In the early 8th century, an illuminated manuscript known as the Lindisfarne Gospels was created. It is a richly illustrated copy of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The original manuscript is now in the British Library, where it is part of the Cotton Collection, which has recently been added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. From time to time, facsimiles have been made and Armagh Robinson Library has been presented with a copy for its collection.
The gift to the Library is in memory of Jack Lindsay. Jack was born in England, but attended school in Northern Ireland during the War. His affection for Armagh first grew in the holidays and weekends he spent at his grandparents’ farm near Tullyallen. He had other local connections, too. His grandfather, Richard Lindsay, was headmaster of the Grange School at Loughgall for forty years and his uncle, Dr Eric Lindsay, was Director of the Armagh Observatory from 1936 until his death in 1972.
Jack lived in Northumberland, and taught physics at the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle upon Tyne. Following his retirement, he became active in church life, and learned more about the Lindisfarne Gospels. This historic manuscript made an immense impression on him, not least for its beauty and reflected his own connections with both Ireland and Northumberland. He bought one of the facsimiles and asked his family to present his copy to a suitable venue in Northern Ireland after his death. The family including his sister, Mary Balfour, and his children, Emma, Thomas and James Lindsay, decided that Armagh Robinson Library should be its new home.
A representative of Jack Lindsay’s family said, “In bringing them to Northern Ireland, Jack hoped that people, young and old, would not only come to see the Gospels, but also learn from them. He wished these Gospels to be shared and enjoyed by as many people as possible.”
In receiving the Gospels, the Keeper, the Very Revd Gregory Dunstan, said, “It is a great honour for the Library to receive this gift. Another eight-century manuscript, the Book of Armagh, was written not a hundred yards from here. We have a reproduction of it, a digital copy of the original in the Library of Trinity College Dublin, and a reproduction of the Book of Kells. These all reflect the great flowering of Celtic Christianity across these islands. This is an immensely generous gift, and we are enormously grateful to Jack Lindsay’s family for entrusting it to us.”
The Lindisfarne Gospels will remain on permanent display in the Library’s Long Room, open daily 10.00 – 1.00 and 2.00 – 4.00.