May and James's Love Letters during the Rising - Transcript

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The following is the transcript of the talk given in Rathmines Library on 25 August 2016 by Tessa Finn on the extraordinary exchange of love letters between her grandparents which took place during the turbulent year of the Rising.

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Welcome to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. In this episode Tessa Finn, discusses and reads some of the extraordinary love letters between her grandparents written during the turbulent year of the 1916 Rising.  The letters provide an intimate glimpse into the lives of two people growing in love, not involved in the conflict but touched by it in many ways. Recorded in front of a live audience at Rathmines Library on 25 August 2016 as part of the Libraries' Heritage Week Programme.

Tess
Hello.  I’m here to present to you letters that were written by my Grandparents in 1916.

1916 was a year of many events both in the world and in Ireland but my Grandparents were not large player on the world stage nor were they on the stage of Ireland.  They were just ordinary people but the most important thing that was happening for them in their life was that they became engaged in January of 1916 and married in June and she was living in Westmeath and he was living in Dublin so they wrote each other letters as people did in those days.  We still have more than 90 letters that they wrote in that period which is not all of them by any means, one can see that there are gaps in the letters.  But they wrote and could expect delivery within a day or two and they responded often right on top of each other’s letters.

My Grandmother kept my Grandfather’s letters very carefully.  We found them after she died in the 70s in a box all still wrapped in ribbon by her bed in her bedroom.  She had a really good reason to keep them with a great deal of care because they were only married less than 6 years when she was pregnant with my Father, her fourth child, she was 6 months’ pregnant when he died suddenly of heart failure and that was due to damage that had been done by a flu epidemic a few years earlier.  So she was left a widow with four children having been very much in love as you can from the letters.

These are some of the letters, some of the envelopes.  I have them all in a file here.  You can look at them afterwards if you want to.  It’s such a beautiful thing to look at the old documents.  And it was a great pleasure for me to have the process of transcribing them and making them into a narrative that was understandable and getting to know the players in a way that I never could have otherwise.

My Grandparents were not big players.  They were middling folk, reasonably well off by the sound of it, there were so many people in Dublin at the time, it was of course a very poor place.  But she was from comfortable farming stock, he from a family that had been in Civil Service for generations and he was making a career in the Civil Service in Dublin. 
And this is his family.  He was born in 1876 in Castledaly in Westmeath.  His Father was a Revenue man who died quite young.  His family story was that he sampled too many goods when he was going around from distillery to distillery.  (laughter)  In any case, his Mother was left a widow.  There was one son and three daughters, so as the only son he would have been under a lot of pressure to take over the support of the family and he worked hard and got scholarships and then joined the British Civil Service, as it was, quite young and made his way up through the ranks.  This is him in the front there, his Mother behind in the middle looking quite staunch and his cousins at a wedding.  That was taken in 1915.  In 1912 he was promoted to the National Health Insurance Service Commission which was just set up that year and had an office in Mount Street in Pembroke Court.  We have documentation showing his promotion to that job.

My Grandmother, May Fay, was only 19 when she became engaged so she was almost 20 years younger than him.  She was convent educated, not very far but better than her brothers, that wasn’t a necessity in the farming community they lived in.  This is her mother and her two sisters.  We don’t have very many good photographs so they’re (laughs) as good as I can give.

Audience
She’s like Princess Diana there isn’t she?

Tess
Yeah (laughs).  She was a very pretty girl.  Many people commented on this.  So her mother was also a widow and had had to get the farm up on its feet again after, it was a difficult time.

We can see that in these letters his voice is more often heard than hers, that means that she kept his letters whereas she wasn’t so concerned about her letters which is kind of normal enough.  They are full of everyday stuff but I think they have a tone in them that is very special and it gives you an insight into the life of the time and the way things were.  There’s things about fear of conscription which was very much in people’s minds, especially at the beginning of 1916.  All of the different events that were going on to do with the war and the people they knew that had gone to the First World War and then of course there is the Rising and they are separated.  He was visiting her in Westmeath when the Rising actually happened.  He visited on the Easter holidays there.  But he had to make his way back and then there’s all of the rumours and fears of people they knew and stuff like that.

