Reference Code: IE 2135 P43

Title: The Timothy Looney Papers

Dates of Creation: 1715-1990

Level of Description: Fonds

Extent and Medium: 39 boxes, 24 outsize items, 16 volumes (797 files)




Name of Creator(s): Looney, Timothy ‘Tim’ (1914-1990)

Biographical History: Timothy Looney, a native of Cahir, county Tipperary, was born in 1914.  A well-known local historian, he could regularly be found exploring local castles, churches, graveyards, and sites of archaeological interest.  He was known to challenge established beliefs and traditions and to use the evidence of cross-disciplinary elements such as documents and landscapes to offer alternative interpretations.  His house on Pearse Street, a treasure trove of maps, books, documents, and photographs, was a popular port of call for genealogists tracing their ancestors and for scholars researching historical topics.  Looney’s collecting activities culminated in a remarkable salvage operation to recover papers from Shanbally Castle, county Tipperary prior to its destruction by a controlled explosion in March 1960.

In addition to his historical pursuits, Looney was an active member of his local community.  He had a lifelong interest in the GAA, and was influential in the development of Gaelic games in Cahir.  He was a tireless charity worker and fundraiser.  Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he organised volunteers to travel around the country to collect money for the Central Remedial Clinic, known as the Little Willie Fund, to aid the plight of polio victims.  A supporter of the trade union movement, he was also active in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union.  He had a great fondness for Cahir, and campaigned prominently to save its historical railway station.  Timothy Looney died in his native town in 1990.

Archival History: The documents relating to Shanbally Castle, county Tipperary were salvaged by Timothy Looney in 1960 as the building was being prepared for demolition.  The provenance of other manuscript material in the collection is unknown.  The printed materials and research notes were accumulated by Timothy Looney in the course of his life.  The collection was on loan from Timothy Looney’s family to the Guinness Peat Aviation-Bolton Library, Cashel, county Tipperary for a number of years prior to its transfer to the University of Limerick in 2013.

Immediate Source of Acquisition: Donated to the University of Limerick by Timothy Looney’s children Mary Johannes, Kathleen Muir, Helen O’Sullivan, and John Looney on 20 June 2013.




Scope and Content: This collection comprises printed and manuscript materials primarily relating to county Tipperary collected by Timothy Looney, and research material assembled and generated by him for local history lectures and walking tours.  The most notable element of the collection is the substantial quantity of estate papers relating to Shanbally Castle, Clogheen, county Tipperary, built for Cornelius O’Callaghan, 1st Viscount Lismore in c. 1810.  The building was demolished in stages by the Land Commission between 1957 and 1960, during which time the bulk of the family papers were destroyed.  The papers salvaged by Timothy Looney (for which see 1-440) include a near complete set of rentals from the early eighteenth to the late nineteenth century, a number of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century account books, extensive estate correspondence from the early nineteenth to the mid twentieth century, and a range of townland map surveys from 1715 to 1898 primarily for counties Cork and Tipperary.  Clogheen Fever Hospital records (145-148) and the 1821 census records of Clogheen (526) are also worth noting, as is the unusually large set of correspondence between Viscount Lismore’s tenants in counties Cork and Tipperary and his agent William Rochfort from the turn of the twentieth century (209-378).  The Looney collection further contains a small quantity of estate papers from Castle Hyde and Doneraile Court in county Cork, and Castle Otway in county Tipperary.

Appraisal, Destruction and Scheduling Information: Most records have been retained.  Duplicates, items of personal nature, and material unrelated to local history have been returned to the donors.  A set of receipts relating to the Armstrong family of Moyaliffe Castle, county Tipperary, were separated from the collection and added to the Armstrong Papers (P6).

Accruals: No accruals are expected.

System of Arrangement: The collection has been arranged into six series.  Series 1 comprises manuscript material (primarily estate papers) collected by Timothy Looney.  These have been grouped by original creator and further subdivided according to the form of records.  Thereunder the material has been listed chronologically by date.  Series 2 comprises printed material collected by Looney.  These have been listed alphabetically by type (e.g. books, cartoons, flyers) and thereunder chronologically by date.  Series 3 contains Looney’s research notes, mainly pages photocopied from books and journals, typescript and manuscript notes, and bibliographies.  The material has been arranged alphabetically by general topic (e.g. archaeology, people, places).  Series 4 comprises Looney’s correspondence, which has been grouped by topic or correspondent and arranged chronologically by date.  Series 5 includes photographs, postcards, and illustrations arranged by date.  Series 6 contains items that do not fit comfortably into any other series but reflect Timothy Looney’s personal interests.




Conditions Governing Access: Unrestricted access to most items.  Some items contain personal information relating to people other than Timothy Looney and are closed to protect individual privacy.  These items have been identified in the descriptive catalogue (PDF attached).

Conditions Governing Reproduction: Standard copyright regulations apply to all items.  For photocopying or reproducing material, please consult with the staff.

Language/ Scripts of Material: English, some letters in Irish.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements: Paper documents in good or reasonable condition.  A number of items require conservation treatment and are too fragile to be safely handled.  These items have been identified in the descriptive catalogue.

Finding Aids: A hard copy of the descriptive catalogue is available at the Special Collections and Archives Department, Glucksman Library, University of Limerick. 




Related Units of Description: Additional material relating to Shanbally Castle, county Tipperary, including a 1778 brief in a Chancery case, two early nineteenth-century rent ledgers, a day book, copy patent advancing Cornelius O’Callaghan to a viscountcy, and a detailed abstract of Cornelius O’Callaghan’s will are held in the National Library of Ireland.  They can be found by searching the Sources Database ( Also held in the National Library of Ireland is a manuscript volume of 39 estate maps of lands belonging to Viscount Lismore from 1801-1802 (MS 42,341).  Additional material relating to the St Leger family of Doneraile Court is also available in the National Library of Ireland (Doneraile Papers, collection lists no. 62 and 169), as is material relating to the Otway family of Castle Otway, including maps, deeds, pedigrees, letters, and account books, which can be searched by using the library’s Sources Database.

Publication Note: Shanbally Castle papers in Timothy Looney’s possession were used for W. J. Smyth’s article, Estate Records and the Making of the Irish Landscape: An Example from County    Tipperary’ (Irish Geography vol. 9 (1976), pp. 29-49), for which see 563.


© Special Collections and Archives, Glucksman Library, University of Limerick