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From a call to pray to a celebration: the power of the memorial card

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Henry Healy, treasurer of Dunkerrin Reachingout Heritage Group, holding some old memorial cards with group secretary Dolores Whyte and chairperson Anne O'Rourke. Photo by Mark Condren

Henry Healy, treasurer of Dunkerrin Reachingout Heritage Group, holding some old memorial cards with group secretary Dolores Whyte and chairperson Anne O'Rourke. Photo by Mark Condren

Henry Healy, treasurer of Dunkerrin Reachingout Heritage Group, holding some old memorial cards with group secretary Dolores Whyte and chairperson Anne O'Rourke. Photo by Mark Condren

On November 18, 1884, as reported by the York Herald, Jane Jemima Bogie brought a complaint against a bailiff named John Winter for assault. He had entered the widow’s two-room dwelling for non-payment of rent. As he seized all her goods and effects, Bogie begged to be allowed to keep her husband’s memorial card and his pillow. When he refused, she attempted to grab the card from him, at which point he struck her and knocked her against a wall. The tenacity with which she was willing to defend such a small artefact illustrates the significance so often attached to these items.

I came upon this account while researching the early history of memorial cards in Britain and Ireland for a lockdown project in my native parish of Dunkerrin, Co Offaly. The Dunkerrin Reachingout Heritage Group issued a call to parishioners for the submission of memorial cards that would be scanned and gathered in a publication titled In Loving Memory. Over 2,200 images of memorial cards were collated, and I offered to write an introduction about the evolution of this part of our material culture.


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