A letter written in 1922 by a woman in Ireland to her uncle in New York gives a fascinating first-hand account of how life was for ordinary people during the Irish Civil War.
The letter was discovered by an Irish American, presumably a descendant of the uncle, and posted online to the social media site Reddit.
It is fantastic that the Reddit user chose to share this piece of family history, as it paints a picture of how life was for general civilians living in Ireland during the most important phase in its history.
The Irish Civil War was one of the final conflicts in Irish history before the country gained full independence from Great Britain.
It was a particularly difficult war as it saw many families and friends fighting against each other as they took opposing stances in support of the Irish Republicans and the new Free State government.
The Free State was formed after Michael Collins had signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty which gave Ireland the right to govern itself but still under the dominion of the British Empire. It also didn’t include the six counties that make up Northern Ireland.
Collins knew at the time that the concessions he had made to the British would not be acceptable to many of the Irish Republicans and that the violence would continue.
He even wrote in a message to his love Kitty Kiernan that in signing the Treaty he had ‘signed his own death warrant’.
That turned out to be true as Collins was assassinated in his home county of Cork by Republican rebels during the Civil War.
This letter was written just five days after the death of Collins and gives a humbling account of life in Ireland at the time.
The woman wrote: “POOR OLD Ireland! It is in a dreadful condition.”
She also reported to her uncle the various battles and disturbances she had witnessed of the War from her home in Co Mayo.
There is also a familiarity to the letter written by the woman, as she updates her uncle with the latest goings on in the family and lets him know what they have all been doing.
You can read the letter in full below. The names of the people was removed by the Reddit poster to keep his family members confidential.
My Dear Uncle,
We received your letter a few days ago, and we were delighted, of course, to hear that you are well, as we all are, T.G., notwithstanding the awful times in which we are living.
Poor old Ireland! It is in a dreadful condition– nothing but ambushes, etc., etc.
The West seems to be suffering the most just now. There was a battle fought in Killasser about a fortnight ago, around, at least not far from Killasser Chapel, between the Republicans on the “run” and the Free State Army.
We were, for about two hours, listening to the firing. It was dreadful to stand and listen to the “Armoured Car” spitting out fire in all directions. Some of the fellows were hiding in one of (redacted) fields of oats.
Swinford was recaptured by the Republicans about five weeks ago, and the little garrison of “Free Staters” held out until the barracks roof was falling in after the Republicans set fire to it. They then surrendered, and the Irregulars took their arms and ammunition, etc.
The Irregulars next set fire to the Courthouse, and from our own door we could see the black fumes of smoke rising up above the hills from the town.
Previous to this, all the bridges including Cloongullane and Ballalaghan were blown to pieces and trees felled across the roads, etc. I could thus keep on for a day relating all the different things that have happened around this part alone.
The Swinford people cannot sleep any night with the firing, although there is a strong “Free State” garrison there now. The Irregulars seem determined however things will turn out. I suppose you get just as good an account of things over there as we get here and perhaps more.
For months we did not receive one letter here until just lately, and there are no trains any nearer than Foxford, so that there are carts on the road every day drawing stuff from Ballina. It is only lately itself the trains began to run to Foxford.
This is all the news I have this time, the latest and worst news of all is Collins’ death, but of course I know you will know all about it.
All at home are quite well. Perhaps you do not know that my sister (Redacted) got married about two years ago to (R), son of (R). (R) is away in Middlesborough, England, and (R) is training for teaching in Edinburgh Training College in Scotland, while I, myself, am teaching in (R) Boy’s School for the past five months along with (R), (R)’s son.
Before that I was teaching in (R) School between Swinford and Charlestow n for the past two years since I came from England.
I think this will be all for the present. I am enclosing your birth certificate.
With love to all from your fond niece.