Pioneer of the youth hostel movement and researcher in antiquarian field


Chalmers (Terry) Trench: Chalmers (Terry) Trench, who has died aged 95, was the last surviving founder member and a former president of An Óige, the Irish Youth Hostels Association.

Enthused by the success of the Jugendherbergen in Germany, he joined with others including Thekla Beere and Colm Ó Lochlainn to form the association in 1931, becoming its first national secretary.

An Óige opened its first hostel at Lough Dan, Co Wicklow, and gradually developed a network of hostels throughout the 26 counties. It eschewed the politics and paramilitary trappings of other such movements, and at its peak had some 15,000 members and ran 55 hostels.

Born on November 27th, 1909, in Galway, he was the youngest of the four children of Wilbraham FitzJohn Trench and his wife, Mary Alicia (née Cross). His father, who was professor of history, english and mental science at the Queen's College Galway, was in 1913 appointed to the chair of English at Trinity College Dublin.

The family lived in Blessington, Co Wicklow, and Clyde Road, Ballsbridge, before finally settling in Balnagowan, Palmerston Park.

He attended Baymount Preparatory School, Dollymount, and Repton School, Derbyshire, after which he spent a year at the University of Frankfurt-am-Main. He was then accepted as a student of modern languages at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University, where he became active in the Anglo-German association.

Awarded a BA degree, he decided to learn Irish and study law. However, he abandoned his legal studies at TCD having passed the intermediate law examination.

In 1932 he spent six weeks learning Irish on Inis Meáin. Later, when he was married, he provided a room for Irish classes to Craobh na hAiséirí of Conradh na Gaeilge; students included John Betjeman, the UK press attaché who later became Poet Laureate.

In 1931 he went to work at the Three Candles Press as Colm Ó Lochlainn's secretary; he later became general manager. His colleagues included Séamus Ennis, who was employed to write the staff notation of Irish music rescued for posterity by An Claisceadal.

He married in 1940 the artist Beatrice Orpen, a niece of Sir William Orpen RA. Made redundant because of paper shortages in 1942, he secured employment as a topographical surveyor with the Irish Tourist Association. He requested a posting to Kilkenny, where he enjoyed a brief and happy sojourn.

He next became manager of the oatmeal millers, McCann & Hill Ltd, in Drogheda, Co Louth. Active in the life of the town, in 1945 he founded the Drogheda branch of the Irish Film Society. A founder member of the Rotary Club, he was also a member of the local chamber of commerce.

Having proposed that Drogheda should have an art gallery, he joined his wife on the Municipal Art Gallery and Museum Committee that was established in 1946. A space in the public library was made available for exhibitions, and he and his wife set about assembling a permanent collection. There followed a series of successful solo and group exhibitions, and the permanent collection was hung in the library rooms themselves.

However, the exhibitions were discontinued in 1962 as the space was required for other purposes. But the permanent collection survives and is today housed in the library building that was built in the early 1990s.

In 1961 he and his family moved to Slane, Co Meath. Four years later he resigned from McCann & Hill to go into partnership with a Dublin-based German businessman.

The partnership was short-lived, however, and in 1966 he became manager at the head office of An Óige; he retired in 1973. But he remained an active member of the association and in 1976 was elected president. A week later his wife was elected president of the Irish Countrywomen's Association. "Having the two presidents under one roof in the village of Slane caused some merriment and newspaper coverage," he recalled.

Research and writing kept him occupied in retirement. In 1975 the James Joyce Quarterly published his paper on Dermot Chevenix Trench, his father's third cousin who was the model for Haines the Englishman in Ulysses.

He contributed articles to the journals of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society, the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland and the Military History Society of Ireland. He was the author of Fifty Years Young: The Story of An Óige, as well as a topographical study of Slane. And he was a regular contributor to the letters page of The Irish Times.

He was for many years a council member of the Friends of the National Collections of Ireland. Active into his early 90s, he continued to enjoy walking and gardening.

Predeceased by his wife, Beatrice, in 1980, he is survived by his daughter, Beatrice, and sons, Fiachra, Brian and Patrick.

Chalmers Edward FitzJohn (Terry) Trench: born November 27th, 1909; died March 19th, 2005