William Williams was an antiquarian, Irish language supporter, artist and manuscript collector. He was born in 1820 at Dromliath near Ballindangan, which is situated between Mitchelstown and Fermoy. His brother Patrick also settled in Dungarvan. The first reference to Williams in Dungarvan is found in the minute books of Dungarvan Board of Guardians for September 1849. He is described as a 'Hardware Merchant' and supplied leather goods to the Workhouse. Griffith's Valuation 1851 records that Williams lived in Devonshire Square (the house now occupied by Michael Curran's Hardware Shop). Slater's Commercial Directory 1856 lists William Williams as a 'Leather Seller' of Main Street. His address is given as the Loan & Discount Bank, Dungarvan.
In 1859 William Williams, shopkeeper, and James Boland were employed as auditors to Dungarvan Town Commissioners. In 1869 William Williams 'Banker' was named as a surety for the clerk of Dungarvan Union. Williams, in the company of others explored the countryside looking at ancient churches, ogham stones etc., speaking only Irish between themselves and to those whom they met.
In 1863, Williams was asked by Dungarvan Town Commissioners to design a new Coat of Arms and Seal as the original had been lost in the 18th. Century. He designed the present town Coat of Arms.
There is a manuscript by Williams in the National Library which is dated August 1867 detailing the genealogy of the family of Samuel Edward Maguire of Clonea Castle near Dungarvan. It shows William's skill as a calligrapher and illustrator. Most of the genealogical information contained in it was copied from a previous account of the family compiled by Charles Lynegar in 1731 for Bernard Maguire. Williams was also interested in Irish antiquities and was one of the first to study and record Ogham stones in Ireland. He was a member of the Historical & Archaeological Association of Ireland and the Kilkenny & South East of Ireland Archaeological Society. The National Library has a bound collection of Ogham inscriptions compiled by Williams between 1858 and 1859. In 1868 Williams published an article on the Drumlohan Ogham stones in the Journal of the Historical & Archaeological Association of Ireland.
Seán Ó Cadhla notes that Williams was also a poet. There are two poems by Williams in the National Library. Williams was a founder member of The Keating Society. The main aim of this Society was to publish works written in the Irish language. When he died in 1875 Williams was working on a new edition of Eochair Sgiath An Aifrinn (A key to the shields of the mass) a corrected version of a work previously published by Geoffrey Keating.
Williams died in Dungarvan on 14 July 1875 at the age of 55. His death cert noted that he was a bachelor and his profession as 'clerk'. According to Seán Ó Cadhla Williams is buried in an unmarked grave at St Mary's Parish Church, Dungarvan.
Author: William Fraher