Letitia Dunbar-Harrison

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Letitia Dunbar-Harrison (4 February 1906 – 1994) was an Irish librarian who became the subject of a controversy over her appointment.[1][2] She was a graduate of Trinity College Dublin.[3] She was the subject of a 2009 book, The Curious Case of the Mayo Librarian, by Pat Walsh, an RTÉ documentary of the same name and year.[2]

Mayo County Librarian Controversy[edit]

In 1930 a vacancy for Mayo county librarian arose and Letitia Dunbar-Harrison was recommended for the role by the Local Appointments Commission.[3][4] The Library Committee of Mayo County Council refused to endorse the recommendation to Mayo County Council, claiming her grasp of Irish was inadequate. The County Council accordingly did not sanction her nomination. In response, the government dissolved the County Council and replaced it with a Commissioner who appointed Dunbar-Harrison to the role of county librarian.[1][3] In December 1931, Letitia Dunbar-Harrison was transferred from Castlebar to work for the Department of Defence in Dublin.[3][5]

Debate about motives for non-appointment[edit]

The reason given by the County Council for not appointing her as librarian was her insufficient grasp of Irish:[1]

J. J. Lee suggested that the resentment of local people towards the Local Appointments Commission for appointing someone with little or no local connections may also have been a factor, but argued that sectarianism was also involved:[3]

He cited one J.T. Morahan who was:

Michael D. Higgins also suggested that sectarianism was a factor:[6]

Professor John A. Murphy argued that it was a case of local government versus government:[7]

The government resolved the situation by offering her a post in the Military Library in Dublin, which she accepted.[2]

Life after Mayo Controversy[edit]

She had met a Methodist Minister, Rev. Robert Crawford while in Castlebar and they married a few months after she started work in the Military Library and became known as Aileen Crawford.[2] Because of the marriage bar she had to resign her post.[2]

The couple lived in Waterford, Tipperary, Louth and Antrim and had no children.[2] After being widowed in the 1950s, she remained in Northern Ireland.

She attempted to become a Methodist Minister, but was failed on one of her written exams for the post.[2] She remained an active member of her church for many years and died in 1994.[2]