Monday 17 December 2018

Easter 1916: appeal for letters from the Rising

The destruction seen in the O'Connell Street area at the time of the 1916 Rising
The destruction seen in the O'Connell Street area at the time of the 1916 Rising

Valerie Loftus

RESEARCHERS are calling on the public to dig out old family letters and photographs to help them capture a snapshot of ordinary life around the time of the 1916 Rising.

The project, headed by researchers at Trinity College Dublin, is the first history project in Ireland in which the public will play a key role in the research.

The team are asking for any letters written between November 1, 1915 to October 31, 1916, on any topic – romance, local politics, gossip, the Great War and the Rising – to be uploaded to their website. Interested members of the public can also help the researchers transcribe the uploaded letters to uncover the hidden stories within.

The aim is to have a database of letters by 2016.

"When we look at the information we have about Ireland at that time, the narrative focuses on the Rising to the exclusion of almost everything else," said Dr Susan Schreibman, principal investigator of the project. "We want to figure out what people were talking about at that time – if the Rising was a topic of conversation for long after it happened, or if it faded away quickly," she said.

"There's also a possibility that parts of the country were completely unaffected by the Rising, and talk of the Great War was much more prevalent."

The team are currently working with 400 letters provided by public institutions such as the National Library, the National Archive and the Medical Missionaries of Mary.

These letters range from notes written by an Irish soldier to his mother in March of 1916, discussing his training for the Great War, to official government documents. "We are looking at government letters that detail the normal business of the State at that time, outside the war and the Rising, which is fascinating," said Dr Schreibman.

"Allowing letters from personal collections to be read alongside official letters will add new perspectives to the events of the period," she added. The team are inviting people to bring old letters and photographs on Friday September 27, when they will be holding an open evening in Trinity's Long Room Hub.

Irish Independent

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