UCD Archives Launch of the Papers of Ernie O’Malley (additional material) and Papers of Frances-Mary Blake

Cormac O’Malley, son of revolutionary and writer Ernie O’Malley, launched two collections in UCD Archives on Friday, 20 September: an additional collection of O’Malley material added as a fourth series to the existing three series in the catalogue for UCDA P17a, and a new collection of Frances-Mary Blake papers (UCDA P244).

Both collections have significant value in their own right, but are also closely intertwined.

The O’Malley collection of papers in UCD Archives is one of the most significant sources for the War of Independence and the anti-Treaty position of the Civil War. They were transferred to UCD in 1974 under the terms of the O’Malley Trust which was wound up in 2015 and ownership transferred to the university. The newly-available documents are an important contribution to the release of archival material in this Decade of Centenaries. In addition to contemporary documents, this new series includes tape recordings of Cormac O’Malley’s interviews with Seán Lemass and Sighle Humphreys, Madge Clifford and Jack Comer; and Sighle Humphreys, George Gilmore and Peadar O’Donnell. Transcripts of these interviews were made by Frances-Mary Blake and may be found in her papers.

The Papers of Frances-Mary Blake constitute a unique and significant addition to the collections of women’s papers in UCD Archives, although not typical of them. Her work on Ernie O’Malley’s literary and archival output has made an important contribution to O’Malley’s reputation. Her own papers also offer an insight into the work of a biographer and editor as well as someone who became enamoured of the Republican cause. She initially intended to publish a biography of O’Malley but it never came to fruition. However, as part of her research Blake interviewed and corresponded with many figures from the Irish republican struggle, such as Máire Comerford, Peadar O’Donnell, Liam Deasy, Kathleen Barry Moloney, and Sighle Humphreys, as well as members of the O’Malley family.

Blake prepared O’Malley’s Civil War memoir, The Singing Flame, for publication and edited and wrote the introduction to Raids and Rallies (originally a popular newspaper column written by O’Malley from September 1955 to June 1956.). She later published her own thoughts on the period in The Irish Civil War, 1922–23: And What it Still Means for the Irish People.

Find out more at https://www.ucd.ie/archives.


Ernie O’Malley Notebooks Transcription Project

UCD Principal Archivist, Kate Manning, announced on 20 September, at the launch of newly released material concerning Ernie O’Malley and his biographer, Frances-Mary Blake, a joint Irish Manuscripts Commission, UCD Digital Library and UCD Archives project to transcribe the O’Malley Notebooks and make them available online and in print in a multi-volume series published by the IMC.

Anne Dolan, Associate Professor in Modern Irish History, Trinity College Dublin, and Eve Morrison, Canon Murray Fellow in Irish History, Oxford University, will undertake the transcriptions using the software Transkribus. Digital copies of the notebooks with the resulting transcriptions will be made available online in the UCD Digital Library, overseen by Audrey Drohan, Digital Library Manager.

Kate expressed her gratitude to Prof. John McCafferty, Chairman, Irish Manuscripts Commission, for accepting the initial proposal, and to Dr John Howard, UCD Librarian, for his support for the project.

Eve Morrison summarises the importance of the Notebooks as follows:

“From the late 1930s up to 1953, Ernie O’Malley, the IRA veteran and writer, conducted more than 660 individual interviews with almost 450 separatist nationalist veterans of the Irish Revolution (1913–1923). O’Malley’s interviews, along with the Bureau of Military History witness statements and Military Service Pension records, are the third in a trio of attempts between the 1930s to the 1950s to document (retrospectively and for varying purposes) the independence struggle. O’Malley’s interviews are uniquely gritty, atmospheric, occasionally profane, punctuated with graphic descriptions of political violence and, in terms of documenting individual experiences of the Civil War (1922–1923), unrivalled.”