I hope you are both pretty bobbish! | Letters 1916 – 1923

Nancy MacCarthy | Letters 1916-1923

Postcards from the Nancy McCarthy collection, UCC Archives

Anna Patricia (Nancy) McCarthy was born in 1902 to Charles and Annie McCarthy. She was one of ten McCarthy children: three girls and seven boys.

In 1916, Nancy was 14 and was boarding at the Brigidine Convent, Mountrath, Co. Laois with her sisters Eily and Florence. Her uncle, George D. Roche was on active service with the 7th London regiment in France and he regularly wrote postcards to Nancy and Eily while they were at school. 



The postcards

In his postcards, George remains upbeat. He reassures Nancy that while there are no rats where he is, “where they do live they are BIG and no mistake” and despite living in a small wooden hut in a field “the Padre’s gramophone is playing now (can’t you hear it?) and we are quite comfy”. We learn that in early March, they had quite a lot of snow on the Western Front and with it came “beaucoup snowballing!”. George intersperses little bits of French in his cards & jokes about his language skills being “No bon”!


Nancy McCarthy

© Frank O’Connor Research Website

After qualifying as a Chemist, Nancy went to worked for Boots in Birmingham, England before moving back to Cork city to work in Blair’s Chemist on Patrick Street 1926. In an unusual move for a single woman at that time, she opened her own chemist shop in Douglas in 1946 where she worked until she retired in 1986.

Throughout her life, Nancy played an active and influential role in the cultural life of Cork city. Her love of rural Ireland and the Irish language led her to spend many holidays in the Cork/Kerry Gaeltacht. In later life, she was a committee member of the Cork Orchestral Society, and an enthusiastic follower of the Cork Ballet Company and the Cork Film Festival. Nancy McCarthy died in October 1988, aged 86.


adapted from The Nancy McCarthy Collection by Archivist Emer Twomey


Leaving the Letters project…

The post above highlights a small collection of postcards from the Letters 1916-1923 project. I have been meaning to draw attention to these since I first saw them in UCC in 2015, when I was sourcing letters for the project from the UCC Archives and Special Collections.

Today is my last day working on the project, having been involved since its launch in 2013. One of my favourite things about Letters 1916-1923 has been coming across little gems like these postcards which give an important and fascinating insight into day-to-day life 100 years ago.

I have also really enjoyed organising events like Culture Night 2017 and meeting a wide variety of people  along the way – from the other members of the Letters 1916-1923 team, as well as people from various archives and museums, schools, members of the public who have added their precious family letters to the collection.

While I am sad to leave this great project, I am excited about finishing my PhD thesis and moving on to the next phase!

Emma Clarke



Links to the postcards

Postcard from George D. Roche to Nancy McCarthy, 28 February 1916

Postcard from George D. Roche to Nancy McCarthy, 8 March 1916

Postcard from George D. Roche to Nancy McCarthy, 24 April 1916

Postcard from George D. Roche to Nancy McCarthy, 2 September 1916

Postcard from George D. Roche to Nancy McCarthy, 23 October 1916

Postcard from George D. Roche to Nancy McCarthy, 28 October 1916

WW1 Field Regulation postcard from George D. Roche to Nancy and Eily McCarthy, 17 September 1916



“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.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day | Letters 1916-1923

St Patrick's Day 2018 | Letters 1916-1923


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.

Letter from Denis Hurley to his brotherA 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!?

Alexander McDowell from the Ministry of Munitions wrote to E. A. Aston, inspector for the Local Government Board (LGB) in Dublin regarding female workers in the local linen industry. From his letter, we learn that only one Belfast firm at that time employed women on munitions work.

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.

To read any of the letters, click on the images above or click here to browse the EXPLORE database yourself.

If you find any more St Patrick’s Day letters in the collection, let us know!


Thanks for the bunch of shamrocks

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.

Letter from Patricia Lynch to Hanna Sheehy Skeffington | © NLI
Letter from Patricia Lynch to Hanna Sheehy Skeffington | © NLI

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.

Here is a selection of letters written by Patricks from the collection:

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 from Patrick Alphonsus Carroll to the Army Veterinary Service with a completed application for a commission as an officer of the Army Veterinary Corps.

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.