He was living in Rathmines in Belvedere Square.  Rathmines was the place where Civil Servants collected at that time.  It was very much a place for the people who were making a name for themselves in that place.  He moved into Belvedere Square in 1912.  Sorry in 1914.  The house stayed connected with our family until this year, it’s just been sold so.

Audience
Why did you let this happen?

Tess
(laughs) It wasn’t a possibility to keep it in the family.  They are very valuable houses and there wasn’t a family to fill them but it’s a big sadness to us.  It’s my Grandmother’s house.  My Aunt lived there.  So it’s also part of the heritage of Rathmines.

So what we’re going to do is, my husband Andrew here and I, we are going to read from the letters little excerpts to give you a feel of the narrative that goes on.  And the first letter was written after they have become engaged over the Christmas holidays presumably in Westmeath.  He writes back to May.

Andrew
I’d just like to explain, I’m usually a little bit deaf and at the moment I’m really deaf (laughs) so I can hardly here what Tess is saying there and it makes it a little difficult to read, though I’ll do my best.  And also if at any point my lips are moving but no sound comes out of them that will be the reason why.  (laughter)

January 13th

I got back safe and sound although I didn’t feel quite so cheerful as I did in the country.  I always feel like that but I had more reason I suppose this time than ever before.  I remember now that on Monday when I spoke to you I was so intent on asking you to marry me that I quite overlooked in the excitement telling you that I loved you very dearly.  I hope you didn’t need me to tell you that anyhow in order to believe it of me.  I can hardly yet think that the converse is true, that you have any special regards for me.  It seems somehow too good to be true but I hope with God’s help that it may come true anyhow.  As I told you already, I could never bring myself to believe that any good girl could trust herself to me and in your case it seemed impossible but I suppose the reason is that the Lord is always a thousand times better to us than we deserve.  This is a queer sort of letter to write to you, you will think, but perhaps you will be able to read between the lines because I love you whatever comes and that if the Lord spares me I will try and do my duty to you.

14th of January

I was delighted to get your letter this morn.  You were very good to write, you were very good to write so soon.  I wasn’t expecting it though I was hoping you would.  I’m quite looking forward to seeing you the week after next.  I did feel a wee bit lonely after you leaving and you may be quite sure I would not have consented to marry you if I did not like you very much and that for some time.  But I never thought I would be so fortunate as to get one corner in your heart.  I hope dear James that at some time I will be able to show you how much I appreciate your love.

19th of January

I was in town with (09.49 inaudible) Saturday last.  I paid a long promised visit to Brother Leary and was very pleased to get out of him, not withstanding how nice he was to me, took me on his knee, put his arm around me, in fact did everything but kiss me.  I was going to tell him I’d tell you but I thought I better not.

21st of February

I was very jealous to hear about Brother Leary’s conduct.  I begin to see that if a man is only cheap enough he can do anything so he better look out for trouble when I see him.

This is the family farm in Tubberstown on the hill of (10.43 inaudible).

7th of March

My dearest James, you were indeed very thoughtful to manage a moment to send me a line.  I must say you’re a very good, dear man.  I was very glad to have your letter this morning very early and having two but I could not find energy to get through my few jobs having nothing to hurry for better than dinner.  For the first time I felt a want in country life but I was so not silly as I call it as to let that be seen.  But I prayed to write this letter to you and then set to and make pancakes for the tea on account of Shrove Tuesday.  It’s a big job for so many but for once I wished there was one more.  I hope you were not lonely last night when you went home.  I was very lonely sitting at the fire.  When I went to bed it was relieved by tears and then away with me to dreamland.  No such luck as happy dreams even, I am not aware of them now.  But my very best love to you from your old May.

