Belgian Connections in the Monica Roberts Letters

Freddy Berckmans and José VerachtertThe Monica Roberts Collection contains mainly letters she received from Irish Men fighting on the Western Front during World War 1. However two Belgian soldiers also correspond with Monica Roberts, writing in both French and English.  Library Assistant, Finola Frawley has transcribed and translated these letters, and provides us with an insight in their remarkable subjects and contents.

Sepia photo of Freddy Berckmans (standing) & José Verachtert (seated). Ref: DCLA/RDFA.01.08.039A

Freddy Berckmans serving in D44 2/I of the Belgian Army and writes approximately 17 letters to Monica which span from May 1914 until 24 January 1918 . The letters are mainly written from the Belgian Front, though he was only 17 at the outbreak of World War 1 and was initially in training.  His family and Monica Roberts’ know each other socially and he frequently refers to friends they have in common. He addresses her in the formal “vous” showing respectfulness. The tone is one of affection, humour and deep appreciation for presents she sends to him by post – butter scotch, air pillow, sardines, fountain pen, watch, (pen and watch were both later stolen), pipe & tobacco, writing paper, knife, electric light, inkstand, waterproof clothing, chocolates, cigarettes. A friend they have in common is a Mrs Conner who lives sometimes in Bradford, sometimes in London, and whose delicate health is often mentioned. Freddy’s mother, like Monica Roberts, sings and participates in concerts in aid of the war effort and this is also referred to.

No longer faceless or nameless – write the story of your First World War soldier

Assembly exhibitA long, long alphabetical list of 174,000 Allied soldiers who died on Belgian soil in the First World War; this is the new and emotive exhibit on display in Dublin City Library and Archive on Pearse Street until the end of March. The Assembly exhibit has been created by artist Val Carmen, for the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres. Consisting of a giant memorial book of the war dead and five old chairs from Passchaendaele Church, the exhibit is travelling around Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales to gather stories and mementoes of these dead soldiers.

Marino Garden Suburb

Marino elevationThe garden suburb of Marino was the first in Ireland and one of the earliest in Europe.  It is located on the north side of Dublin City.  This small garden village is unusual insofar as it was requested by the people themselves, at a public meeting held in Clontarf Town Hall in 1910. The historic village of Fairview was being redeveloped and the reclamation of land at the nearby Strand was underway in order to provide a public park.  The lessor of the land, James Walter, wrote to the local authority, Dublin Corporation, subsequent to the public meeting informing them that he would sell them his part of the Marino farm to create a miniature garden city.

Image: Marino Elevation by Horace O'Rourke (1919) view larger version of this image

News from Nelson: Welcome Visitors

Nelson's HeadMarch is always a difficult month for me – my Pillar and I were blown sky-high shortly after 1.30 on the morning of 8 March 1966, so this year I will be marking the 51st anniversary of this event.  That’s why I was particularly glad to welcome a group from the National League of the Blind Trust who called in last week.  The group consisted of visually-impaired and sighted friends and each of them approached me in turn for a detailed examination of my Head. They also found the two indentations made in my mouth by bullets during the 1916 Rising.  One or two of them noted that I didn’t wear a hat – I explained that I was too tough to need headgear, I could survive the cold perfectly well (although I also enjoy living in this cosy warm Reading Room – must be old age!).

Our Digital Repository Now Available Online

ImagesTraffic jams during the 1974 CIE Bus Strikes,  Croagh Patrick Pilgrimages (1958), and jubilant Heffo’s army supporters are among 43,000 historic photographs and documents  which are being made freely available online by Dublin City Council today.  These formerly unseen images date as early as 1757 and include photographs, postcards, letters, maps and historical memorabilia.

