Michael Collins had a stalker
LIAM COLLINS THE Big Fella had a female stalker. Michael Collins was pestered by a woman who moved to Ireland to be near him and then claimed that they were lovers.
The woman, Moya Llewelyn Davies, made the claimafter he stayed overnightin her "safe house" on several occasions.
But the writer Peter Hart casts doubt on a sexual relationship between the twoin Mick, a new biography of the leader of the Irish Free State. "If Hazel Lavery was a kind of super-groupie, then Moya Llewelyn Davies emerges as something of a stalker," he says.
Collins first met Mrs Llewelyn Davies and her husband Compton when, as a newly elected Sinn Fein MP, he went to London at Christmas of 1918. Originally born Mary O'Connor, she left Ireland at the age of 18 after her mother and the rest of the family had been wiped out by a case of shellfish poisoning.
At first she and Collins didn't hit it off but, intrigued by the exploits of the IRA,she and her husband moved back to Ireland and operateda "safe house" for IRA menat Furry Park in Killester, Dublin.
"Collins visited her there - and here reports differ sharply. He may have stayed overnight at times - as ina safe house - and this started the rumours about themhaving an affair," says Hart in his book.
Collins and Llewelyn Davies also began writing to each other and she and her husband were arrested and deported back to Britain, where she was briefly jailed, after her letters to Collins were intercepted by British intelligence in Dublin Castle.
Collins, it seems, was concerned but relieved.
After the Truce, Moya returned to Dublin and moved into a room in the Gresham Hotel in O'Connell Street, where Collins now had his headquarters.
Claiming to have spied on behalf of Collins, she annoyed people around Collins by her claims to be at the "heart" of the revolution.
"Her talk was fantastic. She had an absurd idea of her own importance and when I expressed my opinion of her she did not like it," said Margaret Gavan Duffy, who was married to George Gavan Duffy. But Collins, now guilty about their friendship, put her husband Compton on the government payroll as an advisor.
"The lieutenants of Michael Collins resented Mrs Davies' attentions to Mick, as they would have done in the case of any other woman, particularly a married woman, and they feared that his personal reputation would suffer," said another observer.
When Collins' fiancee Kitty Kiernan arrived on the scene they went into a complete panic.
They were horrified when Mrs Llewelyn Davies decided to publish her memoirs and managed to block them.At this stage one of Collins' trusted aides was detailedto get rid of her. There was, says Hart, "a sad whiff ofunwanted presence" withher refusing to leave the charmed circle surrounding the chairman of the new Provisional government.
"Later in life Moya claimed that she and Collins had been lovers. Was this fantasy?" asks Hart in his book.
"It wouldn't be all that implausible for such a relationship to have occurred in early 1921, when he was unattached and she was alone and very available."
Moya Llewelyn Davies is buried in an unmarked grave in Deansgrange Cemetery. She is now barely remembered as one of the translators of Muiris O Suilleabhain's autobiography Twenty YearsA-Growing.