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Curran-Laird Collection

Constantine Curran

Constantine Curran

UCD Library Special Collections holds Constantine Curran and Helen Laird's collection of letters, papers and photographs.

University College B.A. degree class of 1902 (includes James Joyce and Constantine Curran)

Identity Statement

Reference code IE/ UCD/SC/CUR

Constantine Curran Collection.


Level of Description

c.7 boxes.


Constantine Curran (1883–1972).

Biographical History

Constantine Curran (1883-1972) was a lawyer and historian of 18th Century Dublin architecture, sculpture and plasterwork. He also held a life-long interest in art and literature. Curran was educated at CBS O'Connell School on North Richmond Street, where he became friends with Tom Kettle. Later he attended UCD where he graduated BA (1902) and MA (1906). It was at UCD that Curran first met James Joyce, with whom he would maintain an important lifelong friendship and association. He also knew other early 20th Century Irish writers including W.B. Yeats, A.E. Russell, James Stephens and Padraic Colum. His research on Dublin architecture, and specifically on the history of plasterwork in the city, resulted in the publication of a number of books on the subject including Dublin Plasterwork (1940), Newman House and University Church (1953) and Dublin Decorative Plasterwork of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1967). His legal career saw him rise to the post of Registrar of the Supreme Court before his retirement in 1953.

Actress, costumier, teacher, and suffragist, Helen Laird (1874-1957) was born in Limerick. She was involved in the Irish National Theatre Society (later the Abbey company) from its inception, as a costume and set designer as well as a player. She had significant roles in their productions of works by W.B. Yeats, Padraic Colum and J.M. Synge, frequently appearing under the stage name Honor Lavelle. Later she worked with the Theatre of Ireland appearing in productions of works by James Cousins and Douglas Hyde. Besides her acting career, Laird worked as a chemist for W & R Jacobs and taught Science in Alexandra College. She was also active in radical political circles, counting Maud Gonne and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington as close friends. With Gonne, she helped form the Ladies' School Dinners Committee and she was also heavily involved in the Irish Women's Franchise League which aimed to gain women the vote.

Curran and Laird married in December 1913. As their social circles blended a vibrant and diverse group of artists, historians, playwrights, actors and writers were brought together with the couple at its centre. This group found an outlet in their famed weekly salons, held every Wednesday afternoon at the couple's home on Garville Avenue.

The Constantine Curran / Helen Laird collections gather a rich cache of manuscripts, books, letters, photographs and ephemera that goes some distance in documenting the development of both literary and theatrical life in Ireland in the first half of the 20th century.

Source of Acquisition
Purchased by UCD Library in 1971.

Scope and Content
  • Letters containing a significant body of items by and concerning James Joyce and his family.
  • Correspondence with Tom Kettle, George William Russell (AE), Jack B. Yeats, W. B. Yeats (1903–1968, c400 letters).
  • Literary papers containing typescripts of various plays, poems and essays including works by AE and Thomas Kettle [1903–1930s?].
  • Photographs including photographs of James Joyce and Joyce family members.

Access and Use

Photocopying of archival collections is not permitted. Photography permissions and policies vary. Please contact (opens in a new window)special.collections@ucd.ie for more details regarding the photography of this specific collection.

Finding Aid
A significant amount of the material in this collection is listed online in (opens in a new window)Sources: A National Library of Ireland database for Irish research. This search tool is the online version of "Hayes, Richard J. (1965) Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilisation, Boston: Hall", also available in James Joyce Library, Level 2, Ref GR 016/091.

There is a list of the Joyce material held in the Curran Collection.

Allied Material

Publication Note

All James Joyce letters have been published in Gilbert, Stuart (ed.) (1957) Letters of James Joyce,  London: Faber and Faber.

Curran wrote several books including

  • The Rotunda Hospital: Its Architects and Craftsmen
  • Dublin Decorative Plasterwork of the 17th and 18th Centuries
  • James Joyce Remembered, a memoir
  • Under the Receding Wave.
More Information

Find information on Constantine Curran and Helen Laird in the (opens in a new window)Dictionary of Irish Biography.

Related Collections

UCD Special Collections

James Joyce Library, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 7149 | E: special.collections@ucd.ie