Highlights of the collection, which can be found at, include the Fáilte Ireland Photographic Collection with images of people, places and tourist locations all across Ireland from the 1930s, the Irish Theatre Archive Photographic Collection, and Dublin City Council Photographic Collection. Much of the material provides photographic evidence of Dublin's ever-changing streetscapes and buildings, as well as significant social, cultural, sporting, and political events in the City. Events as diverse as the Eucharistic Congress (1932), bonny baby competitions in the North Inner City, and the Dublin Football Team of the 1970s all feature, along with sombre Dublin streets in the aftermath of tragedies such as the 1941 North Strand and the 1974 Bombings.

News from Nelson: Joshua Dawson

Joshua Dawson portraitDear Friends and Fellow-Sailors!

From my vantage point on top of my Pillar I had a great view of Dublin and often wondered what was going on behind the hall door.  One of my favourite buildings was the Mansion House, the residence of Dublin’s Lord Mayor.  This was built between 1705-10 outside the city in lovely country parkland by Joshua Dawson, a civil servant who was also a property developer (nothing new under the sun, then!). 

Portrait of Joshua Dawson

Joshua also laid out a new street, calling it Dawson Street after himself (there’s also a Joshua Lane) and built a church for a new Church of Ireland parish, to be called ‘St. Ann’s’ after his lady wife, Ann Carr. 

Mansion House Fund for Relief of Distress

Manuscript February's Manuscript of the Month is a letter to the Mansion House Fund for Relief of Distress in Ireland, 1880.

The Mansion House Fund was established in January 1880 specifically to provide relief to farmers and tenant-farmers whose crops had failed during 1877-79.  The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Edmund Dwyer, chaired this fund and several Dubliners wrote to him in the mistaken belief that the fund could help them.  The letters were preserved and this one is from John Collett who lived in Bishop Street and had lost his job, as a light porter with Mackey’s Seeds, owing to paralysis.  There is no record of a payment to him from the Mansion House Fund.

Caretaker’s Lodge at Gulistan, Rathmines, Dublin

GulistanJanuary's Manuscript of the Month is the Caretaker’s Lodge at Gulistan, Rathmines, Dublin

Between 1847 and 1930, the Rathmines and Rathgar Township was an entity separate from Dublin City and held the same powers and functions as all local government in Ireland.  As early as 1888, the Township Commissioners obtained Counsel’s Opinion confirming that they had the right to build ‘Artisan Dwellings’ and in 1891 they purchased the lands of Gulistan for this purpose.   This curious name may have been inspired by the epic poem The Gulistan, written by the 13th century Persian poet, Sadi, which was published in an English-language translation in 1787.

News from Nelson: First Cat

SmokeyDear Friends and Fellow-Sailors!

When I was an Admiral in the Navy I was famous for my attention to detail.  Before we embarked on a campaign, I reviewed the manifest for each of the ships, to make sure that nothing had been overlooked. And sometimes there was: the appointment of a Ship’s Cat – many of my captains did not realise how important this was.  So I would send out a message to the local cat community saying: Ship’s Cat needed – adventurous lifestyle guaranteed – lots of delicious vitels – Champion Mousers only need apply – Pussycats not required.  This produced lots of applicants, enough to provision every ship in the fleet.

Private Daniel Fay and "The Three Dubs"

Daniel Fay in 1914The Private Daniel Fay collection is part of the extended Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association Collection and concerns the life of three brave soldiers from 2nd Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Their story is one that exemplifies the experience of soldiers in the First World War. One man died in combat, one man was committed to an asylum, and one man returned to his old life.

Image: RDFA/111/02 – Daniel Fay in 1914, sitting in full dress uniform.

Daniel Fay was born in 1987 in Dublin City. He worked as a grocer’s porter on Mountjoy Street until 1908 when he joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Daniel Fay served with the 2nd Battalion, nicknamed “the Old Toughs”. In 1910 he married Mary Moore in the Pro Cathedral.  Serving with him in 2nd Battalion were his two brothers-in-law, James Joseph Moore and Bartholomew “Bartle” Moore. Daniel served with 2nd Battalion until his discharge due to injury in the summer of 1918.