Twentieth anniversary of the passing of Éamonn Mac Thomáis
His videos have hundreds of thousands of views across YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, though he had never heard of any of them. He has inspired a whole new generation of social historians that were born after he died.
In the wake of the Norman Invasion of Ireland, Dublin was seized in 1170 by Richard de Clare, better known as Strongbow. Watch a recording of a seminar organised by Friends of Medieval Dublin and Dublin City Libraries to mark the 850th anniversary of Henry II’s grant of Dublin to Bristol, 1171–72.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Monica Roberts was a young upper-class woman who lived at Kelston, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin. Together with her friends, she set up a 'Band of Helpers to the Soldiers' to provide gifts and comforts to men at the Western Front, who were members of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers or the Royal Flying Corps. The group sent cigarettes and tobacco, socks and vaseline for tired feet, handkerchiefs, boot-laces, chocolate, peppermint, oxo and dried fruit. Monica Roberts included a letter with her gifts and the recipients replied to her, setting up a correspondence. The letters from the soldiers give a vivid picture of conditions at the Front, and also include comments on contemporary politics. Of particular interest are remarks from soldiers regarding the 1916 Rising. Included in the collection and available here online is Monica Roberts' contemporary diary from Easter Week 1916, which includes her eye-witness account of the Rising.The collection contains 453 letters from 56 soldiers, who are mainly from the lower ranks; there is only one letter from Monica Roberts. These letters were kept for many years by Monica's daughter Mary Shackleton, who gave them to Tom Burke M.B.E., Chairman of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association. Since 2005, the collection has been housed in Dublin City Library and Archive, as part of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association Archive. We would be particularly interested in hearing from descendants of those soldiers featured in the collection, or indeed from anyone holding letters from Monica Roberts to the soldiers. Please e-mail [email protected] online publication of the Monica Roberts Collection is a Dublin City Council project, under the direction of Margaret Hayes, Dublin City Librarian, Brendan Teeling, Deputy City Librarian and Dr. Mary Clark, Dublin City Archivist. Project management is by Ellen Murphy, Senior Archivist, Dublin City Archives. Initial arrangement and cataloguing of the collection was by the late Andrew O'Brien, while scanning of the collection is by Christian Keegan, both of Dublin City Archives. Each letter was carefully transcribed by Finola Frawley of Dublin City Archives, who also translated letters written in French. A guide to the collection was prepared by Lisa Murphy, Dublin City Archives Intern (2012). Preparation of the collection for online publication is by genealogist John Grenham, who provided full text searching, and linked the original documents to the transcripts.Dublin City Council is publishing these letters online as part of its programme for the Decade of Commemorations, 1913-1923.Access A Guide to the Monica Roberts Collection (pdf, 1.77mb)Also Monica Roberts: List of Letters (pdf, 389kb)
In 1918, news started to filter through of a ‘mystery malady’, a ‘mysterious war disease’. It appeared to originate in Spain as it was first widely reported there, hence the name it has been called ever since, the Spanish Flu. Although, first reported in Spain, the disease probably originated in a different location. Regardless of its origin, the flu wreaked havoc across the globe, claiming the lives of at least 40 million people from 1918 to 1920. The true figure will never be known. It is estimated that one fifth of the world’s population caught the flu.The flu started to make its way to Ireland by the early summer of 1918. On 10 June, an ‘unusual outbreak of illness’ was reported in Belfast, mostly amongst soldiers and female factory workers. By the end of June, 200 cases were reported in Dublin, 60 children in one convent alone, 40 workers in a factory.The flu was described by some in Dublin as a plague by early July. Death numbers were started to filter through, 2 in Dublin, 5 or 6 in Lurgan, 100 in Belfast. There were numerous deaths in Derry. Several people were falling on the streets in Cork. The flu came in two forms, one