“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.


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

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:

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.

Women in the Daly collection


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.

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 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.
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

Name Also known as Date of birth Date of death Information to date
Ellen Daly Ellen Healy 1869 1964 mother of Charlie Daly
Susan Healy Gran c. 1846 1932 mother of Ellen Daly
Mary Daly May Daly 1900 1982 sister of Charlie Daly
Susan Daly Susan Casey; Susie Daly; Susie Casey 1902 1983 sister of Charlie Daly
Nora Daly Hanoria; Norah 1907 1928 sister of Charlie Daly
Ellen Daly Nellie Daly; Ellen Mary 1910 1930 sister of Charlie Daly
Nancy Daly Anne 1912 1993 sister of Charlie Daly
Katie Maria O’Sullivan K.M; Katie c. 1892 unknown teacher at local school and distant cousin of the Daly family
Josie O’Sullivan c. 1901 unknown sister of Katie Maria
Judy Daly unknown unknown
Lizzie Kelliher Elizabeth Daly; Lizzie Daly 1881 1938 neighbour of the Daly family
Katherine Allman Kattie Allman; Sr Gertrude; Cáit c. 1908 unknown friend of the Daly family / Catholic nun
Mollie O’Connor unknown unknown friend of the Daly family
Sheila Doogan unknown unknown friend of Charlie Daly / possibly from Kingstown/Dún Laoghaire
Mrs MacFeely unknown unknown friend of the family / possibly from Daisyhill
Mrs Mary Kelly unknown unknown friend of Charlie Daly
Kathleen Durcan unknown unknown

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

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