St Patrick's Day Postcard
detail from a St Patrick’s Day Postcard © National Library of Ireland

A letter from Patrick J. Little, editor of the New Ireland newspaper. This letter was written a week before the Easter Rising and encloses copies of ‘Secret Orders issued to Military Officers’.

This letter was written by Patrick Sheehan, a labourer in County Cork, who was injured while carrying a bundle of empty sacks down a stairs.


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.

Carphin letter quote

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.

To find more letters in the Letters of 1916 collection, search our Explore database by keyword.

Litreacha as Gaeilge | Letters 1916-1923

Litreacha as Gaeilge | Letters 1916-1923

Letter from Riobard Ó Langphuirt to Thomas AsheCuidiú linn an litir seo a thrascríobh:

Letter from Riobard Ó Langphuirt to Thomas Ashe, 12 August 1917




Letter to Piaras Béaslaí from Tomás Ó Máille, 5 January 1916

Postcard from M. in Belfast to Piaras Béaslaí, January 1916

Cárta poist as Gaeilge | May 1916
Cárta poist ó Eoin C. Mac Giolla Comhghall go Nancy O’Rahilly | © UCD Archives

St. Patrick’s Day 1916 Postcard from Máire in Rathmore/Killarney to Piaras Béaslaí

Postcard from Tomás Ó hÓgáin to Piaras Béaslaí, March 1916

Postcard from Tomás Ó hÓgáin to Piaras Béaslaí in February 1916

Letter from M. Ua Sabháil to Piarás Beaslaí, 9 January 1916

Letter from Tomás Ó Ceallaigh to Piaras Béaslaí, 4 February 1916

Letter from Mrs Tracy to Piaras Béaslaí, 12 February 1916

Letter from Máire Ní Catháin to Mabel FitzGerald, 3 June 1916

Postcard from Eoin C. Mac Giolla Comhghall to Nancy O’Rahilly, c. May 1916

Letter from Éamonn Ceannt, 2 November 1915

Letter from Cathal Brugha to Éamonn Ceannt, 24 April 1916

A postcard from Patrick Pearse to Mary Ita McEvoy, 24 February 1916

Letter from Seagán T. Ó Ceallaigh to Fionán Mac Coluim, 19 January 1916



International Women’s Day 2018

Women of Letters 1916-1923

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.

Click on a photo in the gallery below to view a letter related to the woman

(or listen to a podcast in the case of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington):

In addition, we have launched an appeal for information about the women in the Charlie Daly collection – click to read more!

Daly women | Letters 1916-1923

Women in the Daly collection

Daly women | Letters 1916-1923

We need your detective skills to help us find out more information about the women in the Daly collection which we recently acquired  from Kerry County Archives. We have already processed some of the Daly letters which are available to read and transcribe in our ‘Civil War, 1922-1923’ collection. We are working to get the rest of this expansive collection online.

Daly collection

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

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 we’ve explored the collection, one very interesting feature which has emerged is the fact that women comprise approximately 70% of the correspondence. And despite researching Charlie Daly’s story and family, 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.
May Daly
May Daly

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.



The women

NameAlso known asDate of birthDate of deathInformation to date
Ellen DalyEllen Healy18691964mother of Charlie Daly
Susan HealyGranc. 18461932 mother of Ellen Daly
Mary DalyMay Daly19001982sister of Charlie Daly
Susan DalySusan Casey; Susie Daly; Susie Casey19021983sister of Charlie Daly
Nora DalyHanoria; Norah19071928sister of Charlie Daly
Ellen DalyNellie Daly; Ellen Mary19101930sister of Charlie Daly
Nancy DalyAnne19121993sister of Charlie Daly
Katie Maria O'SullivanK.M; Katiec. 1892unknownteacher at local school and distant cousin of the Daly family
Josie O'Sullivanc. 1901unknownsister of Katie Maria
Judy Dalyunknownunknown
Lizzie KelliherElizabeth Daly; Lizzie Daly18811938neighbour of the Daly family
Katherine AllmanKattie Allman; Sr Gertrude; Cáitc. 1908unknownfriend of the Daly family / Catholic nun
Mollie O'Connor unknownunknownfriend of the Daly family
Sheila Dooganunknownunknownfriend of Charlie Daly / possibly from Kingstown/Dún Laoghaire
Mrs MacFeely unknownunknownfriend of the family / possibly from Daisyhill
Mrs Mary Kellyunknownunknownfriend of Charlie Daly
Kathleen Durcanunknownunknown

Share your information with us

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

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:


a note to the O'Dálaigh family | Letters 1916-1923
a note to the O’Dálaigh family

Thanks to:

Love Letters 1916-1923

Love Letters | Letters 1916-1923

St. Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated on 14 February each year with e-cards and gifts of roses and chocolates, often ordered on the internet. Within this context, love letters, sent by ordinary post, might seem old-fashioned and nostalgic. In 1916, however, love letters were sometimes one of the only ways of expressing feelings to loved ones, especially those at a distance.

