Louth County Archives Story Box 2016


 Dundalk Gaol 1853-1931, now home to Louth County Archives

Louth County Archives is home to the county’s public and private papers and is situated in one of Dundalk’s most historical buildings, Dundalk Gaol. The Gaol was built in 1853 in order to relieve problems of the undersized prison then in existence at Crowe Street Dundalk. The building was designed by John Neville who was employed by the Grand Jury as County Surveyor for Louth from 1840-1886. The total cost of the Gaol building was £23,000, £5,000 over the original estimate. When originally built, the Gaol was classed as a County Borough Gaol, for imprisonment administrated by the Grand Juries. In 1915 the Gaol was taken over by the British Military and was later used to hold political prisoners during the War of Independence, and again during the Civil War.


The Governor’s House was joined to the prison’s two cell blocks through an inspection hall and is now home to the Garda Síochána. The A wing of the Gaol which was formerly the Women’s block is now home to Louth County Archives, and the B Wing which housed the male prisoners is now home to the Oriel Centre. The Gaol and its surrounding buildings were enclosed by a 20ft stone wall. The surrounding area of the Gaol originally contained grass and tillage plots, gravel areas, and additional buildings including the Gaol hospital. The old layout of the Gaol and its surroundings can be seen in the map below.

During the period that the Gaol housed political prisoners, many well known figures were interned here in Dundalk. These figures included- Frank Aiken (who later became a Government Minister for Defence, Finance, and External Affairs), Austin Stack (who later became the Minister for Home Affairs), Seán Treacy (leader of the Third Tipperary Brigade of the I.R.A during the War of Independence) and Diarmuid Lynch (who is said to have married Kathleen Quinn in Dundalk Gaol before his deportation). Amidst the Anglo-Irish struggle, a hunger strike took place in the Gaol which Stack led and Treacy took part in. During the Civil War there was a successful attempt made to rescue anti-treaty prisoners. On 27 July 1922, a mine was placed on the perimeter wall on the Ardee Road. This blew a hole in the stone wall and was followed by a grenade attack on the Gaol. It is estimated that 105 prisoners managed to escape during this attack, having previously been alerted to the plan. Many of the escapees were later recaptured. Frank Aiken was amongst the men who managed to escape. The destruction on the perimeter wall caused by the explosion can still be seen on entering the Archives building from the Ardee road. Details of the prisoners who escaped can also be seen on the Gaol Register, a copy of which is held here. A transcript of the escapees is also available on our website-http://www.louthcoco.ie/en/Services/Archives/Archive_Collections/.


In 1999 refurbishment work began on the Southern cell block of the Gaol in order to transform the building into a suitable premise for Louth’s Archives Service. A considerable amount of restoration work was carried out in order to accommodate long term preservation strategies. The Gaol’s solid stonewalls were painted with a special white and lime wash mix to allow them to breath. The old ventilation outlets were sealed and a dual air handling and heating system was installed to control the interior environmental conditions. The original features of the Gaol that had survived such as cell doors, number plates, and windows were restored. After approximately eighteen months of construction work, the building was transformed and the Archives service was opened. The collections now have secure and environmentally controlled storage while the public can access the Archive’s collections in our reading room.

Louth County Archives holds a small collection relating to Dundalk Gaol. Items can be viewed on display or in the reading room. The Archive has a historical cell which is open to the public and holds a display of photographs and artefacts from the collection. A drawing of the Gaol layout (P408) was donated by the Dundalk Gardaí. This was designed by Jeremiagh J Hayes and is dated 1914. This is on display in the Archives. There is a Jail Register dated from 1917-1931 which is held in the National Archives. Louth Archives holds a microfilm copy of the register which can be viewed in our reading room. The image below (NAI/PRIS/1/16/1) is a digital copy of a page from the register. This copy was sent by the National Archives and we would like to acknowledge the Director for giving us permission to use this image. The entries show the names and descriptions of the prisoners and also detail the offence which they committed. The image below contains the entry for Frank Aiken and notes the day of his escape- "Rescued from custody 27.7.22". Other items included in this story box feature a photograph (PP256) showing the Gaol building from the front, looking at the Governor’s house. This was donated by the Old Dundalk Society. There are also two images from an autograph book (PP11_005) held here which was compiled by Packie Flynn who was a prisoner in the jail during 1918. The final image shows the historical cell located in the Archives building.


Louth County Archives is open to researchers Monday to Friday 9am-4pm by appointment only. Readers can come in to see the historical cell, the items on display in the entrance, research our collections in the reading room, or come into our exhibition space which currently holds the ‘Our Louth Volunteers 1914-1918’ exhibition. For further information please visit our website - http://www.louthcoco.ie/en/Services/Archives/.


