History of Trinity Hall, Dartry
Set out below is the chapter on Trinity Hall by Warden Emerita Clarissa Pilkington née Crawford in A Danger to the Men? A History of Women in TrinityCollegeDublin 1904-2004 edited by Susan Parkes [Lilliput Press 2004].
Trinity Hall was, on the whole, a happy place. If it is true that a happy country is one that has no history, perhaps the same may be said for institutions and families: thus there is little history to record of Trinity Hall.
Those graduates who were kind enough to write about their memories of their student days said that nothing much happened, and nearly all record the same high regard for the first warden, Miss Cunningham, and the same experiences.
Trinity Hall in Dartry Road was not the first residence to bear that name. The earlier residence was opened in 1617 when the Corporation sold the Bridewell to the College, which was originally built to house the vagrants who camped on Hoggen Green just in front of the College. It continued as a residence until 1641, but during the Civil War it fell into decay. In 1647 it was assigned to the recently incorporated College of Physicians and remained with them until its demolition early in the eighteenth century.
Our Trinity Hall was opened in 1908, four years after the official entry of women to the College. Other chapters deal with the difficulties in obtaining entry, and echoes continued of Alexandra College’s effort to become a separate college for women of Dublin University. Even after 1904 the Council of Alexandra kept up a rearguard action to become part of the University by trying to persuade the Board that it would be a suitable residence for women. There was a distinct need for a residence since the College regulations decreed that male students who were not resident in College must reside in certain registered houses unless they lived with their parents or guardians. Obviously something similar must be devised for women whose homes were not in the Dublin area.
In 1908 a subscription was raised among some members of staff and friends of the College to provide a residence and ‘Glen-na-Smoil’ in Dartry Road was purchased. The principal benefactor was the Chancellor, Lord Iveagh, who donated £1500, as did the late Professor Frederick Purser, FTCD. Many tutor Fellows contributed the fees they had received from the ‘Steamboat Ladies’, whom we have already met in chapter 4, and nearly all fees garnered by the College from these ladies were contributed to the purchase of Trinity Hall.
The total cost of establishing the Hall came to £8504 7s. 3d., which included the purchase price of the house of £2650 6s. 3d., the building of ‘The Block’, furniture and equipment, architects’ fees and legal costs. Apart from the Chancellor and Professor Purser, other benefactors included L.C. Purser, professor of Latin (£400), and Provost Traill (£105). Various others gave smaller amounts, among them Sir Edward Carson, who contributed twenty guineas, and Miss Mulvany of Alexandra College nobly made a donation.
There was a large number of gifts of furniture, pictures, books (with bookcases), china and the grandfather clock in the hall of Main House. The grand piano was a gift from the Geoghegan family, and from the ‘ladies of Londonderry’ the furniture of the ‘Derry Room’ for the holder of the Derry Scholarship. This room, No. 4 in Main House, lost its identity when the Derry Scholarship became a thing of the past. In May 1908 the Board approved the office of a lady warden for Trinity Hall at a salary of £150 per annum and on 16 May Miss Elizabeth Margaret Cunningham was appointed Warden. This was a most fortunate and indeed momentous appointment, for Miss Cunningham was to exercise an immense influence on the Hall for the next thirty odd years. She herself was a ‘Steamboat Lady’ who had entered Girton College in 1891 as an Irish Scholar, taking a first class in 1894 in Medieval and Modern Languages, specializing in German. Following various teaching posts she became lecturer in French and German at Royal Holloway College from 1900 to 1906, when she returned to Ireland to take up the position of vice-principal of Victoria College, Belfast.With a career like this behind her, it seems a shame the Board did not appoint her to a teaching position in College as well, but she was to prove invaluable as warden. Coming from Donegal, where her father was a member of the Land Commission, she had first-hand knowledge of social conditions in the Irish countryside and she was always sympathetic to Irish aspirations. Indeed she came to Trinity with enlightened views on most social affairs, particularly those affecting women at all levels of society: for instance, the domestic staff in Hall had two hours free time every afternoon and one half-day a week, as well as a half-day on either Saturday or Sunday – hours which were practically unheard of at that time. (Attempts had been made by women’s groups in Britain to persuade Parliament to legislate on working hours for domestic servants and Miss Cunningham was obviously in favour of this. The attempts failed: perhaps MPs were afraid of their wives’ reactions.)
Miss Cunningham was also a member of various trade boards in Ireland, very sympathetic and supportive of the Co-operative movement and strongly in favour of providing training for young women for a variety of employments. She was a keen gardener and was active in setting up horticultural training activities for girls. In the early days young women were employed in the Hall gardens.
She was, of course, deeply interested in the Women’s Suffrage Movement. In 1911, when feelings were running high, a young graduate (Marion Duggan, 1908, LLB 1910) and a student (Beatrice Adderley, MB 1913) complained that women students were anti-suffrage. A rumour had spread that Miss Cunningham had taken their part and had spoken at meetings. They asked leave to form a society in favour of women’s suffrage and affiliate to ‘The Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association’ and to attend public meetings. The Provost reminded them that the Statutes forbade students’ attendance at public meetings, inside or outside the College. Graduates were not subject to College rules but students might not take either side. Miss Cunningham was instructed not to persuade or sanction any resident students to sign documents sympathizing with either view and she herself should not address meetings, even in private houses. She agreed to conform.
