Monday 18 December 2017

Online exhibition offers real Treaty for history buffs

Breda Heffernan

FOR decades it lay in a drawer gathering dust; its brief moment in the limelight firmly in the distant past.

However, 90 years after it was signed in No 10 Downing Street, the 1921 Treaty has been granted temporary release to allow archivists to give it a 21st Century makeover and digitise it for a new online exhibition.

The original document, complete with the signatures of Michael Collins and David Lloyd George, will be added to the website on the 90th anniversary of its signing next Tuesday. It will then return to secure storage in the National Archives in Dublin.

But while the treaty that brought self-government to Ireland for the first time is well-known, a treasure trove of other documents is being added to the website each day in the run-up to the anniversary.

These were created during the painstaking negotiations in the months leading up to the treaty being signed and give history buffs a unique -- and often quirky -- viewpoint on a momentous period in Irish history.

Among the documents is a note sent by a cash-poor Michael Collins to the Department of Finance on October 8 requesting £50 to enable him to travel to Britain to join the rest of the Irish delegation.

"At the moment I have about £3 in my pocket. It would be serious if I could not give a porter a tip at Holyhead," he wrote.

Elsewhere in a note on the salaries to be paid to the delegation's support staff, the Irish negotiators decided that their team of lady typists, who worked long hours typing and re-typing various drafts of the treaty, should be rewarded.

"£10 per week to be paid to Mrs Duggan and expended at her discretion in providing entertainment and amusement for the Lady staff," they wrote.

Members of the delegation must have had a sweet tooth, as an invoice from Harrods dated November 8 shows they ordered 3lbs of assorted chocolates as well as bonbons and peppermint liqueurs.

They clearly thought the negotiations were going well as they also ordered various decorations and party novelty items, including streamers, balloons, a clapper, trumpets, rattles and -- with celebratory dancing in mind -- "ballroom powder" for the floor.

The delegation leased 22 Hans Place for a period of three months while they were in London at a cost of £498 15s. The lease agreement as well as invoices for the installation of a temporary phone line are also available to peruse on the website.

Also included is a typed extract from the Irish Independent from October 20 and 21, 1921, which detailed telegrams that passed between Pope Benedict XV and King George on the subject of the negotiations.

In reply to the Pope, King George wrote: "With all my heart I join in your prayer that the conference now sitting in London may achieve a permanent settlement of the troubles in Ireland and may initiate a new era of peace and happiness for my people."

The online exhibition was praised yesterday by Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan for having "no bias and no agenda".

The exhibition can be viewed on www.treaty.national archives.ie

Irish Independent

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