This morning I proofed and made public about 10 letters for the Letters of 1916 project. The letters were uploaded by one of our volunteers, Philip Costello, who began as an avid transcriber and now helps us by uploading letters too. The letters all come from the Trinity College Dublin Manuscripts Department.
Each of the letter relates to the death of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (1878-1916), journalist, author, nationalist, pacifist, feminist and radical. Opposed to violence of any sort, on the outbreak of the Easter Rising on 24 April 1916, Sheehy-Skeffington attempted to organise a civilian defence force to prevent the looting in the city. Coming home on 25 April, he was arrested and brought to Portobello barracks and fell victim to an unstable officer, Captain John Bowen-Colthurst (1880-1965). On the morning of 26 April, Sheehy-Skeffington and two other civilians were executed by firing squad on Bowen-Colthurst’s orders. Sheehy-Skeffington’s death was one of the key events that facilitated the shift in public opinion in favour of the Rising and secured a legacy for him as a nationalist martyr. Bowen-Colthurst was declared guilty but insane at a court-martial for his offences but was able to emigrate to Canada after a short confinement.
The correspondence comes in the aftermath of the Rising and emanates from Francis’ wife, political activist Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington (1877-1946). In an attempt to cover up his actions, Bowen-Colthurst had the Sheehy-Skeffingtons’ home raided and the included are accounts from Hanna and her landlady, Alice Schmutz, about the raids. Correspondents include John Dillon MP of the Irish Parliamentary Party, Francis Vane, who had complained about Bowen-Colthurt’s actions and British Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith.
The letters, and many more relating to the Easter Rising, can be found and here and are ready and waiting to be transcribed.