Historical Newry documents found in the US
Tuesday, 18 March 2014
MICHAEL McKeown is on a personal crusade to bring the personal papers and letters of Newry merchant, John Carvill back home, all the way from America.
The documents incorporating, deeds, ship mortgages, financial reports, legal advises, bound letter books and school workbooks, were acquired in 1970 from a second hand bookshop on Holland Park Avenue, London by a member of the teaching staff of the State College of Pennsylvania.
John Carvill (1854-1927) was an importer of timberland hardware and a minor investor in railway stock. The vast majority of the papers relate to family matters and not to the management or running of a manufactory.
Mr McKeown, who is originally from Lurgan, moved to Newry in 1995 where he started the accident management business Crash Services. Since then he has taken a keen interest in the area and its history.
He is a committee member of the Old Newry Society and the Chairman of the Friends of Newry and Mourne Museum.
in 2008, Mr McKeown published 'The Book of Newry' which provides an in depth look into the city and some of the people who helped shape the area.
Following the discovery that the Carvill papers were located in Pennsylvania, Mr McKeown travelled to State College and spent five days sorting and copying elements of the collection.
He had asked the College authorities to consider the transfer of the documents to an institution in Northern Ireland such as the Newry and Mourne Museum. However, the State College refused.
It is Mr McKeown's ambition to return the papers to Newry as they include historical information about families in the Newry area.
"After I had written the book of Newry I realised that there wasn't an awful lot known about the Carvills," explained Mr McKeown.
“He was the largest employer in Newry and I thought to myself if he is so big and he was the largest employer in the town then why doesn't anyone know anything about him?
“I started searching on the internet and I could find nothing but four years ago there was a system which was very expensive and could only be accessed by universities.
“I was down Dublin in the National Library and I started searching for the Carvills using the private databases of all the libraries in the world.
“That pointed me in the direction of the Carvill papers in Pennsylvania. I couldn't believe my eyes.
“I telephoned, emailed them and then I went out to see them. In September 2009 I spent a week there and I photographed as much as I could. It took me five full days to go through everything.
“I found the papers to be in complete disarray and then I started an investigation into how the papers ended up out there and who left them there. It turned out they were bought in London but the shop is now closed down.
“I started to investigate the background of John Carvill's daughter, Ruth. I got in touch with schools she attended then I got her will and death certificate.
“I spent the first year tracing her life and then the year after that I started tracing back to her father and grandfather.
“The point of interest for the people of Newry is that seven Carvill ledgers contained these letters that were addressed to people of Newry asking them to bring things to the house, do certain jobs and put adverts into the paper.
“It even had a whole history of the Buttercrane timber mills. There is everything in these books."
Mr McKeown believes the best way in bringing these documents back home is to enlist the support of an Irish American, who may have an influence with State College or its sponsors such as the Blaney family.
The aim now is to try and use the Croke Park Classic as a high profile occasion for the State College Authorities to hand over the Carvill papers as the University of Central Florida host Penn State in their 2014 season opener in Dublin on Saturday, August 30.
For more information on the Carvill papers visit Mr McKeown's Youtube video, where you can see how his trip to Pennsylvania went http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5r6VkkHjMu4
Send to a friend
Please complete the following form to inform a friend about this page.