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.
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
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.
Augusta Caroline Dillon Clonbrock, Lady Clonbrock (1840-1928) was a prominent member of the Irish Women’s Association, founded to provide aid and assistance to Irish soldiers and prisoners of war. She was the wife of Luke Gerald Dillon (1834-1917), the 4th Baron of Clonbrock, Co. Galway and the daughter of Lord Crofton of Mote Park (Edward Henry Churchill Crofton, 3rd Baron), Co. Roscommon. Aged 75 at the outbreak of war, Lady Clonbrock, worked closely with the Irish Women’s Association to send basic necessities to Irish POWs. Many of her care packages went to members of the Connaught Rangers imprisoned in Limburg near Cologne.
Postcard from a prisoner of war, John Burns, to Lady Clonbrock (1840-1928). In this letter Burns informs Lady Clonbrock that he is receiving the groceries safely except for the bread. He adds that the POWs have been put to work in the factories and foundries, Burns himself has been assigned to the iron foundry.
Letter from a prisoner of war, B. Maguire, South Lancashire Regiment, to Lady Clonbrock (1839-1928). Maguire was then a prisoner of war in a camp in Limburg, Germany. He writes that he had received a postcard stating that bread had been sent to him but he had yet to receive it. He also notes that he has received one of the two parcels of cigarettes that Lady Clonbrock had sent. Maguire enquires about his wife at home, the health of Lady Clonbrock and her family and mentions that he is in good health but the weather is cold in the camp.
Listen to an audio-feature about Lady Clonbrock’s correspondence on Soundcloud:
Alfred Crofton and Lady Clonbrock at dinner | Image: Salt Spring Archives
Over 210,000 Irish men, all volunteers, served in the British armed forces during the Great War. This letter is an important part of the story of the contribution of the Irish diaspora to the Great War and serves as a reminder of the varied and complex nature of Irish involvement in that war. Alfred Crofton enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) on 10 December 1915.
The letters in the Charlie Daly collection concern Irish republican Charlie Daly, who rejected the peace treaty with Britain and was subsequently captured and imprisoned at Drumboe Castle in County Donegal, where he was executed on 14 March 1923.
As we’ve explored the collection, one very interesting feature which has emerged is the fact that women comprise approximately 70% of the correspondence. Despite extensive research in Charlie Daly’s story and family, many of the women within the network remain unknown.
We are currently appealing to our community to help us find out more information about the women in the Daly collection, which we recently acquired from Kerry Library Archives. We have already processed some of the Daly letters and invite you to read and transcribe them.
One visually attractive letter is a greeting card in Celtic design, sent by Mary McFadden in December 1922.
In his letters to his mother Ellen, Charlie Daly discusses his reaction to the Anglo-Irish Treaty. His mother divulges information about the situation in Kerry during his imprisonment. She also discusses her other children in letters to Charlie, e.g. the imprisonment of his brothers, Thomas and William, in Tralee, and his sister Susan, who is studying to be a teacher in Dublin. The collection also includes Ellen Daly’s correspondence right after Charlie’s execution.
We are looking forward to sharing more letters from this expansive collection soon.
Letters 1916-1923 is Ireland’s first participatory digital humanities project. Begun in September 2013 as Letters 1916, in 2017 it expanded its collection period to the end of the Civil War through a generous grant from the Irish Research Council.
This digital collection includes letters held at institutions in Ireland and abroad alongside those in private collections. There are thousands of letters connecting hundreds of lives commenting a wide range of topics, from wars and violence at home and abroad including the Easter Rising, The Great War, The Anglo-Irish and Civil War, literature and art, love, politics, business, and ordinary life. Letters 1916-1923 adds a new perspective to the events of the period, a confidential and intimate glimpse into early 20th Century life in Ireland, as well as how Ireland was viewed abroad.
Join us in creating this unique resource. Share letters with us or transcribe previously deposited letters. To learn how to get involved, see the Get Involved tab above Continue reading About the Project→
What were people saying when they put pen to paper to write letters on St Patrick’s day in 1916?
Thanks to the Letters of 1916-1923 database, we can get a snapshot of the words written on this day a century ago.
A quick look at the letters written on this day, shows us a letter written by Denis Hurley to his brother John. Originally from Tawnies, near Clonakilty in Co. Cork, Denis emigrated to Carson City in Nevada in 1873. In the letter, Denis thanks John for “the bunch of shamrocks”. Isn’t it amazing that the shamrock survived the journey!?
In a third letter, Alexander G. Crawford writes to Matthew Nathan discussing a local school principal from Coleraine. The principal in question has had a very positive effect in his forty five years of service, even going so far as to pay for the up keep of the school from his own purse.