Even so, her views remained well known and her liberal attitude towards the 1916 Rebellion caused a rumour that the Provost would ask for her resignation. In spite of her known sympathies she survived as warden, and when the Treaty was signed in 1921 she was completely supportive of the new state. Daphne Wormell (Wallace, 1940) records that her attitude was anti-British (as opposed to pro-Nazi) at the start of the Second World War until the evacuation from Dunkirk. At that time students were not permitted their own radios, largely because each student would have had to purchase her own wireless licence and there was also the difficulty of providing aerials in the early days of broadcasting, so Miss Cunningham opened her sitting-room door and students congregated on the staircase to listen to the Dunkirk evacuation, and to Churchill’s ‘blood, sweat and tears’ speech. Trinity Hall in its early days cannot be discussed without constant reference to the warden. ‘Cun’, as she became known, was everywhere. The original house held twelve students but as soon as it opened, building began on a new wing, later called ‘The Block’. Cun was active in overseeing all the building operations, additions, decorations and furnishing, insisting on the best she could persuade the College authorities to provide. In 1910 the adjoining Palmerston House and grounds were purchased by John Purser Griffith and his wife and given to the College in memory of Frederick Purser; this became Purser House. A connecting two-floor corridor with eight rooms on each floor was built between the two houses but, as usual with College, money was short and there were major faults that did not appear until many years later. One of these was the flat roof, of which more anon. Meanwhile it provided a great diversion for students in the Trinity term when mattresses were dragged up there and students slept à la belle étoile in fine weather. One resident in Top Block remembers waking up one morning after a night’s heavy rain to find two mattresses with their owners on her floor and several more in the passage outside her room. Another major fault was the omission of a damp-proof course, but this was rectified in the fifties, after the current Warden complained bitterly about rising damp.
In the early days of the history of the Hall, Bridget Geraghty was an institution in herself. She boasted that she was the first maid employed by Cun, but she was no ordinary maid. Cun ran everything herself, from the employment of staff through the catering and entire supervision of the whole enterprise. Until the sixties the warden was in effect ‘monarch of all she surveyed’ and responsible for it. Geraghty was Cun’s right-hand woman: she ordered supplies as instructed, chivvied the rest of the staff, ‘The Models’ as she came to call them, and was an essential part of the management. She knew all the students, took a keen interest in their doings, their clothes and their boyfriends, and handed out support and sympathy. If students visited Hall after graduation Geraghty could greet them all by name, and even knew their married names. She was an outspoken woman, and a vice-warden recalls being dispatched by Joyce Power-Steele (1932) at the end of the War, when fast days were reinstated by the Catholic Church, to ask Geraghty about what the staff might eat. ‘Is it the Staff, Miss?’ she said, ‘What are you bothering your heads about the Staff for? Sure they’ll all go to Hell anyway.’ (They had become ‘The Models’ by then.) She also boasted that she gave notice to quit in her first week, and never took it back. She remained part of the place until her death in 1959, friend of successive wardens and generations of students. A little rose garden was planted in her memory.
The Hall continued its even tenor throughout Cun’s reign. The College saw no reason to make use of the premises outside term-time, so it was shut for major portions of the year. In 1914 Cun was allowed to hold a conference for the executive committee of the Irish Collegiate Christian Union during the Christmas vacation, but this was no exercise in profit-making. The Committee undertook to pay the full expenses of the visit and the warden undertook that ‘no lady resident student be disturbed’. Again in 1920 the Irish Co-operation Society was allowed to hold a Summer School under the Warden’s supervision with the stipulation that ‘the College was to be at no expense’. One way and another, the Hall was run fairly extravagantly, and the Board occasionally complained but took no action. Miss Cunningham had one thrifty policy however. The electric lights were turned off at 11 pm and thereafter candles were used.
All the heating was by open coal fires in the study-bedrooms and common rooms, but in spite of this there is no record of conflagration. The coal allowance was one scuttle per day, but when the War came in 1939 this was reduced to one scuttle every other day and two for the weekend. At night students would boil kettles on the fires and have a little late supper with their friends or ‘families’ and thrash out all the answers to the multitude of world problems until the small hours of the morning. Other cash-saving methods were the keeping of hens (the hen-run was in the area immediately between the long corridor and the walled garden, and one student records watching the rats coming to share the hen-food) and the use of the walled garden as a kitchen garden. As well as vegetables the garden produced the most divine grapes, plums and peaches, which were served in season after Sunday lunch. The warden’s table had pretty Quimper pottery plates for these delicacies, and many students remember them fondly. The general running of the Hall was like that of a country house. Students were awakened in the morning by a maid bringing hot water; shoes were collected from outside the student’s door, cleaned and returned there in time for departure to College; fires were cleared, coal brought and beds made, and all this for what now seem laughably small amounts, but were regarded as expensive by non-residents. Fees were graded into A, B and C accommodation, C being double rooms, and there was a sliding scale depending on length of residence. In the twenties the scale was:
A B C
7 weeks £20.15 £16.10 £15.00
8 weeks £23.10 £21.10 £19.00
9 weeks £26.00 £23.15 £21.10
10 weeks £28.10 £26.00 £23.10
Thereafter the rate was £2 10s., £2 5s. and £2 per week. Honor exams took place before lecture term began, which necessitated extra length of stay, and the medical term lasted for ten weeks.