The Letters of 1916-1923 project contains the written words and the forgotten words of ordinary people during during this extraordinary time in Irish history. Love letters are part of this picture too. For the day that’s in it, we have chosen some LOVE(ly) highlights from the collection.


Postcard from Thomas Murphy to his sister Anna Murphy

Postcard from Thomas Murphy to his sister Anna Murphy, 11 February 1916

Michael and Susan Gorman
Michael and Susan Gorman

Michael Gorman and Susan Fitzgerald came from very different backgrounds. He spent his early years with ten siblings, in a large thatched cottage on the family farm of Ballinalug on the northern slopes of the Slieve Bloom Mountains near Clara Hill. She grew up on the other side of the mountains, in a large house called Raheenahone, near Stradbally.

What made their relationship so special was the fact that she was Church of Ireland Protestant and he was Catholic. As a consequence, neither family wanted the other, and Michael and Sue had to spend half a decade meeting in secret and exchanging letters in what was a love affair that would last all their lives.

Click here to read more of MIchael and Susan’s story


Letter from May Fay to James Finn,14 February 1916

James Finn and May Fay's wedding photograph
James Finn and May Fay’s wedding photograph, image courtesy of Tessa Finn

This letter comes from a series written between James Finn and his fiancée Mary (May) Fay. They became engaged in January 1916 and married in June. He lived in Dublin, she in Westmeath. At 39 years of age, he was 20 years her senior. He had become acquainted with her during his regular visits to his relative Mrs Mary Seery, her neighbour. Throughout the correspondence, their relationship develops from their first somewhat tentative letters.


Tessa Finn is one of the individual (as opposed to institutional) contributors to the Letters of 1916. She shared this collection of letters between her grandparents, which she describes as “a document of their love and their time.”


As Tessa writes: “These letters between James Finn and May Fay, most of them written in 1916, are part of my family’s inheritance, lovingly treasured by my grandmother, May. She had every reason to cling on to these reminders of the love of her life, my grandfather James Finn. They were married not quite six years when he died leaving her, twenty-five years old and seven months pregnant with their fourth child. They are a document of their love and their time.”


– Tessa Finn, Letters – May & James: A Private love in a Revolutionary Year – 1916

Click here to read or here to transcribe more Love Letters.



Letters 1916-1923 has been nominated for a Digital Humanities Award

DH Awards | Letters 1916-1923

We are delighted to be nominated for a DH Award for our public engagement in 2017!

The Digital Humanities Awards are a set of annual awards where the public is able to nominate resources for the recognition of talent and expertise in the digital humanities community. The resources are nominated and voted for entirely by the public.

You can vote for your favourite DH projects until 25 February 2018.

If you’ve transcribed with us, donated a letter to the collection or used the Letters 1916-1923 database for your work, please consider voting for us in the Public Engagement section of the DH Awards website:


Women’s Suffrage in the Letters 1916-1923 collection

Women's Suffrage in Letters 1916-1923

Today marks 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

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 SkeffingtonHanna 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.

Transcription Progress: January 2018

January 2018

In January 2018 you transcribed 55559 characters in total.

In January 2018, we reviewed our metrics and the total number of registered users in the system is 1978.

Currently 4366 letters have been uploaded to the system, of which 3678 are available to view and transcribe online. You can explore the completed and fully transcribed letters in more detail here.

THANK YOU All for contributing to the Letters 1916-1923 Project!


  • 4378 letters uploaded to the system, of which 3770 have been made public to date (31 January 2018)
  • 29 new letters uploaded to the system since 31 December 2017

STATUS of the letters:

  • Transcriptions not started: 53 letters
  • Transcriptions in progress: 15 letters
  • Transcriptions that need proofing and reviewing: 952 letters
  • Transcriptions proofed and completed: 2766 letters


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