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Students at Bruff National School examine just some of the handwritten letters on display Photo by: Limerick Leader

Handwritten emigrant letters exhibition will go on display in Bruff, County Limerick

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Students at Bruff National School examine just some of the handwritten letters on display Photo by: Limerick Leader

Over 50 letters sent to and from Bruff, Co Limerick between the 1920s and 1970s will go on display in the town this summer.

According to the Limerick Leader, the exhibition, entitled The Postman is Facing the Gate, is being organized by Bruff Heritage Group as part of the town’s Gathering celebrations which will take place from July 1-7.

The letters from Bruff, which made their way abroad to the US, New Zealand, and the UK, described in detail life at that time and serve as a record of the milestones in the town's history, such as the arrival of electricity in the 1930s.

“What runs through all the letters – the ones from Bruff, and indeed New Zealand and America –the whole lot, is religion,” explained Tom Bulfin, who sent out an appeal in January for old letters, telegrams and postcards to form part of an exhibition in the town.

“That’s the big difference between correspondence from now and then. In every letter, religion comes up – there is a prayer for someone or a prayer for good weather. There are innumerable references to religion.”

In one letter, a woman writing home to Bruff from the US describes how “almost everyone went to Holy Communion” at an ordination she attended.

“Today, you wouldn’t even notice that, but at that time this was something that was noteworthy,” Tom explained. “When I was a child, people had to fast for Communion from the night before.”

He says that another noteworthy aspects of the letters is the beautiful handwriting.

“The handwriting is beautiful,” noted Tom, a retired school principal. “There is great structure to the letters and being a teacher I noticed that if there is one spelling mistake, it is the most. Whatever education they had, and in a lot of cases it was probably only primary education, it was good.”

One caught his eye and gave rise to the title of the exhibition.

“My dearest Annie,” it begins. “Oh how happy I am today, and oh how proud of you, my heart is too full, I cannot write half of what I feel. The joy of today Annie has well made up for all our partings.”

The letter, from the 1950s, was written by Nora Carmody to her sister in England who was after passing an exam.

“And I know the Sacred Heart, Our Lady, the Little Flower and the poor souls helped you, I’m just going to send off a thanksgiving to the Messenger.”

She goes on to describe the moment when the postman arrived at the gate of the family home with the long awaited letter containing the exam result.

“I was just washing up the cups after the breakfast when mama came in and said the postman was facing the gate. I went out and when I saw your letter, I knew the result was in it. Mama did not go beyond the little gate. I just shouted in ‘she has passed’. When I came in, mama was kneeling in front of the Sacred Heart and I just sat at the table. Dada sat at the fire and I read your letter. Oh Annie, if you could only see us, but I know you can picture it all.”

The exhibition, which will include billhead receipts, postcards and photographs in addition to over 50 letters, will open on Tuesday, July 2 at  the courthouse in Bluff.

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