In addition to this ease of living, students benefited greatly from Cun’s wide interests, her large circle of friends and her determination that students should be educated in the widest sense: She spared no pains, unobtrusively and tactfully … to train their minds, develop their aesthetic sense, to help them to an appreciation of true values and fit them to think independently for themselves. She often invited guests to dinner, notabilities in the realms of literature or art, and generously shared them with the undergraduates by inviting as many of these as she decently could to meet the VIPs.1 She also took students with her when she went to AE’s (George Russell’s) Sunday evenings, when his themes would range from the literary to the Co-operative movement. She expected her students to develop interests as wide-ranging as her own. She was also a very understanding person and old students recall her comments when they returned late from College dances: ‘Whatever the hour, we had to go to the end of Cunny’s bed and report back to a pig-tailed Miss C sitting up in bed, peering at us over her spectacles and asking: “What is this thing called passion? I heard a car arrive an hour ago and you appear only now and Betty Smith arrived hours ago.” ’ Another student recalls returning late on Sunday night after a visit home, but she knew Cun’s fondness for flowers and had armed herself with a large bunch of tulips from her parents’ well-stocked garden, so was spared even a ‘ticking-off ’.2
There were few rules in Hall and what there were closely reflected the rules for College residents. In the early days the students appear to have accepted all rules without demur, but as the years passed there was some grumbling. The main rule was the eleven o’clock ‘curfew’ and students who went out in the evenings – even if only to post a letter at the street corner – signed a book saying where they were and signed again on their return. Cun seems to have been around to lock up, but her successor shared the duties with the vice-warden and Geraghty. Breakfast was an excellent running meal from eight to nine – with tea, coffee, toast, cereals and a cooked dish for those who wanted it. Lunch was available if one gave notice before ten o’clock. Afternoon tea was served in the large common room (thin bread and butter with small slices of fruitcake known as keeping-cake or kept-cake according to its freshness) but dinner was compulsory, as was Commons for the men in College. It was served formally at seven o’clock, preceded by a short Latin grace, and was excellent. Students in the early days were required to ‘dress’ for dinner, but by the thirties this had become ‘change for dinner’, and later this practice died out.
In Cun’s day students would organize small parties on Saturday evenings and groups of young men would be invited for dancing the latest steps to gramophone records, or to the playing of the piano. On Friday evenings there was a céilí and these too were popular. Students might also entertain their men friends in their rooms in the afternoon – one student recalls Geraghty showing a young man in, saying knowingly ‘The little brother again, Miss,’ – and the small common room could be booked for entertaining men in the evenings. In many ways the students were freer than their male counterparts in College, who not only dined on Commons but had also to go on Night Roll at nine o’clock, or ten o’clock in Trinity term. After that time they required a written pass from the Junior Dean if they wished to go out of College. The strongest objection made by women to College rules was the six o’clock rule. This was a real source of grievance to those using the Library or Reading Room or attending Society meetings. The residents made mock of the bars on the ground-floor windows of the Hall, but a glance at the older Dublin houses that had basements showed that all had barred basement windows, and students should have realized that the bars were not intended to imprison them but to ‘repel boarders’. The only dances that students might attend in Dublin were the College Dances, which were chaperoned by the wives of members of staff. ‘Late leave’ was given by the Warden, but students who had forgotten to get leave, or wished to go to some other unsanctioned function, sometimes got their friends to open the door for them after hours or to help out with certain vulnerable windows. On one occasion a shy and nervous freshman in Bottom Block was awakened in the small hours by a knocking on her window and a voice saying, ‘I’m Alexander. Will you come and open the door, please.’ Luckily she rushed to the next room for protection and discovered that the young man had merely got the wrong window and the late-night reveller was duly admitted. As time went by, rules were altered and the eleven o’clock curfew became eleven-thirty and then midnight.
Miss Cunningham announced her retirement in 1940 but died before she had the opportunity to return to her beloved Donegal. The story is that when there was a fracas outside following a dance at a nearby tennis club, she rushed out to help quell the disturbance and tragically caught a chill, which turned to pneumonia, resulting in her death. The Board purchased her very extensive collection of books, which were housed in specially built bookcases in Main House Library, the money going to her sisters. Cun had always been deeply interested in Irish literature and she was a great friend of the Yeats sisters, Lily and Lollie, who gave the Hall a complete set of Cuala Press first editions. She spent a large part of her salary on books and regularly purchased the work of budding Irish authors.
