Papers of Evelyn Gleeson and the Dun Emer Guild

Repository: Trinity College Dublin

Identity Statement

TitlePapers of Evelyn Gleeson and the Dun Emer Guild
Archive ReferenceIE TCD MS/10676
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1785-1990
Extent Medium6 boxes and two outsize folders


Creator(s): Gleeson Evelyn, 1855-1944, founder of Dun Emer Guild

  • Administrative History ↴

    Evelyn Gleeson was born in Knutsford, Cheshire on 15 May 1855. Her father, Dr Edward Moloney Gleeson (1815-1895), from Kilcolman, near Nenagh, co Tipperary, ran a general medical practice in Knutsford. He founded the Athlone Woollen Mills in 1859. Her mother Harriet Gleeson (née Simpson) was from Bolton, Lancashire. The family moved to Athlone in 1863 but Evelyn was educated in England where she trained as a teacher. She studied art in London for some years, principally at the Ludovici Atelier (1890-92) and for six months with the textile designer Alexander Millar, artistic director of carpet manufacturers Templetons of Glasgow. Templetons purchased several of Gleeson's carpet designs. While living in London she became involved in the suffragette movement and attended meetings of the Gaelic League and the Irish Literary Society. Evelyn Gleeson moved to Ireland to improve her health and in 1902 she bought a house called 'Runneymede', renamed Dun Emer, in Dundrum near Dublin which was to be the base for an arts and crafts business. She invited her two friends Elizabeth Corbet (Lolly) Yeats (1868-1940) and her sister Susan Mary (Lily) Yeats (1886-1949) to join her in the Dun Emer crafts studio. The Dun Emer enterprise was financed by Evelyn Gleeson with additional funding and support of her friend, the botanist Dr Augustine Henry (1857-1930). Evelyn was in charge of tapestry and handtufted carpets and rugs; Lily Yeats, who had trained under May Morris, was in charge of embroidery, and Lolly Yeats was in charge of handprinting limited editions of books by Irish authors in the style of William Morris's Kelmscott Press. In 1904 the Dun Emer crafts studio was organised into two parts: the Dun Emer Guild under Gleeson and Dun Emer Industries under the Yeats sisters. In 1908 the two groups parted completely with Evelyn Gleeson retaining the Dun Emer name and the Yeats sisters establishing Cuala Industries in Churchtown, co Dublin, comprising the Cuala Press and an embroidery workshop. In 1910 Evelyn Gleeson became a founder member of the Guild of Irish Art workers. In 1912 the Dun Emer workrooms moved to Mangan Hall, Hardwicke St, Dublin. After the departure of the Yeats sisters Evelyn Gleeson carried on with the weaving of rugs, tapestry and embroidery drawing inspiration from Early Christian interlace and zoomorphic patterns. Church patronage accounted for the bulk of the orders although they also made dresses, drapes, cushions, carpets and other items. A number of young women joined as workers and trainees, among them Augustine Henry's niece May Kerley to help with carpets and rugs, bookbinder Norah Fitzpatrick, and Maire Walker (Abbey actress Máire Ní Shuibhlaigh). Evelyn Gleeson's widowed sister, Constance MacCormack [1862-1921), lived at Dun Emer together with her children Grace (1898-1982), Katherine ('Kitty') (1892-1975), and Edward (1889-1906). Constance managed the household at Dun Emer and both Grace and Kitty worked in the Guild from an early age. Kitty was an amateur actress, theatre set designer and author. As designer for Dun Emer Kitty worked on such projects as the Honan Chapel, Cork tapestries (1917), gold vestments for St Patrick's church, San Francisco (1923), and the carpet presented to Pope Pius XI (1931). Kitty carried on the work of the Guild after her aunt's death, aged 89, on 20 February 1944. The last home of Dun Emer, the shop in Harcourt St, Dublin closed around 1964.
  • Archival History ↴

    The collection was presented by Evelyn Gleeson's grand nephew Dr Patrick Kelly in 1993 with additions in 2000.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴


Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Gleeson Evelyn, 1855-1944, founder of Dun Emer Guild ↴

    The papers of Evelyn Gleeson include the legal documents, agreements, prospectuses and circulars, and financial accounts relating to the establishment and administration of the Dun Emer guild (1902-20). Scrapbooks containing photographs and postcards of Dun Emer staff and craftwork, sketches and designs for vestments, rugs, embroidered costumes, Christmas card samples, bookplates and letterhead designs, tapestry dossals, designs for tooled leather bindings, exhibition catalogues. Articles, lectures, interviews and research notes, mostly written by Evelyn Gleeson, relating to Dun Emer, arts and crafts in Ireland, Athlone Woollen Mills, Irish history and the emancipation of women. Poetry, plays and fiction written by Evelyn Gleeson and Katherine MacCormack. Autobiographical memoir by Evelyn Gleeson and Gleeson genealogical notes. Photographs and drawings of Gleeson family members and Dun Emer interior and exterior. The collection includes over 400 letters including extensive correspondence (originals and transcripts) with Augustine Henry (1879-1930); other correspondents include Lily and Lolly Yeats, Sir Roger Casement, Padraic Colum, Katherine Tynan Hinkson, Susan Mitchell, Patrick Pearse, Grace Gifford, Joseph Plunkett, George Russell (‘AE’), poet James Stephens and Jack Yeats.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    The collection is arranged as follows:
    10676/1 Dun Emer Guild: legal documents, agreements, prospectuses, circulars etc
    10676/2 Dun Emer: accounts 1903-1920
    10676/3 Dun Emer: work and design
    10676/4 Dun Emer Press and Cuala Press
    10676/5 Articles, lectures, interviews and research notes
    10676/6 Poetry, plays and fiction
    10676/7 Gleeson Family History
    10676/8 Leagues and Societies
    10676/9 Newscuttings
    10676/10 Theatre programmes and handbills
    10676/11 Photographs and drawings
    10676/12-16 Correspondence and articles relating to Augustine Henry (1857-1930), botanist
    10676/17 Other letters to Evelyn Gleeson
    10676/18 Letters from Evelyn Gleeson
    10676/19 Other correspondents
    10676/20 Autograph collection
    10676/21 Miscellanea

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Please contact in advance of your visit
Conditions Governing ReproductionPlease contact for guidance.
Creation Dates1785-1990
Extent Medium6 boxes and two outsize folders
Material Language ScriptEnglish and Irish
Finding Aids A collection level description complete with index is available to view online Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Related MaterialCorrespondence between Dr Augustine Henry and Evelyn Gleeson (1879-1928): IE National Library of Ireland MS 13,698. Cuala Press Archive: TCD Dept of Early Printed Books. The National Museum of Ireland hold a considerable collection of Dun Emer work.
Publication NotePaul Larmour, 'The Dun Emer Guild', Irish Arts Review (1984-1987), Vol 1, No 4 (Winter, 1984), pp24-28. Dictionary of Irish Biography, (general editors) James McGuire and James Quinn (Royal Irish Academy and Cambridge University Press, 2009). Kit and Cyril Ó Céirnín, Women of Ireland: a biographic dictionary (1996), pp84-85

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteAdapted by Natalie Milne, February 2014.
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottowa: International Council on Archives, 2000. National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names. Chippenham: National Council on Archives, 1997.
Date of Descriptions41671