                                   Historic Cell   PP11_005(2)  ‘PP11_005(1)’       ‘PP256’   ‘NAI/PRIS/1/16/1’


 We would like to acknowledge the Director of the National Archives for granting permission to use the image from the Jail Register.

We would also like to acknowledge the Old Dundalk Society for the use of the photograph of Dundalk Gaol.


Liam O'Leary Archive Story Box 2016

                                                                                MS 50,000/149/2: Photograph of Liam O’Leary from the Irish Film Society materials in the Liam O’Leary Archive

The Irish Film Institute and the National Library of Ireland are collaborating to preserve and catalogue the archive of Liam O’Leary (1910-1992); a founding member of the Irish Film Society, actor, writer, film researcher, historian, archivist and overall film fanatic. O’Leary laid the foundation stone of the Irish Film Archive, in April 1992, where his film collection is now preserved. The Liam O’Leary Archive, which was donated to the National Library of Ireland in 1986 comprise O’Leary’s papers relating to his research into Irish film, filmmakers and cinemas, and his personal collection of correspondence and film memorabilia.

More information on the collection can be found on a regular blog for the IFI; http://www.ifi.ie/liam-oleary-blog-4


                                                                                                            MS 50,000/76/14 First page of the script for ‘Our Country’, directed by Liam O’Leary                                                     


Liam O’Leary was also involved in making some films in the 1940s-1950s in Ireland, including the party political film ‘Our Country’ for Clann na Poblachta and the public service films ‘Mr. Careless Goes to Town’ and ‘Safe Cycling’; which are both on the IFI Player. http://ifiplayer.ie/mr-careless-goes-to-town/; http://ifiplayer.ie/safe-cycling/

                                                                                                                                MS50000/71/12Review of ‘Mr. Careless Goes to Town’ and ‘Safe Cycling’ from The Leader Irish newspaper, 1949          


The films were produced by the National Film Institute for the Department of Local Government in 1949 and directed by Liam O’Leary.‘Mr. Careless Goes to Town’ shows the dangers and consequences of drunk driving while also showing how to drive well on city and country roads. ‘Safe Cycling’ is a more light-hearted film illustrating the history of the bicycle (including the penny-farthing and the bone-shaker) and how to stay safe, cycling on Irish roads. The films are a great chance to see Dublin city in 1949; with images of the Theatre Royal Cinema (no doubt a nod from Liam O’Leary to his love of cinema), and tramlines around the city.

                                                                                         MS 50000/230/20 Image of the Theatre Royal from the Liam O’Leary Archive


Public Record Office Northern Ireland Story Box

Eva Chichester was a Sunday school teacher and keen amateur photographer who lived in Newcastle, County Down. Eva was born in 1872 and died in 1955. She travelled widely in the British Isles and Europe and photographed and wrote about her experiences.  In the archive, we have a large collection of interesting photographs from Ireland and Europe, notebooks, correspondence and travel journals. The travel journals offer some candid views and opinions of Europe and Europeans as experienced by Eva and the photograph albums offer some compelling  pictures of everyday life and landscape between 1890-1910
                                                                                   D4563/1/2/4-  Street scene in Brussels, 1895- very rare photo of a dog-drawn cart      D4563 /1/7/9  Old MaCartan', Strangford, County Down Postman 1890  D4563/1/8/1  Unknown shipwreck (possibly the Esperance) off the County Down coast c.1890

National Folklore Collection Story Box 2016

Established in 1935, the Irish Folklore Commission pioneered a revolutionary new approach to the collection of folklore in Ireland. Looking to collect and preserve the country’s oral tradition, the Commission hired full-time collectors from across the island to record and transcribe native tales, legends, traditions and customs, many of which faced extinction owing to the on-going effects of emigration, language decline and urbanisation. Focusing first on Irish language-speaking rural areas, the work of the Commission soon expanded to include English-speaking regions, both rural and urban. Here below we see three of our collectors at work, where for the first time they were recording tales and memories verbatim, that is word for word as spoken, so as to preserve as authentic a representation of the oral tradition as possible. Significantly, they also collected valuable contextual data on their informants and materials, allowing future scholars the opportunity to engage creatively with the raw data, discerning distribution patterns, migratory patterns and so on.