Her successor, who had already been appointed by the Board, took office immediately. She was Miss Dorothea Waller, who was at the time assistant to Miss Godfrey, the lady registrar. Miss Waller had graduated in Mental and Moral Science in 1915 and had spent many years as a missionary in India before returning to Dublin. This was not, perhaps, an ideal training for someone who was to be in charge of a houseful of cheerful adolescents, and she must have been unhappy in many of her dealings with the students though she was both kind and well meaning. In all events the students were not always happy in their dealings with her: she did not include nursing sick students among her responsibilities and one girl who developed German measles was exported, much to her rage, by stretcher and ambulance to the fever hospital, where her friends visited her unhindered. Again, it was the custom for the housemaid on duty to call to the public telephone any student to whom a call was made; Miss Waller banned this practice and, on being challenged by an indignant student who had missed a call, said: ‘The Hall is not for the convenience of students.’ This was repeated round Hall with mingled wrath and hilarity.
Her difficulties came to a head when she walked unheralded into the small common room where a student was entertaining her boyfriend one evening and found them embracing warmly. She was so horrified that she promptly reported the matter to the Provost – poor man – and also sent for the Deputy Senior Student to demand: ‘Tell me, Moyra, does much of this sort of thing go on?’ and Moyra, admirably seriously, replied, ‘Miss Waller, there have been courting couples ever since the days of Adam and Eve.’ The students took the affair very much to heart and sent a round robin to the Board requesting that Miss Waller be asked to resign. The Board no doubt regarded this as a storm in a teacup, worthy of wrath and hilarity, and very properly refused the students’ plea, while the student at the heart of the affair went off to live in approved lodgings.
However, two years later there was another inept handling of a student request. This time the student wished to take evening classes outside College, which would involve missing dinner every week-night. Miss Waller argued that the student was undertaking an impossible workload and furthermore would not be properly fed, whereupon the student enlisted the support of her tutor, Mr Godfrey, whose reputation among undergraduates was ‘My pupil, right or wrong,’ and this matter also went to the Board. This time Miss Waller resigned at the end of the year, but she was proved right about the student’s workload, or perhaps the course did not come up to expectations: in any case, the student abandoned it.
Miss Waller deserves our sympathy for what must have been, for her, an uncomfortable term of office, which was not eased by the fact that she was there during the Second World War and its immediate aftermath. She had to cope with fuel shortages – who can remember the gas ‘Glimmer Man’? – and certain food rationings, but above all the heating problems. Smouldering turf fires did not provide a lot of heat, and one resident records that her abiding memory of her stay was being perpetually and miserably cold. But there were some changes during her reign. One that delighted the kitchen staff was the purchase of a potato peeler. Another, which pleased the students, was that the electric lights were no longer switched off at 11pm, once it had been established that this did not in fact lead to increased consumption (information obtained by assiduous meter-reading by the Vice-Warden). Also the Vice-Warden discovered a small electric kettle put away in a storeroom by Miss Cunningham for use in an emergency, and persuaded Miss Waller that the times warranted its use. It was set up near the diningroom and hot drinks could be made with the newly marketed Nescafé.
The new warden, Joyce Power-Steele (1932), was appointed in 1947. She was a Scholar and a graduate in Experimental Science, in short a physicist. She returned to Trinity from running Riddell Hall in Belfast and may, perhaps, be remembered as ‘the best warden the Hall never had’. Her stay was, sadly, brief. She had to work out a term’s notice at Queen’s, and in her first term the vice-warden, Clarissa Crawford, was given the resounding title ‘acting warden under supervision’. The supervision consisted of the occasional weekend appearance of Miss Power-Steele or a telephoned ‘Is everything going all right?’ ‘Yes, fine.’ There was one incident when ‘fine’ did not apply. The boiler in the basement of Purser House went on fire and caused damage to the two rooms overhead, but fortunately this occurred during the day and there was minimal damage. Miss Crawford recalls telephoning the Bursar to set in train repairs and insurance claims that were dealt with by College. The Bursar’s startled reply, getting first things first, was, ‘Is it out?’
When Miss Power-Steele did arrive, she was obviously going to be a very great success, but circumstances dictated otherwise. Her mother died following a fall at home and Joyce was forced to go home to look after her father, as her request to the Board to allow him to live in Trinity Hall was refused. She went on to become headmistress of the Hall School, Monkstown, and later warden of a residence at Reading University. Her lasting contribution to the Hall’s well-being was the introduction of medical certificates for first year arrivals, and the purchase of a motor-mower – hitherto the hockey field, tennis courts and Purser House field had been cut by two perspiring gardeners, one pulling and one pushing an enormous hand-machine.
Student life went on much as before and as far as authority went the appointment of Clarissa Crawford as warden made little difference, as she had been in residence for the past several years, first as a student and then as vice-warden, and occasionally acting warden, with a term’s excursion into housekeeping in an emergency. It may be appropriate here to include a précis of the warden’s ‘Notes on the administration of Trinity Hall in the 1940s and 1950s’, which was sent to the Bursar on one of the occasions when the Board was contemplating selling the entire site.
The Hall was run by the warden, assisted by a housekeeper and a vice-warden, who was normally a recent graduate engaged in research or in taking a further course, usually the HDipEd. The warden had total charge: the intake of new students, the finances, the hiring of staff, the maintenance of the buildings and grounds, she kept the accounts, she did the secretarial work, and she stood in loco parentis to all the residents. The College looked after insurance and any major financial outlay that involved structural work. In 1946 the Trinity Hall Committee of the Board had been set up. This Committee met once a term and in general rubber-stamped whatever the warden brought to its attention.
