In the early 1940’s, The Irish Tourist Association (ITA), precursor to An Bord Fáilte and today’s Fáilte Ireland, embarked on an ambitious project to survey the counties of Ireland with a view to recording the cultural, physical and tourism-related assets of local areas. A number of well-known archaeologists of the time were engaged to carry out the work, with J. A. Pattison and P. J. D’Arcy being responsible for amassing and noting Wicklow’s unique features and amenities during 1942 and 1943.
The areas surveyed were based on parish boundaries and there are records for Annacurra & Kilaveny, Arklow, Ashford, Aughrim, Avoca, Baltinglass, Blessington, Boystown, Bray & Little Bray, Dunlavin, Enniskerry, Glendalough, Greystones, Kilbride, Kilquade, Rathdrum, Tomacork and Wicklow.
Format of the Survey
The survey was carried out using 5 separate forms which allowed for the taking of generous notes. In many cases, additional pages were inserted to allow the full potential of an area be documented.
A wide number of categories were covered on these forms which were as follows:
- Form A (Natural Features, Antiquities, Historic Associations, Etc.) : Topography — Geology — Mansions, Castles and Estates — Antiquities — Historic Sites — Historic Houses ; Burial Places — Spas or Mineral Springs — Curiosities — Customs, Patterns, Etc.
- Form B (Sports and Games) : Angling (Fresh Water) — Sea Angling – Golfing – Racing – Hunting – Coursing – Greyhound Racing – Shooting – Clay Pigeon Shooting – Games and Recreations – Athletics and Cycling – Annual Events
- Form C (Holiday Amenities and General Information/Seaside Resorts) : Public Services – Cinemas and Theatres – Libraries – Churches and Services – Postal Facilities – Banking – Sports and Photo Supplies, Etc. – Social Clubs, Cultural Societies, Etc. – Important Public Buildings – Schools and Colleges – Fairs and Markets: Half-Holiday – Garages and petrol Stations – Conveyances for Hire – Camping Sites
- Form D ( Town or Village, Amenities and General Information) : Headings almost identical to those of Form C except they do not relate specifically to coastal areas
- Form E (Accommodation) : Hotels – Guest or Boarding Houses
Supporting materials were also included with the hand-written form responses such as drawings of noteworthy architectural features, reproductions of memorial plaques and photographs of archaeological features and stately homes of interest. In addition to form data, more general information regarding fire services and lists of photographs taken in each area were included. Unfortunately, a number of photographs relating to some parishes have not survived.
Relevance of the Survey
Wicklow’s overall prognosis was positive, with Pattison’s final report stating that “This remarkably beautiful county is generally very much unknown” but “the fact that stands out most noticeably is the lack of accommodation in West Wicklow”. On a positive final note, he says that “Regarding co-operation received during the survey … in every case without exception I found the people of the districts ready to give their fullest help and in many cases went out of their way to be of assistance”.
Value of this Resource
As a research tool, the ITA survey provides a valuable insight into life in 1940’s Wicklow. From sporting clubs to guest houses, monasteries to graveyards and petrol stations to village fairs, these documents cover many facets of day to day life in the county. Having come into the possession of Wicklow County Council Library Service in 1983, these files are stored in the Local Studies Collection of the library service and are available to view by appointment. These records are fairly unique and other county sets, where extant, are believed to be housed with their relevant County Library services.