Patrick Weston Joyce (1827–1914)

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PW with his wife, Caroline Joyce (courtesy of PW's great-grandson Robert Dwyer Joyce and his wife, Linda)

Patrick Weston Joyce was born the son of Garret Joyce, a scholarly shoemaker, and Elizabeth Dwyer in the Ballyhoura hills on the borders of south-east Limerick and north Cork. One of a Catholic family of eight children, he was reared in the nearby townland of Glenosheen, Kilmallock, Co Limerick, and educated at first in local hedge schools. ‘Weston’ was a family name on his mother’s side. Joyce became a national-school teacher at 18, training in Marlborough St Training College in Dublin. Later he was a model-school teacher in Clonmel and a teacher in west Co Dublin, and in 1856 was one of a group of teachers chosen by the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland to improve the national system of primary schools. He graduated BA from Trinity College Dublin in 1861 and MA in 1863, and was awarded LL.D. in 1870. From 1874 to 1893 he was lecturer in and later an influential principal of the Commissioners’ Training College in Marlborough St, Dublin. He was married to Caroline Waters of Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, and they had seven children. His active engagement in many cultural societies included membership of the Royal Irish Academy, a commissionership for the Publication of the Ancient Laws of Ireland, and the presidency of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. Joyce died 7 January 1914 at his home on Leinster Rd, Rathmines, Dublin, in his 87th year.

Dr Joyce also led an extraordinarily industrious life as a writer and editor. Apart from his publications in Irish music, he produced some thirty works including The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places vols 1–3 (1869, 1875, 1913), Irish Local Names Explained (1870), A Handbook of School Management (1876, which went to 25 editions), Philip’s Handy Atlas of the Counties of Ireland (1881), The Geography of the Counties of Ireland (1883), A Short History of Ireland (1893), Outlines of the History of Ireland (1896), A Child’s History of Ireland (1897), A Reading Book in Irish History (1900), A Social History of Ancient Ireland vols 1–2 (1903), A Concise History of Ireland (1903), A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland (1906), The Story of Ancient Irish Civilisation (1907), English as We Speak it in Ireland (1910), and The Wonders of Ireland and Other Papers on Irish Subjects (1911). Although born in an Irish-speaking district, Joyce was reared and educated in English, and only later learned to read and write Irish, which he taught in Dublin. He was the author of A Grammar of the Irish Language for the Use of Schools (1878), Old Celtic Romances Translated from the Gaelic (1879), and Forus Feasa ar Éirinn. Keating’s History of Ireland… Edited with Gaelic Text (1880), and a Council member of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language. Most of his publications went to several editions, some to many, and his history volumes in particular sold in their tens of thousands. Through their influence on readers, teachers and journalists, they played a major part in shaping national thinking on historical and cultural aspects of Irish life in the years before independence. His published work on Irish traditional music was also highly influential.


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