Roe, Helen Maybury (1895–1988), librarian and antiquary, was born 18 December 1895 in Mountrath, Queen's Co. (Laois), the only child of William Ernest Roe and Anne Roe (neé Lambert Shields). Her father's family had lived in the Mountrath area since the seventeenth century and her mother's family came from Birr, King's Co. (Offaly). Educated at the private school of Mrs Robert Wild in Abbeyleix, Queen's Co., she served as a St John's ambulance brigade volunteer in the Cambridge military hospital and in Aldershot, Surrey (January 1916–February 1917), before securing employment at the British military hospital, Bray, Co. Wicklow. She travelled after the war in Europe as a private teacher. Her visits to the British Museum, the Vatican, and Greece formed in her a scholarly understanding of Irish archaeology and early history in a continental context and trained her eye for an appreciation of fine arts. Her interest in heraldry and botany she brought to bear on her studies of iconography. With fellow-student Nóra Ní Shúilliobháin she travelled widely through Ireland, and especially in the midlands and south-east, in pursuit of antiquities.
She entered TCD, graduated BA in modern languages (1921), and was conferred MA (1924). She taught for short periods in the Royal School, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, and at Alexandra College, Dublin, before joining (1923) the Carnegie Library Service at Coleraine, Co. Londonderry. She transferred (1924) to the library at Thurles, Co. Tipperary. On the establishment of Laois county library service (1926), she became its first county librarian and secretary of the county library committee. She compiled a display of local antiquities at the county library in Portlaoise, encouraged the preservation of local antiquities, and kept in close contact with the National Museum of Ireland. Her twice-yearly Reports of the Laoighis County Library Service were reproduced in the Leinster Express for fourteen years. She also compiled special lists at the county library, Portlaoise, contributed articles to An Leabharlann (1933) and Béaloideas (1939 and 1941), and devised lectures and an extensive glass-slide collection on the antiquities and history of Co. Laois. She became a vice-president of the Library Association of Ireland and was honorary secretary of the Queen's County Protestant Orphan Society (1926–39). Her first published article in the RSAI Jn., ‘Double cist with cremations at Ironmills, Co. Laoghis’, appeared in 1937.
On her retirement in January 1940 she moved to Dublin, devoted herself to the study of early Irish history, ecclesiastical antiquities, and particularly gospel crosses. Over the next forty-eight years she contributed thirty-seven articles and reviews to the RSAI Jn. She was a member (1945–8) of the RSAI council and contributed ‘The David cycle in early Irish art’ to the RSAI Jn. centenary volume in 1949, accompanied by her illustrations from Irish sculptured monuments on the key Davidian events, in which she identified fifty scenes from the life of David in Irish art while tracing their continental origins. In addition she contributed articles and reviews to other journals such as Carloviana and newspapers such as the Irish Press and Leinster Express. In 1958 the Kilkenny Archaeological Society published her pamphlet The high crosses of western Ossory (reissued 1962, 1969, 1976, 1982). In 1959 the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society published her pamphlet High crosses of Kells (also 1966, 1975, 1981). The regular reprinting of her works testify to their worth; she donated the profits to the publishing societies. She was elected the first woman president of the RSAI (1965–8). Her presidential address, ‘Some aspects of medieval culture in Ireland’, published in RSAI Jn. (1966), 105–9, includes a portrait. The society's lecture theatre was posthumously named in her honour. At the age of 86 she was the principal speaker at the inaugural meeting of the Federation of Local History Societies in Kilkenny in 1981. She was elected MRIA in March 1984. On her ninetieth birthday a one-day seminar on Irish figure sculpture and a commemorative dinner were held in her honour by the RSAI, and the papers were presented as a Festschrift, Figures from the past (1987). Her circle included Ada Longfield (qv), whom she had known since their days at TCD, Françoise Henry (qv), R. A. S. Macalister (qv), with whom she conducted excavations at Knowth, and Liam Price (qv). She was energetic in placing Irish archaeology, early history, and art before wider academic and popular audiences, while giving her knowledge generously to fellow students. She delighted in company and had a quick, sharp, but considerate wit.
She lived at Santry, Dublin, and later at Oak House, Sussex Road, Dublin. She died 28 May 1988 at Grove Nursing Home, Killiney, Co. Dublin, and was buried beside her parents at St Peter's church cemetery, Mountrath, Co. Laois.