8th of March

I was delighted and pleased with your letter this morning.  It has kept my heart ringing all day up to the present for it is clear all through it that you are not quite the superior, sensible thing that you are trying to humbug me into believing.  It is the greatest possible comfort and happiness to me to know that my dear girl thinks of me so much and so highly.  I suppose it’s heartless to be glad to hear that you had recourse for tears on Monday night.  Is this the superior girl that never cried and who was so contemptuous of me for being silly when I thought I was only being affectionate?  Well, I am glad to see that you were moved to tears on my account and I love you all the more dearly, if that is possible, for it.  For my part, I’m not a bit inclined to cry these days.  In fact I feel quite pleased with myself and inclined to shake myself by the hand almost indeed to stand myself adrift because I have been so lucky as to get such a treasure as your love.  The thought of it warms and comforts me so that I can almost feel something warm and singing within me all day long.

I should mentioned too that the way the year went by you could see that obviously every few weeks one of them would visit the other and you can see that after each visit they’ve gotten more clear with each other or to know each other, more at ease with this getting married stuff.  And also as in that last little exchange she is missing him.

9th of March

My dearest James, very many thanks for your nice letter this morning.  I was very pleased to see by it you are keeping in such spirits.  I’m in the best of form now.  I was at Mass Ash Wednesday, Mass only, because I’m keeping my loaded conscience for a Mullingar priest if I can manage the point without anyone knowing it.  Mother was telling the lads not to forget the novena for the speedy end of the war to Saint Patrick.  Christy said ‘No such thing for when the war is over he is beggared’.  I have no news now so I’ll conclude with my best love and very best love to my dearest James from his loving May.

Well you can understand how anxious I am that you should have it for the very same reason that I love my dearest girl above and far beyond anything else in this world. I am not ashamed to say that to you although you seem to be shy of saying the same.  Still, I hope that it is true although you don’t say it.  Thanks love for the kisses.  You wouldn’t ask who is good in the holy season to send them, I know very well that my dear sweet girl is always good so that I hope you won’t expect me to take too seriously the references to ‘loaded consciences’ and sin and all the rest of it.  I imagine the priest must have a job to keep from laughing sometimes when he hears of your ‘sins’.

13th of March

I am quite sure you will be able to keep your end with Mrs Duffy.  When you put on that consequential air of yours it requires quite a lot of courage I should say to resist it.  In my case anyhow I find it very difficult to resist you at any time but I think the emotion produced is not fear so much as something very different.  I always want to take you in my arms and smoother you with kisses.  By the way, talking of kisses I must say that I have formed a very high opinion of the intelligence and good sense of Father Flynn, your recent confessor, and I feel quite grateful to him for making your tender conscience easy on that score.  The prospect sounds so promising and appetising that I feel almost inclined to swoop down on you some week and soon and take advantage of the greater generosity which I presume you are now prepared to show me.  (laughter)  To tell the honest truth, I am beginning to feel the want of you more and more every day worse and worse so that I very much doubt if I shall be able to hang on ‘til Easter without seeing and kissing your dear face again and hearing your dear voice.  So don’t be surprised if you hear of my arrival in the country about the end of the month.

Tess

So you see there is also the point where he is getting his house done up and getting ready to have the new bride come in.  He is also going to have to turf out his mother and sisters which is another matter.

29th of March
I must start tonight the preparations for it now.  There is a good deal in the way of painting and papering that I should like to see done and I must try and induce my landlord to do the house up generally for your reception.  Of course I must have it looking its best for my dear bride who comes home to it.  When a man gets a perk, that’s what Ray called you wasn’t it, he must get a proper setting for it.  I must at any rate have our bedroom done up.

30th of March

You are a darling man to be planning improvements on the house for me.  I will never half appreciate your goodness.  The only reward I can ever offer you is my very poor indeed prayers, nothing else.  It is not my heart is stopping me, there are a hundred things I would like to do if I only had half the goodness in me.  At last I have nothing at all but my youth and the wish for all heaven necessities to enter on married life.

30th of March

If anything happened now to separate us I know that life would have no further joy or interest for me.  It wasn’t at all in a joke that I said to you some time ago that you would have to be my guardian angel for the future.  I do really and truly mean it and the more I get to know you and understand the truth, that goodness in you, the more I realise what an unhopeful and undeserved blessing from God I received when I won your love.

14th of April

I did not settle in my own mind yet how I’ll see you on Good Friday.  It will be the dear stations I will do with you by my side.  Unless I have very much stronger will I will give up all prayers after June.  I never can pray when I’m near you.  As far as the love, honour and obey goes, I intend to commence in June and take up the poker and say ‘I’ll be the boss’.

15th of April

I hope it won’t be quite so bad as that and that you will be content to go and do the stations with me on Good Friday and be good and loving and sweet afterwards as you always otherwise are.  Sometimes I don’t know when you talk that way whether you are joking or not or whether you really do scruple being fond of me or kissing me with a freedom and frankness which is only reasonable in the case of us two. I don’t see what harm you can do even if you did think of me and love me on Good Friday as well as on any other day.  So far as I am concerned my conscience is not only clear in loving and thinking about you but I know and am convinced as I never was of anything before that my only hope of salvation lies in loving you and thinking of you always.  I am always a better, cleaner man when I think of you and I intend to cling to that last straw like the drowning man.  In view of what I say, I imagine it will be easy enough for you to boss me even without the poker but I hope you will not be too severe, although I’d certainly advise you to be firm.  (laughter)

Tess
So this moves on to Easter 1916 and, as I said, James Finn was visiting at his relative’s next door to May for the Easter holiday, to spend time with May and they seem to have only really got to know about what was going on as he was trying to make his way back in.  He describes what a difficult journey he had.

29th of April

I got back alright and found my mother and Essie quite well but frightened.  We had some trouble in getting out of Mullingar.  We had to get a military permit which, however, was never asked for.  I had first to go to Drumcondra with a lady who was my passenger and I was much delayed in consequence as I had to go back around my Lucan to get in by Terenure.  In Drumcondra I ran up against a friend who told me that the Volunteers had just surrendered on promise of an amnesty and I believe from what I hear now it is true that they have surrendered.  I really have nothing to say except to thank God that I found everything quite well at home.  No news on Mo or Maura but I hope in God and feel quite confident they are quite safe.  The driver is taking us back but as he is only leaving now at 7.00pm he may be late for the messenger from Toalstown.

Tess
We can see how his sisters were travelling at that time too, they are worried about them and they hear loads and loads of rumours, it’s just it’s so unsure what’s actually happening and who is doing what to whom.

8th of May

Indeed, part of the time I fear that I might never see you again.  You remember how often I told you that both by letter and by mouth that I might not have the good fortune or the grace from God to be married to you?  Now somehow I feel that I may be thought worthy although why it should be so I cannot understand when I think of all the fine spirits this calamity has called to their internal account.  Things are gradually getting more like their usual way and people are beginning to rebel or restore all that has been shattered but it will be many a long day before Dublin is anything like its old self.  It will probably take 10 years before the central parts are completely restored.

10th of May

They are still arresting men all over the country and I suppose you know that they have shot 12 of the leaders in the last group.  They are P. H. Pearse and his brother Willie Pearse, Tom Clarke, an old Fenian, Thomas MacDonagh, J. Plunkett, instead of count Plunkett, Major MacBride, of the South Africa war, Eamonn Ceannt, Con Colbert, J.J. Heuston, M. Mallin and one or two others whose names I forget at the moment.  A large number, up to 40 I think, have got penal servitude ranging from 3 to 20 years.  Countess Markievicz imprisoned for life and 200  or 300 prisoners taken to England to be interred.

10th of May

We are always looking out for the paper and news.  We manage to get an odd paper now and then but I saw where all Civil Servants were asked to render in account of their Easter holidays.  Will you not be asked to render in account of all the time you spend talking to me and sitting at face fire?  You need not be afraid to mention our names anyway, we’re not very rebellious characters.  I have no other word of news.

16th of May

You’ll be glad to hear that John Fitzgerald, one of our men here who was arrested last week has been released today and will be back again on duty in a day or so.  I think I was telling you about him having been arrested at his house on Iona Road.  One or two others have had their houses searched but nothing incriminating was discovered.  No strange news in the papers this morning beyond what you saw in last evening’s papers.

18th of May

John Fitzgerald was in the office yesterday for a while recounting his experiences in prison.  The only charge against him was that ‘he spoke Irish continually in his house and played Irish and German music on the piano’.  And his neighbour, a man named Casey, over 50 years of age was charged that ‘between the 22nd of April and the 1st of May he was seen speaking to people who were believed to be Sinn Feiners’.  Absolutely nothing else on the charge sheet of either party and although they were kept in prison for 5 days they were never examined or called upon to answer any charge whatsoever.  Both were released on Friday morning.  They slept 25 in one room on the floor with one blanket each and neither chair, table, pillow, knife, fork, spoon or any other  means of making themselves clean or comfortable.  He tells me also that there are 7 men in all shot without trial in Portobello Barracks, that is Sheehy-Skeffington and 6 others and that Skeffington was not shot by a firing party but by a Captain Colthurst, one of the Colthurst’s of Cork, by his own hands with a revolver.  I haven’t seen any news of the Casement trial worth relating.  Up to the present time the only evidence produced was the usual two yards about his family and the Irish Brigade in Germany and his laughing it off afterwards.

22nd of May

I’m glad that you have eventually decided on how your dress is going to be made.  But I think if you don’t look very snappy they’ll leave you in the lurch at Keelings and maybe I’d have to marry you without a rag on you.  As regards that, however, of course you could always turn up smiling with your watch wristlet and your bangle and to be in the fashion with you I could appear in a tall hat and a pair of cuffs on my ankles like any African Chief.  I must look after Mangle and Roche this week but I don’t know where to go now that Hopkins has just disappeared off the map.

Tess
That was of course Hopkins one very famous jewellery shop in Dublin that was completely destroyed in the barrage attack.  One thing you can also hear from the letters is that there was a great ... I mean Dublin was mad at the time but there was a great deal of attention paid to the Civil Servants because they were ... in many cases there was a lot of sympathy among the Civil Servants for the Easter Republican thoughts.  There was a lot of ... well I think Michael Collins, a lot of the actual people who ended up involved in the Rebellion had been Civil Servants and I think it was a situation that actually fermented the Rebellion.  So then were very suspicious of them.  And of course these victims just shot right up there in Portobello Barracks.

22nd of May

Don’t worry about my being arrested, there is no fear now or indeed at any time.  If I was any blooming good I would have been arrested long ago.  Men a thousand times better have a daisy quota over them in Glasnevin now.  Poor Roddy Collins being deported to England and Sean is still confined in Richmond Barracks.  My mother was over seeing them yesterday.  They are having 6 soldiers billeted on them from today I suppose by way of punishment.  A pleasant thing to have 6 boyos in your bathroom for goodness knows how long.

27th of May

I wonder what I’m going to write about today.  My mind seems to be an absolute blank so far as music is concerned except perhaps the yarns and rumours of all kinds that are going around Dublin at present.  I suppose you have heard that we are going to have another Rebellion on Whit Monday?  The rumour has been around Dublin for the last fortnight and I believe priests have been advising people to be very circumspect during the Whitsuntide holidays and to keep near the shelter.

