If you have made it in to our library since the re-opening in 2018, you will no doubt have encountered my bearded friend and colleague, Ciarán. He, far more knowledgeable about history than myself, was looking through old photographs and archives doing some research and came across this letter.
John Whelan was the first librarian of Kevin Street Library and you’ll see in the letter above T.L. Townshend is explaining to him that Miss Lillie Bolger can’t return her library items because it was Easter 1916, “Sinn Feiners” had taken over the building at 56 Lower O’Connell Street where her mother worked, living on the top floor. It was a Fishing Tackle and Gunpowder supplier
In the ensuing fighting the building and presumably the books were destroyed.
We don’t charge late fees anymore, or replacement charges for lost children’s items but even if we did, I think this is a fairly valid reason for late or lost items.
Mary Doolin, an avid local historian, did some research and posted to the “My Heart is in Ireland” Facebook page that she found in the 1911 census a Frances Anna Bolger with a daughter named Elizabeth. Frances and Elizabeth were often shortened to Fanny and Lillie.
Fanny was a widow already by the time of the 1911 census. She worked as a caretaker, gave birth her daughter Lillie around the age of 23 and by the time of the revolution Lillie would have been around 16 or 17.
I thought I’d see what else I could find out about Fanny and Lillie.
“56 Lower O’Connell Street was run by Martin Kelly and Son fishing tackle manufacturers and gunpowder importers. The corner building at the time of the Rising even had large outdoor advertising announcing it as a “Gunpowder Office”. The building was restored after the Rising but, in 1920, still displayed broken windows on the upper floors.”The Irish Times, 17th February, 2016
Further down the page you will see a button that will show you footage of their home after the Rising. The footage is quite shocking and really conveys the level of destruction in the area. At around the 50 second mark you get a brief glimpse of their home and workplace before it frustratingly cuts to another shot.
According to the record of the Property Losses Committee, Fanny Bolger put in a claim for £44 and 3 shillings to cover her lost possessions. She was paid £44 and 15 shillings.
The documents go on to state that “the claimant is a most reputable woman and is spoken of most highly of by her late employer, Mr. Kelly, who I interviewed. I rejected the items which comprised the property of her uncle, Mr. Denis Redmond of Liverpool. The other items of claim are fair and reasonable”.
The book Lillie was reading, “The Highway of Fate” was a domestic love story written by Rosa Nouchette Carey, a fascinating character herself. Born in 1840 she published her first novel, “Nellie’s Memories” in 1868 and it became something of a bestseller, with more than 50,000 copies sold. It was based around stories she had told her younger sister as they grew up.
She made a name for herself by writing books that were generally deemed wholesome and suitable for reading by young girls and women. Her second novel though was a departure from her usual fare and included the throwing of sulphuric acid and opium addiction; a common concern at the time.
Generally they reflect the values of the time, reinforcing the idea that virtuous women should get married and live a domestic life.
She herself however did not marry but after the death of her brother ended up raising his children.
She published many novels and children’s books and worked for The Girl’s Own Paper. Between 1868 and 1909 she published on average book a year.
Many thanks to Ciarán for such a great find and to Mary Doolin for the census information..
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It’s fascinating to see what people got up to so many years ago and how they went about their lives. And it’s even more amazing to see so much printed information now indexed and readily available.
It’s easy to say that today’s technology helps in that regard but people seem to have pretty robust record keeping back then too.
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