the end of World War II.
In a moving account of the aftermath of World War II, Guthrie describes visits to the Warsaw Ghetto and the site of Oswiencim concentration camp. Although the plants picked by Guthrie at these sites feature only as photocopies here, they remain powerful mementoes representing Guthrie’s recognition of what it must have been for so many people to lose the sense of home.
It is a letter to Tyrone Guthrie’s mother, Norah, that describes with disarming simplicity what is glimpsed so often within this collection. The letter from Mona Aylmer, addressed to “Dearest Mrs. G,” ends with the simple sentence, “How often does my heart fly to A-K [Annaghmakerrig], and soon I hope the feet will follow it.”
This farewell contains within it the thread that binds the disparate material within the collection; Mona Aylmer’s desire to be with dear friends comes from the same sense of connection that drives Tyrone Guthrie’s empathy for the loss of life and home following war, a connection also seen in the attachment to Annaghmakerrig through generations of families embedded in a community. The Annaghmakerrig Papers are the expression of affinity to place and the people in it.
Anna Hunter, Archivist
With acknowledgement and thanks to the Heritage Council for continued support and also thanks to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre for the use of images from the Annaghmakerrig Papers.