CollectionPiaras Beaslaí Papers

The papers of Piaras Beaslai have been catalogued by the National Library of Ireland. The catalogue can be viewed online (see link below).

The collection is divided into four distinct sections, representing Beaslai's principle interests and areas of activity: the Irish Revolution; Writing Organisations; Personal. The following is an indication of the types of references to women which are to be found in the collection.
Irish Revolution:

Of the correspondence from the revolutionary period, the letters from women are not very numerous. The most interesting are those from relatives of prominent revolutionary figures, for example, Mairead Aghas [Ashe], Bridget Clune and Maud Griffith. A document, which would appear to be a captured British Intelligence document, entitled 'List of women Implicated in the Movement', lists 24 of the more active female revolutionaries. It includes the following descriptions:

'Mrs Sheehy Skeffington: "a notorious Sinn Feiner. Principal despatch carrier between England and Dublin. Member of the Cumann na mBan and friendly with M C [presumably Michael Collins] and various other noted Sinn Feiners. A Bad woman.

Dr Kathleen Lynn: Notorious Sinn Feiner. House was raided on various occasions with good results. Bosom friend of the Countess and Mrs Sheehy Skeffington".

A brief account of the life of Terence MacSwiney, written by his wife, Muriel, is also to be found in this section of the collection.

A significant part of this section of the collection deals with Beaslai's biography of Michael Collins. Included are the letters from women he consulted during his research, such as Collins' sisters, Moya Llewelyn Davies and Hazel Lavery, as well as ordinary readers who wrote to express their opinions on the book. This section also contains items which came into Beaslai's possession while he was writing the biography, of particular interest in this regard is the receipt for the engagement ring which Michael Collins bought for Kitty Kiernan in 1922.

Beaslai was an active member of the Gaelic League and other literary and Gaelic societies. The correspondence relating to these activities includes letters from prominent female Gaelic Leaguers, such as Una Ni Fhaircheallaigh [Agnes O'Farrelly] and others. Beaslai was also actively involved with organisation which represented the veterans of the Irish revolution. There are numerous documents relating to campaigns for military service pensions for former members of the IRA and Cumann na mBan. Of particular interest are a number of letters from Muriel MacSwiney, widow of Terence, concerning her efforts to secure a pension for the widow of Laurence Ginnell.

Beaslai had many female friends. His personal correspondence is voluminous - over 5,000 letters as well as hundreds of post cards and Christmas cards. Those from his female correspondents are of a fairly routine nature, but nonetheless are of interest in providing a view of women's day-to-day lives at the time.
One set of correspondence which stands out is between Beaslai and his cousin, Lily Mernin. Lily Mernin was a typist in Dublin Castle during the War of Independence and became one of Michael Collins most important informants there. She is credited with having the establishing the identity of a number of the key British intelligence agents who were shot on Bloody Sunday. Another interesting correspondent was Muriel MacSwiney, concerning Muriel's daughter, Maire.

Beaslai was a diarist, and this collection contains his diaries from the 1890s to the 1960s (except for the period 1913-1921). Beaslai kept diaries during this period, but they are not part of this archive. (Their current whereabouts is not known). Many of the diary entries are of an intimate nature, especially some of those which refer to his relationships with women (it is worth noting that he did not marry).

AccessBy prior appointment.
Web Address
Repository NameNational Library of Ireland
AddressNational Library of Ireland Department of Manuscripts 2-3 Kildare Street Dublin 2
EircodeD02 TR76
Telephone(01) 603-0386
Email Address
Repository Web Address