Tess
And so despite the Rebellion it’s coming close to their wedding day and they are still planning that so they still have to kind of come to terms with those realities.  They had planned for June, they had originally  planned a honeymoon in Kerry, but that didn’t work out quite the way they ... now they weren’t sure what would be possible.  Of course everything was closed down.  But they were still going ahead with it.  And May is getting herself ready.

My dearest James,

We had a nice day in town, better than today anyway.  I had my dress fitted.  It looks very well I think and my hat also.  But I can tell you I was sick of the job of turning and twisting and standing all the time when I was being fitted.  I think I will leave it to your taste.  I liked your taste in the watch and well you have the advantage of having seen both the ring and the finger I dare say unless you have a great eye and memory altogether you will forget my ring finger is fat and short.  I got my first present today from Mrs Kiernan – a silver tea pot.  I hope you will get something nice for yourself.  I heard (31.57 inaudible) was in the GPO in uniform so he cannot get off so easy.  I have no more news so goodbye.  I hope we won’t have weather like this for our wedding, whatever about the honeymoon.

1st of June 1916

You’ll have to let me off with a very short note today as I’m awfully rushed and have been all day, partly business and partly arrangements for the coming events.  Tourist arrangements in the south they are all off I’m afraid so we must try and manage as best we can by car as the motor coaches will not be running until 1st of July.  We will make for Glengarriff anyhow and chance our arm from there as to getting through to Killarney by the coast route.  I have not time to write anymore now although I can spend a few more minutes anyhow telling you how I love you.  Do you need me to do that though?  I hope that by now you know me enough to feel sure of my settlements in that respect anyhow.  Don’t forget to ring Pa this evening.  I send you my warmest love and kisses my dear, dear May.

Your loving James.

Tess
So that’s more or less the last letter from before the wedding day which is more or less the last of the letters.  We have a few very small letters written afterwards.  So they got married in June – June the 6th they got married in Toalstown.  There was a very small wedding party, as lowly as she was there was a wedding breakfast and they made their way down to Glengarriff and they seemed to have had a fantastically happy marriage.  It seems like sometime in 1918 or 1919 he caught the Great Flu during one of the outbreaks and from that point on they knew his heart was damaged because he had the endocarditis which was side effect for many that caught it, especially as they were very young.  They had four children.  They had three children when they were married and she was pregnant when he died.  The few letters we have were written when maybe she went back home to the farm and wrote back letters.  One of them has a thumb print from the eldest child wishing love to his Daddy and then in 1922 according to the family story he was very active in the process that was going on in early 1922 where they were getting ready to hand over power to the Free State Government.  There were a lot of processes going on in terms of designing the new Civil Service, what would be carried over, what would not be carried over.  There were lots of meetings.  James was apparently very involved in those and dragged off even when he was quite sick.  So at one point they were actually talking of carrying him in the bed into a meeting and she put her foot down.  This was very shortly before he died.  This is all family history.

In any case he must have had a major heart attack just a couple of days before he died when they knew there was no hope because there was just enough time to write a will and he wrote ... he wasn’t sure whether she would have easy access to his money after he died.  He knew she would eventually but he knew she desperately needed money.  So from his sick bed he signed his will over, what he had was left to her, because they were only renting the house and in a new cheque book he wrote the rent for the house for a couple of months ahead, the payment for the medical care he had received and he wrote a cheque for her of all the money he had left so that she’d have access to it and we still have that cheque.  She never actually tore it.  And if you see there at the top it says May with fierce love, 84 pounds, 1 schilling and 12 pence.

And that’s his death cert – chronic endocarditis.  He collapsed 5 days beforehand.

I have the cheque.  It is a very beautiful document.  It is surprising how important looking at any old cheque is (laughs).