                                                                      Image 2   Image 3   Image 5

As a result of the boundless zeal and dedication the Commission’s full-time, and later part-time, collectors over 2000 volumes of manuscript material was collected and this is now held by the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin, a successor to the Commission.  Encompassing popular oral literature in the form of narrative tales, songs and poems; in-depth descriptions of Irish material culture and vernacular architecture; descriptions of calendar customs and cultural history, the collection is recognised as one of the richest in western Europe, covering all aspects of human life. Here below is a sampling from those early manuscript materials


The transcribed manuscript volumes held by the National Folklore Collection are further complemented by its rich photographic archive, as well as its audio and film collection, its specialist library and its breath-taking art collection. Enjoy a few samples below from these collections, depicting a number of key aspects of Irish folk life and tradition – music, religion, livelihood and festival customs

                                                                           Image 6   Image 8  Iamge 9

But folklore is not simply a matter for the history books, it is a living tradition and the work of the National Folklore Collection continues. Currently there are two new folklore collection projects underway – the Irish Traveller History Project and the Irish Protestant Folk Memory Project – both intended to document these two under-represented traditions in Irish life. Why not stay up-to-date with the archive’s activities by liking them on Facebook (facebook.com/NationalFolkloreCollectionUCD) or by following them on Twitter (@bealoideasucd)

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ESB Story Box 2016

                                                                                     esba 1

In light (no pun intended) of the 70th anniversary of the Rural Electrification Scheme on 5 November 2016, we’ve used this year’s Explore Your Archive campaign to showcase some key pieces from our rural collection.

Rural electrification collection

Our collection relating to the electrification of rural Ireland (1946–1978) is one of the richest in ESB Archives, providing not only a history of ESB and the scheme itself, but a broader social record of life in Ireland during a period of great economic and industrial change. We hold various types of records relating to the scheme, including: the records of the Rural Electrification Office (REO); ESB annual reports; photographs; public relations material such as information pamphlets and print advertisements; issues of the staff magazine REO News; and audiovisual content, such as original video footage and oral histories of retired staff.




                                                               2.	Still from original PR film about rural electrification, 1950s  Survey of Avoca rural area, Co Wicklow, listing the number of acceptances and refusals of the scheme, c1950  Cover of REO News, January 1953  5.	Cartoon speaking to the success of the scheme, REO News, August 1958

                                                                     6.	PR Pamphlet, ‘What a Unit Can Do’, 1950s  Print advertisement, ‘Good Housewives Cook Electrically’, 1950s  Progress of the scheme, appendix to ESB Annual Report 1965A rural sales van selling appliances door to door, 19 May 1954


New modes of access

At ESB Archives, we pride ourselves on providing quick and easy access to key information about our collections online, using open-source technology. Keeping our researchers’ needs in mind, we’ve compiled data from the REO records, ESB annual reports and issues of REO News, and brought this information to life using maps and infographics. Rural infographics provide a quick overview of key facts about the scheme at national level. Our interactive rural map allows researchers to search all 792 rural areas used in the roll out of the scheme. We also recently launched a series of individual blog posts for each county and rural area, detailing key dates and statistics at a local level.

                                                     Extract from ESB Archives rural infographic  Interactive rural map  Key information relating to each county


Archives blog

We update our blog weekly, focusing on recently uncovered or digitised material from our archival collections. Our blog allows us to regularly reach a wide audience and to engage with our material in new ways. It has also inspired members of the public and retired ESB staff to share their ESB story. In the run up to the 70th anniversary of rural electrification, we posted a variety of new material, including: a re-imagining of some of our key rural images using Google Maps; a glimpse into Irish family life in the 1960s through our ESB Housewives’ recipe calendar; and a photographic record of the ESB career of Tim Slevin, who worked on the scheme in the 1950s.

                                                    Rural electrification then and now Dromiskin, Co Louth, 1949 and 2009  ESB Housewives’ Calendar, November 1962  Rural scheme employee Tim Slevin, 1950s

70th anniversary of the Rural Electrification Scheme

It’s been wonderful to see so much happening to mark the recent 70th anniversary of rural electrification and how our archive could contribute to many of these projects. Highlights include: an RTÉ Doc on One broadcast on 5 November 2016, based on the recent book of rural memories Then There Was Light, edited by PJ Cunningham and Joe Kearney; a weekend feature in the Irish Times by award-winning journalist Rosita Boland; and our exhibition at the Carlow County Museum, which will run until the end of 2016.

                                                      RTÉ Doc on One, ‘Then There Was Light’, broadcast 5 November 2016  First pole erected at Kilsallaghan, Co Dublin, 5 November 1946  Display of rural artefacts and farm machinery at Carlow County Museum

For more content on rural electrification and other collections in ESB Archives, visit our website esbarchives.ie and follow us on twitter @esbarchives.