The domestic staff consisted of the senior maid, Geraghty, parlour maid, seven housemaids, the cook, the kitchen maid and two between-maids. There were three full-time gardeners and one ‘odd man’ who came in twice a week; one of these was appropriately called Herbage. The head gardener, Calthorpe, was a master gardener who lived in the Purser House lodge, and one of the others lived in the Main House lodge. Calthorpe meticulously kept the gardens, greenhouses and grounds, and a supply of fresh vegetables and fruit was available in season. Any surplus was sold to Findlaters in Rathmines, and a further source of income was the letting of the playing fields. Miss Ashworth’s school played twice a week on the Purser House Field and The High School had two afternoons for junior rugby. DUCAC paid a minimal rent for the hockey, tennis, cricket and lacrosse clubs. These annual rents came to about £50, a considerable sum in those days. During the Long Vacation sheep belonging to the local butcher grazed the hockey field. There was also a donkey, Jane, which had belonged to the Griffiths and came as a gift with Purser House. Jane pulled a cart and did her share in the grounds, collecting grass-clippings and fallen leaves. She was also used during the War to carry any furniture that needed repair to the College workshops. The outside windows were cleaned once a year by the College men and the chimneys had an annual visit from the College sweeps.
There was a telephone in the warden’s office/sitting-room and a coin-box phone in Main House. There was no safe. There was no typewriter apart from a portable belonging to Miss Crawford and rather inexpertly operated by her. The College had not yet sorted out its finances with the government and there was little money to spare. Three or four rooms would be decorated annually by the clerk of works. The warden and vice-warden might treat a really shabby room to a coat of distemper, and they would also carry out minor repairs on blown electric fuses. Soft furnishings were replaced as necessary.
Calthorpe had been appointed by Cun in the Hall’s more spacious days and he was always treated with the respect that his skill and status deserved. Cun regularly sent him over to the Chelsea Flower Show, but this custom was not renewed after the War. Calthorpe had been apprenticed in his youth to the Dunsany gardens where he had become a master gardener, but he came to Dublin so that his sons might attend secondary school. He was fond of harking back to the days when he was ‘with the Gentry’ and Trinity Hall was obviously a great comedown in the world. But his colleagues in Dublin’s public gardens such as St Stephen’s Green and Herbert Park held him in high regard, and he judged annually for the Corporation’s ‘small gardens’ competitions. Apart from his care of the kitchen gardens he produced superb fruit in the walled garden and greenhouses and the Hall was never short of raspberry, gooseberry and loganberry jam, and ‘his’ dahlias won prizes every year at the Royal Horticultural Society of Ireland shows. His decorations of chrysanthemums and greenery were a great feature of Hall Dance – later known as Hall Ball – and are still fondly remembered by past students.
When the College workforce joined the Transport and General Workers’ Union the Trinity Hall gardeners followed suit and there was one happy moment when Calthorpe was overheard telling a visiting union official just what he would do if a strike were to be called when his vines and tomatoes needed attention. Calthorpe retired in 1965 and the following year the College moved the Botanic Gardens from Ballsbridge to Trinity Hall, purchasing a further five acres behind the Hall to erect extra glass-houses and to plant the arboretum. The Purser House field then became a site for experiments in growing different grasses and was no longer used for sport.
One of the problems left from the original building of corridors was the lack of a damp-proof course. In the early fifties this was rectified and damp no longer rose in ‘The Dungeons’. The opportunity was also taken to ensure that the foundations had been laid with the possible addition of a third storey in mind. This rumour proved correct and was duly noted by the Warden. The open coal fires were replaced by gas fires with a meter in each room so that students could top up their fuel allowance. The greatest innovation in the fifties was the holding of conferences and summer schools. Although occasional small society meetings were held in the Hall by Miss Cunningham, the Board had set its face against any large gathering, and certainly no man was permitted to stay overnight while students were in residence, not even Miss Power-Steele’s father. It must have been galling for her to see the changes that were about to take place. Following the War, conferences became fashionable, and by great good fortune the Berkeley Bicentenary celebrations were coming up in 1953. The great Berkeley scholar Professor A.A. Luce, who was also vice-provost, had decided on a conference to mark the occasion, and because his wife, Lilian Luce (Thompson)3 had been a very happy resident student he was devoted to the Hall’s interests and wished to house his conference members there. The way was now clear. The first major conference to be held was that of professors of English, which took place during a Christmas vacation and was the brainchild of Professor H.O. White. Registration for the conference had been advertised as 3–4 pm on the opening day and preparations had to be made with that deadline in mind (preparations included the provision of shaving-mirrors in the bathrooms). What Prof. White and the Warden had forgotten was that most of the members would be arriving from Britain by boat, and a number of taxis bearing travel-worn passengers swept up the drive at breakfasttime, one driver announcing ‘Well, I’ve brought you to Trinity Hall, but you won’t be allowed to stay here so I’d better wait.’ He was right: their luggage was taken in, but the professors were despatched back into Dublin to find breakfast in various hotels, with instructions to return in the afternoon. By that time fires were burning everywhere and the place wore a reasonably festive air. All the lectures and seminars were held in Hall and the party took to the rather informal atmosphere, though they were probably a bit surprised to find that the place was ‘dry’. H.O.White rectified this by providing pre-prandial drinks and doubtless the professors looked after themselves. It proved to be a very successful venture that paved the way for many others. Most of these conferences naturally took place in the Long Vacation when the Hall had always been closed to residents. Now this was changed. The Hall remained open for conferences and there was also room for overseas students to remain in residence and for any others who wished to stay on in Dublin to use the College Reading Room and to work for examinations, which were held in October. The conference season normally finished early in September when the Hall resumed its normal function. Apart from the Berkeley conference, when one visitor from India was heard to remark of Dr Luce: ‘It is a pleasure to have come so far to meet such a mind,’ there were others of note. One was the government’s ‘International Soil Fertility Conference’, which attracted distinguished scientists from all over the world who were billeted in various university residences and hotels throughout the city. There was the succession of International Summer Schools, all of them excellent, organized by Professor T.W. Moody. For several years the Glasgow University Extra-Mural Summer School arrived and many lecturers became old friends. There was also the Holiday Fellowship, whose members came to tramp the Dublin hills. The conferences proved to be very profitable to the Hall and so were a definite benefit to the College. After the changed routine it was a pleasure and relief to return the Hall to its proper function as a women’s residence. By now the curfew hour had been moved to 11.30 pm and the six o’clock rule in College had been modified and other evening functions involving ‘late leave’ had been sanctioned, although ‘signing-out’ was still regarded by students as an unnecessary restriction. Parents, however, seemed to approve of it, and of the curfew hour, which was fairly strictly enforced. Miss Crawford had a reputation for strictness, holding the view that if a rule existed it should be obeyed. She recalls an occasion when a student who had omitted to ask for ‘late leave’ telephoned some while after the curfew hour and a small voice said: ‘Miss Crawford?’ ‘Yes, Veronica,’ said the Warden, whereupon there came a whisper: ‘Tony, hold my hand.’ They had been dining together in Naas (at Lawlor’s, caterers of Horse Show fame) and Miss Crawford, stifling giggles, suggested that it was time to start for home, having due regard to a safe speed.
When the flat roof required major repairs, the Warden, who had struggled in vain for what she regarded as necessary expenditure, now proposed that a new corridor of twelve rooms be built. ‘How much,’ demanded the Bursar, ‘will you charge per room?’ and on hearing the proposed income looked more closely at the plan that was submitted to him, did some calculations on scrap paper and passed the scheme. It included a ‘utility room’ equipped with electric irons and tea-making facilities. The rooms faced Dartry Road and were very popular, so were allocated first to Senior Sophisters.Dry rot had already been discovered and dealt with in the Main House hall and it was also found in the now condemned flat roof. As the building foreman remarked of the wall-plate, ‘If we leave that in and build on it, it will be like putting new clothes on a corpse.’ The new roof lasted until the nineties when dry rot was again discovered and eliminated. In 1952 the next house off Temple Road, ‘Greenane’, came on the market and was purchased by the Board for the Hall. Once again the Warden had full control of the furnishing, and the furniture was made to order in the College workshops and paid for out of income. The students resident in Greenane felt they had an increased measure of freedom from authority, though the house was presided over by the Vice-Warden. The student population during this period was quite cosmopolitan. After the War there was an influx of British students into Trinity and with these, mainly English, there were Americans, Chinese, Indians, Nigerians, Rhodesians, Maltese and Danes, in addition to the lectrices from France, Germany and Spain, as well as the Irish and Northern Irish students. Hall retained, however, the sense of community envisaged by Miss Cunningham.
Vice-wardens continued to be research or diploma students. Housekeepers came and went after a year or two, until Joyce Power-Steele secured Miss McDonald for the post. Mollie McDonald was a member of a family from Northern Ireland who had seen two or three generations pass through Trinity. She was a graduate of Atholl Crescent and her career in Trinity Hall passed almost into legend. She was there when the conference boom began and she was much missed when she left, first to visit Africa and then to set up her own coffee shop in Belfast and restaurant in Saintfield, Co. Down, which was starred by Egon Ronay. She was succeeded by Miss Shetliff who arrived in time to see Greenane into its first term and to cope with the Holiday Fellowship packed lunches.
Miss Crawford, who had hoped to bring the Hall’s social customs more into the mid-twentieth century, resigned in 1957 to marry R.K.C. Pilkington. She was succeeded by Miss Anne Brambell (1951), who had been a resident student during her junior freshman year and had returned after graduating to become vice-warden from 1954–6. She then went to Leeds where she had charge of one of the student hostels. Now, back in Trinity, she continued with the modernizing of administration in Hall, introducing a college porter, and employing a full-time secretary, although not all her innovations met with the universal approval of her charges. She also had a flatlet in Main House so that the Warden did not always live in the public eye, so to speak, and could retire to privacy. The real change came in 1959 when Miss Godfrey retired from her long-held position as lady registrar and the offices of warden and lady registrar were amalgamated. The amalgamation, it was hoped, would end the duplication of work that had occurred in the separate offices, and there was the added incentive that there might be some saving in salaries. The new office was called ‘dean of women students’ and Miss Brambell had notable success in her dual role until her marriage to Vincent Denard in 1965, when she remained as dean of women but retired from the Hall.
