Sir John Pentland Mahaffy, half-length portrait

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A visit to the Keogh Collection today and meeting a lugubrious looking gentleman named Mahaffy. The name is familiar to me somehow though I do not know why? He looks elderly in this shot so I expect that it was taken in the decade or so before his death in 1919?

Among resources provided by today's contributors are the Wikipedia entry and obituary for John Pentland Mahaffy (1839-1919). Best known as an academic and wit, Mahaffy was provost (the senior academic administrator) at Trinity. The consensus is that this image dates to perhaps a few years before his death in 1919....

Photographer: Brendan Keogh

Collection: Keogh Photographic Collection

Date: Unknown but probably c.1910-1919

NLI Ref: Ke 194

You can also view this image, and many thousands of others, on the NLI’s catalogue at


Owner: National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Source: Flickr Commons
Views: 10952
brendankeogh thekeoghphotographiccollection keoghbrothersltd nationallibraryofireland sirjohnpentlandmahaffy mahaffy sirhughlane portrait watch chain centreparting lugubrious reversedversuscatalogueentry johnpentlandmahaffy provost trinitycollege dublin

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    Dr. Ilia

    • 02/Aug/2017 08:00:09


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    Carol Maddock

    • 02/Aug/2017 08:04:16

    Letters to / from John Pentland Mahaffy here at Library Towers...

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    • 02/Aug/2017 08:22:18

    The name's familiar to me thanks to his daughter Elsie's acccount of the 1916 Rising as viewed from Trinity, where her father was provost at the time.

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    • 02/Aug/2017 08:23:33

    He has a wikipedia page.

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    • 02/Aug/2017 08:30:38

    Image in need of reversing? Buttons and the buttonhole ... In 1918 from the wiki page -

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    • 02/Aug/2017 08:34:08

    [] I see from your wikeipedia they say "When aspiring to be Provost of Trinity College, upon hearing that the incumbent was ill, he is said to have remarked, "Nothing trivial, I hope?" and from IMDB from Fawlty Towers!! Sybil Fawlty: [a party of four cancels its dinner reservation] One of them's ill Basil Fawlty: Well, let's hope it's nothing trivial.

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    National Library of Ireland on The Commons

    • 02/Aug/2017 08:43:44

    [] Your wish, is my command - reversed, it does look better!

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    • 02/Aug/2017 09:13:39

    [] Thank you - it now looks very similar to that ca. 1918 portrait. Friendship with Oscar Wilde - Mahaffy attended one of Wilde's plays - probably A Woman of No Importance - and wrote to congratulate him. Wilde replied to his "charming letter, all the more flattering to me as it comes not merely from a man of high and distinguished culture, but from one to whom I owe so much personally, from my first and my best teacher, from the scholar who showed me how to love Greek things. Let me sign myself, in affection and admiration, your old pupil and your old friend...".

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    Vincent's Photo Album No.1

    • 02/Aug/2017 09:47:24

    While the portrait is outstanding I can't help but notice the backdrop. Its design calls attention to itself and takes a little from the portrait.

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    National Library of Ireland on The Commons

    • 02/Aug/2017 10:15:00

    [[email protected]] Agreed, did somebody play with the negative to produce a smaller head shot at a later time?

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    • 02/Aug/2017 11:41:03

    [[email protected]] Now that you mentioned it, had not noticed it until now. But on second thoughts, could it be his halo of grandeur and fame?

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    • 02/Aug/2017 11:47:30

    John Pentland Mahaffy had lifelong connections with Trinity College Dublin and eventually became its Provost in November 1914. I am wondering if this portrait could have been taken then to commemorate his elevation to Provost of the college, a position he long coveted? Here a nice example of Mahaffy's sharp and cutting wit, as quoted from the Wikipedia article about him .... When aspiring to be Provost of Trinity College, upon hearing that the incumbent was ill, he is said to have remarked, "Nothing trivial, I hope?". I think that is just so hilarious! John Mahaffy had been appointed Vice-Provost of Trinity by Anthony Traill in 1913 (Traill was Provost of TDC 1904-1914). Traill’s health began to fail from early 1914 and Mahaffy found himself effectively in charge of running the College. So by that stage, John Mahaffy was heir-apparent in-waiting!

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    • 02/Aug/2017 12:00:35

    Many-sided gentleman...

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    Rhys Chris Pease

    • 02/Aug/2017 12:07:36

    The excellent book "Trinity in War and Revolution 1912-1923, by Dr Tomás Irish, " contains much detail about Provost Mahaffy . He was Provost of Trinity during the Easter Rising and blamed the Rising on the National Schools .

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    • 02/Aug/2017 13:00:41

    Some Trove cuttings - Another example of his 'wit'; humour has changed (1899) - "... John Pentland Mahaffy, a versatile Irish professor and philosophical writer, said it was very difficult to define an Irish bull, but it had one characteristic — it was always pregnant. ..." From 1919 Obituary with interesting quotes from the Times -

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    maorlando - God keeps me as I lean on Him!!

    • 02/Aug/2017 15:44:46

    Excellent portrait & camaraderie!