© all images, text and video copyright ESB Archives

IFI Irish Film Archive Story Box 2016


 Horgan Brothers Collection and the IFI Player

The Horgan Brothers’ films (1910- 1920) are some of the earliest moving images made in Ireland. Brothers George, James and Thomas Horgan began their careers in the late 19th century in Youghal, Co. Cork as shoemakers and photographers. They ran magic lantern shows in Youghal and in the surrounding villages and townlands. From 1900, following the success of their photographic studio and magic lantern shows, James Horgan began to use a motion picture camera to capture current events and their local community.

In 1917 the brothers opened the purpose-built 600-seat cinema The Horgan Picture Theatre in Youghal, where they screened The Youghal Gazette – their local topical newsreel featuring events of local interest – along with contemporary international feature films. This practice was not uncommon among early cinema owners – who would frequently film events (such as fairs and processions) which were well-attended by locals thereby guaranteeing a full house of people keen to see themselves on the big screen.

The Horgans experimented with photography and models and the collection at the Irish Film Archive includes the earliest surviving Irish animation which dates from about 1910. It features the Youghal Town Hall Clock standing on its head and pirouetting in place.

This collection was donated to the IFI Irish Film Archive by Jim Horgan, who is the grandson of James Horgan. Soon after acquisition, the nitrate rolls were transferred to modern safety stock. Although most of the reels had suffered the ravages of time and all were incomplete – enough had survived to provide an invaluable moving image record of what appeared on screen a century ago in a rural Irish cinema.

Some of the films from the Horgan Brothers Collection at now freely available to view around the globe on the recently launched IFI Player. The IFI Player is a virtual viewing room for the remarkable collections held at the Irish Film Archive. The material on the IFI Player has been selected to give audiences a taste of the breadth and depth of the collections preserved by the Archive. Home movies, newsreels, travelogues, animations, feature films, public information films and documentaries have been included as we have tried to reflect all aspects of indigenous amateur and professional production.

Every month we will be adding more great newsreels, travelogues, animations, feature films and more from the IFI Irish Film Archive onto the IFI Player. This virtual viewing room is a document of Ireland’s heritage and we want to find out more about the stories behind the films that we preserve in our vaults in Temple Bar. Spot yourself or someone you know in one of the films on the IFI Player? Let us know and tell us your story. Curious to learn more about a certain film? Ask us. Please feel free to get in touch with us and let us know what you think of the IFI Player. If you would like to get in contact with us please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We would love to hear from you.
                                                         IFI Player Logo    Inside of Horgan’s Picture Theatre, Youghal, County Cork   A1124.jpg: Horgan’s Picture Theatre, Youghal, County Cork  
                                                                                                  A1129.jpg James Horgan with his son Joseph and a magic lantern  Horgan Brothers_Youghal Clock Tower

UCD Story Box 2016

Papers of Terence MacSwiney, UCDA P48b and UCDA P48c

Since its inception, UCD Archives has centred its collection policy on a core of political private papers. Private paper collections are invaluable in illustrating the multifaceted nature of the lives of Ireland’s most illustrious sons and daughters and the Terence MacSwiney papers provide one such example. Consisting of his own personal papers and records compiled by his biographers, the collection provides insight into the character of Terence MacSwiney, the martyred lord mayor of Cork, but also sheds light on the other aspects of the Irish political figure including his family life and his literary aspirations.

Terence James MacSwiney (1879–1920) was born in Cork to John MacSwiney and Mary MacSwiney (née Wilkinson). Following the failure of his tobacco factory business, John MacSwiney emigrated to Australia alone in 1885, leaving his wife to care for their seven surviving children. The family portrait featured was taken just prior to John MacSwiney’s departure (UCDA P48b/272). Due to the family’s financial strain, Terence MacSwiney temporarily abandoned his education at the age of fifteen, taking up a job as a clerk to supplement the family income. Fortunately, the hiatus from his academic pursuits was relatively short-lived as he returned to complete a degree in mental and moral science in the Royal University of Cork [now University College Cork], graduating in 1907 (UCDA P48b/278).

During this period, MacSwiney developed his passion for poetry and literature becoming a founding member of the Cork Literary Society and the Cork Dramatic Society. The programme pictured advertises his play The Holocaust showcased alongside a play penned by Daniel Corkery (UCDA P48b/263). He wrote extensively; primarily producing articles, plays and poetry centred on Irish nationalist issues but also writing material with more personal and sensitive themes.


