“A mháthair dhílis” – Ellen Daly’s correspondence with her children

On International Women’s Day, we drew your attention to the extensive and exciting Charlie Daly Collection from County Kerry because the majority of correspondents in this collection were female.

One particularly prolific letter-writer in the Daly family was in fact Ellen Daly, Charlie Daly’s mother, who took a keen interest in Charlie Daly’s republican engagement and the activities of all her children.

She was the family’s centre of communication and ensured that her sons and daughters, as well as their many friends, were well informed of what was going on in the others’ lives.

Charlie Daly (signing his name ‘Cormac’) frequently addressed her as “a mháthair dhílis” (‘loyal mother’) and kept writing to her although he wasn’t sure that his letters would actually reach her:

Charlie Daly (Cormac) to his mother Ellen, 30th June 1922
Charlie Daly (Cormac) to his mother Ellen, 30th June 1922, Charlie Daly Collection P41/2/1/13, Kerry County Archives

Letter P41/6/1/6 from the Kerry County Archives was written by Ellen Daly to her daughter Susan and shows her fond relationship with all her children. Ellen Daly addresses Susan’s health problems and her upcoming final examinations, but she also talks about the many relatives and friends who join them in remembering “poor Charlie”:

Ellen Daly to her daughter Susan Daly, May 8th 1923
Ellen Daly to her daughter Susan Daly, May 8th 1923, Charlie Daly Collection P41/6/1/6, Kerry County Archives

After several months of imprisonment in County Donegal, Charlie Daly was executed in March 1923. Ellen Daly’s letter to Susan is dated May 8th 1923 and marked by the family’s shared grief over Charlie’s death.

However, Mrs Daly also relates good news to her daughter. The family’s friend Kattie Allman, another prominent correspondent in the Daly Collection, has finally taken her religious vows and is now called Sr. Gertrude.

This letter is a fine example of the many social connections which the Daly family shared, and it encapsulates the mother’s prominent role in this interesting network.

We welcome your help in finding out more about the women who corresponded with Charlie Daly.