Irish historical fictionExciting news from Ireland (for history nerds).  Secrets of the 1916 Easter Rising and War of Independence have been revealed by a new project from The Bureau of Military History that focusses on eyewitness accounts of the time.

How I would have loved these to have been available when I was researching my first novel. In those days, I had to hunt deep – in the National Library, museum of military history, University College Dublin Archives and other archival sources, for accounts of what had actually happened. So much myth and legend surrounds those times in Ireland, with so many commentators having political and other vested interest.

Like other writers and historians, I’ve long argued that such key historical documents shouldn’t have been hidden away in the Office of The Taoiseach, as they were, but be widely available to all. And now they are —  over at The Bureau of Military History, which has digitised the reports.

The personal recollections of men and women who witnessed military goings-on between 1913 and 1921 can now be accessed anywhere in the world. 

The massive project was undertaken by the Irish Military Archives in conjunction with the National Archive and the eyewitness accounts come from all over the country.  Here’s one from my own county of Wexford, from a Joseph McCarthy, whose lyrical opening and closing paragraphs about the countryside provide a counterpoint to the grim reality of guerilla warfare.

The collection contains more than:

  • 35,000 pages,
  • 42 sets of photographs including rare images from inside the GPO during Easter Week 1916 and volunteers on patrol.
  • 13 voice recordings

I’d love to have an excuse to get stuck in there now. I think I might be feeling a new Irish novel coming on.

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