Precious diaries of ‘Big Fella’ are publicly displayed in his hometown

The five pocket diaries kept by Michael Collins are about to go on public display in their native Clonakilty for the first time after undergoing an extensive restoration process.

His dairies contain important organization and military information such as details of meetings, events and appointments, many of which were secret in nature and never made public before.

The entries contained within the dairies provide important information relating to a critical period in the life of Michael Collins, and indeed of the nation, that spanned the freedom struggle, treaty negotiations between 1918 and 1922, and the civil war until his death on August 22. . 1922.

They also reveal the more mundane side of Collins’ life such as the details of dental appointments and other everyday events.

The dairies were loaned to the National Archives by the family of Michael Collins’ descendants, the late Liam and Betty Collins, where they have undergone significant conservation and conservation treatments, archival processing and digitization in recent months.

Speaking about the process, archivist Natalie Milne said that as with all collection donations it was not just a matter of getting the dairies in and making them available directly to the public.

“Earlier it was possible that there was a huge amount of work behind the scenes. The first thing we needed to do was to assess the condition of the dairies. They were at least 100 years old, so there is a need to document natural wear and tear and whatever else is needed, such as loose leaves and shackles, and to identify the remedies needed,” Ms Milne said.

Conservator Zoe Reed then performed careful and painstaking conservation treatments for the volumes, making each of them stable enough for further work.

It was then the collector’s job to catalog the contents, accurately describing each section so that their contents and context could be fully understood.

“Ultimately, it was up to our digitization department, which carefully scanned every page of each volume to present the dairies in electronic form and made accessible to the general public,” Milne said.

Visitors to the Michael Collins House Museum in Clonakilty will now be able to view all five dairies on a touch-screen device.

To mark the centenary of Michael Collins’ death, physical dairies will also be on display at the museum throughout the month of August. Admission to the exhibition is free and the museum is extending its opening hours for a month to meet the expected demand.

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, Helen Collins, daughter of Liam and Betty Collins, revealed that Michael Collins’ older brother, Johnny, had given her father dairies for safekeeping.

“My siblings and I, on behalf of our father, are very pleased to have these precious dairies under the care of the National Archives and we are particularly pleased to have them on display in our father’s hometown of Clonakilty,” said Ms. Collins. he said.

“Our Grandfather Michael Collins lived an extraordinary life. The diaries will give the public a greater understanding of this extraordinary and courageous man.”

Orleth McBride, the director of the National Archives, said she is proud to partner with Cork County Council in bringing dairies to Clonakilty.

“In returning the diaries to the place of the youth of Collins, a place that shaped and created the young revolutionary, we wish to share them with the wider public as an important new primary source material to advance our understanding of this important national figure.” Presenting for,” he said. Ms. McBride.

A point was expanded by the mayor of County Cork, Cler Danny Collins, who said that much has been written about Michael Collins in the last century “there is something special about seeing his actual words, which are in the pages of his hands.” are written on his diary. ”

“I hope the diary will encourage people from far and wide to visit the museum and Clonakilty as well as inspire people’s interest in history,” said Clare Collins.

Cork County Council Chief Executive Tim Lucy thanked the Collins family for “sharing the precious and valuable diary with the people of Cork County”.

“It is at his request that the diaries are here at the Council’s Michael Collins House Museum and be returned to Clonakilty each year. His generous donation ensures that his diaries and fascinating insights are preserved and preserved for future generations.” said Mr. Lucy.