Prim, John George Augustus (1821–75), antiquary and journalist, was born in Kilkenny city, fourth son among seven sons and three daughters of John Prim, solicitor and founder member (1811) of the Kilkenny Circulating Library Society, and Johanna Prim (née Anderson). Family tradition held that they were closely related to the famous Spanish prime minister Marshal Juan Prim; the Spanish Prims were said to have sent a pipe of wine as a wedding present to Prim's grandfather in the 1780s.
Prim worked as reporter and copy editor on the twice-weekly Kilkenny Moderator, a conservative newspaper founded in 1814 by Abraham Denroche (later his father-in-law) and eventually (c.1855) became editor and proprietor. His journalism and contacts with local people awakened his curiosity and a desire to write about the antiquities of his native region; he founded (1849), with his second cousin the Rev. James Graves (qv), the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, and they became joint secretaries. Before the society had its own journal, Prim devoted many columns of his newspaper to its activities. When the journal was established, Prim contributed ten articles to the first number, and six to the second; thereafter he wrote at least one article in every number. The society became the Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society, was then renamed the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland (1868), and finally became the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. Prim was secretary of all of these from 1849 to his death, and was largely responsible for their successful activities and publications, and their non-sectarian ethos. He wrote over fifty papers for their journals, especially publishing historical documents such as cartularies, deeds, petitions, and ‘Documents connected with the City of Kilkenny militia in the 17th and 18th centuries’ (1855). With Graves he wrote History . . . of St Canice's cathedral (1857), ‘the most painstakingly detailed and complete study of an Irish medieval building ever produced’ (Leask, RSAI Jn., lxxix (1949)). On occasion, Society members intervened directly in efforts to preserve old buildings, and took part in archaeological digs.
Prim collected folklore from old people such as his friend John Dunne of Garryricken, rewarding them with snuff and drink, and collected ballads and stories about popular pastimes from his native and neighbouring counties. He preserved much that would otherwise have been forgotten; for example, traditions about James Freney (qv), the celebrated highwayman. He published (1860, 1865) the manuscript notes of a journey to Kilkenny in 1709 by Dr Thomas Molyneux (qv), and also published valuable papers on old Kilkenny families such as Langton and Cowley. His contributions to the history of Kilkenny remain important for local historians, but Prim and Graves and their colleagues, through the RSAI, also had a major influence on the development of local history, archaeology, and historiography throughout Ireland. Prim died, aged 54, at his brother's residence, Nore Cottage, Dunbell, Kilkenny, on 2 November 1875, and is buried in the cemetery of St Canice's cathedral, Kilkenny. There is a marble plaque to him in the cathedral. At the annual general meeting of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society in January 1876 Graves stated that ‘without him this Association would never have existed’ (Phelan, 159).
Prim married (c.1858) Mary or Minnie McCrea (née Denroche), his second cousin, who was a widow with one daughter. They had four sons and four daughters; a son and a daughter died young. Prim's papers are in the UCD folklore archives and in NAI.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).