24 January 2018, marks one hundred years since the RSAI’s inaugural event in 63 Merrion Square. It has been our home ever since. As the saying goes, ‘if these walls could talk…’!
The event featured lectures, a reception and even a performance of Irish music. The official report read:
The first Session of the Society in the new home acquired and fitted up during 1917 was opened by a Reception and Conversazione in the evening of Thursday, 24 January, 1918. The guests were received by the President, Mr T.J. Westropp, the Honorary Officers and Members of the Council. About three hundred members and their friends were present. The house, which had been tastefully decorated by the committee of ladies in charge of the arrangements, was open throughout for the inspection of members. On the ground-floor are the office, a commodious reading-room and gentlemen’s cloak-room and lavatories ; on the mezzanine floor is a handsome vestibule, off which is the ladies’ writing-room with lavatories ; on the first floor two large rooms provide suitable accommodation for the Society’s ordinary meetings. Portion of the upper-floors has been fitted up as a residential flat ; the rooms retained for the Society have been fitted as a library and contain the books presented by Dr F. Elrington Ball, Fellow, to whom the Society is indebted not only for this valuable collection, but for all the library equipment, of which he bore the entire cost. On this occasion the reading-room on the ground-floor was set apart for refreshments, and the rooms on the first floor were reserved for lectures and a programme of Irish music. The other rooms were devoted to exhibits of antiquities, many of them of great value and interest, lent by members ; a list will be found elsewhere.[i] Specimens from the unique collection of rubbings of early Irish inscribed and decorated sepulchral slabs, presented by Mr H.S. Crawford, were hung on the walls of the library.
In the course of the evening a lecture on Sepulchral-Brasses, of which representative rubbings were exhibited, was given by Professor R.A.S. Macalister, Vice-President, and a lecture on Antiquities of the Southern and Western Coasts of Ireland, illustrated by lantern views from the collection of slides made for the Society from the negatives of the late Sir R.S. Ball, Astronomer-Royal, through the courtesy of Lady Ball was given by Mr John Cooke, Vice-President.
Not the least interesting feature of this very successful Conversazione was the Irish music, both vocal and instrumental, of which an attractive programme was arranged by Mrs R.I. Best. It included a string-quartet and violin and piano solos. For this the following ladies and gentlemen very kindly gave their services – Miss Kathleen Roddy, Miss E. Alton, Miss F. Tomlinson, Miss Alice Griffith, Miss D. Alton, Miss Rachel Levin, Mr T.W. Hall, and Mr C.W. Wilson.[ii]
[i] “Proceedings”, JRSAI, xlvii, 1918, pp 107-09.
[ii] Ibid., pp 86-7.