Michael Collins’ letters to sweetheart sold at auction

Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan. Image copyright Ireland Calling

A collection of letters written by Michael Collins to his sweetheart Kitty Kiernan have been sold at auction for thousands of dollars.

The letters were written by Collins while he was in London negotiating the Anglo-Irish Treaty with Winston Chrurchill as he struggled to find a peaceful conclusion to the war in Ireland.

Collins described “the whole thing is ghastly” in his letter and told Kiernan he would tell her more when he saw her.

Tragically, he was killed just months later after being ambushed by anti-Treaty fighters in his home county of Cork.

The letters were part of a lot that sold for $16,250 at Sotheby’s in New York.

Also included in the lot was a copy of the Proclamation of Independence, read out by Patrick Pearse during the Easter Rising.

A program from the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral was also part of the lot.

However, it was the letters from Collins to Kiernan that captured the attention of the buyers.

They offer a unique insight into the mind of the man during his most difficult time. Collins had led the Irish rebels throughout the War of Independence, but as lives were being lost on both sides, he desperately wanted to find a peaceful end to the conflict.

However, he knew that he was faced with an impossible task, as the British government would not agree to terms in the Treaty that would be accepted by the Irish leaders back home.

Here are some extracts from the letters written by Collins.

“Ireland will have cause to remember her present-day extremists.”

“The whole thing is ghastly but I’ll tell you more about it when I see you. It was only after my scribble yesterday I heard of Joe McGuinness’ death.

“He is a great loss to us but apart from that I feel the personal loss much more keenly. He was the one most responsible for the recent peace. It makes the present position all the more tragic.”

“I am not very sanguine about the future from any point of view. We have however secured release of all the prisoners.

“But the news from Ireland is very bad and the ‘powers that be’ here are getting very alarmed and there may be a bust up any moment.

“Were it not for the awful consequences I’d almost welcome it. It would be so pleasant to be relieved of all responsibility — yet one has the responsibility it would be cowardly to shirk from standing up to it.”

“The whole business is casting a gloom over me and in spite of what is a big human hope I cannot keep thinking that as a people we are destined to go on dreaming, vainly hoping, striving to no purpose until we are all gone.”

Written by Andrew Moore