A journal and autograph book that provides a unique insight into life and conditions at Frongoch prisoner of war camp has been acquired at auction by Clare Museum. It’s estimated that 1,800 Irish participants of The Easter Rising were interned at this camp between June and December 1916.
The journal belonged to Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer and future Clare politician Patrick Brennan, from Meelick. It features accounts of life in the North Wales camp, poetry in Irish and English, and colored illustrations of the camp and its inhabitants.
The journal is also autographed by many of the camp's prisoners including Michael Collins and Richard Mulcahy, who would later become instrumental figures in the ensuing Irish War of Independence and the establishment of the Irish Free State.
"Outside of the author's historic connections with County Clare, this journal and autograph book is hugely important considering the upcoming centenary of the 1916 Rising and the significant influence of the Frongoch camp experience on the future leaders of the Irish War of Independence," commented Cllr. John Crowe, Cathaoirleach [chairperson] of Clare County Council.
Crowe added, "As a native of Sixmilebridge in East Clare, I have long known about the contribution of Patrick Brennan from nearby Meelick during the struggle for Irish freedom and subsequently as a politician, including as a TD for Clare (1921-22, 1922-23). I warmly welcome the acquisition of this book which serves as a timely and poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by Irish men and women for their country."
The book, which is expected to go on public display before Christmas, was successfully acquired at Whyte's auction house on Saturday for €5,000 by Clare County Librarian Helen Walsh, acting on behalf of Clare Museum.
Walsh explained, "I viewed the book in Whytes ahead of the weekend auction and deemed it of great value and significance for County Clare. It is beautifully illustrated in parts with water color drawings of the camp, poetry in Irish and English, and numerous signatures of note. It also contains an artwork by Cathal Mac Dubhgall featuring the words "Fianna Fáil," which was an alternative Irish language translation for the title of the rebel Irish Volunteers. The name was later adopted by Eamon de Valera's political party some ten years later."
"We anticipate that the journal and autograph book will be placed on public display at Clare Museum in Ennis before Christmas. We are also arranging to have the document digitized so as to allow people to view its contents online at clarelibrary.ie," added Walsh.
Meanwhile, Ms. Walsh acknowledged Cratloe-based Councillor Cathal Crowe, who informed Clare County Council that the book was being auctioned at Whytes, and would be a historically significant acquisition for Clare Museum.
Patrick Brennan was one of the Irish Volunteer leaders in Clare at the time of the 1916 Rising and was interned at Frongoch in June 1916 by the British Army because of his Republican activities.
Upon his release shortly before Christmas 1916, Brennan became leader of the 1917 Volunteer campaign in Clare which ultimately led to the Mountjoy Hunger Strike of September 1917, the martyrdom of Tomás Ashe and the consolidation of republican sentiment across the country. Brennan took part in the Cratloe Ambush of January 1921 and other military actions but became more important as a political figure following the Anglo-Irish truce of July 11, 1921. Patrick was later elected TD (pro-treaty) for East Clare and was central in the development of the Civic Guard (later An Garda Síochána).