William Flyn and a family of booksellers

Of the many successful booksellers working in Cork in the second half of the eighteenth century William Flyn offers an insight into a number of different aspects of the book trade and the cultural life of the region. Flyn was advertising books of Catholic interest from the start of his career, and as printer of The Hibernian Chronicle, he established a rapport with his readership throughout Munster, offering literary fare through the pages of the paper. William Flyn was born in 1740, possibly in Limerick.[1] His father, Sylvester, was residing in Engine Alley in Dublin at the time of his death in 1778.[2] His uncle, Laurence Flin, had a thriving bookselling, bookbinding and book auctioneering business at Castle Street, Dublin, from the mid 1750s until his death in 1771. Laurence Flin was warden of the Guild of St Luke the Evangelist, the guild of cutlers, painter-stainers and stationers, and was elected to Dublin’s Common Council. Laurence was succeeded by another nephew, Laurence Larkin, who took the surname Flin when he took over the business.[3] Edward Flin, printer in Limerick, may also have been a relative. William was in Cork from at least 1764 and he remained in the city for the rest of his life. He gave up the bookselling business in 1801 and died a decade later, in December 1811.[4]

Exchange-CorkWilliam Flyn seems to have been a Catholic, he is given as secretary to the committee of Roman Catholics of the county and city of Cork in 1792 (Hibernian Chronicle 8 October 1792). His daughters and their families were prominent in Catholic circles, although his Dublin cousins were almost certainly members of the Church of Ireland, holding high office within the guild and on the common council. He is not listed as a freeman of Cork, which supports the idea that he may have been a Catholic. Flyn had at least four daughters, Eliza, the eldest, married the bookseller James Haly in 1788, Mary married Francis Hynes, from Galway, a linen draper in 1791; both sons-in-laws had their businesses near the Exchange in Cork.[5] James and Eliza Haly had six sons and three daughters. At least three of their sons attended the Jesuit Stonyhurst College in England, their third son, Robert, joined the Jesuit order and was rector of Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare, from 1836 to 1850.[6] James Haly died in 1850, aged 86 years. Mary and Francis Hynes lost their eldest son, William, in 1807, he died in his 13th year while attending Carlow College, a leading Catholic school.[7] In 1822 their son, Timothy, was taken into partnership with his father in the linen and silk drapery business.[8] Mary Hynes died in 1827 leaving a large family.[9] Another daughter, Charlotte, married John A. Pearce, merchant and grocer, in 1800.[10] Flyn’s 11 year old daughter, Lelia Sophia, died after a long illness in 1795 and his wife died in 1799.[11] William Flyn died at his home on George’s Quay on 20 December 1811, aged 71 years.[12]

Hibernian-ChronicleJames Haly, Flyn’s son-in-law and himself a successful bookseller, took over the printing of The Hibernian Chronicle in 1801, changing the name to Flyn’s Hibernian Chronicle. Haly also specialised in Catholic publications, one of his earliest being An Humble Remonstrance, published in 1789, in which the author argues for Catholic participation in the commercial life of Cork. An Irish language catechism, An Teagusg Criesdeegh, was published by Haly and Thomas White in 1792. According to his son Robert, James Haly kept a classical school in which he provided instruction for boys who wished to become priests.[13] Haly’s business seemed to thrive, but one year after Flyn’s death, in 1812, he got into serious difficulties.[14] He was guaranteed to the sum of £7,000 by his brother-in-law, Francis Hynes. When he failed to recover Hynes withdrew support, turned him out of his bookshop and handed it over to Jeremiah Geary, also a printer of Catholic books. Eliza Haly later described her ejection from her home, with nothing but ‘a slop bowl of raspers’.[15]

All images courtesy of Dublin City Library & Archive (www.dublincitypubliclibraries.ie )

[1] International Genealogical Index compiled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

[2] Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, VIII (January 1778), p.64. Hibernian Chronicle 12 January 1778.

[3] M. Pollard, A Dictionary of Members of the Dublin Book Trade 1550-1800 (London, 2000).

[4] Cork Mercantile Chronicle 20 December 1811.

[5] Cork Evening Post 17 June 1788; 29 August 1791.

[6] Rev. Henry Browne, S.J., ‘Father Robert Haly, S.J. (1796-1882)’ in A Roll of Honour: Irish Prelates and Priests in the Last Century, with preface by Most Rev. John Healy, D.D. (Dublin, 1905), pp.247-94. I am very grateful to Penny Woods, Librarian at the Russell Library, Maynooth, for this reference.

[7] Cork Advertiser 21 April 1807.

[8] The Constitution 15 July 1822.

[9] The Constitution 8 March 1827.

[10] Hibernian Chronicle 3 November 1800.

[11] Cork Evening Post 10 December 1795; 23 May 1799.

[12] Cork Mercantile Chronicle 20 December 1811.

[13] Browne, ‘Father Robert Haly’, pp.248-49.

[14] Cork Advertiser 14 April 1812.

[15] Séamus Ó Casaide, A History of the Periodical Literature of Cork from the Beginning up to A.D. 1900, typescript, National Library of Ireland (Ir 6551 C2).


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