What do we owe to Tenison Groves?

Bray Harbour June 2011 - We owe its longevity to Tenison Groves - but we owe him a bigger debt for his role in preserving Ireland's history.

A lot actually. He was born in Co. Armagh in 1864 and studied Civil Engineering at Trinity College Dublin. As a civil engineer, one of his early jobs was Clerk of Works supervising the construction of Bray Harbour which started in August 1891. He was employed by Bray Town Commissioners to watch over the work of contracting firm W J Doherty, who tendered £24,929 to construct the harbour. Although it took six years to build, Bray harbour is small as these structures go (our harbour, into which the River Dargle flows after passing through the Valley of Diamonds, encloses just 7 acres of water. Compare that with Dun Laoghaire Harbour which encloses some 251 acres!).

Like a lot of construction jobs, things didn’t go too smoothly on site. Records demonstrate considerable friction between Doherty and Groves, which in December 1891 resulted in Doherty attacking Groves, and in return, Groves threatening Doherty with a shovel! The issue between the men was the old chestnut of construction quality. In one exchange, Tenison Groves threatened to send a load of substandard cement up to the Town Hall. There was constant issues about cement and the inferior concrete it made, about dirty water being used to mix concrete and about inappropriate sand mixes in the pointing. Tenison Groves stuck to his guns, insisting on materials meeting specification, to the extent that he was even fired from his job for one two week period. As we know, Bray’s harbour walls are still standing, some 120 years later so some of his persistence on quality control matters must have paid off.

But what Ireland owes Tenison Arthur Groves is a much bigger debt. In his later career, Mr Groves worked for the Public Records Office in Dublin Castle. In his capacity of public official, and later private record agent, he painstakingly by hand duplicated tens of thousands of records he encountered in his research into family trees. In 1922, during Ireland’s War of Independence, the original records were burned when Dublin Castle went on fire. All that is left now is the considerable legacy of Tenison Groves, which after his death was purchased from his family by several public institutions. Today, his work may be accessed at the National Library, the National Archive of Ireland and the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland. Thank you Tenison Groves.

Read about the important colony of swans who have made Bray Harbour their home : http://diamondvalley.ie/Seafront.html

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The editor of this diary lives in Diamond Valley, Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland. Diamond Valley is a modern apartment community in the old setting of the Valley of Diamonds, alongside the river Dargle. Contact editor@diamondvalley.ie
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