Launch of Wicklow Gaol Comrades: A Civil War Autograph Book
A great night was had in Wicklow Gaol on the 5th of October 2023 at the launch of the project Wicklow Gaol Comrades: A Civil War Autograph Book. A collaboration of the Wicklow and Wexford County Council Archive services, this project by historian Aaron O’ Maonaigh, tells the stories of the men held in Wicklow Gaol during the Civil War and consists of a publication, exhibition and video.
The prisoners feature in a 1923 autograph book, which was donated to Wexford County Archives many years ago. It consists of rhymes, messages, sketches and cartoons, all recalling the men’s humanity, courage and humour in the grim surroundings of Wicklow Gaol, where they faced an uncertain future. The men hailed from Wicklow, Wexford, Carlow, Kildare, Westmeath and Dublin.
As part of the project, relatives of the prisoners were traced and were welcomed to Wicklow Gaol on the night of the launch and thanked for their invaluable contributions to the publication, video and exhibition.
This project is one of several Decade of Centenary projects by the Wicklow County Archives service, which is located at Wicklow Library in Wicklow Town. It offers a rich resource for researchers of wide and varying interests – students, teachers, local and family historians, academic researchers and those interested in the story of County Wicklow, the history and development of the county, of local communities, and the authorities who served them.
The project was supported by Wicklow and Wexford County Councils and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under their Decade of Centenaries funding. A special thanks also to Jenny Sherwin and her team at the Arts Office of Wicklow County Council for all their assistance and support with this project.
Cllr Aoife Flynn Kennedy, Cathaoirleach, Wicklow County Council, said: “County archives have proved a rich and fruitful source for Decade of Centenary research, particularly in relation to the stories of the ordinary men and women who were so much impacted during this time. This demonstrates the key role of archives in reassessing and understanding this pivotal period in our history.”
Cllr Shay Cullen, Leas Cathaoirleach of Wicklow Municipal District stated: “In his ‘Machnamh 100’ address, President Michael D. Higgins challenges us to ‘engage with our shared past in a manner that is honest, authentic and inclusive, and as might assist a healing of conflicts that cannot be forgotten.’ I believe this project Wicklow Gaol Comrades: A Civil War Autograph Book has risen to that challenge and I congratulate all involved.”
Chief Executive, Emer O’Gorman, added: “The Wicklow Gaol Civil War Prisoners Autograph Book, tells their story beautifully. This little item – measuring just five inches by four – is brimming with salutations, sketches and poetry – evoking the personalities, humour and resilience of the men imprisoned in this very building 100 years ago.”
The exhibition will be on display in the foyer of Wicklow County Buildings for the month of October and will then travel to Wicklow library branches. The video was produced for the project by https://mckennacreative.ie/ ( see link below) is shared on YouTube and social media.
There will be a number of copies of the publication available to the public, as well as libraries, history groups and schools. For further information, please contact Catherine Wright, Wicklow County Archives at email@example.com