County Kerry & Letters 1916-1923


The Letters 1916-1923 collection includes material from all parts of Ireland, and thanks to generous contributions from the Kerry County Archive, the west of Ireland is now one of the most prominent regions in our database. Alongside individual letters highlighting the living conditions in Kerry and the impact of the Easter Rising and the First World War on one of the poorer counties in Ireland, we have been able to digitize letters from the extensive Thomas Ashe and Charlie Daly collections.

The Thomas Ashe Collection

The letters of Irish Republican Thomas Ashe in this collection are written in both Irish and English. Thomas Ashe was born in Kinard, Dingle, County Kerry in January 1885. He died while on hunger strike in Mountjoy Prison on 25th September 1917. The collection includes letters written to his father, Gregory Ashe and his sister Nora Ashe. There are also letters written in Irish, such as Ashe’s correspondence with Riobard Ó Langphuirt.

Letters from and to Austin Stack

Another prominent letter-writer from Co Kerry is Austin Stack, an Irish revolutionary and politician. Stack was commandant of the Kerry Brigade of the Irish Volunteers and made preparations to receive Roger Casement upon his return to Ireland. Stack was sentenced to death for his part in the Easter Rising, but this sentence was later commuted to penal servitude for life. He was released in 1917.

The Charlie Daly Collection

The letters in the Charlie Daly collection concern Irish republican Charlie Daly, who was born in Knockaneculteen, Firies, Kerry, on 11 August 1896, and famously rejected the peace treaty with Britain. Daly was subsequently captured and imprisoned at Drumboe Castle in County Donegal, where he was executed by firing squad on 14 March 1923 along with three other men: Dan Enright, Tim O’Sullivan, and Seán Larkin. The letters in the Charlie Daly collection are kept at the Kerry County Archive and were mostly written between 1918 and April 1923. Charlie Daly wrote to his large family and numerous male and female friends. Approximately 70% of all correspondents in the collection are women whose life stories are hardly known.

For further information about Co Kerry in the early twentieth century and republican groups in Western Ireland, you may want to consult the research article Poverty and War: County Kerry and the letters from 1916.

We also recommend the following book for further reading:

Joy, Sinéad. The IRA in Kerry, 1916-1921. Collins, Cork, 2005. 382-385.
Horgan, Tim. Dying for the cause: Kerry’s Republican Dead. Mercier Press, Cork, 2015. 377-381.”

Marie Martin


From Ireland to distant countries

Marie Martin (with red cross on her uniform) in Malta, January 1916. (MMM Image Archive)

Marie Martin was born on 25 April 1892 to Thomas and Mary Martin in Glenageary, Co. Dublin. She was the second of twelve children. The outbreak of the First World War proved to be a watershed for both Marie and her family. Marie’s contribution came as a VAD nurse. She was first posted in Malta, and subsequently in France, where she served during the Battle of the Somme. Marie Martin’s letters are an invaluable source brimming with information and exposing the realities of everyday life at the front for a young Irish nurse. Four of the Martin children directly contributed to the war effort: Tommy and Charlie as soldiers and Marie and Ethel as nurses with the Volunteer Aid Detachment (VAD). Both Tommy and Charlie were wounded more than once, but Charlie proved to be the only casualty from the Martin family. He died on 8 December 1915 aged just twenty years old. Charlie’s name appears frequently in Marie’s letters home after his disappearance from the front in 1915.


The Martin family and loyalist Catholicism in Ireland

The Diary of Mary Martin
The Diary of Mary Martin

In 1916, Mary Martin, Marie’s mother, was a wealthy Roman Catholic widow and mother of twelve children. At the time of writing the diary, she was living in Monkstown, an affluent and largely Protestant suburb of Dublin.  The First World War had broken out nearly a year and a half earlier and many young Irishmen were serving in the British Army. Mary’s son, Charlie, was one such soldier and at the time Mary started writing the diary he was missing in action on the Salonika front (where a Franco-British force landed at Salonika in Greece to defend Serbia against the advance of a Bulgarian army).  Mary wrote the diary to Charlie as if it were an extended letter – in the hope that he would return soon and, by reading its pages, feel as though he hadn’t missed anything while being away.