Monday 15 October 2018

Statistics and stories shine a light on a century ago

Some of the letters from the exhibition 'Letters of 1916: A Year in the Life'
Some of the letters from the exhibition 'Letters of 1916: A Year in the Life'
The Irish Republic flag which was flown over the GPO in 1916 is displayed at the National Museum of Ireland. Photo: Mark Condren
1916-2016: A century of change

Jane O'Faherty

Savannahs and Tylers were thin on the ground, but in 1916, babies called Patrick and Mary were 10 a penny.

A lot has changed in the intervening 100 years - not least the fashion for baby names - and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has spent months trawling through the nation's records.

A new CSO project - Life in 1916 Ireland: Stories and Statistics - is set to shine a light on Ireland in 1916.

One in five boys born in 1916 were named John and Patrick, while one in five girls born that year were called Mary or Bridget.

Between 1911 and 2011, the Irish population boomed, increasing by around 46pc.

However, the CSO's research has also uncovered some tragic insights into life 100 years ago.

More than 140 children aged under six were committed to industrial schools in Ireland in 1916, a fact which CSO statistician Helen Cahill said was "heartbreaking".

"It isn't often that you get tears in your eyes in the CSO when you come across figures, but I did when I found these figures," she said, as she launched the project in Dublin yesterday.

The project also features a striking note from an internal British army debate about whether Countess Markiewicz should be executed following the Rising. In the document, General John Maxwell describes the countess as "bloodguilty and dangerous".

"I am of the opinion that this is a case of a woman who has forfeited the privilege of her sex," he wrote. "We cannot allow our soldiers to be shot down by such like."

Moira Buckley of the CSO information section said Countess Markievicz's position as a well-to-do female revolutionary confused many in the British establishment.

"You couldn't have a military man shot down by a woman - that wouldn't do," she said.

The full collection of statistics and stories is now available on

Meanwhile, the scholars behind a new online collection of letters written in 1916 have called on people to contribute the letters of relatives written during that fateful year. NUI Maynooth's Letters of 1916 project allows people to view personal and letters from the era online.

Professor Susan Schreibman, who is leading the project, said it would give people "the opportunity to experience points of view, very intimately, that are not their own."

Irish Independent

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