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.


Augusta Caroline Dillon Clonbrock, Lady Clonbrock


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.

Lady Clonbrock | image courtesy of the NLI NLI_Clonbrock Lady Clonbrock to Mrs Budson
Image: National Library of Ireland, Clonbrock Estate Papers, Ms. 35,79. Letter from Alfred Gerald Crofton to Lady Clonbrock, 1 October 1916 | Image: National Library of Ireland Letter from Thomas Furey to Lady Clonbrock, 6 December 1915 | Image: National Library of Ireland

Letter from John Burns to Lady Clonbrock, 2 July 1916

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 B. Maguire to Lady Clonbrock, 15 October 1916

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:

Letter from Alfred Gerald Crofton to Lady Clonbrock, 13 December 1915 (National Library of Ireland)

Read the analysis of a featured letter by Dr Brian Hughes:

Letter from Alfred Crofton to Lady Clonbrock, 1 October 1916 (National Library of Ireland)

Alfred Crofton and Lady Clonbrock at dinner | Image: Salt Spring Archives 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.

Read more here.

The Charlie Daly Collection


Greeting card from the Daly collection
Greeting card from the Daly collection

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.

Christmas card from Mary McFadden to Charlie Daly, inside

Christmas card from Mary McFadden to Charlie Daly, cover page

Christmas card from Mary McFadden to Charlie Daly, back cover

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.

Women’s Suffrage in the Letters 1916-1923 collection


2018 marked 100 years since Irish women over the age of 30 were granted the right to vote. The Letters 1916-1923 collection contains correspondence relating to the struggle for increased women’s rights and we have chosen some interesting highlights from the collection.

Sheehy Skeffington Papers

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington The largest selection of Letters 1916-1923 relating to women’s suffrage is from the National Library of Ireland‘s Sheehy Skeffington Papers. Hanna Sheehy Skeffington (1877-1946), suffragette, nationalist, language teacher, was the founder of the Irish Women’s Franchise League and a founding member of the Irish Women Workers’ Union. She was active during the 1916 Rising – she brought food to the Volunteers in the G.P.O. and the College of Surgeons. She was married to Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (1878-1916) who was summarily executed on 26 April 1916. Four days passed before she found out what had happened to her husband and it wasn’t until almost two weeks later that the full details of his execution emerged. In 1916, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington was organising a concert to raise funds for The Irish Citizen newspaper. There is a series of postcards and letters relating to the concert – just search for Hanna Sheehy Skeffington on the Letters 1916-1923 site to read them.
This special guest podcast episode was recorded by Letters 1916 interns, Emily Blackburn and Madison Ganson, from Beloit College, Wisconsin. The episode focuses on Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, the Irish Citizen newspaper, and the pursuit of Irish labour rights.


Military Archives of Ireland
© Military Archives of Ireland

Eva Gore-Booth was a poet, trade unionist, suffragist, and an active social campaigner, mostly on women’s issues. She was a contributor to the Irish literary revival from the late 1890s. She was active in the campaign for a reprieve of her sister, Constance Markievicz’s death sentence for her participation in the Easter Rising and for the improvement of her prison conditions.

In this letter to Helena Molony (1883-1967), Eva Gore-Booth enquires about Molony and the rules regarding letters and visitors and refers to her sister, Constance as well as other female prisoners, Dr Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine French-Mullen.

My sister says man never made a wall but God threw a gap in it as an old woman used to say at home

Women’s Health

The Letters 1916-1923 collection includes a large number of letters from the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Archives. From 1910 until 1954 Thomas Percy Kirkpatrick (1869-1954) served as the registrar for the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. He also served as the general secretary of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland. Kirkpatrick took a particular interest in what were then termed venereal diseases (now sexually transmitted diseases). To encourage his patients to attend, he held a clinic for women at Steevens’ hospital at a discreet early morning hour to facilitate anonymity.

Read more about Thomas Kirkpatrick in this blog post by Harriet Wheelock.

RCPI Archives
© RCPI Archives

This letter from the RCPI Archives was written by Ishbel Maria Gordon (1857-1939) and is written on ‘Women’s National Health Association of Ireland’ headed paper. Gordon was a philanthropist and Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair. In 1893 she was elected president of the nascent International Congress of Women, a federation of women’s organisations. In this role (1893–9 and 1904–36) she played a major part in building up its international network (and rebuilding it after the first world war). She was also president of the Women’s Liberal Federation, 1901–6, which eventually split over her support for women’s suffrage.

There are many more letters in the Letters 1916-1923 which are related to the struggle for women’s rights and women’s issues in the 1916-1923 period. Visit our website to find more.