“I arrived in Dublin on Holy Thursday…”
Although we are often excited about material the Burns Library acquires, we usually wait to tell potential researchers about our new collections until we’ve done our work: stabilizing and preserving through conservation and rehousing; arranging in a logical order; and describing through a catalog record and finding aid. Sometimes our enthusiasm gets the better of us, and we feel we must tell you about something before it is available for research; this is one of those times! We have just acquired from Loretta Clarke Murray, a private Irish collector, a significant body of material related to the 1916 Irish Easter Rising.
Here is a sneak peak of one item in the collection — an account by Margaret Skinnider set during Easter Week 1916 — we hope to make this and the full collection available to you in the next year.
The Easter Rising was an armed insurrection by Irish republicans to gain Ireland’s independence from Great Britain. It began on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, when its leaders proclaimed the Irish Republic, and was fought in the streets of Dublin by soldiers of the Irish Citizen Army and Irish Volunteers. After an intense week of fighting, the outnumbered republicans surrendered on the following Saturday. Fifteen of the rebellion’s leaders were arrested and executed; hundreds of soldiers and civilians were killed and thousands wounded. One of the injured was Margaret Skinnider. Although Scottish by birth, Skinnider was an avid Irish republican, who played a key role as a member of the Irish Citizen Army and a skilled sharpshooter. Her Scottish accent enabled her to move freely about Ireland in the days leading up to the Easter Rising.
After fleeing to America, Skinnider published her account of the events in Doing My Bit for Ireland (1917), but our newly acquired, much briefer, handwritten journal appears to be her earliest recounting of those events.
In the journal, Skinnider provides a day-by-day account of her experiences during the conflict, beginning with her arrival in Dublin on Holy Thursday, through the action in which she was wounded, to her arrest in the hospital where she was recovering. The account includes encounters with James Connolly, Nora Connolly, Michael Mallin, Constance Markievicz, the Plunketts, and many others.
Although we have not yet fully explored the Loretta Clarke Murray collection, it promises to provide a unique perspective of the Irish nationalist movement through the eyes and words of female activists. In addition to Skinnider’s journal, the collection contains writings from Máire (Molly) Gill, member of the Cumann na mBan; Maude Gonne, head of the Women’s Peace Committee and founder of the Women’s Prisoner’s Defence League; and autograph books circulated by inmates in women’s prisons in Ireland in 1922-1924. Murray is also the source of bulk of the Burns Library’s collection of Cuala Press materials.
We are eager to share this new material with you and will write more about it, especially when the collection is processed and available for use. As you have questions about our other holdings regarding the Easter Rising, please contact us. Other archival collections at the Burns Library of interest on this general topic — and open for research use in the Library — are the Kathleen Daly Clarke papers and collection of Thomas Clarke and Irish political materials and Mary Boyle O’Reilly papers.
- Shelley Barber, Reference & Archives Specialist, John J. Burns Library
- Amy Braitsch, Head Archivist, John J. Burns Library
- Lynn Moulton, Processing Archivist, John J. Burns Library