Friday 6 December 2019

'Badge of honour' 1916 prison diaries full of gallows humour

Prisoner Patrick Mooney’s skeleton sketch
Prisoner Patrick Mooney’s skeleton sketch

Allison Bray

Sketches, doodles and school boy jokes are jotted along the pages of a collection of diaries of revolutionary leaders, now available online.

The collection of 'autograph books' features signatures, poems, and random thoughts of leaders such as Michael Collins, Éamon de Valera and Roger Casement.

Michael Collins’s ‘One Hug’ anagram
Michael Collins’s ‘One Hug’ anagram

In one extract from Mr Collins's 1916 diary from Frongoch internment camp, he wrote: "Make two words out of 'Enough', that won't be enough. One Hug," with the anagram underscored.

While the entry sheds interesting light on Mr Collins's human side, the collection also revealed "the ordinary rank and file men who were involved in the 1916 Rising who don't make the official history books," said Niall Bergin, manager of Kilmainham Gaol Museum.

"Many were rank and file people who have been completely forgotten."

The collection, curated by the The Office of Public Works, details prisoners of the Rising that were incarcerated at Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin Castle Hospital, Mountjoy Prison, Dundalk and Belfast Gaols as well as Stafford, Lewes and Frongoch prisons in the UK.

Some of the entries are examples of gallows humour, including a sketch of a skeleton drawn by a prisoner called Patrick Mooney of River View, Castleknock, who was incarcerated at Stafford Prison in Staffordshire, England, and Frongoch, Wales, in 1916.

Beside the skeleton is a drawing of what appears to be a cup of water or tea with an arrow pointing upwards and a bag of potatoes with a downward arrow.

This is presumably a reference to the poor prison diet. Alongside the drawing he has written: "After a month in Stafford prison, this is all that remained of Patrick Mooney."

His name is surrounded by drawings of shamrocks - referring to his nationality.

The sketch also includes a drawing of what appears to be a prison cell along with the notation F Coy IV Batt - the F Coy 4th battalion of the Dublin Brigade IRA.

According to Mr Bergin, "some of these guys are recording their place of imprisonment as badges of honour".

The collection of diaries is available to view online at www.kilmainhamgaol

Irish Independent

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