So we’ve rushed through the letters just to give you a taster of the story.  To finish off, my Grandmother as I say not very well educated and I think just turned 26 when he died in a rented house in an expensive part of Dublin with four children, she was a survivor and a very strong woman.  And she managed.  She took in lodgers.  James, who was always living a little ahead of himself, had filled a house with lots of beautiful furniture, especially when he was expecting her to come and by and by she sold off all the nice furniture and remembers what it was like seeing the beds leave which was the last to go (laughs).  Obviously in a big house like that they had a servant girl and she left saying they used to be gentry but now they were taking in lodgers, they weren’t up to their class anymore.  (laughter)  So this obviously left a bit impression on my Aunt who was about 3 or 4 or 5 – quite young.

So that’s my Grandmother there with presumably maybe the same servant girl because that picture was taken before my Grandfather died.  It was the oldest son and the second child, my Aunt Emma, and that’s the two of them in the farm I think with a goat.  (laughs)

And that is later on after my Grandfather died with all four children and my Grand Aunt.

After she took in lodgers she trained in various things.  She trained as a Chiropodist, as a Health Inspector, as a Midwife.  She managed to twist the arm of the bank manager – what was unusual for the time – she managed to get a mortgage.  It was very unusual for a woman to be able to get a mortgage and bought a house and put it into flats and then by the time she died she had managed to put at least one child through college.  She had a number of houses so she always said that as long as she was in the red she had luck, as long as she was betting she had luck.

Audience
Can you remember her?

Tess
Of course yes.  And that’s one little older picture.  And there’s a picture outside of the house in Belgrave Square when my aunt, her daughter, married, in 1941.

That’s my father there (laughs).

That’s a little collage of her in later years.  She was a real matriarch and a very powerful woman.  But she had many offers of marriage apparently, including apparently she had a ... she walked out, as they said, with Roddy Connolly who was the son ... he lived down the road just three doors up.  He was about the same age as her.  A bit younger but also a widower.  But they didn’t ... she never seemed to take anybody, any man, very seriously.

Audience
Was it only 6 years of marriage they got?

Tess
50 years a widow.

Audience
What?

Tess
She was 50 years a widow.  She died at 76.

Any questions?

Audience
How did they meet originally was one I meant to ask and the age difference and the background – the rural kind of farming and then the urbanised Civil Service background and 20 years of an age difference?  Did you mention that he had relatives near her?

Tess
He had a relative who was their nearest neighbour.

Audience
So that’s how?

Tess
And they probably spent at some point in ... like in the 1911 Census his mother and sisters are living in Castletown Geoghegan so they’re not very far away too.  So he presumably was there at least some of the time.  But he was very attached to his cousins that lived next door and it sounded like it was ... from the letters you can read that he had been visiting there at various times and attended like for one her sister’s wedding the year before and that he’d had his eye on her for some time he said but he felt like he had to wait until she was a decent age.  Of course it wasn’t unusual at the time for a man to be that age before they had enough clout to be able to marry.

Audience
Yeah to provide for some of them.

Tess
Yes to provide.

Audience
But it was a love match anyway what you’re saying there.

Tess
It seems to have been, yes.

Audience
It wasn’t a made match...

Tess
No.

Audience
...which would have been often the case in the country itself with that kind of an age difference at that time.

Tess
Yes.  I mean I’ve heard that her mother thought he was a real catch so she was (laughs)...

Audience
She was egging it on.

Tess
...she was definitely egging it on.

And should you be interested I have a book that’s €14 and also I have the letters here if you want to have a look at them.  They are very beautiful things.

Audience
It was a great postal service around that time.

Tess
Yeah it was amazing.

Audience
(41.54 inaudible due to over speaking) the post in Dublin was at least four times a day.

Tess
Yeah.

That’s the wedding photograph, you can see that’s on the cover.  We only have two pictures of him although there must have been many more we don’t know what happened to them and not many of her as a young woman either.

But it was such a great thing to find these letters.  To me it was very intimate, getting to know them and handwriting tells you so many things as they say.

Audience
Thank you very much.  (Applause)
 

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