a mild type of illness, the second more severe. Dying patients sometimes had temperatures as high as 109 degrees Fahrenheit, became unconscious and twitched frequently. They usually died between the sixth and eleventh days of the disease.From the middle of July, the first wave of the flu started to recede. When the second wave struck in October 1918, it was clear to most that the country was in the grips of a severe flu pandemic. Like the first wave, Leinster and Ulster were the areas most affected by the second wave. The second wave was far more destructive than the first. There were many reports of unimaginable horrors inflicted on whole families.There was a case of a man in Clontarf returning home after burying his two sons to find his wife dead too. In Enniscorthy in Wexford, 3 young children from the one family died on the same day. Schools in Dublin city and suburbs were severely affected and were closed down. Absenteeism was rife in businesses. October and November of 1918 saw a paralysis in trade.The second wave, the deadliest of the three waves, dissipated in most places in Ireland by the end of November. The third wave came in February 1919. In Gloucester Prison, Pierce McCan, 35 years-of-age, newly-elected TD for Tipperary East died from the flu on 6 March. There was very little consensus within the medical profession on what was the most effective treatment for the flu. A mixture of whiskey and hot water with sugar was the most widely available. Non-prescription medicines were in high demand as people self-medicated during the pandemic. Hugh quantities of tonics, cough medicines and poultices were sold by pharmacies. Bovril and other beef teas like Oxo were very popular too. Despite all the tonics promoted and sold, bed rest and nursing were still considered the best way of beating the flu.By the end of Spring 1919, the flu finally ran its brutal course in Ireland. It had caused huge devastation throughout the country. An official figure of 20,057 deaths were recorded as being caused by flu during the three waves, although this is likely to be a conservative figure. There were also a lot more deaths from pneumonia, an excess figure of 3,231 deaths from pneumonia in 1918 and 1919 which also can be attributed to the Influenza Pandemic giving a figure of at least 23,288 deaths directly related to the epidemic.Assuming the same for Ireland as the worldwide trend of a 2.5 per cent fatality rate, an approximate number of 800,000 Irish people caught the illness, about one fifth of the population. Taking excess pneumonia deaths into account, the figure was 900,000 people.Mortality in Ireland, like elsewhere, peaked in the mid-life period, between the ages of 25 and 34. There was a surprisingly strong correlation between the social classes of those who died, it was a socially neutral disease. It was more job-dependent than class-dependent. Those who worked with the public were more likely to catch and, therefore, die from the flu. The influenza pandemic, ultimately, left behind a trail of destruction in Ireland, affecting everyone in every county from all classes and creeds.Blog post by: Cormac Moore, Historian.
History Document of the Month: Lepracaun Cartoon Collection
Britain faced similar issues ruling Ireland and India: both had to be held to maintain British international credibility and independence movements in both were driven in large part by religion. Irish nationalists drew parallels between their own struggle and that in India, particularly the brutality of colonialism. The above below, from the satirical newspaper, The Lepracaun, compares British rule in the two countries: executions and burning of homesteads in Ireland, while India saw the brutal practice of execution by cannon, particularly associated with the British suppression of the rebellion of 1857. The cartoon is pointing out the dark side of British rule: the ‘Upas Tree’ of the title refers to a highly poisonous tree common to Asia, while the figure of John Bull piously reading the common book of prayer while surrounded by bones, death and destruction is an unsubtle reference to the hypocrisy of evangelical imperialism. History Document of the MonthEvery month the Dublin City Council Historians in Residence will be highlighting a document from Dublin City Public Libraries and Archives Digital Repository. An image of the selected document will be on display in branch libraries during the month.Historians in Residence are available to meet groups and schools, give talks, walks etc, run history book clubs and advise on historical research.
