Stories from the Rising
Sir, – I see from your Stories from the Rising supplement (January 17th) that the patriots of 1916-1923 were just as preoccupied with their pensions as today’s politicians and charity bosses. – Yours, etc,
JOHN F HYLAND,
Sir, – I must take exception, in the otherwise excellent coverage in The Irish Times of the release of the Military Service Pension Records, to the claims that a document contained in the Pension Records archive is the “only eyewitness account” of the burial of the leaders of the Easter Rising (Ronan McGreevy, Home News, January 18th).
A letter written in 1932 in which a civil servant received information over a decade earlier from an unidentified sergeant major who claims to have been on duty when the graves were prepared can hardly be classified “an eyewitness account”.
The Letters of 1916 project, on the other hand, does indeed have an eyewitness account, written by an Irish soldier serving in the British army, who was on duty in Arbour Hill when the leaders were executed. He was one of a small number of soldiers assigned to bury the bodies.
The letter, written by Private Herbert Shekleton (originally from Kingscourt) who was serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, to his mother on May 5th, 1916 begins: “It seems as if I had a terrible nightmare so terrible & strange things I have been through since I wrote you before Easter”. Private Shekleton met his own untimely death the following year in Arras.
This letter, along with hundreds of others, are available at letters1916.ie for transcribing. The project is gathering letters related to Ireland written between November 1915 and October 1916. This wholly new archive, which has been generously funded by the Department of Arts, Culture, and the Gaeltacht and Trinity College Dublin, will change our understanding of this critical period in Irish history through the unmediated voices of the people who lived through it. – Yours, etc,
PhD, Trinity Long Room
Hub, Ass Prof in Digital
School of English,
Trinity College Dublin,
Sir, – The publication of the Military Service Pensions Collection is to be welcomed (Home News, January 17th). Perhaps that great mystery of Irish history can now be resolved: who was actually in the GPO in 1916. – Yours, etc,