Meanwhile life in the Hall continued in much the old way, although one student, Aline Galvin, who tried the regime for her first week in College – Freshers’ Week – decided that it was not for her. She reported:
It was all girls, of course, and seemed quite strict and Spartan. I had to beg to go out two nights that week and had to be back by 11.30 pm. As that was already my curfew at home I decided I was better off with the comforts of home.
But Miss Brambell took in a married Italian student with a baby, which was an utterly new departure for Hall life. Another innovation was the recognition of Scholars. The Hall had always had its share of Scholars, but they did not qualify for free lodging, and there were no ‘Waiters’ [students paid to say grace before and after meals], but Mary Henry (1963), now Senator Mary Henry, was paid £15 for saying the College grace at dinner. Another dissatisfied resident, interviewed for Scene in 1968, reported:
It was awful! Awful! Awful! Awful! Awful! Awful! I mean it’s probably all right if you’re straight from school. Fantastic then, really, because it’s a sort of continuation with a bit more freedom and you’re used to routine and regimentation. But apart from that, it’s really too dreadful for words. You stagnate there. It isn’t the fault of the place really, because it has its advantages, like having your meals cooked and servants to tidy up and things like that. But you stagnate. Unless you’re a very attractive girl, unless you’re the sort of girl men just ask out right away, without being able to help themselves because you’re so attractive, there isn’t much chance.
Trinity Hall is No Man’s Land, near enough. If you are entertaining a man in your rooms, the coach turns back into a pumpkin two hours before midnight and you have to move out into a sort of communal room. At ten o’clock! And if you’re out anywhere, you have to be in by twelve, unless you have special permission – and you get special permission only two nights a week, isn’t it?
And they have this time clock. I mean, you literally have to clock in like a factory worker. They have this time clock with the machine that stamps the time on your card and you have to clock in.What chance has a girl who isn’t VERY ATTRACTIVE?
Contrast this with a report from twenty years earlier by Ellis Foy:
We did our debating and discussions in Hall … mostly in our rooms till all hours on all sorts of subjects from nudism to religion, dances and people, getting drunk, men’s peculiar ideas on women’s intelligence and the general idea that women were more vulnerable to criticism, and so on and so on.
She adds cheerfully that the Hall was conveniently placed for College, theatres, and social activities, and there were lots of cycle rides to the mountains.
And again contrast with a student of the sixties who spent some weeks in Hall in her first year and recalled it with pleasure, and also talked about sitting in College at the top of No. 6 looking out towards the Campanile and discussing much the same topics with her fellow students. In short, growing up.
Miss Brambell retired from the wardenship in 1965 although, as Mrs Denard, she remained as dean of women for some time. Her successor was Miss Leila McCutcheon. The swinging sixties saw considerable student unrest in Europe and this led to mild repercussions in Trinity, but on the whole bypassed the Hall. Nonetheless changes were coming. Miss McCutcheon was not a Trinity graduate. Coming from Tipperary, she had studied at the National College of Art, and included designs for pottery for the Arklow Pottery among her distinctions. She then went to teach in England where her career culminated at the Royal Ballet School, Colet Gardens, where she was Headmistress; she was an able administrator and oversaw their move to new premises in Richmond Park. She retired early to Tipperary, but was told of the vacancy at Trinity Hall, applied and was appointed. She reigned until 1975, but her time was dogged by ill health. However, she had excellent rapport with the students and enjoyed a reputation as a most caring and sympathetic warden in dealing with their difficulties, especially in ‘heartbreak’ matters; and she returned to the tradition of inviting notable guests for the students to meet over coffee after dinner. The changes of her time were dramatic. In 1966, as we have seen, the Botanic Gardens were moved to their present site.
The Calendar for 1969/70 lists many new regulations, some of which had no doubt been in practice, but were now formalized. The first few deal with admission to Hall. No. 9 states that the residents should elect a Junior Common Room Committee (the old student committee formalized), whose president and one other would sit on the Trinity Hall Committee of the Board. Other regulations deal with students’ rights to appeal to the Disciplinary Committee from any disciplinary decision of the Trinity Hall Committee. Several deal with residence during vacation and absence from residence during term. Others deal with health, and the last states that Hall would close at midnight, but Scholars, sophisters, senior freshmen and students aged over twentyone would hold keys; junior freshmen were required to get special leave to be out after midnight. At this time, too, all the student rooms were provided with locks. This led to greater security for student possessions and was the answer to minor break-ins from outside the Hall.
Miss McCutcheon’s administrative talents were now put to good use. Men were admitted as residents. Some rooms were altered to become communal kitchens for self-catering, originally for breakfast but eventually for all meals. Resident staff were a thing of the past and students looked after themselves. In 1972–3 Cunningham House was built: this is a block of self-contained flats and flatlets suitable both for students and lecturers, and some were specially designed as married quarters. Further building to Main House was the addition of a small sports complex that included squash and badminton courts and a bar that, it was hoped, would integrate Hall more completely into College life. Now the Trinity Hall Club was founded, open to graduates, staff and students over eighteen years. Its purpose was to provide social and sporting amenities and it was run by a committee including the warden, vice-warden, junior dean, the college agent, catering officer and Hall’s domestic bursar.
