Share on Google Plus Share on Pinterest Share on LinkedIn Share by Email Print
History and Heritage

“…and now the shells fall thick and fast” Documenting WWI: a UCD Library Cultural Heritage Exhibition

Image credit: UCDA LA34/120 Papers of Tom Kettle

Photo postcard of the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. September 1963. Noted on the back of the card is the fact that the memorial is inscribed with 73,000 names, including that of UCD Professor Tom Kettle.

To commemorate Ireland’s involvement in World War 1, the principal custodians of UCD Library’s cultural heritage collections, Evelyn Flanagan of UCD Special Collections, Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh of the National Folklore Collection UCD, and Kate Manning of UCD Archives, with assistance from Audrey Drohan in UCD Digital Library and Josh Clark and Catherine Bodey in UCD Library Outreach, curated an online Google Arts exhibition entitled “… and now the shells fall thick and fast”, documenting the course of the war and its aftermath, using archives, publications and recorded interviews held in their collections.

Exhibition highlights include the recorded interviews carried out as part of the Urban Folklore Project in the National Folklore Collection: James Mitchell vividly describes rats in the trenches; Úna Ward discusses ‘The Mad Mac Sweeney’, who suffered from shell-shock, and Anne Espie speaks of her father’s drowning at sea and how this impacted on her childhood.

The First Report of the Irish War Hospital Supply Group held in UCD Special Collections, concerns the contribution made by the Irish War Hospital Supply organisation who managed the collection of sphagnum moss from bogs all over Ireland. This was made into cloth for medical use and thus moss from Irish bogs was distributed to hospitals as far away as Palestine and India.

In a previously unseen letter (pictured), written by Éamon de Valera from Lincoln Jail to his wife Sinéad on 11 November 1918, and held in UCD Archives, de Valera writes:

“I have just heard the sirens and bells which announce that the armistice with Germany has been signed. It will bring relief to many an anxious heart—it will bring joy to many—but how many homes when the joybells cease ringing will be plunged into a grief which at the moment is not felt but which will be crushing when those who remain return home and it is realised that those who have fallen will never return. The thoughts that occur to me here today would fill volumes—we have leisure for thought calm sober thought—thoughts on the vanities of men and of Empires—vanities which the lessons of this war will not dispel. A hundred years ago ‘twas Napoleon this time ‘twas Germany—whose turn will it be next? Many nations like many many individuals when during this struggle they were sick were resolved to be monks now they are well we shall see what they will become. I can see with a cynic’s eyes but I have not a cynic’s tongue to express what I see. I should not weary you with this. The huge happenings through which we are passing will make their own suggestions to you—and thoughts and feelings like these are incommunicable. For the sake of the women of the world at any rate I am glad it is over. They it is who have suffered most. Their imaginings have been far worse than the worst horrors the men have had to endure. Those of the victorious nations will forget for a time their nightmare in the joy of victory but alas for those in the nations that have been vanquished.”

Image: UCDA P183/57 Private Correspondence of Éamon and Sinéad de Valera© Used by permission

You might also be interested in: