Political Struggles of Irish Nationalists and African Americans in the Great War

Historian Cecelia Hartsell will give a talk at Ballyroan Library next Tuesday 15th May at 6:30 pm, on the parallel experience of Irish Nationalists and African Americans in World War One.
This promises to be a fascinating event.
Book your free place now here. Directions to Ballyroan Library can be found here.

Exhibition: Jesuit Chaplains and the Great War at the County Library, Tallaght.

32 Irish Jesuits served in the Great War, either as volunteers or by being appointed to serve at the front. In common with other Catholic orders who served as military chaplains, they were exposed to the same risks and discomfort as the men (of all denominations) to whom they provided ministry. Catholic sacraments necessitated priests being at the side of dying soldiers, giving them a high profile at the front line and making them very popular among the troops.

This exhibition contains information panels and original artefacts owned by several famous Jesuit chaplains, including Fr. Willie Doyle who died on August the 17th 1917 at Langemarck.

The exhibition also includes “A Perfect Trust”, award-winning illustrator Alan Dunne’s graphic short about a chaplain losing his faith in the trenches of World War I.

The exhibition, by kind permission of the Jesuit Archive, runs from the 1st to the 28th of February at the County Library, Tallaght.






Maj. Willie Redmond MP and the Battle of Messines 100 Years Ago Today.


100 years ago today, Willie Redmond was fatally wounded during the start of the Battle of Messines.

Born in Co.Wexford, he was a brother of John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party and National Volunteers. In the early 1880s, he was heavily involved with the Irish National Land League, and was a follower of Charles Stewart Parnell. At 21 years of age he served three months in Kilmainham Gaol for the crime of possessing seditious literature, during which he shared a cell with Parnell. He was elected an MP for Wexford Borough and later Fermanagh, all the while raising funds for the land league. He was sentenced to three months hard labour in 1888 for resisting the eviction of tenants.

He spoke out against the Boer War, was a social activist and also a supporter of Female Suffrage. Like his brother, Willie Redmond was heavily in favour of Home Rule.

As one would expect from both his and his brother’s views on Home Rule, he was one of the first to enlist in the British Army at the outbreak of the First World War as part of the Irish National Volunteers. In 1915, aged 53, he gained a commission in the 6th Royal Irish Regiment. He gained a reputation for leading from the front and, whenever possible, mingling with the ordinary footsoldiers. He refused the use of a horse, and carried his own kit (officers were not generally expected to carry their belongings, this task normally being carried out by a “batman” – a type of military servant.)

The 1916 Rising affected him deeply. He believed it to be the death knell for Constitutional Nationalism. However he didn’t give up hope. In December 1916, in a letter to his friend Arthur Conan Doyle, he wrote “It would be a fine memorial to the men who have died so splendidly if we could, over their graves, build up a bridge between North and South…the two sections from Ireland are actually side by side holding the trenches!”

Willie Redmond found himself in exactly that position in the morning of the 7th of June 1917. At 56 years of age, and holding the rank of Major, there was official resistance to his request that he lead his men “over the top” at the opening of the Battle of Messines. He was eventually allowed to do so.

At 3.10 a.m. he led his men in the attack, and was the first over the parapet. He was wounded in the arm, but continued to lead until he was again wounded in the leg. He was evacuated to a Field Ambulance depot by two stretcher-bearers from the 36th Ulster Division, and was transferred to Locre Hospice. There, just before noon on the 8th, he died of his wounds.

Unlike the vast majority of British Army casualties, he was not buried in a military cemetery. There is a persistent myth that his last wish was that he would not be buried inside a British cemetery in protest against the execution of the 1916 Easter Rising leaders. The reality is simply that he was buried near a grotto in the grounds of the Hospice in which he died and, despite requests from the War Graves Commission, his wife refused to have his body exhumed, preferring to have the nuns look after his final resting place.




There were further attempts at exhumation and reburial by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Once in the 1960s when a local Belgian priest, Fr Debevere, insisted that Mrs. Redmond’s wishes (that her husband’s grave be left alone) be respected. The Commission tried and failed again in 1977 after Fr Debevere’s death.