Here one must bring in one of the Hall’s fixtures, Mary Johnston. Mary was appointed assistant bursar in Miss Brambell’s time and she remained dedicated to the Hall until her retirement. She became indispensible to Miss McCutcheon during her illness and remained more or less at the head of daily affairs under the successive new wardens. So she saw in all the new developments from the installation of central heating, the introduction of male residents, the new catering arrangements, the new building and, in later years, the letting out of accommodation during the Long Vacation. She was indeed the link of continuity with the past.
The Hall meanwhile came under the guidance of a board of management, whose members with one voice say ‘nothing much happened’. Day-to-day management of the Hall remained with the Trinity Hall Committee and, of course, the students were still dealing with their own dilemmas, mostly romantic, so there were the usual dramas taking place. One warden occasionally referred to the Hall as Heartbreak House, but this name could have been used at any stage in its history.
The acquisition of lands at Santry for sporting facilities saw the departure from Hall of the Women’s Hockey Club, and the Tennis Club had long been playing almost exclusively in the courts in Botany Bay, so although the grass courts were still in use, the hockey field was used entirely for football. The new complex unfortunately did not develop into a social centre as much as had been hoped and before long the bar service was discontinued. Probably Hall was too far from College for, as College numbers grew and lectures might take place after 6 pm, the only non-resident students to acquire the habit of using the Hall’s amenities were members of the Badminton Club. Fred Aalen, senior lecturer in geography, became the first male warden on Miss McCutcheon’s retirement in 1975. Purser House was converted once again to a more or less private residence and became home for the Warden and his family. The two gate lodges had been rented to members of the College staff, and the gardeners, groundsmen and domestic cleaners came in during the day and were part of the College workforce. Fred Aalen’s wardenship continued for sixteen years during which he tried to keep up a sense of community, but the times were against this as students usually came into residence only for their first year. Country-house living was definitely a thing of the past and stories of the early days were almost unbelievable to the new generation who enjoyed warmth through central-heating, wash-basins in all study-bedrooms and common rooms with television.
Dr Petros Florides, associate professor of Applied Mathematics, took over in 1989. His first priority was to improve the central heating and thereafter to ensure the comfort of the residents, whose numbers now fluctuated between 170 and 188, with women in a slight majority. He tried to give the Hall an international flavour by accepting more foreign students, and to ensure an intake from all parts of Ireland and from all faculties. Quite a large number of students would go home for the weekend and fees were arranged accordingly. But social activities did continue and included an annual concert, the staging of plays and the invitation of experts to talk to the students. Notable here were poetry readings by Brendan Kennelly and ‘An evening with James Joyce’ by David Norris. During his reign, Long Vacation lettings were frequently to summer schools teaching English to foreign students.
Dr Florides was followed briefly by Dr Patrick Nixon in 1996/7, and the current warden is Carmel O’Sullivan, lecturer in education, whose husband Tom Hayes is resident with her in Purser House. During the eighties and nineties there were proposals to sell some of the lands at the Hall and even to dispose of the whole property. But the Management Committee and the Board eventually decided against, as one critic put it, ‘selling off the family silver’, although the resulting capital could have been used several times over on developments in College. However, in the nineties the problem of finding student accommodation in Dublin became acute and the decision was taken finally for major expansion at Trinity Hall. Planning application was made to Dublin Corporation and after a prolonged struggle with local residents’ associations and several changes in design, the project is due to be completed early in 2004. Of the old buildings, the listed buildings of Main House and Purser will remain, along with Greenane and Cunningham House, but the Corridors have vanished. The new halls of residence are sited on the old hockey field and are three- to four-storey buildings that will accommodate some 870 students. The rooms are small but very well equipped, en suite and with built-in furniture, and if the student’s bookcase looks small to an older generation, the desk is provided with access to every modern computer facility, which makes information so readily available.
Looking back over the past hundred years, it becomes apparent that Trinity Hall’s story is just a little bubble in the great melting-pot of the social change that took place in the twentieth century. It is a pity that a register of residents, on the lines of the Girton College Register, was never kept. It would be interesting to know, for instance, how many qualified women doctors actually took up medical practice, or what work, apart from teaching, was undertaken by a graduate in Mod. Lang. or Natural Science. Perhaps an aspiring PhD candidate might adopt something on these lines as a suitable subject for research. Meanwhile the woman student of 2004 may be excused for thinking that the world of her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother was too weird to be true. Could she believe that Geraghty would really castigate a maid who appeared wearing trousers on her afternoon off: ‘Go and change. It’s all right for Miss X or Miss Y, but not for the likes of you.’ But it did all happen. May the College career of today’s student be no less enjoyable and fulfilling than those of her predecessors.
The book was an initiative of the DU Women Graduates Association who have given €9,000 from the proceeds to the Trinity Access Programmes.
A Danger to the Men? is being re-issued, with the assistance of the Provost, to coincide with the centenary of Trinity Hall, and is available from the Library Shop: www.tcd.ie/Library/Shop at its original price of €25 [plus p&p]