The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 29, July 16, 2023, Article 21


Last week I pictured a Trinity College Dublin gold medal I'd come across online. -Editor

Trinity College Dublin Gold Medal obverse Trinity College Dublin Gold Medal reverse

Ronan Fitzpatrick of the Numismatic Society of Ireland writes:

"For the first Occasional Papers that I edited for the Numismatic Society of Ireland I wrote up Ernest Alton's four Trinity College Dublin gold medals and published it as Paper 42 in 2008."

Ronan kindly forwarded a copy of the paper, and with permission, here are some excerpts. Thank you! -Editor

Trinity College Dublin gold medal Latin
Vice-Chancellor Latin Medal

A lack of gold pieces in the Irish coin series means that collectors who wish to include gold in their Irish collections have to rely on medals. Here too, their efforts can be frustrated since gold pieces are not often offered for sale. Irish gold medals have been struck for agriculture, religion, politics, the services, sport, and significantly for academic achievement and contribution. In his account of Irish medals Dr. A. E. J. Went explains that Trinity College Dublin (TCD) are the leaders of Irish Universities when it comes to the number of medals it has awarded (Went, 1978). Numbered amongst the College's extensive list of prizes and other awards are details of their medals which include accounts of gold medals (Calendar, 2005-06). This paper presents an account of the gold medals awarded to one student at the College. It also provides a brief account of the later career of the recipient.

Trinity College Dublin gold medal Greek
Berkeley Greek Medal

Ernest Henry Alton was born at Marlinstown, near Mullingar in Ireland on 21 September 1873. He was admitted as a classics student to Trinity College Dublin in 1894, graduated B.A. 1896, M.A. 1899 and Litt.D. in 1928 (Clarke, 2005). Ernest Henry Alton was awarded four gold medals by the University for his academic achievements. The awards were the Vice-Chancellor medal for Latin, the Bishop Berkeley medal for Greek, the Wray medal for Logics and Ethics, and the Vice-Chancellor medal for Classics in Greek or Latin prose (the medal reads Humanities). The first two of these medals are competed for by students in the Senior Freshman or the Junior Sophister years. The third and fourth medals are prizemen awards for achievement in the degree examinations.

Trinity College Dublin gold medal Logics and Ethics
Wray Logics and Ethics Medal

Ernest Henry Alton became a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin in 1905. He was Captain of the University Officer Training Corp (OTC) and during the Easter Rising of 1916 he was in command of the Trinity Garrison. The Garrison secured the College during Easter Week 1916 and by their actions the OTC gained the unique distinction of being the only Corp to actually defend its University (Willoughby, 1989). Ernest Henry Alton was elected as representative of the University to the second Dáil Éireann in 1921 and was re-elected on six further occasions, serving continuously from 1921 until 1937. He also served in Seanad Éireann from 1938 to 1943. From 1927 to 1942 he was Professor of Latin and was Vice-Provost of the University from 1941 to 1942. Professor Alton was admitted as Provost of Trinity College Dublin on 13 May 1942. He died at Provost's House in the College on 18 February 1952 in his 79th year.

Trinity College Dublin gold medal Prose
Vice-Chancellor Greek or Latin Prose Medal

In October 2004 the four gold medals of Ernestus H. Alton were offered for sale on the Internet by Fort Lauderdale Rare Coins (FLRC) of Florida, USA. The group, which had remained together for over 100 years, unfortunately was divided with the medals being purchased by three different collectors. Fortunately, the collectors are known to each other.

The descriptions of the medals are based on those of FLRC as originally described at their website and on descriptions of similar medals in Spink's Numismatic Circular. Specific details of each medal have been provided by the medal owners and their clarification of those details is acknowledged by these lines. Photographs are courtesy of Fort Lauderdale Rare Coins, Florida, USA. Assistance and advice provided by the Library staff and Patrick Wyse Jackson at Trinity College are also acknowledged.

For more information on the Numismatic Society of Ireland, see:

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NUMISMATIC NUGGETS: JULY 9, 2023 : Trinity College Dublin Gold Medal (

Heritage E-Sylum ad 2023-07-16

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address:

To subscribe go to:



Copyright © 1998 - 2023 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster