‘The Master’ lights up a Kerry gem

Among the extensive papers in the Michael O’Donohoe Collection is an interesting note on the ‘Reid Prize’. In 1899 it was awarded to David Reidy of Knockeenahone Male National School, one of many Kerry boys who benefited from the Reid Bequest.


More than one century on, the school is no more but the award remains.1  In 2006 five students from Kerry began studies under the scheme at Trinity though no-one knew anything about the benefactor.   ‘Whoever Reid was,’ it was reported, ‘five Kerry students begin their studies at Trinity each year’.

Knockeenahone National School, Scartaglen


Thanks to the Master, a little more light can be thrown on the generous ‘Reid’. He was Richard Tuohill Reid from Killarney, ‘only son of Herbert R, late of Killarney, Kerry, Esq, dead’.  He entered Middle Temple on 3 May 1845 and gained his Bachelor’s Degree in 1848 along with Francis C Bland of Derryquin Castle and Thomas D Ruddle of Killarney. At the same time he was also appointed to ‘a lucrative situation in India’.  In 1853 he was admitted to the Bar when it was observed that he was ‘a Roman Catholic’.


Richard quit Ireland for India where in Bombay he was appointed to the Perry Professorship of Jurisprudence in Elphinstone College.  The professorship was combined with the charge of the Government Law School and he was also president of the Students’ Literary and Scientific Society. His lectures included The Physical History of Man and in 1856, he published Family Rights considered as a Branch of General and Comparative Jurisprudence.  He afterwards held the offices of Coroner of Bombay and reporter of the High Court.


In his Will dated 22 September 1881 (which was proved by Sir George Christopher Molesworth Birdwood and James Cornelius O’Dowd, Reid’s last address given as Crawley’s Hotel, Albemarle Street) he provided for ‘the encouragement of education in his native Kerry’ and also ‘£80 a year to the maintenance of Two Reid Exhibitions in Trinity College Dublin of the value of £40 each to enable Students of the County Kerry … to matriculate in Trinity College’.  He desired the residue to go to the Industrial school in Killarney.2


IE MOD-A25-2 (1)
Raffle in 1904 in aid of The Killarney Orphanages


Reid had three close attachments: his sister, Miss Hannah Reid, to whom he left a life interest in all he possessed; Trinity College, his alma mater; and the Kingdom of Kerry where he had been born and spent his early life.  When he died at the Hotel Victoria Via du Macelli, Rome, on 11 February 1883 he left more than £25,000 towards education in Ireland. His sister Hannah, who for 28 years had devoted her life to the care of her brother, died at the same hotel two days before him, on 9 February 1883. Their deaths were widely mourned by ‘both the native and European Press of Western India’.


For a boy who seems to have come from nothing, we are left to wonder what effect Reid’s fortune had in Kerry and it would make an interesting research project in itself.  A glance over the nineteenth century press shows how in the decade that followed the implementation of the award (1886), students from schools all over Kerry benefited including Kilmurry (Cordal), Brosna and Knocknagoshel.  It some ways it is a record of the rural national schools of Kerry, so many of which, like Knockeenahone, have closed.


Reid Bequest crop


Of the early schooling of the benevolent ‘Roman Catholic’ boy from Killarney we know nothing, which is a shame as it was perhaps his experience there which caused him to remember his native land after almost a lifetime in the orient.  Certainly he valued the gift of education.


No doubt the Master identified with this when he made record of Richard Tuohill Reid in his extensive collection.


We are left to wonder if Reid’s ancestors were associated with Killarney’s Tuohill’s Lane. There is a record of a child of Herbert Reid and Christine Tuohill baptised in Killarney in 1821 (Richard Tuohill was a sponsor).  Richard’s parents perhaps?  A graduate of a Reid Prize might undertake this worthy research project.



1 At least it did in 2008, when the Sunday Independent reported that 2,863 Reid Bequest Bank of Ireland shares, once worth more than €50,000, were worth less than €3,000.

2 St Joseph’s Industrial School for boys and girls, Killarney, was run by the Sisters of Mercy; see note in IE MOD/A25/2.

Special thanks to Eileen Chamberlain for help in filling in additional dates.