Major William Redmond’s grave today. Image: KimberlyGE, Wikimedia

It is fitting that Major William Hoey Kearney Redmond’s refusal to conform during his lifetime continues 100 years after his death.

New on Source – Rare stereoscopic photos of WWI

Just in and newly digitised, Local Studies have loaded onto our Source digital archive a set of Stereograph images from World War 1.


Originally intended to be viewed through a stereoscope, stereograph images were taken using a camera with three lenses in a triangular formation. The lens at the top provided a view of the scene for the photographer to help with the composition of the photo, while the two lenses below took two photographs from very slightly differing angles.

Viewing the resulting photographs through a stereoscope, the user would be able to “merge” the two images by looking through the viewer’s lenses – effectively recreating the three dimensional effect originally captured by the two cameras.

Stereographs had two eras of popularity. The first was in the 1850s and 60s. They became popular again in the late 1890s, lasting for the duration of the First World War and declining again after its end.

This particular set of images was taken and published by Hilton DeWitt Girdwood under the trademark of “Realistic Travels”. The set contains images from many different conflict locations – not only France and Belgium, but Gallipoli, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Egypt also make an appearance. Some images were disapproved of by the British government. Not because of the graphic nature of some of them, but because they had been staged by Girdwood. It was feared that staging of photographs could undermine the “authenticity” of war reporting in general.

All of the photographs were all taken in the field – even the staged ones.

See if you can guess why this one must have been staged:


The answer of course is that a flash was used to illuminate the scene. This would never have been allowed if a real night attack was in progress as it would have alerted the enemy.

The detail contained in the photos is striking. Here are some closeups of a few of the scenes:


Assault at Trones Wood


German soldier being searched. His discarded rifle lies nearby.


Troops prepare to attack Turkish forces at Cape Helles, Gallipoli.


A tank in action at Cambrai.

See the entire collection HERE. Note the collection shows some images of death.

South Dublin and the Battle of the Somme

The South Dublin and the Battle of the Somme Exhibition was launched by Mayor Guss O’Connell at the County Library, Tallaght last Friday morning, 4th November.

This exhibition is part of South Dublin County Council’s Decade of Commemorations events in which we remember the pivotal decade of 1913-1923.


Cllr. WIlliam Lavelle, Daniel McLoughlin (Chief Executive, South Dublin County Council), Mayor Guss O’Connell, David Power (South Dublin Libraries) and Bernadette Fennell (County Librarian, South Dublin Libraries) pictured at the exhibition launch.

South Dublin Libraries staff have found 12 known men from the current South Dublin County area who were killed in the various battles of the Somme campaign and their stories are illustrated here using contemporary documents and photographs. There may have been more who were recorded as having been from Dublin with no parish mentioned. More from the county area would have survived the Somme and went on to fight and die in further campaigns in the next two years. Still more would have survived the entire war and returned, traumatised, to a changed Ireland that would have been unrecognisable compared to the one they left.


There are trench maps on display showing the location of the men’s deaths, and the original War diaries which were written up by officers in charge and these detail the actions of the various “South Dubliners’” regiments in the day . Again the statistics for South Dublin reflect those of the country as a whole. The vast majority were killed in and around the village of Guillemont where the 16th Irish Division were involved in days of slaughter to take the heavily-defended villages of Guillemont and Ginchy.


Speaking at the launch, Mayor O’Connell said, “The South Dublin men commemorated here are a microcosm of the island of Ireland’s participation in the Great War. As with the participants in the 1916 Rising, all walks of life are represented here. We have a Trinity medical student, a quarry worker, some general and agricultural labourers, a Vicar’s son and the son of a Barrister-at-Law. The streets of the villages they left for the last time would look very familiar to us today.”

South Dublin County Council, through its library service, is delighted to host this exhibition as part of our Decade of Commemorations activities. It will run at the County Library, Tallaght until Wednesday 30th November 2016.

We are very interested in finding additional names of those locals from South Dublin County who died at the Somme (between the 1st of July and the 18th of November 1916) and who we may have missed because they were listed on official records as having been from Dublin instead of the village from which they came.

If you can help, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact: localstudies@sdublincoco.ie