[Sir] Thomas Aiskew Larcom

Life
1801-1879; ed, Royal Military Academy, Woolwich; engaged by Ordnance Survey of England and Wales, 1824-26; Director on Irish Ordnance Survey, 1828-46 [var. 1845]; employed George Petrie, John O’Donovan, Eugene O’Curry and others; Census Commisioner, 1841; Commissioner on Colleges, 1845; of Public Works, 1846-49; commission on reform of Dublin Corporation, 1849; Dep.-Chairman Board of Works, 1850-53; Under-Secretary of Ireland, 1853; KCB, 1860; firm Unionist seeking fair dispensation of law in both countries ODNB DIH

[ top ]

Criticism
Thomas H. Jordan, Two Thomases: Dublin Castle and the Quality of Life in Victorian Ireland [Social Indicators Research, Vol. 64, Issue 2] (Dordrecht 2003), pp..257 [Drummond and Larcom]; Stíofan Ó Cadhla, Civilising Ireland: Ordnance Survey 1824-1842 - Ethnography, Cartography, Translation (Blackrock: IAP 2006).

[ top

Commentary
R. F. Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch (London: Allen Lane/Penguin 1993), remarking: ‘Larcom recruited scholars of the quality of O’Donovan, Petrie, and O’Curry ... to explore the history of place-names ... very like the history of a locality ... the finished result of this magnifient conception stopped at one parish study, finally produced in Nov. 1837, and so loaded with accretions and detail that the original idea of accompanying every map with a similar study was abandoned.’ (p.6.); Ftn. cites instructions to collectors, regarding ‘Habits of the people. Not the general style of the cottages, as stone, mud, slated, glass windows, one storey or two, number of rooms, comfort and cleanliness. Food; fuel; dress; longevity; usual number in a family; early marriages; any remarkable instance on either of these heads? What are the amusements and recreations? patrons and patrons’ days; and traditions respecting them? What local customs prevail, as beal Tinne, or fire on St. John’s Eve? Driving cattle through fire, and through water? Peculiar games? any legendary tales or poems recited around the fireside? Any ancient music, as clan marches or funeral cries? They differ in different districts, colle them if you can. Any peculiarity of costume? Nothing more indicates the state of civilisation and intercourse.’ (Foster, Notes, p.309); Bibl., T. F. Colby, Ordnance Survey of the County of Londonderry. Volume the First, Memoirs of the city and North-western Liberties of Londonderry, Parish of Templemore [1837]; also J. H. Andrews, A Paper Landscape, The Ordnance Survey in Nineteenth Century Ireland (OUP 1975).

[ top ]

References
Doherty & Hickey, A Chronology of Irish History since 1500 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1989), under “Ordnance”: begun in 1830 under Col. Thomas Colby of the Royal Engineers, assted by Lieut. Thomas Larcom [q.v.], whose idea it was that the survey should embrace every item of local information relating to the country; headings for surveyors, Natural topography; ancient topography; modern topography; social economy; first report appeared in 1838, but govt. decided to discontiue on grounds of expense; commission of 1843 examined Petrie and other witnesses and recommended that the Survey be continued but the govt. rejected its findings. [ODNB, is under-secretarial ‘adminstration marked by steady increase in prosperity’].

Library of Herbert Bell (Belfast) holds Larcom, Thomas Aiskew, The Cromwellian Survey of Ireland (Dublin 1851).

Hyland Books (Oct. 1995) lists Correspondence respecting the Scale for the Ordnance Survey & upon Contouring & Hill Delineation (1854), 373pp., incl. letters of Larcom, Colby, Griffith, et al.

[ top ]

Notes
John O’Donovan’s 7-vol. edn. of the Annals of the Four Masters (1848-51) is dedicated to Thomas Larcom: ‘The editor has also been assisted by various others, but more especially by his friend, Captain Larcom, R.E., who had been the active promoter of Irish literature, antiquities, and statistics, ever since the summer of 1825 and who, during his connexion with the Ordnance Survey, exerted himself most laudably to illustrate and preserve the monuments of ancient Irish history and topography.’ (See Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, 1974, n., p.198.)

Roof collapses in Phoenix House where priceless collection of Placenames Dept. is stored; formerly the responsibility of Dept. of Finance, now under Ministry for Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht; Ms. Sheila de Valera answers questions as minister on removal to Tullamore, considered unviable in view of location of four archivists and necessary contact with TCD Library, Registry of Deeds and National Library. (See Irish Times, 1 April 2000).

[ top ]