                                                                                 p0048b_0092_001  p0048b_0092_002 p0048b_0092_003 p0048b_0263_001

As his interest in cultural nationalism grew, so too did his active involvement in the political element of the Irish struggle for independence. On 14 December 1913, he attended the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers in Cork and was named a member of the Cork executive in 1914. His papers feature the delegate card he received at a meeting of the Irish Volunteers in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin on 19 October 1914, signed by Eoin MacNeill and Bulmer Hobson (UCDA P48b/360).

Prior to the outbreak of the Easter Rising of 1916, MacSwiney, along with Tomás MacCurtain, had been attempting to mobilise troops in Cork. This was in response to a circular letter issued by Eoin MacNeill warning that the British government had plans to move against the Irish Volunteers (UCDA P48b/364). However, the subsequent scuttling of the Aud and the countermanding orders received from Eoin MacNeill caused confusion among the Cork Volunteers. At the behest of the Bishop and the Lord Mayor of Cork, MacSwiney and MacCurtain ordered the Volunteers to surrender their arms to the civil authorities and ensured that no armed insurrection took place.

                                                                      p0048b_0263_002  p0048b_0263_003  p0048b_0272  p0048b_0278

His prolonged guilt over the failure of the Rising in Cork is evident through correspondence held within the collection; perhaps most notably in a letter sent to Cathal Brugha from Brixton prison shortly before his death in which he states “the pain of Easter Week is properly dead at last” (UCDA P48b/416).

Although he was not involved in the armed insurrection, Terence MacSwiney was nonetheless placed under arrest on 3 May 1916 and sent to Frongoch prison with other Irish prisoners of war. The Welsh internment camp became a breeding ground for Irish nationalism and MacSwiney immediately resumed his activities with the Cork brigade of the Irish Volunteers following his release.

The final years of MacSwiney’s life were marred by frequent bouts of imprisonment including an arrest in November 1917 for wearing a military Irish Volunteer uniform in public (UCDA P48b/365). In a letter to his wife, MacSwiney discusses celebrations held for Éamon de Valera’s birthday, indicating the sense of comradery among Irish prisoners in British jails in the wake of 1916 (UCDA P48b/92). This letter was sent three months prior to de Valera’s notorious escape from the prison.

                                                                                       p0048b_0360  p0048b_0364  p0048b_0365_001  p0048b_0365_002

Despite his incarceration in England, MacSwiney was elected as the Sinn Féin MP for Mid-Cork in the 1918 General Election, becoming a member of the first dáil following his release in early 1919. The following year, MacSwiney took the helm of the Cork No. 1 Brigade and was elected lord mayor of Cork following the assassination of Tomás MacCurtain on 20 March 1920 by members of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Shortly after his appointment, MacSwiney was arrested while chairing a Sinn Féin court at Cork City Hall. During his trial in August 1920, he signalled the beginning of his hunger strike and has been quoted as saying “whatever your Government may do, I shall be free, alive or dead, within the month”. MacSwiney was handed down a sentence of two years’ imprisonment.

Due to the longevity of the hunger strike, there were a string of accusations that MacSwiney was secretly taking nourishment but these claims were vehemently disputed by his family members (UCDA P48b/429). MacSwiney’s plight became the focus of increased international attention and the subject of a growing debate involving the Catholic Church on the morality of hunger strikes and self-sacrifice.

Throughout the strike, MacSwiney received letters of support from prominent Irish figures including Daniel Cohalan, Bishop of Cork (UCDA P48b/620) and Alfred O’Rahilly, noted academic and former TD (UCDA P48b/610). Despite his deteriorating condition, MacSwiney continued to express his optimism that Ireland would become a free republic.

                                                                                        p0048b_0365_003  p0048b_0416_001    p0048b_0416_002    p0048b_0428

MacSwiney eventually succumbed on 25 October 1920 after seventy-four days of hunger strike. His body was removed to St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark (UCDA P48b/673) and was subsequently transported to Dublin for a public memorial service before finally being returned to his native Cork. Thousands came to pay their respects as his body lay in state at Cork City Hall. He was ultimately buried at St Finbarr’s cemetery, Cork.

Terence MacSwiney has been elevated to the position of an iconic martyr for Irish nationalism but his private papers provide a more rounded view of a complex character. As family friend Pauline Henley wrote to one of his biographers in 1928, “I know two Terence MacSwineys – the one I knew prior to 1916 and the tragic figure that finally gave his life for Ireland” (UCDA P48c/62).

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