An Irish Library

By Jim Lowney

Pictured (L – R) Seamus Boyle, his wife, Bernadette, Jere Cole and Alan Delozier, Seton Hall archivist.

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Each working day, Alan B. Delozier touches and brings to life the rich, centuries-old history of Ireland and the Irish. DeLozier is Seton Hall University’s archivist and director of the Msgr. William Noe Field Archives and Special Collections Center within the modern Walsh Library.

The center, which encompasses some 4,000-square-feet, contains more than 15,000 books and hundreds of other photos, documents and artifacts. Much of the material relates to the history of the Newark Archdiocese, including the official papers of all its archbishops and bishops, and the history of the university. A significant section houses about 5,000 books and artifacts attesting to the achievements of the Irish in Ireland and in America. The gem of the Irish archive is the MacManus Collection. It consists of more than 4,000 books, some dating to the 17th Century, which was brought from Dublin about 1950 by the late Msgr. John L. McNulty, a former Seton Hall president.

“We get visitors from all over the world, including many from Ireland,” said Delozier, 42, a resident of Springfield.”

“We try to provide as much depth and breadth of our resources to fill the needs of each researcher. The promotion and celebration of the Irish experience in all its forms is among our most important overall objectives,” he explained.

He says those who come to the library have varied missions. “Some are researchers or people writing books or doctoral dissertations, while others are just doing personal research on the Irish or their roots,” Delozier noted.

For many years the Special Collections Center was headed by the late Msgr. Field, who loved to tell the saga about how Msgr. Mc Nulty got hold of the books of Michael Joseph Meagher MacManus, who wrote Irish history volumes and served as editor of the Irish Press from 1931 until his death in 1951.

It seems Msgr. McNulty was in Dublin to make a bid on the collection, as were representatives from England’s Cambridge University. Msgr. McNulty was trying to persuade the widow of Meager MacManus, the brother of Michael Joseph, to sell the collection to Seton Hall. “Msgr. McNulty wouldn’t mind me calling him a fox,” Msgr. Field said in a 1997 interview. “He was able to have tea in the Gresham Hotel with Mrs. MacManus and convince her that their families once had adjoining farms. He paid 5,000 pounds for the collection, which was a bargain, he added.

The John Concannon Collection is the latest to reach the Irish library. Concannon was an editor in the Business News Department at Newsweek Magazine and was also a longtime public relations director of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In addition, he served as AOH National Historian and assistant editor of the National Hibernian Digest. Concannon, formerly of Queens, New York and Freehold Township, NJ, died in Austin, Texas last March 3 at the age of 85.

Over the many decades he was active in Irish American affairs, Concannon saved numerous souvenir medals and buttons from Irish events and conventions. He also retained books, photographs and journals.  Many of the journals and yearbooks are from past dinners of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, New York Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, United Irish Counties Association, the AOH and the Galway Men’s Association which he once led as president. In another project, Concannon tracked the hundreds of St. Patrick’s Day Parades across America and wrote an annual story for USA Today and other newspapers.

These days, DeLozier, a candidate for a doctoral degree in Irish Studies at Drew University, in Madison, is processing and cataloguing dozens of boxes of Concannon’s memorabilia. The archivist is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University and holds master degrees from Villanova University and Rutgers University. Before joining Seton Hall in 1998, he served as an archivist for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and for St. Peter’s College, Jersey City.

Delozier thrives on delving into things very old and very Irish. He has had an interest in Ireland and its people since his boyhood days in Ewing Township when he listened to broadcasts of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade narrated by the late Jack McCarthy.  “Jack’s narration made the listener and Ireland one,” related Delozier.

Recently, AOH National President Seamus Boyle and Jere Cole, New Jersey State AOH President and a National Director, visited the Seton Hall library to examine historical AOH items retained by Concannon. Included is an ornately inscribed charter for a New York County Division which is more than 100 years old.  Boyle noted there are several repositories for AOH-related materials, mostly at American universities. He says the AOH will be urging its members to seek out more vintage items to add to the regional collections. “There are a lot of treasures in boxes in attics and basements,” noted Boyle, a native of County Armagh.

Among other collections in the Irish archives are those of the late Rita Murphy who was an adjunct associate history professor at Seton Hall. She was also the longtime host of the weekly radio program “Pageant of Ireland” broadcast over WSOU-FM, the University’s station. Several years ago, Barbara O’Reilly, of Toms River, donated the Joseph J. and Mary Morris O’Reilly Collection. It contains books of her late parents. Mr. O’Reilly, a native of Portumna, County Galway, who was a founder, first president and an actor with the Thomas Davis Players. Her mother, who was born in Moyne, County Longford, was active with the Longford Ladies Association in New York. Jim MacFarland, a past president of AOH Msgr. Crean Division 1, Mercer County, also donated his book collection and other keepsakes to Seton Hall.

Not long before his death in 2008, Thomas “TC” Murray, a New Jersey history teacher and historian, gave the library his extensive collection of books and artifacts. Murray, a New York native and graduate of Power Memorial Academy and Iona College, taught at the former Essex Catholic High School, Newark, and Mater Dei High School, Middletown Township.

The activities of the Irish archives are guided by the university’s Irish Resources Advisory Board, which is headed by DeLozier. Among members is Dermot Quinn, a native of County Derry. He is a professor of history and author of “The Irish in New Jersey: Four Centuries of American Life.”

Visits to the Irish library are by appointment. More information is available by contacting Delozier at (973) 275-2378 or by e-mail at delozier@shu.edu.