This week I have had the great pleasure of visiting Massachusetts and presenting a paper at the annual national meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies held in Boston. It was my second time attending such a gathering, having also presented a paper on Dublin poet Maeve Cavanagh MacDowell two years ago, when ACIS met in Kansas City, Missouri. This time around I spoke about the life of Dora Maguire, another woman who happened to be profiled in R. M. Fox’s 1935 book of essays Rebel Irishwomen.Whereas the likes of Maud Gonne and Countess Markievicz became legends in their own lifetimes, Dora Maguire (1889-1931) was perhaps the most obscure of Fox’s dozen ‘Rebel Irishwomen’. A friend of the author, she died aged forty-one in February 1931 after years of ill-health. During my paper I spoke about Maguire’s upbringing in England and the north of Ireland, time spent in Blackburn and London during the First World War (when she worked as a nurse and developed suppressed diphtheria and tuberculosis), decision to move to Ireland around the time of the War of Independence, and employment at St. Ultan’s Children’s Hospital in Ranelagh during the 1920s.I then focused at length on her arrest in 1925 over an incident at the Princess Cinema in Rathmines. Evolving into an ardent republican during her adulthood, Maguire was indignant at the time about the screening across Dublin of short films concerning the Prince of Wales’ recent dominion tour of South Africa. Entering the “Prinner” – as the Princess Cinema was known to locals – on 6th August 1925 with an inkpot hidden on her person, Maguire stood up and hurled her makeshift missile over the heads of the theatre orchestra as soon as the offending picture was shown, causing considerable damage to the screen and generating newspaper headlines.Surviving foyer plaque from the Princess Cinema, the scene of Dora Maguire's arrest in August 1925. Known locally as "The Prinner", the cinema closed its doors in 1960 and was demolished in 1982 (Photograph courtesy of Carol Dunne, Dublin City Libraries).This incident is the focus of The Spirit of Dora Maguire, an historical comic strip by Dublin artist Aidan J Collins. Some artwork from this creation, which came about in 2018 following a talk I gave in Dublin on Maguire’s life the previous year, can be seen below:Blueprint still from an animated video by Aidan J Collins. This is based on one of the panels from his 2018 historical comic strip The Spirit of Dora Maguire (Courtesy of Aidan J Collins).On Monday 20th May 2019 I will be teaming up with Maeve Casserly (Historian in Residence, South East Area) for a joint talk about Dora Maguire and St. Ultan’s Children’s Hospital at Rathmines Public Library. The event starts at 6:30pm and all are welcome to attend.Dr. James Curry, Historian in Residence, North West Area.Dublin City Council Historians in Residence are available to meet groups and schools, give talks, walks etc, run history book clubs and advise on historical research.
The Soloheadbeg Ambush in January 1919 did not lead to a wide scale conflict immediately. For much of 1919, the Irish Volunteers embarked on a mainly defensive campaign, primarily searching for arms. As a result, some skirmishes broke out leading to some deaths.Isolated deaths of RIC men occurred in Limerick, Clare, Mayo and Tipperary. The shortage of arms was the main problem posed. Gun shops and private homes were raided for arms. In March 1919, all such premises were raided in the North-East of Dublin city.The most successful arms raid throughout the whole war occurred at Collinstown Aerodrome, present day site of Dublin Airport, on 20th March 1919. As the Aerodrome was heavily guarded by the British Military, according to Patrick Houlihan, a Volunteer and employee at the Aerodrome, the local Volunteers had to submit plans to the Irish Volunteers General Headquarters (GHQ) for approval. Once it was granted, two guard dogs at the Aerodrome were poisoned the afternoon before the raid, 19th March, calculated to kill them some hours later, to prevent an alarm being raised. That night the raiding party, numbering about 25, were dressed in khaki and masks, supplied by GHQ. Some volunteers engaged in disarming and tying up the sentries, 20 in number, whilst others collected all the arms and ammunition they could. The haul was transported away in two cars. To prevent a chase, over 20 cars in the military garage were demolished with sledgehammers. Acting in almost total silence to capture the sentries and sticking clearly to their well thought out plans, was key to the raid’s success.75 rifles and 5,000 rounds of ammunition were secured. There were no casualties nor prisoners taken. It was the largest loss of weapons by the British army from a single operation throughout the whole conflict. Many of the arms captured that day ended up in the IRA arms dump at the Naul in North Dublin. The British decided to punish the locals, a trend they would continue throughout the war, a foolish move which brought more and more support for the Volunteers. All 800 workers were sacked on the Collinstown site and replaced by military personnel. It was an act of collective punishment, recognised and resented as such. Cormac Moore, Historian in Residence, Dublin City Library and Archive.Dublin City Council Historians in Residence are available to meet groups and schools, give talks, walks etc, run history book clubs and advise on historical research.