If you find any more St Patrick’s Day letters in the collection, let us know!
Letters written by Patrick or Patricia in the Letters of 1916 collection
As it’s St Patrick’s Day, we had a look through the Letters of 1916 collection in search of letters written by people named Patrick or Patricia.
We found only one Patricia in the whole collection:
Patricia Lynch (1894-1972) was an Irish nationalist and supporter of the suffragette movement. While living in London she befriended Sylvia Pankhurst who reportedly sent her to Dublin in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising to gain an eyewitness account for the Worker’s Dreadnought. Her piece in the Worker’s Dreadnought was later reprinted as part of a pamphlet entitled Rebel Ireland published by the Workers’ Socialist Federation.
A letter from Patrick Langford Beazley to his son Piaras Béaslaí wishing him a happy St. Patrick’s day. This letter discusses the number of men who’ve ‘gone to the colours’ or enlisted with the British Army. Patrick also writes of the ‘terrible’ death of W. McCarthy, who perished in a car accident.
A letter written by Patrick Pearse, one of the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising, in December 1915. The letter was probably written to the printer Joseph Michael Stanley, and refers to the printing of Christmas cards.
A letter from Patrick Carphin, a native of Rathgar in Dublin, to his sister. Carphin gives a detailed description of the Easter Rising as he saw it and tells how he and his daughter were wounded by crossfire.
In this letter, Patrick Clarke writes regarding his fourteen year old son, Patrick James Clarke (b. 1902), who has a ‘horror for school.’ Patrick hopes to get his son on a naval training ship, as his job takes him out of the home and the boy’s mother is unable to keep him out of trouble.
A letter from Patrick Foran, an Irish prisoner of war in Germany. Foran thanks Lady Clonbrock for a parcel of socks she had sent him. Augusta Caroline Dillon (née Crofton) was 75 years old at the outbreak of the First World War. She worked closely with the Irish Women’s Association to send basic necessities to Irish POWs. Many of her care packages went to members of the Connaught Rangers imprisoned in Limburg near Cologne.
8th March is International Women’s Day and people around the world are celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. To mark the day, we would like to highlight some of the women from the Letters of 1916 collection. You can use the search engine on the top of this page or the “author” filter on our browse page to read their correspondence.
In addition, we have launched an appeal for information about the women in the Charlie Daly collection – click to read more!
We need your detective skills to help us find out more information about the women in the Daly collection which we recently acquired from the Kerry Library Archives. We have already processed some of the Daly letters which are available to read and transcribe. We are working to get the rest of this expansive collection online.
The letters concern Irish republican Charlie Daly, who rejected the peace treaty with Britain and was subsequently captured and imprisoned at Drumboe Castle in County Donegal, where he was executed on 14 March 1923.
As explored the collection, we discovered that women comprise approximately 70% of the correspondence. Although extensive research has been conducted in Charlie Daly’s background and life story, many of the women within the network remain unknown.
What we know so far
Throughout his life, Charlie Daly regularly corresponded with his mother, Ellen Daly, but his sisters and female friends of the family also exchanged letters with him and with each other.
The women in Daly’s network pursued different careers. For example:
Katie Maria O’Sullivan, a distant cousin of the Dalys, was a teacher at a local school
Katherine (Kattie) Allman entered a religious order and became known as Sr. Gertrude.
One thing which they all had in common was that they actively responded to the events of their time, for instance Mary Daly (May), Charlie’s oldest sister, was active in the Irish Republican movement and ran as an election candidate in North Kerry for Sinn Féin in the 1957 general election.
We have added what we know so far to the table below. If you can help us fill in any of the gaps, please get in touch.
Also known as
Date of birth
Date of death
Information to date
mother of Charlie Daly
mother of Ellen Daly
sister of Charlie Daly
Susan Casey; Susie Daly; Susie Casey
sister of Charlie Daly
sister of Charlie Daly
Nellie Daly; Ellen Mary
sister of Charlie Daly
sister of Charlie Daly
Katie Maria O’Sullivan
teacher at local school and distant cousin of the Daly family
sister of Katie Maria
Elizabeth Daly; Lizzie Daly
neighbour of the Daly family
Kattie Allman; Sr Gertrude; Cáit
friend of the Daly family / Catholic nun
friend of the Daly family
friend of Charlie Daly / possibly from Kingstown/Dún Laoghaire
friend of the family / possibly from Daisyhill
Mrs Mary Kelly
friend of Charlie Daly
Share your information with us
You can see that there are lots of gaps in the table above & we hope you can help us to fill in these gaps!
There are a number of different ways to get in touch with us to share any leads you might have. You can: